On New Year’s day here in Swannanoa, North Carolina, my husband Dave and I turned to each other and said in unexpected unison, “Kind of overwhelming.”
We meant the taking stock, how much had changed. Never would we have thought, two years ago, that we would drop everything and move from California to North Carolina—after just three months of dating—so that I could accept my first job teaching writing to undergraduates at Warren Wilson College. Never would we have thought that we would marry almost as soon as we’d hauled our crate of books and clothes and records (and more books) into the attic apartment on the edge of campus. Never had we guessed that marrying—putting on a suit and a dress and driving down to the Buncombe County Court House—would feel as natural and easy as reading together beneath a beech tree in the sunshine (which is how we spent our first day of married life). Never could I have imagined the wild and free-spirited students who would bring peeing puppies to class, or turn in drafts of such intense insight that I had to stop them in front of the dining hall to babble in admiration. Never did Dave expect that he would paint full-time in a studio in Asheville’s River Arts District, that during his evenings home he would become (to my taste buds) a gourmet chef. Never had we pictured ourselves, on a typical night off, canning homemade preserves before settling in to watch a documentary on Louise Bourgeois.
But when Dave and I spontaneously symphonized about being overwhelmed, we were mostly thinking—with impatience and trepidation—about 2013, the year ahead.
I came to Warren Wilson on a one-year fellowship; I stayed an extra year to fill in for a professor on sabbatical, and to serve as interim director of the undergraduate creative writing department. The time has been well-spent: I’ve become an experienced writing teacher, I’ve written many new stories and essays and nearly completed revisions on a novel, I’ve built relationships with students whose work I believe in, I’ve taken classical voice lessons and joined a church choir. But after this spring semester—which starts January 22nd and is sure to pass in a blur—it’s time to come home.
Home to Oakland. And to my Bay Area life: Grace Cathedral, the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, art modeling, the San Francisco Ballet and LevyDance and Scott Wells and Dancers and LINES and ODC and all the other Bay Area dance companies I adore. Time to come home to my beloved piano bar, The Alley, to Rod Dibble, the Alley’s 80-year-old piano player, a modern saint, to my best friend Elizabeth and my 94-year-old singing sidekick Harold, to my mother and my brother and to Dave’s family, too.
I won’t be coming back to a full-time job, and even though I’m terrified about health care, I’m happier freelancing. I’m not sure how Dave and I are going to piece everything back together. I do know a few things:
–I’ll be sharing an office at the Writers’ Grotto, and teaching there when the crowded classes lineup allows.
–I’ll be teaching a summer course for Stanford Continuing Studies’ Online Writers Studio, a gig I especially love.
–I’ll be writing about Bay Area dance again, for various outlets. I hope to build back up to a steady dance criticism practice.
–I’ll be modeling for artists again. I miss many of the artists I got to know, so much.
–I’ll be returning to Grace Cathedral, my spiritual home.
–I’ll be spending my nights singing at the Alley, as much as possible.
–I’ll be working on new short stories, and keeping my discipline of regular fiction writing hours.
Thrilling, overwhelming—but Dave and I have our trust and our teamwork. In the meanwhile, I’m nervous and excited about the Advanced Nonfiction class I’m teaching at Warren Wilson this semester (textbooks: James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, Marguerite Duras’ The Lover). I know astonishing pages from my Warren Wilson students await. And on the other side: home. See you there.