The Larger Circle

ViewpointI waited for June 18 for months after receiving the acceptance email. I had plans. I was going to write 20,000 words during my two-week residency. I was going to read books I had started and put down, distracted by a running to-do list in my head.

Two frightening flights later, a shuttle picked up five of us at the Vermont airport. After an hour driving, we arrived in Johnson, Vermont. The driver parked in front of The Red Mill, which once held grain silos but was now the cafeteria where breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be served to visual artists and writers from around the world. The Mill was a crimson pin calling out on a map, “You are here,” a place I went to less for the food, hungry to connect with others, most of whom had begun their residencies two weeks before me.

The Gihon River ran moss green adjacent to The Mill. Certainly not the largest or most powerful river in the state, yet undeniably the first palpable thing we all saw as our white van headed into Vermont Studio Center (VSC).

Being away from home challenged the child in me who once called my parents crying with homesickness from sleepaway camp. The residency would be my first time away from my own kid, who would be turning 10 the day before I was scheduled to return home. Could I leave The Kid for art?

Vermont Studio Center was a place to dream and write uninterrupted. I sat in a soft red armchair daily as the river crept into my writing. All was unknown, until it was known. Then, a boy appeared on the blank page on my laptop screen and I found myself writing a story about the magic of finding one’s path against the unpredictability of nature.

On one sticky humid Vermont day, I watched artists launch themselves in swan- and pizza-shaped floaties down the Gihon. On another day, we comforted our English friend when Brexit passed. We meditated on the grassy lawn next to the river. We wrote, painted, sculpted and performed.

Another mother at VSC sent me words from Sarah Ruhl’s essay, “On Interruption,” which I wouldn’t understand until later: "I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life. And life, by definition, is not an intrusion."

The day before the last day of our collective residency, I roamed through open studios, dreaming and inspired. But by evening my sister called to tell me my mother had suffered a near-fatal heart attack, “a big one,” and I changed my flight, flew into the unknown again.

The Kid bounced up and down at the airport. I had made it home on his birthday after all. And gratefully, just a month later, my mother was well, if not better, with a new stent in her heart. Life was not an intrusion; life was the larger circle. Inside the circle, I was writing it all.

–Ani Tascain MFA '15

Tascian is a VONA/ Voices writing workshop alumna and recent Vermont Studio Center resident. Her work has appeared in Raising Mothers, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The Citron Review, and Bird’s Thumb.