First Day

I think I know what the word "bucolic" means now.  Bucolic means Vermont. Three shades of green woven together across rolling hills. Clouds furrowed deep and white, lilac startling against yellow farmhouses.

I arrived in this morning, after an overnight journey from Northern California to Chicago to Burlington, Vermont, where a friendly taxi driver picked me and another writer up for the hour-long drive to Middlebury College. I'm attending the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference on a work-study scholarship, which means I'm attending Charles Baxter's fiction workshop and meeting writers at all stages of their careers while serving food in the dining hall. And I am here a day early, when the campus is eerily quiet and calm, a summer camp spell waiting to happen. 

I had enough time, between my two layovers and long flights, to steam through Kristiana Kahakauwila's debut collection, This is Paradise. The stories are all set in Hawai'i, very beautifully rendered, featuring a wide range of characters whose relationship with the islands are complicated, emotional and honest. My brother recently moved to Honolulu, with his wife soon to follow, and as someone who likes her stories very firmly steeped in place, the book kept me going from San Jose to LAX to Chicago, even on the tiny express plane that took me here. Word has it the writer herself might be here.

I am already awkward in my fandom, and only a small group of us are here yet. I walked out down a long, pebbly lane, stopping to take pictures of the light on the hills, still not quite awake. When I arrived this morning it was lightly raining, and though raindrops have let up, the air still hangs with heavy anticipation. There are words in the air, waiting for us. Bucolic, they whisper. Pastoral.

We're here, we whisper back. We're ready.