I’ve been at Ragdale Foundation residency as a writer for the last two weeks. Tomorrow I leave this succulent green view from my window in the historic Barnhouse, the quiet brick courtyard below, familiar yellow walls, the ample desk, and the comfortable bed piled with papers, for my life in California, with its warm afternoons and demands on my time.
Every night but Saturday, Linda prepares a careful meal. Last night stuffed eggplant, gluten-free biscuits (she baked), salad and a chocolate-y desert. There’s wine, for those who wish. Barbara and Allison – both artists and Brett – non-fiction writer join me for dinner, the social moment of the day. Roland was here for the first week while he put the finishing touches on the renovated main house. Howard Van Doren Shaw, the architect made this his summer home around 1900. The restoration is complete and beautiful. Writers will stay there in the coming months.
For two weeks I’ve had a routine. I write, then wrap myself against the forty-something degree chill, and walk on the prairie trails, write and eat and write. At night I choose a book from the vast library and read. Tonight it will be Mommies Who Drink, resident Brett Paesel’s funny funny book, and New and Select Poems by Gregory Orr, poems written in the seventies.
Allison’s beautiful pieces light up the wall behind the 4 of us. My work has blossomed in this gentle place. Today I just sat down and wrote a poem. Straight through. An hour and fifty minutes. Usually a poem will take me all day long, in fits and starts. Me running down the stairs to print it out, then back for more revisions. Here is a sample:Tell me darling Fatima, something about separation. That weaning you are named for is good. We are all homesick for before. …The milk of knowing has nourished me. Separation has passed through me. I am home.
There’s a strange thing about this place. Along the straight long trail, I see the roof of the hospital where I was born. I lived here 21 years after that, and haven’t been back since the early seventies. Some part of me is at home here every day. Lilies of the Valley like my mother had around the back porch, the old gas lights on Greenbay Road. Elm trees. Thank you Ragdale!