Do you ever dream about your teeth falling out? It’s such a common dream you can look up various interpretations on the Internet. Tooth dreams may signify general anxiety, fear of aging or worry about your attractiveness. By far the meaning that seems most apropos to me is powerlessness.
I certainly felt powerless when a double crown broke last weekend and I had to leave my writer’s residency at Vermont Studios Center five days early. Since then, I’ve spent hours in the chair at the dentist’s and at the orthodontist’s dreaming about my book. Dreaming about the chapters I might have written those precious last days.
The transition back home after three weeks away makes me wonder if this is how my daughter felt coming home from her sojourns at summer camp. I’m more independent, a little dazed, and not sure how to fit into this world that used to be so familiar.
Don’t get me wrong. After sharing a hall bathroom for three weeks, I’m delighted to walk into my own bathroom and find my toothbrush and towel already there. I’m flattered that my dog lies down on the big sack of my dirty clothes and follows me with her eyes. I’m not quite sure what to do with my husband, though I’m glad to see him. It’s not the purely joyous homecoming I’d imagined, tinged as it is with disappointment.
All I really want to do is sleep. And get rid of all these things that clutter my house. Why do I have so many things? I don’t need all this stuff, I just need my studio and my bedroom, like I had in Vermont. I’m going on a major campaign to muck-out the whole house. As soon as I stop sleeping.
Everything would have been so much worse leaving Vermont Studios Center, I’d have felt so unfinished, had not a group of other writers and a few painters come to my rescue. Roberta and Teri and Harriet and Susan saved a table for my farewell dinner Sunday evening so that lots of writers could sit with me and start saying goodbye. We took pictures, always the first sign of separation.
People started talking about how few days were left; what might be happening at home for them; maybe they, too, should leave early. There are always compelling reasons to attend to life instead of write. It was as if my broken teeth had started a movement, panicked the herd.
But the absolute best gift came when they gathered, at 8:30pm, in the living room of Mason House where we met when we had our informal workshops, for the sole purpose of hearing me read my brand new prologue and first chapter.
What a gift! They applauded when I finished and then, in very specific writerly terms told me what they liked about the new work. Nothing beats that, for a writer to hear other writers she admires appreciate her writing. I realized how much it helped me during the residency to hear them read their own work, how I felt buoyed up by their talent and their energy. How that sent me back to the studio to make my stuff better.
I wonder how their re-entries home are going? I miss their writing, writing, writing throughout the building as I tried to do the same in my studio.