Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I am wiped out--life has been wonderfully hectic lately, and my body is starting to register that. I have spent most of the day in bed, reading, trying to get some energy back. A very welcome respite. I don't know if I have the focus right now to write a coherent post, so I think I'll just list some of the details from the last week I don't want to forget...

The trip to the Integratron:

--Driving the mongo van out into the desert, seeing my students' sweet faces in the rear view mirror, feeling a rush of responsibility similar to how I used to feel when I drove my kids around as babies. So much preciousness at stake!

--Trying not to crack up when the woman who now owns the Integratron talked about the caulk-intensive renovations to the building. "We had to get rid of George's dusty old caulk," she said (George is the man who built the building in the 1940s, using instructions he claimed to receive from an alien from Venus). Then she launched into a rhapsody about how much she and her sister love caulk. "We love caulk more than food around here!" she said. Imagine how this sounds out loud, and you'll get a sense of why I had to stifle my giggles (especially because she was being very earnest and sincere about the whole thing.)

--Lying on a huge beanbag chair during the sound bath, my feet on a pillow, feeling the vibrations of the crystal bowls rushing through my limbs like warm water.

--Opening my eyes afterwards and seeing my students with their eyes closed. A very tender sight. Later, seeing a pair of quail scamper across the sand outside, their top feathers bobbing.

--Visiting the orchid farm that happened to be across the street. Amazing to find such humid color and scent in the middle of the desert. Gazing at flats of baby venus fly traps; teasing them with objects, watching their mouths clamp shut over pieces of wood and paper.

--I miss my students already!

I was sad to not be able to attend the Johnston graduation on Saturday, but my experience at the Pima Writers Workshop in Tucson ended up being more gratifying than I could have imagined. Meg Files, the director of the conference, is a wonder--warm and generous and universally beloved. I connected with so many kindred spirits there (including the mother of one of my childhood friends!) I even got to meet (and have dinner with!) one of my very favorite writers, Nancy Mairs, whose bravery and honesty, in both her work and her life, continue to inspire me. I hung out with some fabulous writers, including Rachel Manija Brown (whose hilarious, affecting memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, is a must read. I devoured it on the plane ride home), Frank Gaspar, and Lance Larsen, all of whom I look forward to staying in touch with. Here are some of the details I want to remember from the trip:

--The turbulent plane ride into Tucson. It was so bumpy, the flight attendants walked down the aisle on their knees to pick up our empty cups and crumpled napkins.

--Amazing stretches of saguaro cactus, looking like a child's drawing of the desert come to life.

--Police swarming the hotel after someone waved a gun at a wedding reception and embarked upon a shirt-shucking escape/chase. The very pissed-off looking bride wandering around the bar later, after the gunman and his buddy were apprehended (in a hotel room where they were pretending to be sound asleep).

--Visiting the inspiring, off-the-grid adobe house that Kay Sather is building in a hole in her backyard. Reading the funny and profound essay she wrote about her chamber-pot-and-sawdust composting toilet.

--Being squished between two poets in the back of a Mustang convertible.

--Being squired around by two of the most wonderful women (and writers) I've met--Marge Pellegrino and Naomi Benaron.

--Visiting Antigone Books.

--Bearing witness to several writerly epiphanies.

--Feeling like part of a tribe.

--Sitting next to an 18-month boy on the plane ride home who kept touching my arm with his soft little hand and saying "arm."

Now I think I'll get back to the book I'm reading (my friend Mary Sharratt's rich and engrossing new novel, The Vanishing Point, which I plan to blog about soon), and build up some strength for my next adventure.


Matt D. said...

I missed the conference this year, and I regret it. That was a really good post.

gayle said...

Thanks, Matt! Sorry you weren't able to be there--it was a magical experience (I feel like I only scratched the surface here.) Happy writing!