August 14, 2013
Here I am, back
in my own past, river
and meadows exquisitely
the same . . .
Why doesn’t the landscape
seem to age? Outside,
the old mountain waits
us out, still mute,
— Linda Pastan, b. 1932
from “Return to Maple 9″*
Here I am tonight, back in my own past. This is my fifteenth sojourn on the mountain, my eleventh as a participant in the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. I arrived yesterday after a day in New York City, a previously unplanned feature of the Gallivant that came about because I responded to a call for help for a young and impecunious scholarship student who needed to be here the day before opening day. Though she could fly to Burlington, she would have no one to share the cab ride from the airport to the mountain, for which the fare is more than $150. This gave me a reason to arrange a visit with my New York journalist friend whom I see all too seldom, and have some entertaining company on the rainy drive north.
Just before I left for Sewanee, I read an interview with Deborah Moggach, the English novelist, now 65, who wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. She talked about “how you live these last 20 or 30 years, because it’s a big raft of time.” The whole time I was in Tennessee, I kept thinking about that, feeling the age in my bones, the hip that hitches, the knee that crackles sometimes as I make my away around a college campus built for twenty-somethings. Each of us is on a raft of time headed for a door with a sign on it that says “Exit.” I’m beginning to see mine quite clearly.
I am renting the same little apartment on the edge of the campus that I have since 2006. Today I went about setting up my workspace with the same joy and sense of adventure that I used to bring to the teacher prep days before the school year began. The time ahead shimmers with promise, and the work we’ve come to do both excites and challenges.
Before dinner I stood on the porch of the Bread Loaf Inn, seeing people I have known here for years, people I’ve known online and whom I have now met, and people who have come up the mountain for the first time. Afterward I took one of my new friends down the hill a bit to show her the road that goes back to the Homer Noble Farm, the building where her workshop will meet tomorrow. On our way back to campus, we saw this.
This is going to be the best Bread Loaf ever.
*Linda Pastan was a faculty member at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for twenty years. The poem is a reference to a residence cottage on the mountain campus.