I know how those cows feel--not wanting to cross the border into the "real world," to stay on the grounds of the colony (see final photo). I just returned from a month in a paradisal place, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts on a fellowship to work on a first draft of my third novel and fourth book, "Faraway Nearby," a place where a day is like a week, a week is like a month, and a month is like, well, about six months--in terms of deep concentrated focused attention, as well as productivity.
I had been to the VCCA before, perhaps as many as six times, over a span of about twenty years, as well as to other colonies, such as Yaddo, Ragdale, The Julia and David White Arts Foundation in Costa Rica,and the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta, Malta. What these residencies provide is the gift of time and space, and more importantly, to use that buzz phrase,"head space." While in residence, I am cut free for a time from the quotidian demands of mother work and money work, for caring for a home and worrying about signing homework and bringing an eggplant to school! My head-space is often so cluttered at home, like so many working mothers, I am fragmented and feel as if I might burst apart from centrifugal force. While at VCCA, I miss my kids, my husband and my Hollywood star of a Bernese Mountain dog, Monty Booh, but I don't miss cooking and cleaning and nagging and worrying.
At VCCA, each artist has a private studio, as well as a bedroom in the residence or cottage. Three meals are provided, as well as clean towels. If a morning goes badly, there is always the afternoon and the evening and the night (studios provide beds.) If one chooses to participate, many evenings are rich with readings, open studios, screenings, or recordings of work that the resident novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, video-artists and composers are creating or have created. It's up to you if you attend, or if you sleep, or if you continue to work.
For me, as a novelist and short story author, something magical happens when my day is not chopped up into pieces and when I can think and dream and imagine into my book and characters on long, long walks on the thousands of beautiful acres encompassed by the colony and the college across the road, when I can gaze at the Blue Ridge Mountains and chat with the cows, the horses, and the goats, when I can swim in the lake, or wander a woodsy trail.
I am up to page 365 in Faraway Nearby. Need I say more?
Thanks to gifted installation artist Andrea (Andy) Lilienthal for these wonderful images of VCCA and do check out her work at andrealilienthal.com