Friday, June 7, 2013

Gone Again is Summer

On the final morning of our final day at the Millay Colony for the Arts, our group of eight writers were meeting one last time. We gathered in a circle, like we did every morning all week, sitting at the dinning table to read our stories and solicit feedback. As the conversation turned to the business side of writing, I lost interest. Leaning against the frame of the screen door with a glass of water in my hand I drank in the lush views across fields of June grass and violet wild flowers. The colony sits on acres of land that border Edna St. Vincent Millay's former house and gardens. While I should have been paying closer attention to the discussion, my back and mind were tired, and my thoughts started to wander like I had done every afternoon for hours until dinner. During my adventures, I hiked through fields and woods, walked and jogged along dirt paths, and slipped, on more than one occasion, into very cold streams.


I’ve never considered myself a writer, yet looking back I’ve always loved playing with words like a child plays with blocks, stacking them in various ways and seeing how high or wide you could go until they come tumbling down. In high school and college I struggled to make sense of grammar, wrestling with sentence structure and rules. While the “nc” on my transcript was a blemish, it was a polite way to inform my parents that I would have to take freshman English again during my sophomore year at Syracuse. It’s not that I don’t appreciate language; I’ve always enjoyed the lyrical aspects of words, their sounds, meanings, and the intrinsic power to express emotions to tell a story. My dad’s been doing the New York Times crossword since I can remember, and I’m always looking over his shoulder to see if I can help fill in any of the blank squares, if there are any.

I didn’t shy away from my writing assignments for art history and art criticism; that style seemed to suit me just fine. In graduate school, as papers grew longer and I had to eventually write a thesis, I worried less about structure, and relied more on my curiosity and research. These were the days before com-put-ers, spell check, and all the other conveniences of today. I was fortunate to befriend another painting student who had a state-of-the-art Brother word processor. I believe she bought it at the now defunct Circuit City when she moved to Savannah. You could type a few lines at a time, preview to make corrections before hitting the type command, how miraculous. I bought a blue bike when I moved to Georgia and shared my clumsy self-indulgent poetry with that generous attractive classmate.

Twenty years later I started keeping a journal when I began to transition and that writing has turned into this blog about my life. Attending the workshop, Personal Matters: Pushing the Boundaries of First-Person Nonfiction, taught by the marvelous Melissa Febos, I hoped would help open my eyes to the unique possibilities that memoir writing had to offer, especially as I unearth and write about a some of the darker moments I’ve experienced. I feel my unique story might be an interesting book, but I needed more guidance to make this a possibility. While my background is in the visual arts, I feel a distinct vulnerability and honesty while trying to express myself writing my personal narrative. I am scared and excited when I write; this was where I needed to be.

Distracted by the idyllic surroundings in upstate New York, I thought to myself, what’s next? Suddenly, a fawn poked its curious nose out of the woods at the far end of the field. With no barking dogs or gawking visitors in sight, the young deer carefully walked across the puddled dirt driveway and on to the colony’s front yard. Its ears and nose worked like radar, adjusting and sensing the exciting and new world with each step. Looking back at the table of women, I tried to get someone’s attention so they could share in the moment. They were too engaged and I wasn’t going to cause a fuss. Selfishly I thought this was meant for me. I silently starred; trying not to move or blink, thinking it might alarm the approaching animal. A few seconds passed, and the deer disappeared into the tall grass at the edge of the forest on the other side of the field. All I could see was a flash of white, wishing me luck and daring me to follow.