Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MacDowell Journal, an excerpt

Day 1: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 (written Thursday morning, 9/27)

Bedtime: Actually, not even that afraid. Did toss and turn, though. Missing my husband's body, the swoosh-swoosh of his bi-pap machine. The silence here is deafening. No interstate sounds, no screaming sirens, no tappy-tappy of Bella's toenails on the hardwood.

I lay there, thinking, I've made a mistake. How will I ever stay here three weeks? I wonder, How long can a 47-year-old woman go without adequate sleep? My mind starts to spin scenarios, all of them scary: what about ticks? Lyme disease? That something-or-other my driver Carl warned me of, something to do with mosquitos? How 'bout spiders, large, hairy spiders? Are there any rapists here in the woods? Isn't that a main road right outside the long drive to my studio? What about bears? WHAT ABOUT BEARS? Fuck.

Day 2: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 (written Friday morning, 9/28)

I slept like shit last night. Kept waking, worried that I was being slowly poisoned by that damn oil lamp emergency switch that I probably turned on accidentally coming in the door. Worried about spiders crawling into my ears and laying their cottony webs. Worried about intruders. Should I have left the porch light on? I did leave the lamp by my desk on in the studio. Still afraid of the dark. Now how pathetic is that? To be this old and scared of darkness. I need to ask for a nightlight.

Made it for hot breakfast: two eggs, two slices bacon, one slice toast. Coffee. And then some more coffee. Sat between a poet who read last evening and Ginnah, the older woman who likes literary fiction. She told me last night that the thought didn't occur to her to write until she was in her late forties. I told her I was a writer from the age of four, and feeling all pissy in the second grade that Beverly Cleary was publishing and I was not.

Thinking, now, how annoyed my sister would be with the people here. She's right: a lot of liberals. Like, everyone who is here, a liberal. Everyone here an Obama fan. I feel so at HOME at the dinner table, at the breakfast table, so happy it's an election year, and we're approaching that Most Important Date.  Even though I am the ONLY one from the Midwest, every single resident is friendly and accommodating: Sit here! Tell me about your work! The other artists are from either New York (mostly Brooklyn), or LA. It thrills me to meet each of them.
Oh my goodness. I am chilly now here in the studio and freaking loving it. What? For twenty-four days I get to live in an environment whose temperature is my choosing. Not gonna turn on the heat. Sixty degrees, from here on out.

Doesn't get any better than this.

Around12:30, I got hungry, remembered there was a basket lunch coming, and went outside to claim it. Beer bratwurst “hoagie” with sauerkraut and apples; some delicious root soup (pumpkin? squash? Turned out to be carrot. Oh.); aromatic and spiced … was that saffron? Cut up vegetables: carrots, celery, radishes, and a few home-grown string beans. A plastic cup with spicy brown mustard. Heavenly eating. So this is how the other half of the world eats. No bologna with the red string here.

Back from the trip to town. Blake drove. Blake, the colony's driver, he who brings the baskets, and takes artists into Peterborough. In town, I first went to the post office to mail three post cards: one for HAS, for Elizabeth, for Estee. Didn't have Rye-Guy's address in my phone. Why the hell not? I can't figure out that omission. Then, two more stores, where I bought the following: a six pack of Rolling Rock, a bag of theater-style popcorn (buttery!), two mini Snickers bars, and a tooth brush. I'd forgotten to pack a toothbrush. Who does that? Someone who had packed early and forgot to include that necessary product, such was my anxiety to get to the airport on time Wednesday morning.

On the candy:

“Would you like these bagged, or with you?” the clerk at Roy's asked.

“Do I look that desperate?” I replied.

He laughed. “That's something I would say.”

The liquor store in town didn't sell beer. Weird, right?

On to Roy's for the beer and the popcorn.

Afterward, Blake took me for a short drive around the colony. I am so thankful that Mixter Studio is near Colony Hall, as many studios are definitely off the beaten track. Not only is Mixter close, but the studio is generally used for photographers. I have heavy black-out shades that cocoon me; I don't feel exposed at night. Blake took me to the old barn, where we went looking for a podium. I like writing, standing up. This podium, which is the correct height for my frame, will be coming soon.

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