Tuesday, August 22, 2006

how many miles

Many of my friends are in Vermont at the nation’s oldest writers’ conference. I was there myself last year and few years earlier, and I have felt, a few times this last week, nostalgia. I miss my friends. I miss the mountains. I miss the lake and the blueberry fields and the fields of fields.

But most of all, I am thrilled not to be there. Most of all, I am remembering what I learned, how far I came, how many miles.

Last year, I learned I want to live in proximity to country. I learned I like to walk. I learned I dislike drinking. I learned sleep and breakfast. I learned, after having the best teacher of my life, that I don’t need a teacher. I learned that being a famous writer is not the most important thing in the world to me—not the second, not the third —though that was an insult from a relationship I was about to escape. I learned I could escape.

I did.

Today I live in a hot city. Today I go to bed and the last thought I have before sleep is happiness, and the first thought I have upon waking is happiness (the second thought is bacon). Today I am drafting a second novel. My recipes work. My singing voice holds. My volleyball serve nearly destroys the centerpiece.

Last year, I wrote this: The last night, I stayed up all night. I was alone in the big sky. But I am sure I was not alone, not the only one to stay up all night, to wait for the dawn in a hard-backed chair in the middle of the field, to watch the sun come up from behind the mountains, to drink strong black tea with milk and honey, to shiver in a red sweater and be glad to shiver, be glad of skin and light and morning. There was the big mountain full of roads and windows and lives: a man in his house on the other side... I was not the only one to watch the sun. There are lives, other reasons to be awake, others rising even now.

Hey you in the Adirondack chair. You with the sleep circles and hooded sweatshirt, you. Stay up all night alone. Walk around until dew clings to you. Watch the sun seep the clouds from behind the mountains. Wait.

Last year, I had faith. Yesterday we had cookies and peanut butter apples and a summer house. We drove raisins back and forth on a purple car.

You think there is some life waiting for you behind the mountains. You think there is something more, something else, something better, some better way, some greater love waiting for you. And you are right.