Saturday, June 17, 2006


Packing to teach at a summer writing workshop is a lot like packing for camp. Or what I remember of camp. I hated camp with a fiery passion. I went once, with Sarah Robertson to Hidden Hollow, and begged not to have to go again. It rained. All of my letters home are maudlin, written on tear-stained hot pink paper. I think my mother kept them because they made her laugh so hard.

My big black suitcase for writing workshop includes band-aids, sun block, dresses, bug spray, books, sweaters, sidewalk chalk, books, running shoes, books, writing paper, plenty of pain killers. I have a terrible headache, the kind I get every now and then. The grass is starting to spin a bit. The fields are polka dotted. The barn looks better upside down.

I’m worried, as I get. I’m nervous to be back in the classroom again. I haven’t taught for a full year, since last summer, and these students are really important, really special. I want to do a good job. I want to be a good thing. I want them to be happy.

But also, I want to be. Last summer, I wasn’t. I thought I was, but it involved a lot of swallowing, a lot of squeezing shut eyes, a lot of turning away. I turned away so I couldn’t see it, a summer like this one: bright wide skies, freckled skin, sun-bleached hair.

Today my hair is longer. I have laugh lines. I don’t wear that white dress anymore. I bought a black one, but I don’t wear that, either.

I wear a lot of purple. I leave my hair loose in the wind. I have started again. I guess we can do that. I guess we get a few chances; this one, we get this one. I’m hopeful. I’m serious. I’m blown away. I’m blessed. I’m grateful. I’m amazed every day with you and with how I feel about you. I want to be good. I want to be there. It didn’t happen before because I wasn’t ready before. I didn’t know before how bad it could be. So I know that now, and now I know how good it can be, too.

So I’m packing pain killers and bug spray and books. I’m re-reading my Wright. I’m curling up on the purple quilt. I’m closing my eyes. One of these days, when I open them, you’re going to be there.