confessions / inspirations / new york city / writing / writing spots

Ice-skating through the Woods at Midnight

I’m melancholy. My time here is coming to its inevitable end, as you can’t stay at an artists colony forever, though there’s always that urban legend of the artist who chained himself to his studio so they wouldn’t make him leave, which I think many of us can relate to. I should say, in my weeks here, I haven’t witnessed anyone being dragged off colony property in chains. Yet.

It’s not that I don’t want to go home—I miss E, just SO MUCH—for me, it’s an awareness of what will be there when I get home. Stress, yes. Responsibility, yes. The fact that there’s no chef making me scrambled eggs every morning and delivering my lunch in a basket to my front door. But also, on a more serious note, I keep thinking of what’s lacking in the solitary life I’ve been leading this past year. You can live in a giant city like New York and barely talk out loud to anybody. I do it every day.

It’s funny to admit this on a blog, but I don’t think making connections in the online world is enough anymore.  I’m beginning to think that though I’m a solitary person and there’s nothing wrong with that, connecting with other artists face to face is, you know, pretty great sometimes. I’m not just talking about other novelists. I don’t want to compare agents and book publicity plans and lament our deadlines—well, I do, but do I need to do that all the time? It’s exhilarating to talk to people with different creative outlets, too, to see how they approach the world and express their ideas and their stories. The painters and sculptors. The composers and filmmakers. The playwrights. The poets. The Scrabble champions… two who happen to be poets. You know… creative people. There are quite a few of those in New York.

This is what MacDowell has given me on this visit, a new craving for human connection with other artists. Not to mention some exciting pages!

So maybe I’ll go out and do things once in a while… we’ll see.

The other night (can’t remember which one, time moves differently here) the sky was gray and filled with what the weather report called a “wintry mix.” I went out to dinner with two artists I hope to keep in contact with after I leave here and then came back to my dark studio, a little cottage in the woods. I tried to write more, but I felt it, that weight of reality hunching down: Is my new book too ambitious? Will I be able to do this? Should I write this? Can I? Am I allowed to?

Then the freezing rain got heavier and I heard the ice ping against the window glass. And from the back of the cottage a great roar of noise sounded, like the roof was caving in—an avalanche of snow and melting ice skidding off the slanted roof to the ground below.

It felt like the sky was coming down and taking my little cottage with it. I decided to go back to the house where I have a bedroom. I stepped out onto my dark road, where on another night I saw animal tracks trailing my own footprints, some kind of cat-like paw prints and those of a giant bird, an owl maybe. I walked into the icy night, careful where I put my feet, my flashlight beam showing only a few steps in front of me at a time.

When I reached a slippery patch I went skating, and then I stopped myself and felt around, walked forward and skating some more. This walk just reflected everything I was feeling inside. Though it might seem like I know what I’m doing, I don’t, I absolutely don’t, and, you know what?, with art that’s how it should be:

You move ahead and sometimes you’re too safe and you make it to your destination without incident. That’s forgettable. But sometimes you catch a patch of slippery ice and skate off into the night. You could fall, or you could go sailing. On this night, I went sailing.

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