Interviewed by Alice Taylor, volunteer
Have you had other residencies?
No, this is my first residency.
What did you learn anything about yourself?
It took a good day and a half to settle in. I am used to quiet, open places. I’m not used to being encased in trees and not being able to see the sky. It was an emotional change. I love trees. I can’t live without trees, but the combination of quiet and tree cover– that surprised me.
Why did you apply to Hypatia-in-the-Woods?
Because of “in-the-woods” and because it’s close.
You have been at Hypatia for a week. Do you wish it had been a different length?
I think that anything less than 10 days is difficult because of the set up time… just settling in and getting your grounding. I forgot to pack certain things. I hadn’t been in Shelton so I didn’t know where the grocery store was. I didn’t know where the library was. I didn’t know where the post office was. Now I know where all those things are. And, of course, a month would be heavenly. A month would be wonderful because you could get all that stuff out of the way.
Are you a full time writer?
I’m a writer, yes. I’m a grandma. I’m a gardener. I’m lots of things.
What place in Holly House did you gravitate to?
I pushed the table next to the window so I could look outside, because that’s the connection. It’s subconscious. When I work I don’t recognize that I look up, but I’m sure I do. Also, I set up the table so that everything is right there. My reference books are there. It was important for me to work at the table.
Do you have a favorite place on the grounds?
Still the table. I go outside. I do a lot of things outside. But it’s the table that is the production, the focus. The writing happens there.
What were the sights, sounds or smells on the grounds that inspired you?
I loved the poetry trail. I love Jean Lohman. That was wonderful. I did the labyrinth, of course. I tried to do it really slowly. I sat there in the sun, and tried to be very quiet and did some meditation. It felt good.
What were you most happy to accomplish at Hypatia?
What was I most happy to get side-tracked in at Hypatia? Side-tracked is the problem always. I always get side-tracked, but they are happy side-tracks. I went backwards into some memories and that was good. Things that needed to be written down that had happened before. Not pleasant things. That was good, because I felt safe enough that I could write unpleasant things.
Also, I am a native plant nut. I allowed myself quite a bit of time to do that side-track. I mapped out the plants here. I made lists of all the plants. They are my old friends. I didn’t expect it be so closed in with the trees, so little light. Certain plants flourish in the shade. I like those shade plants. I passed the list on for future residents. I wrote them in common names. It helps me settle down. It hones my writing. It makes me focus.
What was different about what you hoped to accomplish and what you actually accomplished?
It’s always surprising. You make plans that you are going to this, this, and that. Then something else comes along. You try to shoehorn things in and then you have to just back off. It’s important to not be so hard on yourself and go wherever it goes. Go wherever the pen goes. Other wise you will waste your time beating yourself up.
I was hoping to write poems about trees. And, I didn’t. But I did go into Shelton and went to the mill. I wrote a mill poem. It’s going to be nice. I still need to get some background information. I don’t know enough of the terms. I don’t know what a rectangle of lumber is called, the 2 by 4’s when they are bound together. I was there at quitting time. I saw the guys come out with their igloo lunch boxes. Everything goes in the poem. The more tactile stuff I can find, the better. The men, when they came out had dust all over the bottom of their pants. Their boots weren’t dark, they were light from the dirt. I copied what the signs said, “No trucker will proceed in this area without a reflective vest, eye protection, and a hard hat.” It’s hard to watch mills disappearing. The one in Shelton seems to be hanging on. Someone needs to write about it before it goes away.
In general, what influences your work?
Natural history. Nature.
What inspired your work the most during your stay?
Having time alone without interruptions. Without the phone. Without those womanly obligations. My youngest son has moved back with me. I am really not able to write right now. Having someone else in the house doesn’t work. And the cat. And my garden. I have to take care of my garden. Here ,there’s uninterrupted time. I can work all day and just have a sandwich if I want and just keep going. I go to bed whenever I want. That’s lovely, that’s audacious. The resources, too, it’s lovely having all those poetry books over there.
When you look back on your experience at Hypatia-in-the-Woods, what memory do you want to keep?
I like when I get in that groove, where I can write just non-stop. I think that is very satisfying. It’s like you push through and you are in this place where it is all gravy. And that’s a wonderful area to be in. I found that here. Where you can just write and you are not thinking about the next thing. The creative process is amazing when it works.
What three words would best describe your experience at Hypatia?
Thankful. And this is the funny thing, the peace, yet the focus. Well, give me another one. Friendships, because the people have been so wonderful, supportive and helpful. The board has just been wonderful.
What advice would you offer to women thinking about applying for a residency?
Do it quick. It makes me sad because I didn’t know Elspbeth. But, for you who knew her and have her gone, that’s got to be hard. Things change. But, if a door closes it will open up some other another way.