For the past couple weeks, I've been hiding out in the woods at the Millay Colony for the Arts. It's an idyllic space with barnhouse studios nestled within the trees and gardens where legendary poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once lived.
Her spirit has been wandering the grounds as the air has been balmy and creative. In residency with me were writers Erica Cavanagh, Adrian Shirk, Miranda Mellis, painter Tricia Keightley, photographer Isa Leshko, and new music composer Michael Harrison—their company warm and welcoming, and our dinner conversations completely engrossing me in wonder and laughter. We had luscious meals prepared by the incredible chef Donna Wenzel, who brought fresh local flavors each evening to the colony table. While most of the time was spent in monastic silence working, some of us managed to hike up Harvey Mountain together. After long days in the studio, I found myself walking the poetry trails that sprawl from Millay's lovely garden and fields.
It was a much needed break from the "busy" of life for diving deep into a new body of work, discovering new processes, and most importantly self-care. It has just felt like the world has been a burning house, the hostility of our times weighing down on my chest. To be around a constellation of creative minds with kinds hearts, who come together to make this world more livable, more beautiful, more compassionate in their own ways is a rare treasure. It was a reminder that what we are making here is much more durable.
Halfway through the residency, my family did come up for a short visit and while eating brunch at the Prairie Whale, we noticed that we were sitting only one table away from Garrison Keillor! We walked the main street of that Berkshire town, strolling around the shops and eating ice cream.
One night during open studios, we gathered together to listen to a new piece of music by Michael Harrison. Walking round the room different chords would resonate in different ears, through the body and out of each hair and finger. It felt like a meditation in deep space and through time. It was also incredibly healing.
During the time here, I discovered new ways of entering / shaping / mapping poetry on the page, thanks to Sol Lewitt, Jen Bervin, and Fred Thomaselli whose works are up at Mass MoCA. I came to find a new process and to spend time with poems I'd been meaning to read all year. After our last dinner we all stood in the middle of a night time field and stared at the fireflies flickering like stars over the grass and between the trees. There was gratitude and there was a gifting of something I am not sure how to name but that enlarged our worlds nonetheless.
I was also able to combat some of the guilt and stress from the narrative roles that can sometimes monopolize my energy. To be a mother, to be a poet, to be a designer, to be a visual artist, not to mention a friend, a bodhisattva, a sister, and daughter — the demands are endless. What I realize is that it is important to have a framework of experimentation rather than to see myself at the mercy of shame traps. Under stress it's easy to feel like we are fucking up all the time. But when carving out time for self-care, for centering myself, for rest (yes!) and being creative, then I can live these roles on my terms, with my own truth, and with a sense of adventure and most of all joy.
I'm truly thankful for the quiet, safe, and welcoming environment that Millay created for us. My heart is full and I'm ready to return home.