Halcyon Days

June 26, 2006

Halcyon Days logoSince 2002 I’ve named my summers, the way rock bands name their tours. That one I called “The Long and Winding Road.” A friend’s chance remark about roads not taken had inspired me to add a visit to Vermont after a research trip to Massachusetts, the first time I’d been back there in almost thirty years. At the point on Vermont Route 7 outside Middlebury where one turns east on Route 125 to go up to Ripton and then past the Bread Loaf campus to Hancock, a metal sign advises “Long Winding Road.” Returning to campus from a foray to Middlebury in my little turquoise 1970 Vega, I’d sing Paul McCartney’s melancholy, ambiguous ballad, the Beatles’ last chart topper before the breakup. It reflected my mood in those days, when I saw myself as a wanderer through wild and windy nights, looking for love and acceptance.

I called 2003 the “Goodnight, Moon” summer. My first experience as a participating writer at Bread Loaf had been both wonderful and terrible (the former because it’s, well, Bread Loaf, and the latter because of a bad fit between me and the writer who led my critique group). Just before the end of the conference I visited an exhibit at the Shelburne Museum on Route 7 that showed how artist Clement Hurd (who lived nearby) worked with Margaret Wise Brown to develop the illustrations that became Goodnight Moon, among Lynn’s favorite childhood books. The exhibit helped soothe my hurt feelings and get me ready for Lynn’s senior year in high school.

When I returned to Vermont in 2004 I checked in at the Old Hancock Hotel and then visited the Bread Loaf campus, where the School of English session was in its final week. I spent the evening there, and when I walked out to my car I found that it was parked under a glorious full moon, so I called that trip the “Moon Over Moosalamoo” summer, after the Abenaki name for the region, “where the moose departs.” And last year, of course, was “Taken by the Wind,” the name I gave to my adventure in Wyoming.

Halcyon Bird drawing Just before I left for Georgia I was inspired by some lines from Gerard Manley Hopkins: “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; As tumbled over rim in roundy wells stones ring.” The collection of colored pencils I’d gotten for my art lessons held one called “kingfisher blue.” I looked up the kingfisher bird and discovered that in Greek it’s the Halcyon bird, a symbol of devotion. Halcyon days are days of peace, when the winds calm so that kingfishers can breed and nest in tranquility.

I have a good feeling about this summer. I’m a month past the trip to Georgia. Although initially I was flummoxed by the critique and by some of the ways other readers interpreted my work, I went right back in, considered the feedback, and worked to improve the manuscript. (I have never returned to the manuscript that was so mercilessly shredded in 2003.)

So I had a productive June, accomplishing at least one small thing in each of my Six Goals of a Quality Life. I’ve finally gotten my “5 Pound Ribbon” at Weight Watchers (Goal #1.) I’ve diligently set aside all the money deducted from my grocery bill for choosing “bonus buys” and using coupons, funneling it into next year’s Gallivanting Fund (Goal #2). I’ve continued to work at fiction (Goal #3). I took a day trip with my sister and managed to remember her son’s and her daughter’s birthdays (Goal #5). I inventoried all my writing instruction books and art instruction books and put all the drawings I’ve done since my first lessons in 2002 into an album (Goal #6) And above you see evidence of progress in Goal #4, a drawing of a kingfisher that I accomplished last week at my art lesson. I’ve read two novels and this morning started a third, and later today I will begin updating my Books Blog.

Thanks for continuing to follow my long and winding road!

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