Yesterday was day five of this ten-day residency. About mid-afternoon I hit a wall of supreme fatigue in which I was able to fully function except under one circumstance. When a classmate or teacher asked me the question "How are you?" I was confronted with such a complicated internal survey coupled with the request to externalize the discovered sensations and thoughts, I could only answer, "Exhausted." After several hours of this, the awareness that the question was simply one of nicety and greeting settled upon me, and I was able to muster smiles and variations like, "Good" and "How'd you like XYC seminar?" and "Are you happy with your mentor selection?".
As it turns out, almost everyone I've seen is happy with their mentor selection. With one exception in my posse of first-semesters, there's an infusion of excitement and optimism about the coming Project Period. I am certainly electrified. After five days of seminars in these rooms and walls, I am curious about the next phase of work. Once these ten days are over and we all head back into our normal lives of day jobs, yoga teaching, and family, my mentor and the four other students in my mentor-group will be my crew.
My mentor for this Project Period is the same teacher/writer I have for this Residency's Genre Writing Workshop. Coincidentally, two of the four in my mentor-group are also in my GWW. For the first five months of 2014 we'll be peas in pod. Each month we will participate in ten- to fourteen-day online discussions about our group-chosen books. Every Sunday we will have a friendly check-in with each other just to see how the writing is going and what, if any, frustrations are arising. In addition, in these five months we each will read another five or ten books chosen with the guidance of our mentor based on our personal writing and literary goals, and submit paragraph- to five-page annotations on a monthly basis of anything we read. Finally, we will each work on our individual writing projects and submit to our mentor via snail mail up to twenty pages by the last Friday of each month.
I have a one-on-one meeting with my mentor in an hour, and it is in that meeting that we will determine which books I will read this spring. Meanwhile, the books I will read with my group are:
Here is Where We Meet, John Berger
Plainwater, Ann Carson
The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Sad to say, I never did read those last two in high school, so I'm happy to dig into them now. It is mind-boggling how many classics I've taken up on my own in the years since high school, to make up for holes in my education. What did we spend our time (and tax payers money) on back then? All I recall is Dicken's Great Expectations, Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, and, when I moved to rural Florida in twelfth grade, the Bible.
Despite my exhaustion, yesterday ended magnificently. I didn't want to leave the school, could have sat in the seminar room for another two hours. This is the power of story. Most days end with a Reading, usually with three student readers followed by a faculty or guest reader. I truly enjoyed all three students yesterday, but what glued my entire attention was faculty writer Hope Edelman's reading of an almost-finished essay she has been working on. It was a riveting piece of personal memoir/investigative journalism about the military toxic waste dump that formed the foundation below her elementary school and childhood neighborhood. By the time the reading officially ended she was only mid-way through her tale. Last night I was tied, tethered to every word, reeling with each new revelation of her investigation and the unfolding of her childhood memories.
This, this, this. Yes, yes, yes. This is why I am here, now. To learn, to explore, to figure out how to stitch together narratives that engulf, capture, and eliminate exhaustion, hunger, and desire. To dissolve the future and the past and anything outside of the very moment in the story. To vanish everything in the world save the next word.