Day 1: VCCA

It’s quiet at first and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Fork Mountain is quiet in its own way, but the wilds of the mountain and its hardwood forest are always apparent to me from my writing desk. Here, there is the sound of the 4-lane highway in the distance—Route 29 toward Amherst, Virginia—and the constant singing of crickets. But with open meadows, tended gardens, and brick buildings, I realize that my sense of sound is inherently linked to my sense of space. Decibel for decibel, it’s probably quieter on Fork Mountain than it is at VCCA. It must be the open, human-tended grounds that evoke the feeling of silence that contrasts so sharply with a burgeoning Appalachian forest at the end of summer.

Quiet…but then I hear it: the unmistakable rattle and hum of a train. I look out the window of my studio and see flashes of color through the trees about 200 feet away. I lean back in my chair and watch it roll on by. One, five, ten, seventeen…too many cars to count from this distance but it’s not the number that matters anyway.

When I left teaching full time to apply to grad school and attempt this writer’s life, my sentinel and symbol became the pileated woodpecker. Or rather, the pileated woodpecker chose me. After seeing them so frequently, I felt called to learn more about the myths associated with them and learned that their black and white colors can symbolize change. Native in Western North Carolina, these birds symbolized a change but not a major relocation or move for me.

Trains and bridges have become my new sentinel and symbol, and I’m certain they also reflect change. Though this time the change moves and connects. It is powerful and sturdy, always going from one place to the next—yet with the presence of mind to stay the course. I could hope for as much these next two weeks. Here goes…

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