Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It’s a resonant metaphor for me.

First, the hard gravity of home, hugging me close, keeping me rooted, always pulled toward groundedness. That familiar density, the thickness of the everyday. Life packed in close. Weightier elements forced inward, always pressing for center ground.

Then, there is lift-off, requiring that initial burst of will, of energy, to break away, to create the opening and seize it. Breaking the grasping claim of gravity, of habit, of routine.

A disorienting freedom. Endless undiluted space. A fall, surrender, into deep silence. Heavy soothing darkness, that pulls the stars closer and gives them sparkle. And what to do, how to react, when weightlessness snatches you from the grip of gravity?

A kind of sleep, a welcome death.
Transported to some place outside the calculus of clocks and paychecks, the catalogues of known consequence.
Freedom so thick, it bends my ear to my heart

And all its differently rhythmed musics.

But gravity asserts its hand again.
The descent is a gathering of speed, dropping out of those gaping, breathing spaces that live between the seconds and the minutes,
slicing through the turbulence of air transformed into a pummelling series of blows.
The friction generated heat. The crushing welcome of earth. Landing, soft or hard....
Home turf.

Easing back, into the harsh familiar.
Space sucked gently, to bone dry. And quiet pressed down until it forms a pulsing throb beneath, which is the heart, encased once again in its blind seeking.

No.... No real misery in being earthbound.
I’m back into my cycle of days, structures weighted for efficiency, applying pressure where it counts.

My two guys waiting to hear from a landlord when I left, a tension I easily eluded when I blasted into orbit. I found them panning on Queen Street three days after my return. Negotiated, wrangled, made the necessary promises. And today the deal was struck. They move in on the first. One of forty tasks addressed.

Writing everyday still, but barely. What was a natural glow, slowly becoming a polished artifact, not without its power. Like those dimmer, smog shrouded stars – no less there because I fail to see them. Knowing this is my sweetest consolation.

Here in these compact, marching days.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Eyes Opening"

It's as though the logarhythms were changed. His brain began to work in a different way. Thoughts emerged through unexpected vortices that seemed to open up out of every observation.

It was like being aware only of letters, then suddenly seeing that those letters formed words, that words had meaning. Nothing in front of his eyes was different. It was his eyes that were wholly transformed.

His brain cells had been like ants, toiling along the worn tunnels of his mind, when suddenly the imagination and intricacy of the ant colony had come to life, sending ripples of perception and creation along his synapses. He saw what he'd never seen. His nose, ears and tongue awakened slumbering dimensions . Reality became a seduction, pulling him deeper with every stimulation.

He'd thought that each word was an icon on a road map, sharpening his thinking and communication with detail. Each gave him the ability to think a thought, he'd been taught. But then he came to see that every word was also a fence, locking off a part of that vast mental pasture from any invention breezing by. It was in the spaces between the words where reality flowed, oozed and spread. It was there that meaning wasn't locked in, behind a memory, some knowing word.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Images from the Colony

Our time winds down.
No adequate way to describe being here.

Spaceous, Peaceful,
A generous face of Life on Earth

Above is the barn, from the road that leads down to the tiny village of Austerlitz in the direction I'm coming from. It's two miles back, gently rising all the while.

Millay called this place Steepletop.
The Berkshire Hills surround us.
She lived here from the late twenties until her death in 1950.

The barn was bought from a Sears catalogue

This is the barn from above, from the new 'main' building, built about 15 years ago.
The latter's common area is pictured below.

Edna had about 700 acres here. It stretches in three directions from these five buildings.
On the fourth side is State Land, which also borders the colony on other sides.

One of Ponczka's favorite things is the swimming pool and garden,
standing a few yards from Edna's house and from the road
in the middle of forest.


It's been an amazing expanse of open days.
We've both luxuriated in hours of time with our work,
no demands from the world crowding in,
paced by the sun slowly gliding across the sky.

It's been much warmer these last days. Ponczka's spent a few blocks of time, painting landscapes.

Millay had a small writing cabin built,
above the pool and on the way to a tennis court which lies on a high rise.

Below is Marzena's beginning at capturing a view from the tennis court

We're leaving here soon.
Taking a lot with us

Millay, or Vincent as she was called
acquired success and fame early.
She spent her last decades here, and was buried deep in the woods
near where her Mother Cora already lay
joined there later by sister Norma, who founded this Colony

Spaces were created here
And Space endures

Edna's House

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Writing

I woke two or three mornings ago feeling something between despair and resignation. My novel project had been like a chimera during my first days here, bulging and shifting with its various shapes and dimensions. I’d arrived here with a concept I wanted to play with – that I’d had in the back of my mind for years, but had never figured how to do anything with. A few pages from my recent writing with Judith, and another few from years ago, seemed to offer me a way in. I played with all the different associations that arose from juxtaposing my concept with these fragments, and came up with several possibilities.

