after the concert

Singing the Brahms Requiem was draining, but afterward, instead of feeling tired, I was having a bit of an adrenaline rush. I said some thank yous and goodbyes and headed back to my friend CK’s home.

When CK invited me to stay with her, she had graciously offered to have a few friends from our Smith years over after the concert. As it happened, a couple of guests grew to three, then five, then seven, until finally we were a group of ten alums from ’81-’83 with two spouses, one of them CK’s husband who was our co-host.

CK handled everything with aplomb, starting with cheeses, dips, and deviled eggs, moving on to three delicious homemade soups with bread and three salads, and ending with a make-your-own sundae bar featuring four pints of gourmet ice cream from Bart’s, a local company. And there was malted vanilla!

Whenever Smithies get together, there is an instant connection and always lively conversation. Each of us knew someone else there well, but each also was getting know someone for the first time. We talked about music, of course, as we were all choral singers, about Smith, about generations of family, about technology, and more, in various constellations, for hours.

It was a wonderful way to cap an amazing day!

Advertisements

Eclectic Tuesday

This morning, I met Cousin S for breakfast at a local cafe where she is a regular. It was such a luxury to sit and talk without interruption! S is planning to come to our Boiler House Poets reading (October 4 at 7 PM at Makers’ Mill, Main St., North Adams), along with at least one other local friend. I look forward to seeing a couple of familiar faces.

MASS MoCA is closed on Tuesdays, so some of the poets went to visit the Clark Art Institute in neighboring Williamstown.  I decided to stay behind. I practiced for the reading. Kyle, one of the other poets, and I figured out how commenting works in google docs. (I’m sure daughter E is chuckling about that as she could have taught me in three minutes what took me much longer to figure out.)  Kyle read through my manuscript and left a number of comments for me to consider. I even figured out how to reply to several of them. I will work on the issues more in the coming weeks as I get more comments coming in.

With the museum closed, we didn’t have our usual group lunch in the cafe. I decided to go to a seafood restaurant that has been around since I was a kid for fish and chips. It was nice to sit in a booth and read while I waited for my lunch. It was also a lovely day for a walk.

Later in the afternoon, we met for a long session of workshopping. I brought the poem that I had written the bulk of in the middle of the night and got lots of useful feedback and suggestions for revision. I’m sure that my local poetry friends in Grapevine Group and/or Sappho’s Circle will see a revised version at some point this fall, as I am especially anxious to get this poem exactly right.

At dinner, we were working out a prospective plan for tomorrow. There is so little time left before we have to leave on Thursday and more that we would like to do than we have time for. I said that I didn’t think that I had anything else ready to workshop, which led to a rather exasperated response from the poet to my right that we should be looking at my manuscript. While I had sent a link to everyone, I had said that it was totally their choice to look at it or not. I am excited, though, to have the opportunity for the whole group to comment. I’m not sure if people will comment on individual poems or more broadly about organization or stylistic issues, but I am hungry for any feedback they can offer.

We decided to continue the dinnertime discussion back at our apartment, with a few poems being read, too. I can hardly wait to hear what people choose to read tomorrow night!

 

Hitting the ground running

Today, I discovered one of the advantages of a reunion residency: you can immediately settle in and get to work.

This morning, I drafted a new poem about Drury High School and transcribed notes from our inaugural residency on Mark Dion’s The Octagon Room. It may well become the longest poem I have ever written. I finished a first draft which I may offer for critique later in the week, even though I would get teased for using a lot of paper!

The morning was punctuated with some local fun. Jessica and I took a break to shop at the Farmers’ Market where I bought some local goodies. A fun feature was the costumed dogs getting ready for the Dog Parade that was part of the Fall Foliage Festival. We also headed up Main Street to the Fall Foliage craft fair where I picked up a few local craft pieces, including some cards featuring local scenes.

A new feature of the residency for us this year is that a daily meal is provided. We are able to send our lunch orders for the MASS MoCA cafe in advance, so at 12:30 we can all grab the box with our name on it, sit in the cafe, relax, and eat. It was fun to have a chance to chat and listen to the folk tunes that a group of musicians was playing.

After lunch, we returned to the studio to workshop poems. I am in awe of the talent in the room. Our two new poets slipped seamlessly into the group. The discussion was insightful and reached beyond the particular poem at hand into more general craft talk and technique, which I, as a community rather than academically trained poet, find immensely helpful.

