One month later. Did I ever mention that the Summer Writing Program is four weeks of intense, INTENSE, sleepless days and nights filled with WORDS? The moment I stepped into PAC for convocation, my fears were assuaged. Gone the self-doubt and recrimination. Gone the belief that I was too old to be hanging out on a college campus—and gone with them the sick stomach and desire to hide, vomit and/or don a disguise. Looking around the auditorium, I saw crowds of new faces, most 20 years my junior to be sure, but I also saw familiar ones as well. Julieanne, whose in-your-face confidence and good-natured beauty never fail to startle me. Lisa, the leader of SWP and an exceptional writer and teacher. Jenna, with her killer smile and a self-deprecating manner that hides and protects the soul of a true yogini. Peter, a great writer who also happens to be so damned handsome it makes my eyes hurt! Michael, known not because we’d met before, but because the picture of his wheelchair had haunted me all semester. Jasper, whose pink hair, elaborate tattoos and ever-present sewing projects had distracted me into wakefulness the year before. Julie, Luke, Kyle and Joe. The list goes on.
But it wasn’t the faces that calmed me. Or at least, not only that. What immediately crept into my bones and released all the tension from my till-then rigid frame was an over-powering sense of home. That here, in this place of failing a/c (it was 90 degrees!), linoleum floors, and anxious, excited, boundlessly energetic writers and artists, I was free at last to simply be. Without cares for the wrinkles lining my forehead or the doubts that I wasn’t a good enough writer to be among them. I was home.
Those four weeks, each one as amazing and challenging as last years’, taught me more about myself than I’ve managed to learn in 40 odd years. They also taught me what I’ve always known: that words are power. They are beauty and grace and anger and love. They are hope, despair, moonlight, sunlight, orbital birth and planetary annihilation! And I hope always to be able to write them, read them and chase them around the folded spaces of my brain.