Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sweet reflections. Update number TWO.

I'm finally back in Austin after many weeks of being away. I've finally slept. I had forgotten what it feels like to sleep, really, I had. Not like I've ever been one to sleep much, but still. I think it was good to get more than 3-4 hours of rest.

The Atlanta Airport and I made good friends. I think the folks in Terminals B & D got to know me by name - especially in the bookstores. There are only so many times one can peruse through the new fiction before being noticed. Shout out to Theodora.

One of the great highlights of the residency was meeting the visual artist Lauren Austin, who creates a series of incredible quilts that incorporate photographs, dyes, embroidery and collage. She's currently the community Artist-in-Residence at ACA and not only took a couple of hours to show me her work, but also told me about the African American Heritage Museum in New Smyrna Beach, and some of the local history of folk. I hope that I get to go back in the future and work something out with her, cause she was tellin me about the village on the west side of the tracks where I might find some folks with stories. So yes- Lauren, we're on.

The very first week I was there, a group of us led by the ever affable Hyde went to visit the DeLeon Springs State Park in Deland. There are these beautiful enormous oak trees with Spanish moss everywhere- plenty of ghosts hanging in those trees as well. And the oak trees stand over the springs where we swam. Hyde lost his keys at the bottom - a snorkeler found them, ironically, only moments after the Singing Muse asked the question: "why would anybody snorkel in a spring?" - to find lost keys?.

The springs are also at the site of a sugar mill - what looks to me like ruins from the 18th century. My stumble onto the ruins was quite transcendent of time and space. I stood up to walk from the table, where I had just gorged on all you can eat pancakes with blueberries, to the bathroom. As I was waiting I looked out of the screen door in the back and the first thing I saw were the copper cauldrons - smaller than the ones at Ingenio Diego Colon in the D.R. but in the exact same shape. The trapiche - or sugar mill itself was also different. It seems to have been operated by a water mill, rather than by human or animal labor. I looked back at the building now spouting out a light smoke from the cooking of pancakes and eggs and noticed the chimney and the layout. Wow - we were eating at a sugar mill surrounded by the ghosts in the trees. And the Springs seemed so benign, really.

It was a moment where I felt how Caribbean Florida truly is, despite its resistance to its own character.

Only a day later, the Owl, the Lover and I drove down to the Canaveral Natural Reserve. We could see the launch pad off in the distance, the only skyscraper around. The Owl entertained us with stories of Allen and Peter, and all of the characters who populated the Beat dramas. The Lover had her own stories to share, like poets going temporarily blind with nerves, and the death of children. I stood silently to the side, a mere voyeur into the world of poetic drama. We journeyed in awe as a manatee greeted us, her nose poking just above the water. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw birds. We mulled over whether the pink bird we saw is a spoonbill or not (Owl - you were right - it is a Roseate Spoonbill), and drove through the swamps in search of an alligator. We saw one skim the surface as we drove down to the beach, but alas, it disappeared into the water.

Thinking back on the last three-four weeks, I surprised myself with how late I stayed up at night - sometimes until dawn. Though I suppose I couldn't have carried on forever, really, I quite enjoyed the euphoria of exhaustion. The Composer and I kept each other company in the library one night as I poured over poetry and art books and he composed his oeuvre. He was frantically scratching out notes on the paper, waving his hand in response to my seemingly inane questions.

What are you working on?
Do you have a deadline?
Well, eh...[hand wave]
[I stare]
No, no deadline. But I need to finish something. Anything.
Aah yes. I understand.

I wandered up the spiral stairwell and stared at de Kooning for an hour. I suppose that was something. Right?

Well, it led to the creation of a new type of work for me. The gathering of bones...a centu. I'm curious about centus, ever since Tai Freedom Ford talked to me about her work I've been curious about the form. But, I never dared embark on it myself. Until I found myself in the library at 4am. I wrote one titled May Day Revisited (surprise, surprise, it was written on May Day).

Though I was disconnected from the world while out in the swamps, I did manage to read some news while I was on my way to Minneapolis. Like news on the disappearance of bees. And about the sister planet that scientists are seeing for the first time. Did you ever wonder why we're constantly searching for other planets to live on? I'm always curious about that. I personally love Earth. Plan to be here my whole life. Know plenty of other people who feel that way, too. It's why I try to take care of the Earth really well. Anyway, that's a tangent.

Back to the swamp of iniquity...

For awhile, the Fierce Bad Rabbit, the Lover and I kept finding ourselves in the kitchen at 1am. How does that happen? I don't know, but something was in the air. And then the Lovers found themselves and I was, well, running off to the ocean.

I can't say I got my fill of the ocean, but I certainly did enjoy spending three of the last four nights in her waters, swimming towards the full moon. The moon was showing her face at around 11pm, dressed in red to lure the weary, and then stripping down to her marvelous silver face. If you must be by the ocean, the full moon is the time to do so.

I've many thoughts lingering - like - the construction of personae. Frances being a key example. She is a fabulous persona. Simultaneously embodied/disembodied. She's going to have an amazing life. And then there's the Warrior, who was able to make our nerves float up to the surface of our bodies. Instead of embodying a persona, she simply embodied Nerves - complete with shingles outbreak and all. Quite literal. And talk about an intense creative process. Then there are people who are singularly brilliant with a solid exterior/interior life that is reflected in the mere simplicity of their character. And no, simplicity is not a bad thing - it's absolutely beautiful to watch. It's amazing to watch someone be kind all the time. And present all the time. Hyde taught me that. He demonstrated such genuine generosity, and by that I was truly humbled.

So, now, I'm back at home. I finally checked my email after four weeks on hiatus. It took me all day. I can feel the tendrils of cyberspace reaching down into my psyche and connecting me to a greater ethereal world where time is suspended in little boxes and satellites. I caught up with some friends and read exciting emails - like my 10th year college reunion survey. I, of course, had to spend 30 minutes of my life filling it out. Oh Harvardites - may you ever get your fill of yourselves. And no, I won't be there.

On that note, I'm off to work on some things that have been lingering in the void of my absence.


And to all the characters of our most recent artistic drama: love. I miss you all already.

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