We ended just before four o’clock, so I decided to cross the street to attend vigil Mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The building is familiar to me because it was my grandmother’s church, although at that time it was St. Anthony of Padua. The homily began with a story about the first weekend of October in 1987. Father Cyr reminded us that there was a huge freak snowstorm that weekend, which immediately brought to my mind my in-laws, who lived near North Adams in Stamford, Vermont. They had come out to visit us that weekend and wound up staying an extra day because a state of emergency had been declared so that they could not travel home. They were both public school educators, but schools were cancelled due to the heavy, wet snow, which broke many trees because they still had their leaves and could not to take the additional weight. The moral of the story was not to personalize unfortunate experiences. A snowstorm is not about you! Instead, as was seen in the Scripture readings of the day, we are called to have patience, to have faith, to gather spiritual strength, and to act for good. Given the animosity that has been on public display in these last months, I took heart that we can still change and act in a positive way. I needed that reassurance.

We spent the evening in various constellations talking and eating and talking and walking and talking some more. I love how our conversations flow so easily through family, travel, our work, change, poets and poetry. And Ezra Pound, whose name I have heard more today than any other day of my life…

 

 

This month a year ago…

Warning:  I haven’t been sleeping well, so rambling is upcoming.

I’ve done some posts about this being the tenth anniversary of some huge losses in my life, but today I am reflecting on a year ago.

Last September, I sang with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus for a choral homecoming weekend with Alice Parker.  One of the posts I made afterward was about visiting the memorial tree for our friend Beth who died during our senior year and the chapel where I had spent so many hours.  I had always intended to write another post about friendship and Smith women, but didn’t for reasons that will probably become clear later on in the post. I’m hoping to give a taste of that topic now…

I love to spend time with Smith women, especially back in Northampton. It is always special to me to see my roommate Mary with whom I share such a deep connection that we pick up conversation as though we weren’t a couple thousand miles apart the vast majority of the time.

I was blessed to renew ties with two women, each named Cathy, whom I had known during my Smith years, although they were in different class years so I didn’t know them as well.  It may not come as a surprise that our best times for sharing revolved around food. Cathy R. invited us to a lovely farm-fresh al fresco lunch with her family who had travelled with her and we talked about farming and New England and family and medicine and art and photography and how some of us would have been at the Climate March in NYC that day if we hadn’t already committed to being at Smith for the weekend.

Cathy K. lives in the next town over from Northampton and invited us to her home after the concert for appetizers before going out to dinner.  Her family owns a couple of local stores that sell specialty foods, wine, prepared foods, and more. Everything was so plentiful and delicious that we never did go on to dinner but spent hours eating, talking, laughing, and sharing. Family, education, politics, losses, music, career changes, hopes, the future, new directions.  It is so seldom that one has an opportunity to discuss with such depth and breadth. I am profoundly grateful that being with Smith women so often leads to these heart-mind-and-soul-enriching conversations.

I was also grateful to have re-connected with Anne, who is a wonderful poet and who graciously accepted a copy of the chapbook I had assembled the prior year for a local contest, even though neither the individual poems nor my editing abilities were advanced enough to warrant doing so.  She sent me valuable feedback and advice and has since looked over other poems for me. She is one of my poetry godmothers!

Now, a year later, the Alumnae Chorus is coming up on a deadline to sign up to tour in Cuba next July.  And I can’t do it. Within this next year, both E and T plan to finish their master’s degrees and our travel time and resources need to go to supporting them. I also must admit that the thought of touring Cuba doesn’t really appeal to me, especially in the heat of late July.  I am such a delicate flower that I would probably wilt!

And yesterday was Grandma’s (my mother-in-law) birthday. She has a problem with admitting her age so I won’t reveal it here, but this year was especially difficult for her because last year at this time we were in the throes of trying to determine what was wrong with her back. It turned out that an osteoporotic compression fracture in a vertebra led to its collapse and a long year of pain and complications and medications and therapy and ups and downs. Well, a lot more downs than ups.

Her elder son and his daughter came to visit for the weekend, which was nice, but it also was a reminder of how much she can’t do anymore.  Grandma was trying to wish away the last year, which is painful to watch.

It’s also a reminder of how stressful the last year has been. Exhibit A:  my outbreak of shingles last December. Lucky for you, I’m not going on to the rest of the exhibits. I am doing better with giving myself a bit more distance, but it is still sad and concerning and draining.

Especially in September.

I’m working on getting myself back into a better place. I actually managed to sleep a five hour stretch last night.

I’ll take all the progress I can get.