Friday, June 5, 2015

Breathing room

Yesterday was the day of unscheduled time. There were no workshops, no afternoon classes. Just big blocks of unscheduled time. So what did I do? Turns out, it was the best weather we've had all week (high 70s, brilliant sun), so what better time than to be outdoors, engaged with the landscape?

After the morning lecture, I had a writing date with a few people from my workshop. We sat at a picnic table in the grass, near a spruce tree, and wrote. The prompt I provided was to take a photo of something nearby (taking angle & light into consideration as well as focal point). We then exchanged photos and wrote about what we got. Here's the photo I got:

And the prose poem that ensued:

"A Blessing"

The telephone booth has asked the earth for an invitation. She has been abandoned, her purpose lost to the wind of technology. She has no tribe. She wants to belong, to no longer exist in isolation. The sadness of rain glazing her plexiglass windows, a kind of weeping, a grief she cannot escape. An end, a swallowing of her rectangular body would be better than this. The dark clouds, the icy chill of wind. Anything is better than this.

The earth listens quietly and without a word, obliges, fulfills the phone booth's request.

The next morning, she wakes to a sun vibrant with heat, the soft grass warming her rusted joints and the most beautiful gift of evergreen hair: soft triangular spikes laid upon her aluminum head.

This is life! This is blessing.


Prose poem, huh. That's what I've been thinking to myself. I'm caught between poetry and prose right now. Workshopping poems, but writing prose (e.g hello, blog!). Just an observation.

After that, I went to a yoga class in a big meadow in the middle of this Bread Loaf campus. It felt so good to be in downward facing dog, hands and feet grounded in the grass. To do sun salutations with the late morning sun beaming on my face (god, I know how corny that sounds! The word "beaming" is just too... cliche? Hokey? Cheesy? I need to find a better word.). Such a truly grounding experience to reconnect, not just with the self within, but outwardly with the earth.

And then a picnic lunch at Frost Place (yes, as in Robert Frost). We hiked there. A mile and a half through the woods on cross-country trails, the terrain of which was not ideal for my tender right ankle. After all that rain in the beginning of the week, there were puddles, at times small streams, and plenty of mud on the trail, which forced me to navigate rocky terrain strewn with stray twigs and branches. I also worried that I'd brush up against poison ivy as I was not wearing long pants (high 70s!), forgetting what that plant actually looked like (remembering vaguely something about three leaves, but nothing more). After eating, I walked back the easier way (the paved, albeit uphill, road!) with a couple of friends.

That was a lot of physical activity in a span of two and a half hours.

The afternoon filled out with Bread Loafer (that's what they call participants) readings and a faculty book signing happy hour on the Treman lawn during the gloaming, one of my favorite times of day during the warmer months -- that late afternoon / early evening sun, the quality of it -- clean and soft. Add a couple of cold beers and some friends on a grassy knoll with the mountains in the background and you've got a perfect happy hour.

Dinner was great conversation. The evening reading was fun, particularly Craig Childs and his photographic enactment of Burning Man (which was only part of his reading, but most hilarious). Then off to the Barn for another Bread Loafer reading, prior to which Ross said to me: when are you reading? I said I wasn't. And well, he gave me this look like it really wasn't an option.

So I moseyed over to Stephen, organizer extraordinaire of these readings, and asked if I could read at the very end since I would not be around for the final reading on Saturday night (I have to leave the conference that afternoon). He is very strict about time --three minutes-- in which he holds up a red cushion and shakes a rattle to signal thirty seconds left (which is humorous from my vantage point as audience member). He was reluctant to add me, but I promised that I would only read this very brief poem that would probably take thirty seconds. He conceded. As the reading progressed, one woman whose name was called said she read yesterday. So Stephen calls out: where's the alternate? Hahaha! That's me! I go up to the podium, introduce myself and say: is Ross here? I scan the room --nope! I said, He put me up to this & he's not here? Then, I read my poem, the one I wrote that morning (see above). When I finished, there he was, by the door. Probably walked in when I said, thank you. Hah! Anyway, it felt great to just take that risk of reading a raw poem, not thinking about what it means or what it's about or worrying about word choices or anything like that. Just to read it. In front of an audience. To bear witness.

This is why I'm here.

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