Friday, July 8, 2011

Writing in Segovia

Tonight, while the spaghetti sauce simmered on the stove and I waited for the men in my life to finish their work and make their way to the table, I sat down with a glass of iced tea and the latest copy of Poets & Writers. Lately I've been dreaming of attending writers' workshops, residencies on some leafy mountain tops or in cottages by the sea. I read every word of the advertisments in Poets & Writers, throwing myself into a dream state. I see myself rising from a single bed that's been made with crisp white sheets; a stack of books are piled high on the rough hewn floor. I throw a colorful handspun shawl around my shoulders and take my heavy pottery mug of coffee out to the deck. My head rests on my hand as I look out over the lake, ocean, mountains. I press the blinking circle on the side of my laptop, and words rise from me like clear glass bells.

The majority of the ads in Poets & Writers are for MFA programs: chances to work with Billy Collins, Susan Cheever, Phillip Lopate, Sue Miller, Robert Root. On some alternative plane, I'm striding across the respective campuses, blue-jeaned legs carrying me from thought to thought, my arms cradling my notebook, iPad, laptop. Scattered in between the MFA listings are ads for conferences. I could travel east for the Gettysburg Review's Conference for Writers or south to the Writer's Institute in Miami. A flight west could drop me in Minnesota for the Split Rock Arts Program or take me all the way to the coast for the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma. The Bread Loaf Workshop is taking up residence in Italy! Maybe I could find a wealthy nobleman to be my patron, and I could spend my summer moving between cabins and cottages, spinning tales like the intricate web of a very productive spider.

Then, I saw an ad tied to me in time and thought. There it was on page 63.

Brown University
Writing in Segovia
Writer's Workshop: Travel Writing
and Memoir
July 3-12, 2011

I'd lived in Spain when I was 20, and I'd walked the streets of Segovia one weekend, breathing the crisp winter air, making footprints in drifts of clean white snow piled high before the Roman aqueducts. If I hold my breath, I can almost get myself there again in some weird form of time travel. Was I my most authentic self then, so very centered in Jill? I don't think I'd recognize that girl now, long-haired, defiant, standing on the brink of her life.

I came home early from that semester abroad because my father lay in a hospital bed, coughing and struggling to take one full breath. I flew across the Atlantic in a sonambulent state. Did my life in the states still exist? I'd lost my sense of direction.

After my father died, I tossed and turned at night, often waking from the same dream. I was back in Spain for just one night. I'd appear in the Atomium Discoteca, the train station, the Plaza Mayor like a ghost watching the life that had continued on without me.

Would I go back this week to write? My heart and mind yearns so hard toward this idea that if will were flight, the girl I left there would be sitting in a cafe in the plaza, her head on her hand, words rising from her clear as glass bells.