In my family we had a tradition of sending vacation postcards with pictures of the motel/hotel where we were staying. We’d ballpoint an X over the window of our room and, yes, write Wish You Were Here on the back.
See that row of first floor windows? Count four from the left and put an imaginary X over it. For a month, that window, and the spare room behind it, were mine. The building is called the Maverick Studio, and it’s on the grounds of the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont. If you looked in you’d see my desk with its mess of papers (I brought approximately a dozen potential projects), my laptop, and a red armchair with a little gold pillow. If you sat, as I did every day, in that chair and looked out, you’d see a tumbling river, a stone bridge, a studio for visual arts and, above it all, forever and always, the Green Mountains.
Some mountains make you gape, some mountains bring you to your knees, but these are tender, sheltering mountains, crooking the valley in their arms. I went to the fellowship–the first I’ve ever done–ambitious to work and to meet other writers, which I did. Yet as so often in life, the unexpected pleasures are the ones that make the deeper impressions, and for me those were the landscape, which I know I’ll return to, and the friendships I made with visual artists working there. Painters and printmakers and photographers–in my Real Life, I know hardly any, and what a revelation to get to know so many articulate and deeply thoughtful artists (and how envious I was of them with their big physical gestures and cool mysterious tools and coveralls splattered and smeared with color–by comparison how cramped it is to bend over a keyboard).
New England! Stone walls, birches, the air like cider (the fretwork of apple trees against the open blue sky). When I described the life of the studio, my friend said it sounded a little like living in a convent. Yes, if you count work as prayer, and if you discount the incredible meals, the bon fires, the nightime beers at Wicked Wings, and the many afternoons lolling in Adirondack chairs watching that river rush by. Day after day the October sun shone–it almost got bizarre how good the weather was. The day after we left, the snow began to fall.
I meant to blog while there, but I fell under the spell of Being Away. It’s a powerful spell, and I’m still trailing bits of it behind me. My fellowship was funded by the Ohio Arts Council and I could not be more grateful. I’m already scheming ways to return.