It is difficult, if not impossible, to put into words the experience of my first full day of residency at Pacific University.
At the risk of breaking some of my own blogging parameters, I will be direct: For many reasons, not the least of which is the privacy of the well-known authors who I am working with and the budding graduates who I am befriending, I cannot write in great detail about some of my day to day experiences.
Which is not to say that vast paragraphs about how the excellent flits of grey in JB’s hair sparkled in the light as she stood firmly at the podium tonight. Or how PF is publicly the butt of all the faculty jokes and eats it up like a kid who has been dared to eat a quadruple banana split. Or how the fiction writers catch all the flack, but always with a loving slap on the shoulders and a garish chuckle or two. And indeed how stanza upon stanza bounded in my brain while PR waxed poetic about the stars across genres and centuries of human thought. These words trapped only by the silence of my skull walls and the need to be socially acceptable (ie. not standing up and shouting spontaneous lines of prose despite my overwhelming urges).
And furthermore how when everyone went around the room announcing their recent publishing successes and a second-year student got kudos for publishing and essay in a journal and getting paid…and how I bit my tongue and squirmed in my seat yet still didn’t have the courage to jump up and promote myself, telling them: “Yes! Me too! I have been getting paid for essays and you can even read one that’s coming out this month!”
And how when I watched JR deliver the first Craft Talk of the residency, I sat trembling in my seat on the verge of tears, my ache for the urge of writing so deep it could have been every fiber in my body, every ounce of blood in my veins, every mindless breath I took. How I felt at home when he implied that the decisions we make as writers, excellent writers, is an ethical one – a decision in service of humanity, a decision to evoke emotion in our readers, a decision to change patterns of thought and make impressions on the world, our words like a baby’s fingers pressing into soft clay – gentle, newborn, unmistakable.
And how later, when no one was left mingling in the couryard, I left the privacy of my dorm room tucking my keys safely into my bra and walked through the night in search of the full moon. And a vast mountain range notwithstanding meant that within minutes I found myself lost among tall trees, my only reference point brick buildings, similar sidewalks, and groomed lawns. But how for a few moments it didn’t matter, and I lay on the grass staring at the big belly of a moon, irritated only by the streelights, then did a sommersault out of play hoping that it would reset my brain and allow me to sleep tonight. And by the grace of something or someone how a pair of undergrads strolled by just then and pointed me safely in the direction of my dorm (it being the opposite way I thought it was).
So the quote of the day comes from JR, whose talk was titled Wrestling with the Angel: The Images as the Writer’s Antagonist and it goes as such:
”Language alone is insubstantial…but if you wound it, it can gain heft and power…Writing is a kind of dreaming while armed with words…When you’re writing, you’re creating and destroying at the same time…”