Yesterday the skies opened up in the middle of the afternoon. I had hitched a ride into nearby town of Middlebury to pick up supplies (earplugs, razors, granola bars, wine) and as we were climbing up the narrow curves of these old Vermont roads, the rain thrust itself upon us. It was furious and fast and necessary. A few hours later we were serving our first tables of Bread Loaf writers, taking orders, clearing tables, stopping occasionally when others asked, "Are you fiction? Or poetry?"
Later, after Michael Collier's introductory remarks, we gathered outside the barn, under the stars, and the woods were within arm's reach. After the talk died down, after the acoustics of our dorm had settled into the ground, when the quiet began to settle, so, too, did my bones. Minutes pass differently here; the quality of light, the quality of sound, it all warrants attention. I am surrounded by writers who hop from residency to residency, accomplished poets and essayists and novelists and cartoonists younger than I who have already published books, who don't say that they are Stegner fellows, but they don't have to. I feel like the girl in a high school cafeteria wandering from table to table with her tray, wondering how, exactly, I ended up here, but grateful that there is a seat somewhere for me. Excited to be along for the ride.
This morning when I woke up the sun was already brilliant. For the first time in three days I've taken off my down jacket. The mid-westerners are fine in t-shirts and shawls; last night they laughed when I put away my black jacket in favor of a larger, puffier red one, this one with a hood. "You are from California," they say. I don't mind, especially now that the sun is back, and my body has finally caught up with this time zone.
Perhaps what is the most refreshing about being here is the reminder that pursuing a literary life is not only worthwhile, but important. Or, better yet, possible. I'm using every single one of my available vacation days to be here, and it is absolutely worth it. While I long for the lifestyle that so many of these writers describe--spending their summer months writing upstate, their semesters teaching here and there--I know that there are as many ways to be a writer as there are to write itself.
This morning after breakfast I wandered down to Otter Creek. Who knew there were so many shades of green. That the ground could be so soft underfoot. The kind of quiet that happens here falls lightly. Living in a city, you grow to dread the quiet, because it means something entirely different is happening--some underbelly has been exposed. But out here it brings a peace I haven't felt in some time. The marketer in me wonders if you could bottle it, that feeling.
But that would defeat its purpose.
I better go. It's nearly time to set up for lunch service. Wish me luck.