The Long Road Home

Looking out toward Lake George and the Adirondacks from the back field of my farm
Looking out toward Lake George and the Adirondacks from the back field of my farm.

Today I spent an inspiring and enlightening day down at Pompanuck Farm Institute in Cambridge, New York, attending a creativity workshop put on by Bedlam Farm, the home of writer Jon Katz and his artist-wife, my friend Maria Wulf. It was rainy and cool, the perfect kind of October day for turning inward and contemplating life’s creative forces. Gathered around a hearty fire burning in the woodstove, sipping strong black coffee, and smelling the enticing fragrance of bread rising up from the kitchen below, I sat with other aspiring and accomplished artists alike listening to and discussing poetry, writing, photography, and generally what it means to be an artist today.

I hadn’t written anything in a very long time. A couple of months, according to my timeline here on WordPress. I had been feeling guilty about that, but I had my reasons, too – good ones, to my mind. Not that I hadn’t wanted to; it’s just that, there wasn’t enough energy left over from the doing of things for the writing about them. The processing was all internalized. They were cooking slowly, like any good pasta sauce – sitting on the stove for hours and hours, boiling down, concentrating, into a final, delicious state.

And it was a summer ripe with changes. I have never really had a great summer, I realized. Like, one full of wonderful adventures or happy days splashing in the sun. I can’t recall even one. Maybe it’s that I don’t like the heat that much, and summer is full of heat, if nothing else (though there was a lot of rain, too, this year). There is always lots of work to be done, of course: in the garden, around the house, with the animals. And then the trying occasionally to get out and do something fun, like kayaking, hiking, or going on a road trip somewhere new. But in general, summers for me have marked or meant some changeful event, and this one went par for the course.

Ironically enough, the changes have mostly been good, helpful, I should say, which I can see clearly now in hindsight. But they have still been changes, and that is stressful in and of itself. My life’s patterns shifted, altered; my expectations and hopes for my future had to be left go of and reframed. And then I had to learn to make peace with all that.

Feeling the coming of fall has brought about a sense of renewal in me. Though this season is really a sign of the ending of things, the year dying or heading toward the long sleep of winter, I never feel more alive than in the fall. The light alone gives me goosebumps, all long and golden, spearing the landscape and making shadows of almost unbelievable depth. To me, it is the time that the world most clearly shows itself to us in all its beauty and all its darkness together, as one.

So, filled with energy and a sense of hope, I looked forward to the workshop today. And it did not disappoint: I came back with a new sense of purpose, inspired and eager to resume writing and creating, and made a renewed commitment to my work and myself as an artist. My eyes, my senses, felt open again.

After the workshop, I was truly blessed to find the beauty in the world I discovered along my journey home. I had about an hour’s drive and left a few minutes early, concerned about my pets being home alone for so long, feeling a bit rude for not staying quite until the end. The rain had lasted all day, but that in no way dulled the fiery beauty of the changing trees or masked the charm of the rolling hillsides. Instead, it only seemed to amplify them. Traveling along through the early evening, I watched the clouds roll away and the sky clear, shocked by the red riot of the sunset, and followed the path of the mists curling across the hills and down into the valleys, still clinging here and there to some odd anchor. I watched the light fade, the long light I love so much, and the shadows start to overtake it all. It was gorgeous and devastating, peaceful and powerful both at once. And had I stayed another minute longer at the workshop or even a few, the sun would have been gone, the sky dark, the mist and the hillsides swallowed up. I would have missed it all.

I could have stopped at some point and gotten out my camera to take a picture, I thought about it, several times. Particularly after spending the day talking about making art, I almost felt obligated to do so. The rain had stopped, I wouldn’t have gotten drenched. But I didn’t stop. I realized it felt like it was enough for me to see again, to acknowledge and appreciate the experience, to bear witness, without feeling the need to somehow try and capture it. I simply drove, enjoying the moment, happy to be a part of it all, and feeling incredibly fortunate enough to notice.