I now have just three Hollins days left before I fly home to real life on Friday.
How happy these six weeks have been. The daily early morning walks, two or three times around the 1.75 mile perimeter of this beautiful, pastoral campus with fellow writers Candice and Elizabeth and whoever else cares to join us. Stimulating classes with my seven creative writing graduate students, each one doing her best to meet my challenge of drafting an entire 15,000-word chapter book in a month: two have turned theirs in to me already. Weekly one-on-one meetings with most of them, sometimes in my office, sometimes curled up on the couch in the third floor lounge in Swanannoa, sometimes over a meal, sometimes while eating ice cream. Evening talks several times a week by the greats of our profession - Candace Fleming, Han Nolan, fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes - as well as emerging new voices. Reconnecting with so many dear friends from my past.
During this six week span, I wrote the entire draft of my spelling bee book, received probing editorial comments on it, leaped into revision mode, and emailed it off to my editor this morning, with a somewhat feeble "Ta-dah!" but a "Ta-dah" nonetheless. I worked through the copy-edited manuscript of my Nora ant farm book. I sent the fifteen copy-edited chapters of my Ethics and Children's Literature collection to the contributors for their final approval. A slacker, I have not been!
Yet, despite many, many hours spent writing, teaching, and talking to students, it's been an enormously restorative, even restful, six weeks for me. I eat my easy-peasy meals in the Hollins cafeteria or cut up a farmers' market peach topped with Greek yogurt, a handful of blueberries, and a drizzle of honey. I have only the clothes I brought with me in my carry-on luggage. I am far away from so many cares.
Come Friday, I'll have to deal with the leak that ruined the downstairs bathroom ceiling at home while I was away. I'll have to figure out if I can really live on the amount of money I can earn with my pen. There are people there who need me. I may even have to cook a meal or two!
My dear wise friend Billie pointed out to me that if I stayed at Hollins longer, it would become real life, and then it would become messy, too. Real life is messy. There's no getting around that. In real life, real people need us, and real leaks cause real damage leading to real repairs followed by real (and really expensive!) mold mitigation (as I know too well from how I spent the first half of June before departing for Hollins).
But that's okay. Real life also has a grandbaby to hold, who turned five months old while I was away, and who can now laugh and roll over from back to tummy. Real life has my summer women's book group at church, and hikes with my friend Rowan. Real life has lots more writing in it, and I do love to write. Real life is messy, yes, but there is sweetness in the glorious mess of it, too.