Body of Water
First day of the conference, I take it easy. Wake up late. This will turn out to be a good move.
On the shuttle over to the Prince Conference Center, I meet a former college president who incidentally knows my father-in-law and likes him a great deal. We hit it off and end up attending Mary Gordon's opening talk together: Is Fiction Moral? I am reminded of the post I did right before leaving, which suggested that words have the power to preserve life.
Gordon's talk is so intelligent and moving, I can hardly keep up. The long and short of it: she begins by arguing that fiction is not moral. It's not where she goes when she wants to consider how to behave... but she ends by arguing that fiction is moral, if one considers compassion to be a kind of morality.
This converges with the reading I've been doing since embarking on the trip... a book called Missing Mountains, which approaches the issue of mountaintop removal not only through essay but also through poetry and short story... perhaps as a way to develop compassion for "the children who do not have good water to drink or bathe in, the people who travel unsafe roads or live beneath sites that have already sent boulders through their homes."
After the opening session, I am accosted (in an oh-so-friendly-and-welcome-way) by Ann Kroeker, as I'm walking through the tunnel that goes over the highway. She has bought my book and the IVP people have apparently described me with great accuracy. I sign her book. We chat. It is clear we will need more time together. We agree to have lunch the next day. (More on that tomorrow.) My camera batteries are dead, so I use her camera to take a picture of her, which Mark Goodyear finds it in his heart to call artsy and wonky (or maybe those words were really to describe me).
I float through the afternoon, chatting and exploring. I attend only one more seminar, where I end up making unexpected plans with someone from Paraclete Press. (I can be this way at conferences... skipping seminars. A while back I decided that relationship is more important than information; this will reach its height the next day!). I write a poem about relationship. The image is that of rain falling on a body of water. Maybe a lake or a pond or a stream. I am feeling like the lake, the pond. Others are the rain.
"Body of Water"
rain comes, rings
fan out collide
die and resurrect
in liquid ridges,
Around 5:00 pm, my publishing company (see feet above!) takes me out to celebrate Stone Crossings. I am a slow eater and end up sitting with a group of very patient people who are quite done, while I am still working on greens with gorgonzola and cranberry walnut bread. Overall we have a great time, but I feel an odd sense of tension as I have also come to the conference having just received a contract offer from IVP for God in the Yard. This is not simply a celebration; it is potentially a next step too, and that feels strange.
After dinner, I decide to skip the plenary session. In a little while, Ted and Deb will come to meet me at my hotel and bless me deeply with their presence and prayer. An hour later, we will say our goodbyes. Then I will return to my quiet room. And put my body of water into a small body of water in the bare hotel bathroom. It will have been good to relax, as I discover the following day.
LL's Solo at the Red Sun