MCLA awarded me a Hardman Initiative Grant this year to help me incorporate writing into my studio art classes. My proposal included funding for a visiting writer who will work with my art students in the fall, as well as some professional development for me. The professional development took the form of a workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts during the first two weeks of June.
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is an international craft school located on the Atlantic Ocean in Deer Isle, Maine. The school offers intensive studio-based workshops in a variety of craft media including clay, glass, metals, paper, blacksmithing, weaving, woodworking and more. Programs range from short workshops to two-week sessions and anyone may participate, from beginners to advanced professionals. This year, they began to offer writing courses.
I enrolled in a course with Sharona Muir: Crafting Memory, Dreaming History: Creative Approaches to Writing from Experience. In this workshop, we used a range of exercises to find fresh poetic renderings of our experience of memory, both personal and historical.
I kept going to memories of running. Running in the Caribbean as a Peace Corps Volunteer, running in Paris, in San Francisco, in my hometown in Ohio and in my own backyard in the Berkshires. One particular poem needed to evolve into book form. This poem is about a personal sadness that happened last year that stays with me and sometimes paralyzes me, sometimes for a fraction of a second, and often when I’m running. Here it is in poem/prose form, followed by images of it as an artist book.
Running, foraging, wild leeks
I expertly navigate the rocky incline of Kitchen Brook trail, skipping over rocks and streams gushing with spring snow melt, straining to see up the hillside for a glimpse of wild leeks. A tiny spade and a plastic bag bang lightly against my hip.
You don’t even know which sadness comes up in you?
The streams spill over, flowing over the easy stepping-stones. I leap thoughtlessly, unconsciously hopeful. Muddy, ice-cold water shocks my feet for a sharp second. I propel myself forward, nevertheless.
What makes you stand still, lock-eyed with the knot of a tree?
The leeks root surprisingly deep. I shove the spade down the side of their long straggly roots, wiggling the spade to dislodge the leek from the granite pebbles and sandy soil. I shake the dirt loose before plunging the greens into the nearby stream. I return to the trail with greens tucked safely in the bag.
Are you trying to will yourself roots to this forest?
The last mile and a half slopes downward, the trail mysteriously maintained and no longer blocked by fallen limbs. I pick up speed in the final descent towards the last brook crossing. Halting, I wish for a time machine to reveal the moment when snow melt and massive rains violently reorganized this crossing, sweeping a single-tree island and toddler sized boulders out of sight, leaving a precarious jumble of rocks for passage.
Why are you squatting? Staring into nothingness?
I am unable to cross this brook.
I am unable to choose which rock.
I am too tired to run the five miles back.
I am unable to cross the six feet to the quarter mile back home.
You don’t even know which sadness comes up in you, do you?