I'm a bit mad these days but good mad, writing 8-9 hours a day, very, very close to the end of RED. I have to go to the US/Québec border to finish the book and was prevented from driving up there today by a major snowstorm (see pic below — they really know how to make snow here in NH) and another big one expected tomorrow, but will go Thursday. In the meantime I'm rewriting from the beginning, which feels like a tremendous luxury after so many months of creating the raw stuff. Sort of like a night at the Georges Cinq in Paris (not that I've ever stayed there, but I imagine it as the ultimate in sumptuousness) after several years of living at the Comfort Inn in Muskogee, OK (which I wouldn't recommend for a long-term stay, though the staff are really nice). The previously-mentioned Dutch artist Katja Mater and a young novelist named Caren Beilen had a party where they presented their work, and we were all asked to show up in monochromatic dress — we could choose any color we wanted. The result is below (I'm in the blue part of the spectrum). Katja is working on photographic studies of color wheels in motion, which are very beautiful, and we were a commemorative play on her theme.
The highlight of the last week was a group reading of "Our Town," one of my favorite plays of all time, which, I learned, was not only written by Thornton WIlder in my very studio but was also loosely based on Peterborough, where MacDowell is located. It's a picture-perfect, small New England town, especially now, in winter, when everything's covered in snow. Walking through it, even a century later, one can see vestiges of Grover's Corners in the landscape as well as the people, and easily imagine Emily and George and the Stage Manager and all the rest inhabiting this place. We read the whole play (I had only bit parts, which I was very content with) and I ended up bawling as always at the end of Act III. This time, though, I saw it differently, more as an exhortation to live fully than a pronouncement of inevitable doom. I'm trying to take Thornton's advice and carpe diem, every diem.
Before I get to the food (which faithful readers know I inevitably will), I have to tell you about our group pilgrimage to the MacDowell Oracle, a trek made by every resident in search of eternal truth and a vision of his or her future. The Oracle, it must be said, is located in a very small vertical building that bears a striking resemblance to an outhouse — a clever illusion to discourage the faithless. Seven of us went and knelt before the Oracle (one at a time and privately, so perhaps the others didn't kneel) and asked our respective questions and received our respective answers. I'm forbidden to reveal the mystery of the Oracle, nor will I share the question I asked, but my answer was: SEMPRE LA VITA NUOVA, which I'm pretty sure is Italian for "ALWAYS THE NEW LIFE." Perhaps some of you are frowning, as I was, at the inscrutability of this message. Consider, however, the response that my poor friend Soyung got:
"Exactly forty-two years from now they will tear me down. I will have fallen into such a state — wood rot, termites, old, ignorance — that I will be dangerous. People may get hurt, and so they will get rid of me.I don't know where I'll go yet, maybe to Buffalo, which I hear is real nice. Hang on as long as you can. You aren't dangerous, yet."
All things considered, I think the Oracle was very, very good to me. As the MacDowell staff are, they bring lunches daily to the doorstep of my studio in the lovely basket pictured below. There's always a hot soup and always a cookie. And what more can one ask for in life? Except maybe a completed manuscript...
Below: How they do snow in NH, our magic circle, the stars of "Our Town," in front of the oracle (me looking wan and RED-ridden), Soying's unenviable fortune, my lunch box which magically appears outside my door every day around 12:30