There was an old artist with his cat named Ganymede. They sat before a window high in a tower. Below was the market, above was the sky, and a circus on rooftops where all animals could fly. In the morning the market filled with pastel figures, buying candy balloons and jewel-colored food. The cheese monger sang as notes left his mouth. The fish monger danced with salmon and trout. Hawkers sold wares that all came to life, and helped the old cutler polish his knives. A mime mimicked windstorms, a flutist the night. And the florist threw roses to every person in sight. Down flew a lion, a zebra, and clown and sprinkled confetti all over the ground. The old man cried as his breath grew faint, and his paint-covered fingers started to ache. For a moment the market was dirty and bare, and the rooftop circus existed nowhere. Then Ganymede purred and pawed at the panes and the old man saw god in all living things.
During this summer’s residency in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Art, I was one of six student lecturers sharing critical insights regarding picture book authorship. My presentation focused on the textual reference to setting, and one of the books I critiqued was Meg Wiviott’s Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass. Unknown to me at the beginning of the residency was that Meg would be attending the residency. We became good friends in the short time during the residency, and I will not forget her response upon the conclusion of the picture book panel lectures.
As Meg approached me after the lecture, I could see she was somewhat teary-eyed. We gave each other a hug of mutual respect, and it was at that moment I realized the impact critical writing can have beyond intellectual curiosity. Meg’s amazement that her book could elicit such fascination and scrutiny and be loaded with so much subtle meaning was a testament to the power of the essay to inspire and connect writers.
The dual emphasis at the Vermont College on both critical and creative writing to foster stronger and more informed writers is one of its many strengths, and that it brought two writers together in a new friendship is a joy that is beyond the words of this writer to express. I share this with her permission and my gratitude.
Between two forces—one pulling us toward the person we are destined to be, the other toward the person we long to become—lies a liminal space of infinite possibilities. A place of continuingly coming into being, where words, faith, intention, and love merge. A place where longing and bliss caress each other. I struggle to exist in that space without the forces tearing me apart.
Pictured above are the quaint pine forest behind my residence hall, College Hall in the rain, and the organ in the chapel, where many of our lectures and readings take place. It is also where the graduation ceremony took place today.
This final day of residnecy was emotional, primarily for the graduates but also for the first-semester students. There are many traditions at this school, and all of us in the first semester were pleasantly surprised by another in our honor. These traditions are very personal; therefore, they are not appropriate for social media. Suffice it to say that if you decide to attend this wonderful college, you will always cherish the learning, the faculty, and the traditions. It is no exaggeration that my decision to finally attend VCFA has been one of the best in my life.
Hooray to the graduates, the second, third, and fourth semester students, and to my dear first-semester friends.
We will return in January!
P.S. I was able to creep into the Gary Library late last night and gain access to the Special Collections vault. Right there, alone on a small oak table, was the dreaded book used by some nefarious student to conjure the beast that was inhabiting the tower of College Hall. With the aid of a few night time accomplices, I was able to translate the ancient writings and speak the invocation that contained the abominable creature, which will live out the rest of its days deep beneath the fountain in front of College Hall.