Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taking a moment to say hello!

Hello from bucolic living at its best! I am away this week at one of the oldest writer’s residencies in America. It’s in the middle of nowhere. I mean that literally.

The residency is atop a hill, and it is surrounded by copious amounts of snow. The closest civilization is reachable only by car. There are no grocery stores, yoga studios, gas stations, or humans near where I am. But we do have bears and moose as neighbors. And the frisky wind which teases the curtains at night.

Initially, I was convinced life in rural, secluded America would be an episode from one of the Srivastava-Vikram family favorite TV shows, “Criminal Minds.” Apparently I sounded (maybe still do) like a cynical New Yorker with my “safety” questions. Don’t judge me; people here don’t lock their doors or cars.

The first day, when I walked out of my studio in the evening, I realized the common area was pitch dark. And suddenly it struck me that I was by myself in this massive cottage. And did I mention there is no cell phone reception here? I freaked out! Contemplated going back to the city. Just then, two of the other residents (also from NYC) walked into the cottage. I guess the stress lines on my face were obvious. They distracted me by talking about the spectacular sunset – a must see.

So, I grabbed my coat and walked out. I sat on the corner of a snow-covered barbeque table and saw the most gorgeous view. A humbling feeling. Right then, something happened. Something dramatic. As the rays of the setting sun melted some of the snow, I had a conversation with myself. My thoughts breathed freely in the woods. And none of it was intentional.

Given the demands of a city life, my every hour, like most city-dwellers’, is dedicated to some active verb or the other. Every minute is accounted for.

Peter De Vries once said, “I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning”. Professionally, I am a multi-genre writer, so I make sure I devote enough time to poetry, creative nonfiction essays, and fiction stories. My brain is used to the juggling. Literally, at the specific allotted time of the day, poetry gets written. Or personal essay topics flow into the specific compartment of the brain.

Life in a big city is about processes. And every creative type I have met there tells me they have a routine. There is no other way of meeting deadlines and accomplishing everything.

Anyway, after the sunset on the first day, I got back to my studio and wrote for almost six hours. It was pure and untainted work. A short fiction story. The next day, I tried writing another story, but my hands ended up inscribing poetry. I wondered about it. And the day after, the same thing. happened. I decided to go for a walk even if that meant walking on a cold, frozen, uninhabited road to remind my brain that it was “short story time.”

I walked up to the gallery, a few blocks away, where Edna St. Vincent Millay, the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, wrote at one time! It was an honor to experience the energy at a historical landmark site.

The director, a lovely man, and I got talking. I confessed to him that I wasn’t able to write anything but poetry. Fiction pieces felt phony. And I didn’t quite feel the emotional upsurge to write a personal essay. He told me that I wasn’t the first person to experience the poetic-pull. One of the residents in the past, a visual artist, ended up writing poetry instead of creating visual art pieces.

There is something in the air here. I wonder if its Edna’s energy. There is a poetry trail here -- Millay poetry trail. Is that the muse? I don’t know, but I am learning to appreciate time. Time which isn’t a slave to urban dictatorship. Time which allows creativity to flow like the Ganges.

I have always been a city person, and I don’t see that changing. But I can see why people come up to such remote places. It’s not just about avoiding distractions. It’s about listening to yourself. Getting reacquainted with what you want. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s worth it in the end.

In these few days, my creative instincts want to live like a true, bohemian artist: Wear green pants with pink sweater and soak in the surroundings. I indulge them. I nap when I want. I write and read when creative juices knock at my door. The city girl inside of me might be perturbed, but the artist feels at peace.


More until next time, 



Copyright © 03. 08.2010

“Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you've made sense of one small area.”  Nadine Gordimer quotes



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVED reading about your experience.