'Prepare to be immersed in the heat and vibrancy of Florida's natural world, full of such sensual detail that to read it is to breathe it in.' -Jo Shapcott [review of Greyhound Night Service]

Field Notes on Hambidge


Yesterday was the last day of my residency at Hambidge and I drove out of the driveway in a cloud of gravel-dust and exhilaration. After a discombobulating day today, in which I wasn't quite sure where or who I was, I am now re-entering real life again. And when trying to decide what to write for this blog post, it occurred to me that I have already written an enormous amount this week: a conference paper, pages of prose on the natural landscape, six or seven new poems, and lots of field notes for future poems on the botanical theme that I proposed for my residency. Here are two excerpts from this final week.

Collection Sample No. 7, Dead-Nettle: Lamium purpureum 

From the time I arrived here I have kept an eye on them. At first a curly green and maroon stock of leaves like little mint leaves, slightly heart-shaped. Another rain and another few days of sun the flowers opened: tiny spotted pink flutes. Shaped so a tongue could curl out and it wouldn’t be surprising.

Lyn calls them birthday flowers after her birthday in April, the same day as mine. She keeps a vase of them on her bookshelf beside the botanical paintings that are so large she needs a ladder to hang them. Birthday flowers in pink and maroon, with green that’s yellowy but also evergreen dark.

Lori doesn’t know what they are, ‘but they’re growing next to the chickweed’. We walk to the metal arch near the Spring House where mountain water rushes day and night, runs the curves along the groove it’s carved down the lawn to Betty’s Creek. 

If I kneel there, the water smells cold, like loam and rust. It’s perfectly clear and washes my muddy hands clean. The stones are gunmetal grey, both banks marshy with moss, like walking on sprung ground.


Notes on Hambidge:


Here walking is the way to get everywhere: to get to the Weave Shed, to get your fresh eggs, to get to the mailbox, to get to the Rock House, to get to the wifi, to get to the Antinori, to get to the recycling, to get to the beaver dams, to get to the swimming hole, to get to the North Carolina border, to get to dinner, to get to someone’s house in the evening, to get home.

I have walked every single day for twenty days of my residency. I have walked when I didn't want to, I have walked in the rain and snow. I have walked in the freezing cold with a flashlight. I have walked on dirt paths, on gravel, on a carpet of leaves, over logs and boulders and muddy ground. I have walked along Betty's Creek. I have walked beneath brilliant white stars. I have walked with a friend and I have walked alone. I have walked with a four-legged and a three-legged dog. I have walked with a black cat many times. I have walked until I could barely breathe, I have walked until my feet and thighs and lungs ached, I have walked until I was sunburned, or talked out, or the trail ended in a bear or a snake or a fisherman. If I can walk here, I can walk anywhere.

Comments

  1. What a wonderful environment to work in! It sounds like it soothed the mind and soul. I cannot wait to read more poetry that 'came out' of this experience.

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  2. Wonderful writing from a very full experience. I look forward to reading the poetry that follows on.

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