I think this one is a bit like an associative poem–it’s all related, but kind of not if you analyze it a lot. I start with a writing conference, talk about nature, and manage to relate it to sustainable fashion. It comes back to writing in the end.
A Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this May, I was in Vermont, at the New England Young Writers’ Conference at the Bread Loaf Campus. Before I went, I explained to some of my friends that I was going to a writers’ conference where I get to write a lot and meet other writers. The part I didn’t talk so much about, which turned out to be one of my favorite parts when I got there, was the setting.
The major things I learned at NEYWC, I already knew. I knew I should make writing a priority if I really wanted to write, I knew I should go outside more, I knew that nature was good for me. But there’s something about experiencing something and wanting to make the effects last longer. About wanting to keep some of Bread Loaf with me.
I learned about topophilia in the Civil Ecology MOOC. Topophilia is a love of a place, powerful enough to bring communities together to protect it. One of the discussion questions in the course asked us to share a place we felt a strong connection to, one that we would protect if it were in danger. I couldn’t think of a place I felt so strongly for until the afternoon I came across the river and the rock at Bread Loaf.
People at NEWYC said there’s something magical about Bread Loaf. I thought to myself, I’ve heard that before. But NEWYC is special to me for its own reasons. It’s about place. Bread Loaf. Nature. And learning these things I already knew.
There’s something about stone walls and writing. I used to live in a house with a stone wall out front and a huge rock in the backyard. I wasn’t a writer then, but I was proud of those rocks, when I realized not everyone had them. Sitting on the stone wall in front of the Bread Loaf Inn, I felt like I was in the perfect place to write.
Stone specifically seems like a place conducive to writing. Not the weird wood and concrete I’m sitting on when I draft this, not plastic, not metal. Not even grass field.
Outside the Bread Loaf Inn, we sat on stone and wrote or observed or sang or listened. There’s something about seeing hills and mountains. And having a hill to roll down. It’s harder rolling up. I stepped in wet grass on several occasions, which made my feet uncomfortably wet but not me less happy.
On that first night, I saw people just disappear into the woods, but we could still hear their voices while we explored the field, my friends and I. One afternoon, after seeing some of my classmates enter the woods, I walked in too. A short while later, I walked past a bunch of other kids who were hanging out by the river. I would search further. For what, I did not know until I found it. There.It was my place, a rock for rest. A flat stone by a river and a one foot waterfall, which nearly blocked out the voices of the others, and the right parts of my own. I sat and wrote.
I took pictures so that I could remember it enough, but there’s so much more. I want to hold onto the peace that nature brings. The experience of being silent but having this voice rushing out so many words and thoughts, ideas to be excited by.
People go on retreats to escape their everyday lives. Then they come back. But is that all? Do they separate the experience, changing their act with the situations? Or do they let it be a reminder, so that the nature peace permeates the days and continues to influence them?
People get shocked into realizing something. Like in the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment on fashion, where the people swear they care but end up obsessing over how cute and cheap the clothing is a few years later, ignoring where it came from. The way people learn, forget, remember, forget, and let it happen again–I hope that doesn’t happen with the people in the 2 Euro T-shirt video, that they won’t let themselves forget.
Maybe we need to regularly remind ourselves what we know.
The forgetting after remembering–I don’t want that to happen with me, with responsible consuming, with nature, with writing. I already knew a lot of what I learned at NEWYC, but as I put it into practice, I learned again. While I was there, writing was at the top of my list. As more time passes, will I drift away again?
The drafting of this post was part of my effort to have the lasting change. I wrote it outside, and I was writing, and I was remembering. I started on the topic of a love of place but it turned into making changes last. It can be good, to have a starting place and end somewhere you didn’t intend–I learned that in my writing workshop.