Just past the mid-way point at MacDowell, a lot can happen in the space of a week and change. The second week has brought snow, snow plows, a visit with family from Maine, and sightings of one turkey, much bigger, blacker and more shy than California turkeys, a squirrel, which are fuzzier and have white bellies, and finally an interlude of birdsong during a freezing truncated walk through the woods.
It snowed the third night, and the next morning they were plowing the road with such industriousness that yours truly
could only think how grateful I am not to live in Russia. Witnessing such hard labor in contrast to the virtually immobile exertion committed in my studio made me consider the usefulness and practicality of this skill I’ve been bent on honing at MacDowell, but that worry was struck down pretty quickly when I turned back to the projekt at hand, and I have no doubt about the urgency of this piece. For a small moment of time, I almost compared the work between plowing snow to revision, trying to clear the path, for others to journey is arduous, sweaty, nerve-wracking, labor, and there is always plenty to plow.
One of the many traditions practiced at the Colony is for fellows, or colonists as they’re called here, to give presentations of their work, whether it be a reading or an open studio, you’re encouraged to share your artistic endeavors. The idea wasn’t that appealing, really, until a fellow explained that its best to present earlier rather than later during residency so that other fellows will have much needed context in terms of why you’re here and what you’re doing. This context cements a substantive foundation to conversations at dinner, breakfast, random encounters on the hallway or on the way to the studio. The whole purpose of the colony is not just for individual, solitary work but to be a part of the community, and being a part of a community means sharing. So, yes, there was a reading, and it was gratifying. In explaining my work to this crowd, I have a better grasp on how to explain what I’m doing, which not only helps keep me on track but also helps clarify the concept, so I can share with other communities as well.
I’ve heard it said that the artists who step through MacDowell are the “cultural matrix” of U.S. Arts & Culture. A fellow colonist, over dinner, urged us to imagine all the different figures who have stepped through the doors and walked these grounds. The idea is over-whelming, frankly, and something I will have to sit and live with long after my time here is said and done.
If its possible, the projekt seems to be instructing me on what needs to happen next with revision. Its as if the manuskript is teaching me how to write. How is that?
With ten more days left, I’m trying to prepare myself for the return to someone else’s fantasy that I participate in, which I refuse to call “reality” because, as far as I’m concerned, living in this artistic mind and physical space is my reality.
More to come on the last week. For now, its steady and deliberate work on writing. Though I haven’t nearly gotten as much reading done as I had hoped, which is something I would like to work on, the art of reading, but there’s still time. One can always try.