Sunday, July 27, 2008

early morning, day four of grad school residency

Dear Amy,

Thanks for reminding me that you are waiting for word about how things are going. It’s easy to sink into a constant state of “overwhelm,” and it’s also good to step out and describe.

I’ve been traveling since last Sunday, really, when Scott and I drove children to camp, returned the two hours home, and ate dinner at a favorite restaurant. Monday morning was extended several time zones as I flew to Phoenix to be with my brother.

And on Thursday I arrived here in Santa Fe. The forty-minute plane ride was uneventful but the two hour shuttle ride featured a broken air conditioning system, so the passengers were struggling to drink enough water in the canned heat of an enclosed bus, in the midday sun.

Even covered with sweat and lugging suitcases up terraces, I’m elated to be at my third “residency” for my MFA program in creative writing. The suitcase full of books is emptied on the shelf above my desk in the tiny dorm cell. A row of lightweight summer dresses goes quickly onto hangers, for the hours of heat, and another row of warm pants is good for the cool evenings and mornings. I brought way too much stuff, still coasting on a plane ticket with “grandfathered” luggage rules. If I CAN bring two suitcases, then of course I WILL bring two suitcases. I’m thinking I’ll mail books back home at the end of the two weeks, though, and pack everything else into one giant suitcase, to make my life easier.

And my roommate comes in, my roommate from last year, whose company I enjoy. “We have a terrace!” she says, and the door flies open to the outdoors. The altitude is too high for mosquitoes—the door stays open all the time.

Thursday is a day for unpacking, learning new names (twelve new students), for orientation meetings, for reminders about altitude sickness. I eat healthy, drink water, and I still get a stomachache that won’t quit. I lie awake all night, wishing I’d packed any bland food—the cashews, the apricots, these are no help.

Friday is another quiet day, necessary. Students switch faculty mentors after the first year, so I met my new mentor after breakfast, when we were both feeling our lack of sleep and the sad absence of the usual quantities of caffeine. Describing myself in these conditions, giving an interview, in the morning—these are challenging tasks. It goes okay. My fellow students and I have our first craft lecture, and I remember I’ll be sitting in classes for hours this week, despite the stunning weather.

A friend and I walk into town on a beautiful sunny day, eager for the flower-filled window boxes on the terra cotta homes, and the buzz of tourist season. The sun is hot but the day is irresistible, clear, sunny.

Friday night, after faculty readings (spectacular, as always) and finding the late-night gathering of classmates, I slept well and woke relieved.

And Saturday is more like the rest of the writing residency, classes beginning at 9 a.m., ending at 9 p.m., with breaks only for meals, for one hour of reading, and for one hour of Frisbee in a big courtyard.

My manuscript was “workshopped” in the afternoon, and I’ll tell you more about that experience tomorrow.

I’m ruminating every step of the way, how different it is from last year, how at home I feel in this group of peers, what an honor it is to learn from these people and to talk late into the night, to recognize my friend Allison’s warm laughter from across the courtyard, to hear my roommate say she hears my own laughter from our room on the other side of campus, as she arrives at the little party in her pajamas, laughing herself.

This morning many students left half an hour ago for a big festival downtown, and I’m thinking I’ll walk in and join them. Or I might sit here and bang out the next story (not a bad idea). While I’m deciding, I’ve put on sunscreen, checked the weather, had a good sneezing fit. If I go into town, I might find cell phone reception, to talk with my children while they are between weeks of summer camp… with that, it’s time to put the shoes on and go.

More tomorrow. Just know I'm so glad to be here that I'd even read Augustine and sit in a classroom for much of the day. But first, for the morning off, in Santa Fe.

love, Denise

1 comment:

Amy said...

Thanks so much for the update--again, I'm living vicariously. Looking forward to hearing about the experience of having your manuscript workshopped! Sounds both thrilling and terrifying to me... :)