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Charmed by the Creative, Edition No. 2


Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine

Part 2 of 3

Night had passed into being and the van, which had tilted up, began to dip down a winding cliff road off the coast of Deer Isle, Maine.

It was hard to make out what was around from inside. Darkness filled the forest setting, while mile-high pines reached to the moon with their needled arms stretched, weaving a web of scattered light and limbs.

A sudden halt tossed us forward. Voices of merriment seeped through the van and the side door was flung open simultaneously with the cabbie hopping out. Three heads poked inside the van, greeting us with smiles and laughter, while our luggage was thrown down an assembly line of helpers ending on top of a large deck overlooking the Atlantic.

"Don't just sit inside," a woman's voice said. "You really don't want to stay in the van, do you?"

We had arrived.

My husband and I had traveled from Bangor International Airport with a young, loquacious glass artist from Ireland.

We were the last of the students to arrive at Haystack Mountain and we hurried into the dining hall where our dinner was waiting.

One of the staffers alerted us to pay attention to the time, as the first workshop was beginning in 15 minutes and was scheduled to last until 10 p.m.

When I was finally situated at the dinner table, I reminded myself to breathe. As I inhaled, my eyes studied the beautifully lined pine floors and walls. A massive fireplace invited artists to unwind on sofas surrounding the dancing flames, while 25 tables or more foretold the number of artists we'd meet in the days to come.

My husband urged me to hurry so we wouldn't be late to our opening night lectures, but my eyes were locked on the wall of windows which exposed a dark sea below and lunar rocks that met the water lit by the moonlight. The school had been built rising from the edge of the rocks up, with multiple resident cabins and six large art studios, all wood with slanted roofs.

Minutes later, artists scurried through trails on the campus to head in the direction of their assigned workshop in hot glass, metals, textiles, ceramics, print making and writing.

I watched as my husband walked up to the hot glass studio at the top of the campus, while flames from the ovens crept in and out like a troupe of fire breathing dragons.

I would later be told that the hot glass artists were always the rock stars of the place, playing with fire and sculpting art out of molten glass that was held at 3,000 degrees.

But my timid husband looked more like a shepherd searching in the night for a rambling herd as he hiked toward the hot shop.

I stepped into the writing studio quietly, since the discussion had begun.

Sixteen sets of eyes looked over at me all at once. Still wearing the turquoise scarf that I had wrapped around my head to keep warm once I had exited the airport, I heard a voice whisper within the group that my look was full on. I instantly felt out of place, observing the studious group dressed in grays, blacks and other neutrals.

Spotting a chair in the back of the group, I took what looked to be my appropriate place.     

A woman who sat at the head of the table, continued to watch me settle and nervously rearrange my notebook and computer. She looked familiar, with her warm blue eyes and small glasses. Her graying hair was pulled back and she draped herself in a dark shawl.

"I wonder if we can make space for you around the table," she said, directing the group to tighten their chairs.

It was obvious that she wanted me there and as I relocated myself at the table flashes of the author's photo snapped from the Beacon Press Web site and from the back cover of her memoir, "Without a Map."

But in this setting, she was organically elegant and her painful journey, so beautifully described in the memoir, reflected in her eyes.

"As you all know, I am Meredith Hall, your instructor," she said with perfect articulation, making sure to connect with each writer in the studio.

"We will be writing essays, which literally means to try," she said.

Then she went around the table, eager to know about each of us and why we were there.

She didn't bother to tell us that her memoir held two years as a New York Times best seller, or that she was often asked to review contemporary writers for The Boston Globe and The Washington Post.

We were all acutely aware of the dozens of literary awards she had earned and her faculty position for the MFA degree in creative writing at University of New Hampshire.

 Oprah had just listed "Without a Map" on her top 10 memoir list.

We all knew who she was and each writer in the studio held onto Hall's every word, seduced by her calm tone and graceful speech.

That night as I walked with my husband down the wooden stairs to our cabin residences, we didn't speak.

Trapped inside our own thoughts, we hoarded the experiences privately and sank into the creative spirit which had swallowed up any existing expectation of what it meant to create.


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