It was a wonderful first-time writing conference experience and I am blessed to have had a dedicated teacher and a welcoming group of class participants. I will definitely plan to return next year.
In the meantime, I thought I might share a couple of writing pieces from the weekend. Please understand that these were written in a fairly short amount of time (one in five minutes, the other in less than an hour)... but the comments from the class let me know that I was on the right track... for me.
How did I get here?
I am on a scavenger hunt: a search for me that was lost somewhere between high school graduation and becoming a grandmother. A search for a person and not just a role to fulfill. So in order to move forward, I must look back - rediscover the passions of long ago. Music - French - Travel have all been a part of me for as long as I can remember.... but have lain dormant while I have tried to raise a family and entertain a part-time career.
When I read about the Travel Writing course it seemed to be a necessary item to add to the scavenger's list. Writing is a way I process life... travel is a way I desire to see how I connect with others and have a place in this world... And Gettysburg College** brings me full circle to a time when I knew who I once was.
** of special note... the instructor for this course is currently a professor from Gettysburg... the college from which I graduated in 1982.
Why do I travel?
When I was eight years old two events happened almost simultaneously. I began French lessons in second grade and I was introduced to the term, “Junior Year Abroad.” The passion to travel and relate to others in their native tongue was ignited and while the fire may have subsided throughout the years, it was never fully extinguished.
I do not yearn to travel the world. It is not because I do not find other cultures worthy of visit or study, but it is because I wish to become intimate with every place I visit, and that is simply not possible on a breadth scale. I suppose my travels mirror my friendships: I would prefer to have a few intimate friends than several casual acquaintances. I wish to travel and live and fully know a few cultures than experience the tourist relationship of several.
I desire to travel to England, and since I am already familiar with the language, I desire to become intimate with the people and the terrain of the British novels that I teach in school. I want to experience the home where Jane Austen revised her works while looking out the window of the Chawton estate; I want to see the moors that the Bronte sisters immortalized in their novels; I want to walk the streets of Dickens and Shakespeare and Woolfe. I want to attend Oxford, if only for a day, and imagine meeting CS Lewis and JR Tolkien on their way to class. I want to breathe in this history because I believe it will make me a better teacher.
I have always had a fondness for French and while I have had the pleasure and opportunity to travel to Paris three times in my life, I still yearn for more. I want to spend months in Paris, walking the cobblestone streets of yesterday and visiting the birthplace of Impressionism. I want to see these works of art up close, witnessing each stroke of the brush and each blending of the paint. I want to visit the street markets of today that mirror the same markets of a century ago. I want to sit in the Tuilleries Gardens and watch young mothers interact with their toddlers, much the same way I interacted with my daughter in Washington Square Park. And I want to visit the literary cafes of Hemingway and Hugo and Dumas and sip on espresso while writing my own manuscript.
Italy has such deep meaning to me. Not only do I love the food and wine, but I married an Italian… 100 percent. And I would love to find the birthplace of his maternal grandparents in Calabria and of his paternal grandparents in Foggia. I want to learn the language and speak with these distant relatives the way that I would speak with my own aunts and uncles. I want to mine the rich genealogy of this family to leave as a legacy for my own children – so they can pass it along to their children. I want to see the ancient ruins of Rome and the romantic canals of Venice; I want to visit the remains of Pompeii and swim in the Agean Sea. I want to learn to cook authentic Italian “gravy” and watch the first press of virgin olive oil. I want to stomp the grapes of chianti and pair a glass with the perfect slice of aged romano and a hearty crust of bread.
I have dreams of traveling in America as well. I do not believe that the only worthwhile destinations lie across the pond. I would like the opportunity to live one more time on the island of Manhattan. I lived there once as a newly married couple and I would like to return again, as a newly retired empty nester. I want to take advantage of all the cultural opportunities that eluded me the first time… and I want to fully appreciate the vitality of the city that never sleeps. I will shed my car for a good pair of sneakers and my four bedroom house for one bedroom walk up. Each day will indeed be a new experience and I will not take for granted any opportunity that comes my way.