Hedgebrook Diary: Week 1

August 28, 2015

I learned what stinging nettles are by tripping into a bush of them. I think I’m communing with nature all wrong.  20150829_105256-EFFECTS

Also got lost for a good ten minutes on the way back to my cottage from the bath house. Dirty underwear in hand. The bathhouse is literally 300 steps away from my cottage. The back of my cottage is visible from the bathhouse and the bathhouse is visible from what I christened my meditation nook in the cottage. I suspect some sort of enchantment at work.

August 29, 2015

I rediscovered the joy of thumbing through a thesaurus. Usually I scoff and google, but there is something about flipping pages, singing the alphabet song in your head to narrow down where your finger should stop, and reading through a few words you weren’t even looking for.

A less joyous discovery was when I bent over to inspect what I thought was an animal turd only to be confronted with the existence of banana slugs. Those things are literally God’s snot. I don’t know who I thought I was inspecting what I thought was a turd either. It’s not like I’d be able to identify the animal from its poop. I know two poops, from living in NYC: other humans and dogs. That’s it.

My terror and revulsion only increased when I realized how well the slugs camouflaged against the ground, easily passable as acorns. My life has turned into a heinous game of the-floor-is-hot-lava.

August 30, 2015

The end of the summer came with big changes. E left home two days after I left for Hedgebrook, the timing of which had me anxious as I wasn’t able to participate in the rite of passage of moving her into her dorm. Mostly I was missing the rite of nagging her to keep her room clean and ceaseless reminders to stay on top of her coursework and laundry.

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I was able to see that her desk area already looks appallingly cluttered and she took my newest sheets, the one for the sofa bed which is full-sized, not twin, even though I asked her a million times and she assured me her twin sheets fit her dorm bed.

August 31, 2015

I have seriously got to stop taking these spontaneous walks into the woods at sunset.

20150830_192740-EFFECTSI spotted this fantastical garden doorway. (Trellis? I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in my life.) I mean c’mon. This is bait for any kid that liked fairy tales and I spent whole summers checking out volumes of Grimm’s from the local library. As if that wasn’t enough, a brown rabbit scampered through the field you can just see beyond the doorway, and hopped up a path.

Of course I followed. All the while beating back that voice saying:

This is exactly how white people die in the movies. Buscando lo que no se le ha perdido, Mami would say. Stop it! Remember what Vito said. There’s nothing on this island that can harm humans. No bears, no predators, no poisonous snakes. Not even poison ivy. That’s exactly what caretakers say in horror movies! This is a ridiculous use of your imagination, you know that?…So this looks like every place some girl got killed in the first season of True Detective. This is a perfectly innocuous storage space or barn-like structure. Not creepy at all. Oh, the path inclines. See, just like Fort Tryon Park back home. I never really ran those paths well. Always gasping and sweating. Wouldn’t really be able to outrun anyone following me. There’s no one following you. Those are your own footsteps echoing, moron. You know, everyone always laughs at the cliche of the girl falling down running through the woods to escape the murderer, but no fucking wonder she falls. Does anyone realize the amount of stuff on a forest floor? Tree branches, twigs, leaves, rocks, spots where the ground sinks in for no reason. I would totally bust my ass or roll my ankle if I took off running right now. Okay, seems like I covered a decent distance. The perfect distance where no one will hear me scream.

September 1, 2015

I’m literally about to keel over. I had plums, coffee, and vegan granola (stop making that face, it was handfuls of awesome) for breakfast. Thank goodness I exerted myself and managed to workout, but there ain’t enough burpees in the world to save me.20150829_154527

Lunch was half an avocado, stuffed, overstuffed, it was a shrimp fountain spilling forth its bounty onto my salad of greens. Did you know tomatoes could be sweet? Eureka! Dinner was chicken enchiladas, rice, beans, guacamole, blue corn tortilla chips. There is such a thing as too many snickerdoodles. I wonder if I will have room for that dutch chocolate ice cream I saw in the freezer.

Seriously though, there’s absolutely no better way to support someone (the broke artist in your life) or say I love you than food. (Other than, here’s my half of the rent.) That’s deeply nurturing. I thought back to the last time I was so consistently well fed, supported, and shown love through food and it had to be when my mother was alive.

Sometimes I like hauling my laptop into the living room in the Farmhouse just to hear the sounds of dinner being prepared in the kitchen. Denise or Ann or Rio running water in the sink, clanging pots, aluminum foil crinkling, glasses being set on the table. It reminds me of hearing my grandmother in the kitchen while I studied or read or did homework. How she did those things for me to free up my time to pursue thinking and learning. A gift then and a gift now.

Also how in the hell is The Left Hand of Darkness NOT a movie? In my head I have cast Chiwetel Ejiofor as Genry Ai. (I cast Ejiofor in a LOT of things in my head. If I were a casting director that man would get all the work. All. Of. It.) And I keep picturing someone young-Oliver-Reed-ish as Esteven. Ursula K. Le Guin is the Truth and the Way. I have been meaning to read her for the longest. This novel is kinda perfection and especially inspiring as I am working a bit in fantasy right now. As usually happens with works of literature, it was put into my hands (thank you Adrienne) precisely when it needed to be. At a pause when I’m considering which direction to head in next.

September 2, 2015

After days of editing and revising short stories I have finally sidled back up to The Novel. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Actually, I’ll say that it’s fun. Fun in the way exercising is, which is to say, you’re moody and dragging your ass until you do it, get lost in the doing, and emerge on the other side glad you did. Maybe even a little impressed at your effort. Maybe.

September 3, 2015

I am in the presence of some amazing women. I don’t know if it’s because I’m kinda prone to saying that or if it’s because I’m consistently around amazing women, but it’s true. Shy, serious, insightful, hilarious, sweet. Women who have traveled farther than the east coast to be here, who have studied with masters, who have taken risks, made changes, tried new things, been bold. Who are doing these things, taking a risk, changing, trying new things, being bold by being here.

September 4, 2015

I checked on the “real” world for a bit last night. The news story about the Syrian father who lost his young sons, two and four years old, along with his wife fleeing Syria and trying to put distance between themselves and war via the Mediterranean sea followed me into my sleep. I dreamt I was on a huge ship that sunk. I vividly felt the sensation of the deck going vertical right under my feet, as quickly and easily as if it were a mere canoe.

I don’t know that there’s an appropriate response as an artist that doesn’t ring self-indulgent. After all, it’s the artist’s own feelings that are assuaged first, not that father’s. There’s barely a response as a human being that doesn’t seem limp, much less from an artist. A refugee certainly can’t eat your small, stupid poem, but I do know art can preserve so that these events aren’t forgotten. We’re exceedingly good at forgetting.

Being short on skills and knowledge that would be of good practical use in a refugee crisis, and being thousands of miles away from the Mediterranean, I chose to donate money to MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station). “It is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing assistance to migrants who find themselves in distress while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels.”


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