I am seven days into my artist residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I am here with several other creatives working on various projects from all over the world. The most common place the fellows seem to be from is New York city, or as they tend to say: "the City" There are other visual artists as well as several writers most of whom are working on novels but there are a couple poets tossed in as well as a screen writer on her way to Cannes Film Festival next month. There are also two classical composers each with their own grand piano and clutter of various recording gear. Alex is who is only 26 years old and about to begin a doctorate program at McGill next fall shared with me what he was working on. He placed to large sheets of hand written score in my hands and a set of headphones on my head and proceeded to hit play on his computer. I didn't know what to think of either the music or the score since I can read music about as well as I can read Latin even tho I have studied both at one time in my life. His piece sounded very contemporary and strident. I really wanted to like it but it was just to many light years away from the Rolling Stones who have been dominating my play lists this Spring.
I have had some other awkward moments like when Nancy shared off hand at breakfast that she was Jewish and I proceeded to steer (more like crash) the conversation smack dab into the Holocaust. She said that it was too heavy of a conversation topic for that early in the morning and politely excused herself. Nancy is a very sharp and elegant elderly woman who teaches French literature for Bard University inside a maximum security prison in New York. Last night I happened to be sitting next to Nancy at a poetry reading. I was absent mindedly bouncing my leg until she deftly put her hand on my thigh along with a withering glance that made clear that if I didn't real it in at that moment that I just might loose my limb altogether. Am I getting it across to you that these are pretty dang smart people doing interesting stuff. Hey, does that make me smart and interesting because I am now keep this company...?
Our food here is just a little too yummy and plentiful. I have already gained four pounds. Yikes! Eating Ben & Jerry's after 9PM I'm sure is not helping. I did go to the gym at Sweet Briar Women's college yesterday to do a work out. I think it may be one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. It is well over a hundred years old and built into the rolling Virginia mountain landscape as if it was not so much built but rather just grew there. The student housing are beautiful old brick homes each with a slate roof totally out of another time exceedingly more lovely than ours. There is a huge Italianate mansion in the middle of the campus that had once belonged to the family that birthed the college in memory of there 16 year old daughter Daisy who, tragically drowned in the small lake on the property, leaving earth for heaven much too early and in doing so for ever broke her mother's heart. The idea to begin a first rate women's college grew from the soil of this mothers tenderized and harrowed heart. (Rumor has it that they came close to shutting the campus down last year because of increasingly decreasing enrollment and yet some how it remains open, clean as a whistle and neat as a pin).
After my work out in the gymI drove around the campus to explore. Snaking my way along the narrow roads that are laid down like asphalt ribbons through out the campus I came to the boat house which is built alongside a beautiful little lake. Parking my car I walked up the road were I happened upon two young women actually sitting on the seemed mettle roof of the boat house totally oblivious to my presence and completely lost inside their conversation. I couldn't quite make out what they were saying but their secret conversation was beautifully punctuated with girlish laughter every now and again. Even tho I was missing out on their girl secrets, I'm pretty sure Daisy"s ghost who is said to appear from time to time at night time in the boat house was catching every word and laughing along with them.