My downfall has always been plot – not good for someone who wants to be a story-teller. I get lots of creative bursts around themes – meanings, paradoxes, tensions and cross-purposes to explore. But when it comes to translating them into specific characters and situations, caught in predicaments and having to make choices, I’m often at a loss. It’s not so much that I can’t construct likely scenarios; it’s that I have trouble creating scenarios I believe in. My own plotting often feels artificial and forced to me. I can “see the wires” too clearly. The few fiction pieces I’ve actually completed and derive satisfaction from, represent times when a character embodied a concept or point of view I wanted to write about, and actions flowed naturally from that character. But sometimes I feel powerless trying to find or create a character who lives and breathes my abstract theme.

The question/theme that has gripped me has to do with “genuine versus false”. More specifically, I’m intrigued by the fact that, if presented with two identical objects, we will value them very differently if one is “real” and the other “fake”. Why? To me, this is a fascinating question that has much more to do with the assessor (we human beings) than with the object itself, be it a coin, a painting, a head of hair, a breast, a politician’s record, a degree, etc. There are obvious answers to this puzzle, but also not very obvious ones, and many, many aspects that I’m not even close to fathoming. Which I think presents a perfect scenario for writing.

The approach to writing that I love and value most is: writing to discover, to explore, to answer questions and discover new ones. So I’m very definitely in that camp of writers who start a project with no clear idea of where it’s going to end up. And that’s how I showed up at Millay a little over a week ago. And for days, there was no clarity, no handle. I kept finding openings, the beginnings of paths that vanished a few steps in, or splintered into a complex of side routes, or took me to the edge of a cliff. resistance. Despite what I’m claiming about an ‘open’ approach, some pathways that present themselves aren’t attractive, or they’re scary, like that cliff’s edge. Or, after an initial section that seems to promise wonders and surprise ahead, they turn right back into an ordinary city street , populated with nothing but fast-food restaurants and dollar stores.

That’s what brought me to my recent morning, balanced between despair and resignation. The notion of a semi-solid possibility that I’d gone to bed with the night before, had proven in the morning light to be flimsy and full of gaps. I had all these pieces of something, but nothing to do with them. A protagonist had presented himself days before, but I’d had only false starts in trying to place him or understand his motivation. I thought I might have to abandon the entire thing, or risk wasting the entire two weeks. I feared that my lack of a “plotting bone” was going to prove fatal to my aspiration. I felt uninspired, almost empty.

And something shifted. Something coalesced between my theme and my character, and suddenly it was very clear what was happening to him and why it cracked his world open and sent him on his arc. And then, so many of the pieces I’d constructed earlier in the week began to fall in place. Not all of them. But the trial and error of facing the blank sheet of paper scrolled into the Beast several times a day had paid off. A couple of hours after waking with such an emptiness, I was full again. And the writing’s been coming pretty steadily since then. It’s still shifting, but now it’s doing so within a charged and flowing arc.

What’s  mattered?

Allowing the emptiness, the confusion, that uncomfortable space with no answers in it.

Pulling back from the abstractions now and then to see how they link to what I’ve lived, known and felt.

This amazing gift, this luxury of time, space and silence that Millay offers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Studio at Steepletop

The work unfolds. Everyday it takes a different shape. Some days I go along, other days I resist.

Amazing what time and space will do.

Unexpectedly, we've had the Millay Colony entirely to ourselves for almost a week now.

A previous colonist left a few hours before we arrived on Sunday.
THANKS for the scallop risotto!
Three others are due over these next days.
Calliope is off to the Superbowl.
Imagine - the person who manages residencies here is named for the Muse of Epic Poetry.

We spent our first night in the Barn that you see in the photo background. That's where I spent my residency years ago, and I specifically requested space there this time.

When Ponczka learned spots in the new building were free, the battle of wills began.
She won.
The new building IS more comfortable, and more practical:
the kitchen is here, internet is here, studio lighting is better, it's less drafty.

But it's so much less romantic! So much less writerly!

Oh well. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE, according to the old sci-fi movies.
Yesterday, I lugged the Beast down to the Barn and wrote in my old studio for awhile. It satisfied the craving.

I found my name where I scratched it into the wood of the doorframe in May 2K, with the message, THRIVE! So many other names since, the ones from earlier years fading.

We inhabit an extraordinary space here. Not just spacial, but temporal, creative...who knows what else. We feel like beings with mountains for beds, clouds for pillows.

Every gesture comes out a dance.