Monday, January 21, 2008

where the world becomes surreal

Fresh start. Minneapolis to Atlanta, sitting next to a Russian mother-daughter pair, who talked a lot. Atlanta to Palm Beach, my chair jouncing at the pair of Jewish girls wearing matching knit ponchos.

Above, strangers' coats and carry-ons are pressed uncomfortably together. A tryst in the overhead bin. I left snow slick runways and here, the landscape is just as barren from above, but the only white is the clouds.

I am bound for Palm Beach, Florida. I've only been to Florida once before, when my maternal grandparents lived in Titusville and we went to Sea World and the Kennedy Space Center. They thought they would retire there, but ended up moving to Chattanooga, where I grew up, and my aunt still lives.

This is the week of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, a week I'd never imagined would happen. It's a competitive program, where you submit your fee and just three poems. (Since then, about four months ago, I've substantially revised all three.) And then the amazing happened--I was accepted. I never imagined I could take an entire week off of work, though I hoped the princpal might, and could use my two personal days and pay for the sub for two others. But Beth said Yes! Go! And even still--the building's staff development funds would pay for my sub. All the rest, the hotel and the flight and the workshop fees, I said I would pay. She pointed out the [my high school's] grant and just yesterday, I opened the envelope, and discovered they will give me most of my trip. All of a sudden, the trip I thought was impossible, the trip I am making to further my poetry career is being paid for by my teaching career.

All has gone smoothly, though I am incredibly unprepared. I failed to write down the name and address of both the hotel and the event, and I thought I packed away a schedule, but apparently this is not so. I am much too reliant on easy access to the internet; sadly this beautiful (old) hotel in which I am staying only has dial up. Our home is wireless. *

* (I am retyping this from my notebook, post-trip, and only later did I find out we had wireless--silly me.)

I am too early for check in, and the hotel is five brief and shop filled blocks away. I am sitting on brick, my back against a stucco wall, forty five minutes away from admittance. I am learning how to be quiet and still, how to cope with the problem of hunger in a strangers' town, on my own. I feel a bit like a kid at summer camp--riding waves of anticipation until the actual event, when I am suddenly slammed into a wall of loneliness and longing for my husband.

But I can do this! I am going to live simply! I am going to be brave! I've got a stack of books, including four thick novels, a stitch dictionary (and a bundle of yarn), and a humanities textbook or two, I have my laptop, and I have my camera. Between here and the hotel, there is an art store and an organic grocery store / coffee shop. This is hardly living simply, though it's certainly living more peacefully. And I only have three nights to myself; the other three, I will have the comfort of my husband.

Above: the view from my room, as a storm approaches

Below: the organic shop

Above: the old gym, decorated in holiday lights, magical for our arrival

Below: the reflection of the room in the mirror

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