September 3, 2013,
Today I awoke to this lovely view. I’m in the Yellow Room on the second floor of the building called the Barnhouse at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. Looking out, I see a red-brick courtyard and a statue of two geese. Directly beneath my window is the bronze “Bird Girl” statue made famous on the cover of the novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The statue was sculpted in 1936 by Sylvia Shaw Judson here at Ragdale, her family’s summer home. From my window, I can glimpse the Ragdale House through tree branches. I call it “the big house.”
Today is the first full day of my eighteen-day residency at Ragdale. I arrived yesterday afternoon. This, my second residency, came up quickly. It was two weeks ago yesterday that I received the email from Regin Igloria, Director of Residencies, offering me an immediate residency starting on August 26th—if I could work it out. There was no way I could make it happen that quickly, but since it was literally the answer to my prayers I accepted for September 2, and here I am.
As with getting away for anything—weddings, vacations, reunions—it took quite a bit of doing. Especially for 18 days. I’ve never had eighteen days away from my life in my life. There was house stuff, husband stuff, financial stuff, and business stuff to take care of. All while guiding East of Mecca through the final stages of publication.
I heard about Ragdale on August 19th, had an “important” birthday on August 21st that I celebrated with a handstand in Zumba class, and got sick on August 22nd. The prescribed antibiotics wrecked havoc on my entire body, adding to the stress of getting ready to go. Last time I was getting ready for Ragdale, I was in a state of total joy. This time I was happy, but mostly tired. Even more than writing for almost three weeks, I looked forward to time away to recuperate from my life.
On Sunday I got an email from Regin saying that because Monday was Labor Day and I was arriving in the middle of the session there would be no staff and no welcome, but Chef Linda would still be preparing dinner. I let Regin know I was perfectly cool with that—having been here before—and I really was fine. But after that email I got anxious. It took awhile to figure out why, but when I did it was with certainty. It was old anxiety—Army brat anxiety—new girl in a strange school anxiety.
Everyone else has already been here for a week. They’ve had dinners together and heard each others’ stories. They have inside jokes. And here I am—brand new. And, as I discovered at dinner last night, I’m older than any of them—old enough to be their mothers. Only one woman wasn’t present at dinner, and I was reassured when she was described as having gray hair! I wonder what the others saw when they met me. Does the young poet from Berlin see me as her mother’s contemporary? Maybe even her grandmothers’? God knows, many of my friends are grandmothers and some early-starters from high school are already great-grandmothers!
It’s weird being my age and not feeling it. My friends are young at heart and attitude. I work with a young vibrant population and I play with the Zumba crowd. My personal trainer Suzy works me mercilessly and had me practicing Pilates’ planks to prepare for the handstand I accomplished on my birthday!
I’m also aware that I’ve practiced psychology for over thirty years, but I’m relatively new at owning the title of writer. All these young people laid claim to being artists early-on in their lives—to the point of already being recognized by Ragdale. So even more than being the new girl at school, I feel like the new girl at the artists’ party.
There are lessons in this for me. This morning, I got up for an hour long walk/run in the surrounding prairie and forest preserve. After showering I sent off emails regarding my soon to be published novel. It is only 2:30 and I have finished this blog post. Now, I’m going to practice my handstand, grab a bite to eat, then get back to work on my next novel,
PSYCHOtherapist Orchard Road. I might be the artistically speaking “late-bloomer” at this party—but, damn it, better late than never!
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