I’ve been to about twenty writers’ residencies in the past 40 years. These have been widely varied,from granddaddies Yaddo and MacDowell with spacious studios and three squares a day to a small trailer out in Great Basin at the edge of a bombing range. In Iceland, an active volcano loomed outside the window. In Petrified Forest, I was the only person sleeping in the park, in a WPA style cabin rattled by the spring wind. At the Betsy Hotel, my stay came with beach towels and use of umbrella seating.
Each place has its advantages, its irritants, its adventure. I like to go just to…go. I was glad to discover The Porches in Central Virginia as a way to break our cross-country trip, our visits with friends and family, a bit of a quest to see how others are dealing with community, relationship, retirement (and work), and aging.
One fortunate thing in my life is that my ability to write seems timeless—it takes me out of myself. So I enjoyed that this week.
The Porches is gracious, peaceful, and a great setting for creative endeavor. It costs more than fully funded places like the near-by VCCA (where you are still asked for a donation) but less than the B & B equivalent. It reminded me more of the international residencies than the ones in the U.S.—not super competitive, simple application, and available for a short term stay. Some of these, at least in Scandinavia, tend to be “artists’ houses” funded by the state which you can use as a visitor or as a part of a writer’s union or group.
The musings below are from my ongoing 100 Cups of Coffee project—I’m over a third of the way through. Have been developing it partially on the blog—sometimes taking out the coffee context. Thanks for reading!
The Porches. In my room—a rather fancy cozy B & B style room, a large painting hangs, showing a bend in the road. The blacktop curves away to the left, and it and the shoulder disappear into grassy hills with blue and purple/black mountains behind. Four white trees stand in a grove and the road, with its white dividing line, leads beyond the viewer’s vision.
Yesterday drove just such a winding road with Rich to drop me for three days at this charming house and garden, to write.
Wisteria climbs up the column of the second story porch rail. At 8 am it’s almost too hot out, and I’m glad I already went for a walk. Green hills stretch before me, imperturbable.
I look in the mirror, hoping for wisdom, finding a familiar face.
Dead insects, who writhed towards the light.
I don’t remember what I dreamed.
A garden. As always, it seems, the head of a woman, neoclassical, in stone or clay. Or maybe she is a pot, with a fern growing out of her head to signify…thought…or dream.
Pink geraniums, wicker furniture, the sound of a train cuts through my sense of solitude, intensifying it.
A train going somewhere, indifferent to this hamlet with its locked church, its historical marker, one or two cars passing early on a Sunday morning, the feeling of…being left behind.
The train implies elsewhere, a lot of elsewheres, but since it will not stop, takes no passengers, and will not slow enough—even in my imagination—for me to jump it I stay here with the bees in a bush of soft mauve flowers. With my pills for what ails me in advanced middle age, my modest hand wash, a pile of silky embroidery thread for a too large cross-stitch tablecloth I may never finish. And a novel I appear to have finished the first draft of just this morning, and not exactly on purpose.