I stood on the ferry with fellow VPer Douglas, accepting the fact I'll be without my cell phone for quite some time since it fell out of my pocket during the ride from Island Inn to Vineyard Haven. The ferry was only minutes from leaving the dock, after all, and we've been unable to reach Bart because of the island's unpredictable cell service.
Then, from the upper deck, Douglas sees Bart striding across the parking lot, a phone in each hand. I run down the ferry's stairs, off the deck, down the ramp switchbacks to the dock. Bart meets me with the cell phone. I was so jazzed I gave him a huge hug and planted a kiss on his cheek (which, ya know, may have been a bit much from Bart's perspective).
Couple minutes later, the ferry pulls away as Bart walks off into the mid-morning light, having proven yet again that VP Staff are awesome folks.
Immediately, we VP students rewrote the ending: Bart reached the dock just as the ferry was pulling away, and had to overcome the shame and grief of his failed minor-league baseball career to perfectly pitch my life-saving medication across the roiling Atlantic waters.
I attended Viable Paradise for writerly reasons, and received a monumental amount of guidance and information and advice and inspiration and and and...and you get the idea.
But here's what's true: By the end of the week, the most important gifts of the week were not about ink and paper, or the craft of putting the former on the latter in recognizable patterns, or what to do with the paper once it has been perfectly inked. No, what I was given last week was time, space, tenderness, friendship, and joy.
Aside: If you came this way via sff.net, you already know the strain of the last few years. If you don't know, just consider it backstory that will likely be revealed as time goes forward. Suffice it to say I came to VP carrying an immense amount of emotional luggage because, as Pastor Bob says, people like me "don't do" process well or willingly. (I once explained something to him by starting with, "As you know, Bob..." But I digress.)
The VP workshop schedule isn't crammed and frantic. It's lovely. A good thing, that, because I needed the time.
I cried often during the week. It had nothing to do with my writing. (In fact, I have never felt more confident about the writing!) There was so much going on that was positive, uplifting, encouraging, and personal... It caught me unawares. It pushed in before I realized what was happening. And since I'd been so full of other emotions for so very long, something had to give. The old emotions, dense and heavy, leaked out. I did not find this depressing. When I shared my teariness with a couple friends there, the response was "Good!" I felt lighter and truer every day.
I discovered some people think I'm a likable person when they meet me, and a few still think that when they get to know me. My world has been so small for so long--there haven't been many opportunities to meet people in recent years--I admit I was more nervous about the social side of VP than the writing one. I shouldn't have been! I made new friends, talked writing, talked life, talked love, talked fears, talked fun. Talked about food and runaway kids, awesome dogs and religion, myths and sex and the importance of letting folks know you care.
I ate remarkable food like ginger potatoes, black bean mango salad, cranberry chocolate chip cookies and white chocolate ginger lime fudge. Took night walks by myself and with others. Danced the can-can, the kick line, and the Safety Dance during a game of Thing. Drank too much good whiskey with just the right amount of people.
I did not feel awkward.
And I'm terribly envious of the VP instructors and staff. They get to do it all again next year!
Yes, yes, I know I should relate the writerly part. I'm getting there, promise.