Tuesday, August 09, 2011

letter from the exotic faraway

Good morning!

Isn’t it miraculous how traveling peels back the surface of ordinary life? Every setting, every minute feels new like a freshly-cracked egg, and just as liquid. Anything could happen.

I’m writing from my studio, my three-room writing paradise at Dairy Hollow Writers Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. While I’m still taking it all in, Eureka Springs feels to me like a mix of Rivendell (Middle Earth, Lord of the Rings) and Madrid, New Mexico—maybe with a bit of Farmland, Indiana thrown in there, too. Everyone greets one another. People talk to strangers. While the writers’ colony is located in town, the space between houses is wild and wooded. From my living room porch, I watched a fox cross the street this morning, and I saw a deer on the way to church. Neither of them looked too nervous about my presence. Public walking paths travel behind old haunted inns, past the towers of Victorian houses, right through the backyards full of cliffs and healing springs with mythical qualities. Everyplace is uphill, both ways.

My home for the next week is “the culinary suite,” a pale green and cream living room/office, arranged around a rustic fireplace of local stone. My suite also includes a KitchenAid dream kitchen, with a six-burner stainless steel stove and an array of cobalt blue appliances. Surrounding the dream kitchen is a patio. 

I arrived Saturday to an outdoor temperature of 104, so I unpacked and napped in the air-conditioning. (Folks here tell me this heat is not normal for this place—Eureka Springs is typically the cool and shady part of the state, a vacation hub in summer.) After walking through the crowded downtown in the evening, I found a small pub with a menu of “little bites.” The lettuce-shrimp wrap reminded me of Vietnamese summer rolls in Chinatown, and the olive tapenade reminded me of a favorite restaurant on Eastern Point in Gloucester, a restaurant my husband and I frequented many years ago—now long gone. Is it travel that knits all of time together into one story? Gloucester friends, one of the pub’s specials of the day was a lobster tail dinner for $65. What on earth can one do to a lobster tail to make it worthy of that investment? My little bites added up to $10.

St. James’ Episcopal serves Sunday brunch after church—eggs, fruit, and sticky buns from heaven. I met twenty new people who all love Dairy Hollow writing center, and they all wanted to know about what I am writing. I almost got to meet a retired author of Harlequin “super-romances,” but she was busy with the altar guild. (I am so NOT a romance-reader. This near-miss might be providential for her and for me. What is a super-romance? Anyone? Another of my writing companions enjoys a sub-genre called “cozy mysteries,” which include recipes. Who knew?) The church feels much like St. Mary’s Rockport, a place filled with artists and people who chose to live here instead of living anyplace else on earth. When I returned to my studio, I worked on research, journal writing and just catching up with myself. Went back to the pub for lettuce shrimp wraps and tapenade with my two colony compatriots—shared a bottle of wine and talked about our work. A nice introduction.

Then I hunkered down yesterday—all the world was waiting for rain to break this miserable heat wave. Spent the morning writing, reading, researching. Spent the afternoon finding a ride to the grocery store (good coffee, rice crackers, juice, pinot grigio). After my first Dairy Hollow dinner, more work and a little knitting. It took me a few hours to realize how silent this place is, aside from the cicadas, and to remember how much I love silence and solitude as a respite from my regular day-to-day life.

The rain came in the evening, pummeling, pounding, an all-night deluge. I woke to 72 degrees, outside—my online weather forecast said the cool temps would only last an hour, so I found the shortcut path through the woods and walked downtown. Most stores are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. So I’ll make a date for the yarn shop tomorrow. Meanwhile I returned drenched with sweat from walking uphill both ways again.

Later this week I’ll tell you more about the project I’m working on. For right now, the temperature is climbing again, and I’m watching the butterflies on the porch. I tossed this morning’s coffee over ice and I’m sitting with my feet up on the hassock, my stack of books, and my notes. This time is a gift, and I’m enjoying myself and enjoying my work greatly.



Linda said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've always wanted to go to Eureka Spring--and to stay in a writer's retreat there sounds like heaven! I can't wait to hear about your project. I love your writing!

Denise said...

There is a part of me that's exceedingly glad to wake in the morning and greet no one, hear no one. But there is another part of me that needs a little structure. I would do well at a silent monastery, with the liturgical services breaking the day into a rhythm, with the company of people with-whom-I-do-not-speak.

Either way, I'm glad for this gift, and Eureka Springs is wonderful.