It’s just about time to head home.
I’ve been in Virginia for nearly three weeks, and it’s been a great three weeks. I’m finishing up a fiction-writing residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts on the outskirts of Amherst, Va., up the road from Lynchburg, within eyeshot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are many writers who would absolutely love a chance to spend time at this welcoming creative place. It’s not easy to get offered a residency at VCCA, which hosts its share of Pulitzer prize winners and NEA grant recipients and MacArthur “genius award” fellows and National Book Award winners. So, while I suspect that somehow the paperwork got mixed up and they think I’m someone else, I am so grateful and appreciative that for whatever reason I’ve been invited here four times in the last four years. So, thank you, VCCA.
This visit, I’ve completed about 8,000 words of a new novel, and maybe this is the one that will get turned into a movie starring Johnny Depp (or Brad Pitt) (or Dear Hollywood, take your pick, I don’t care who plays the lead role in the movie version of my novel tentatively titled “Anarchy: A Love Story,” just send me that big fat Hollywood check, preferably in advance).
I’ve loved living in a bare-bones but cozy writing studio – a corn crib converted into a little cottage – atop a hillside where horses and cows wander, coyotes howl and owls hoot, and a freight train passes by in the night.
As usual at VCCA, I’ve met some really friendly, interesting and creative people: other writers, of both fiction and poetry, as well as visual artists and composers, covering a wide range of ages and geography, but all of them talented and thought-provoking and supportive – and all of them amazingly punctual as they lined up for the delectable dinners served up nightly by the VCCA’s chefs.
And I’ve had some memorable personal experiences.
* Driving down beautiful back roads through the fields and in the mountains – sometimes almost awed by the wonder of it all, sometimes nearly forgetting life’s cares, and sometimes saddened by stark scenes of rural poverty. Being reminded constantly about the hard reality of the South’s legacy of racism and separation and oppression (such as an overheard conversation this morning at a local breakfast spot, as you-know-what -word was freely uttered several times in a family’s bitter conversation about the Election Day defeat of the tea party candidate for Virginia governor).
* Dialing through my radio and finding classical music on the public radio station out of Charlottesville amidst the seemingly endless stream of country music stations, bluegrass stations and Bible-thumping radio ministries. Passing dozens of evangelical churches while heading toward Lynchburg and driving along the Jerry Falwell Highway and skirting the campus of a very scary place called Liberty University, which was founded by the late Mr. Falwell, who also unleashed upon this fair land that plague called the Moral Majority.
* Meeting the many friendly people, both black and white, who live and work in the small town of Amherst and environs — including the local pharmacist who talked lovingly about his grandchildren and his move to the Blue Ridge from another part of Virginia to be be near them, while jabbing a needle in my arm to give my flu shot.
* And then this was this intriguingly and impressively taciturn couple I ran into when I went into town to do my laundry. He nodded at me (I think) when I entered. The two of them didn’t say a word — to me or to each other — for the next hour we all spent together at the laundromat.
But now it’s time to go home, to familiar and comforting scenes and people and routines, to continue work on my novel, to the pleasure of preparing and sitting down together for home-cooked meals, to a little dog to whom I’m just a little attached, to preparations for the upcoming holidays, to a warm fire to dispel the autumn chill…
And most of all, of course, it’s about time to get back to the one I love.
Here’s some appropriate music: