Thursday, June 23, 2005

 

Bach filling the air

The exhaustion has set in, of course. We each teach three, hour-and-a-half-long classes, attend an hour-long ArtShare every evening, prepare our classes for the next day, go grocery shopping, eat together, talk together, drink together. (And I have papers to mark up, on top of that.) There's no real down time, and everything is connected. So it's a joyful exhaustion, but it's still exhaustion. Yesterday, everyone reached that state of saying, "Why are we here?" Except for me, because I know, and they will too, by the end of this. And the exhaustion has just led to a punch-drunk goofiness. We have a big lounge where we're staying, the best faculty-hang spot of any of the places we've been. Now that we're all starting to know each other, everyone is drifting there after artshares, laughing and drinking wine. (But we don't have a corkscrew, so last night I had to poke the cork into the bottle to get us some red wine, which made it spray all over the wall behind the sink. Oh well.)

But I'm doing splendidly up here.

It's genius to have Sharon here. I'm going to make it happen every year. We're laughing so hard at tiny moments of absurdity that my stomach hurts most of the time. Lyn and Sharon and I have especially been laughing hard. I already knew, since I was sixteen years old, that Sharon can make me laugh at the slightest twitch. But it turns out that Lyn is just like us, laughing at all the little word slip-ups that come out of tired mouths. Don't ask me why "I like someone who can validate my cinnamon" is funny, or why we all howl when we call each other Anne, but boy do we laugh. We're just sitting in our rooms, nearly peeing our pants, every evening. Last night, Sharon laughed so hard as she was sitting on the edge of her bed that she catapulted herself backward and thunked her head on the little ledge at the head of it. (Don't ask why it's there. It's a weird place.) But after we found out she was all right, we went back to laughing.


And lord, it's beautiful here. Certain casts of light make me stop talking and stop moving and just gawk. The green humps of treed islands in the steel-grey water glimmer with movement and swaying branches. It does a body good to look out the window in the morning and see snow-capped mountains so close I can feel their breath upon me.

Plus, this is the fourth year I have taught here, so I know the kids well. And my classes are popular, so they're eager to be there. We laugh as we practice our walks to see how it feels to walk like our characters. Or talk excitedly about the joy of watching ink flow from our pens, as we create something out of nothing. I'm in heaven, really.

My reading the other night was a huge success. People walked up to me that evening, the next day, to tell me how moved they had been, how happy they were to hear what I wrote. And it was the lightest reading I have ever given. In the past three years, I read an urgent piece about September 11th, then the next year one about the start of the Iraq war, and last year one about my near-death experience after the car accident and how I live with death. Whew. This year, I gave my lightest reading yet. I read a piece about awareness and simply living in it, inspired by a letter from Berett, a camper here. And an essay I wrote about my father, for his birthday, a series of vignettes, in which I realized that he's the one who gave me art. (Perfect for camp, it turns out. And if you haven't already read these on the old blog, and don't know how to reach it, let me know, and I can send you copies.) They were both joyful, alive pieces, with no deep darkness. Light. Since I've stopped eating gluten, everything has felt lighter. Not just that I feel better, but my brain chemistry has changed. Nothing seems to faze me anymore. There's not that little nervous flutter at the bottom of my stomach, when approaching deadlines or doing my work. I'm just here. And everything in my life just feels easier, lighter, more at peace. And to my pleasant surprise, people were just as deeply moved by the light pieces as the ragged, traumatic ones. It felt good. I felt like I was at home.

And now, as I type in this dinky library, in my one period off in the day, Kari is practicing her cello upstairs. She plays for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and she just arrived last night. So Bach, played slowly, with a deep, rich tone, is filling the air as I write.

That's Sitka.

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