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The Writer’s State

October 16, 2008

A sense of place is stitched into my soul. Especially this place. This land, this home, this entire state. The Green Mountain State. The Writer’s State is what it is. So many writers of all kinds here and I’m not sure what the draw is exactly. I can only speak for myself, but there is just something special about being here in the open air with neighbors who are like classic literary characters themselves and the stunning beauty of distant views around every turn in the dirt road that encourages words to form. And of course, the topic of all topics: the weather.

Long, cold winters of an amazingly pure, whitewashed world of quiet. Springtime river runs with the sun finally warming your shoulders and buds peeking out from the wet ground. And syrup directly from the trees in the front yard. Too-short summers of daytime green after green after mile of green and nighttime fireflys dancing under a million stars winking slowly to the beat. Magical autumn colors pulsing within the full hills of misty mountain shadows and little field mice looking for a warm place to sleep.

What isn’t outside to inspire a writer here? Well, there’s no billboards in the way telling you to buy this or watch that or listen to them. There’s no smog in the way, dulling up the view.

Vermont may just be a small, liberal-leaning state with a fascination for homemade ice-creams, cheeses, snowboards, and jam bands, but there’s something else too. There’s the real world here. There’s no catch to the promise. At the end of the stick, there’s no single carrot dangling, but instead an insane garden of flavors and tastes and spices. It just is itself. And that’s what gives us room to roam and explore. That’s what inspires the poetry like the amazing one I heard on The Writer’s Almanac on NPR this morning (The Cows at Night, by Hayden Carruth). It begins, “The moon was like a full cup tonight, too heavy, and sank in the mist…”. Just nailed it from the start, right? The whole poem is just like that, too.

I live here because my parents moved us here when I was 8. I live here because my wife grew up here. I live here because Portland (our other home) just isn’t close enough anymore. I live here because there is both a sense of fear when I leave and joy upon my return. I live here because now I am a we and this is where we belong. I live here because this is where I can be the me that I want to be, as well as the we that we need to be.

Like music and love, this place has its place in almost everything I write. I can’t escape it. It is a character unto itself, though I‘ve admittedly still got a long way to go to write about it with the class and tenor that so many others have done. But it is there all the same. In infant form, perhaps, but there. Right…there.

The moon, which was full last night, is pointed directly at me like a spotlight through my window over the monitor this second. It is, again, like that full cup, heavy and sinking from this morning’s poem. The night is clear. I want to walk outside and visit my neighbor’s cows down the dirt road a quarter mile away just like in the poem. How strange that would be, but how wonderful too, where life imitates art which imitates life and back around again. Full circle. Well, full circle last night. Yes, the night is so very clear.

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