Saturday, September 24, 2016

Into Autumn at Rensing: Abundance

The pasture at sunset

Always in life there are places you visit and remember with fondness – but also there are those places you visit that become part of you, such that you: a) put down stakes and opt never to leave, or b) bury a hunk of your indebted heart in the ground as collateral to ensure that at some point you make it back. The latter is already very much the case with my two-month stay as a resident here at The Rensing Center, the former a yearning strong enough to warrant a fair amount of no-jokes reflection (following a trip this morning to the Greenville Farmers Market with Rensing neighbor Ron Few, I texted my aero-engineer husband in Seattle asking, where was Boeing’s South Carolina plant again?)

Here in Pickens, SC, the soil is deep red (iron oxide-rich as in western Kenya, another country I love), and the air hot and muggy (in the 90s today, in what I’m told is one of the very last warm days we’ll be having before the state’s weather decides it’s actually autumn), the katydids are humming, and the sun is setting over a land that enjoys the warmth of the subtropics almost year-round. But for the skies' distinctive “pink of the evening” serving as my reminder that the candle is quickly burning on my time here, I'd ease into the dream state of a child who was going to live inside of summer forever.

Bell jar, mason jar, and cuttings in the library

Driveway/path to the Pottery from the Guest House

Jon Fritz

At the halfway mark of my residency the memories are carouseling into a bit of a blur, but the important things are easy enough to report. New billy goats arrived in the upper pasture on my first day here (see Rensing’s wonderful Facebook page). Weekly dinners at director Ellen Kochansky’s place have kept residents social and connected to the place and to each other, and for me they've been greatly needed respite from the frequently head-bonking work of writing new poems and stories. Jon Fritz, a local landscape designer/farmer and past Rensing Borseda resident, has been a supportive and generous presence to me and the other residents, giving us tours of the farms along Six Mile Road. Aijung Kim, a poet and visual artist who left us this week to return home to Richmond, Virginia, gave me my first lesson in how to sew together a chapbook, and inspired me during our walks together to see our surrounding nature with new eyes. To wake mornings in the Guest House to the calls of birds I don’t recognize, to walk in woods and not know the names of most of the trees –  these have all been invitations for opening and wonder, along with guided trips to the Pickens flea market and to historic Hagood Mill, or to the monthly fish fry at Soapstone Baptist Church where we visited the community’s Liberia cemetery of freed slaves.

And that's not even to mention the over-the-top kindness and chivalry/gentility of some of the good southern men I’ve met during my time here (the husband at home has been supportive); this Pacific Northwest gardener’s joy at finding eggplants thriving in the garden (plus peppers? God exists); the spontaneous gifts of bananas and oranges from Evelyn Kochansky (96 years old and the place’s incredible muse and founding spirit) – but when you’re a young poet cranking on new drafts with a 70% failure rate and have shelves of Eliot, Stevens, Camus, Rimbaud, and Kafka staring you down and daring you to see if you can top that, you’re going to take all the support you can get. And I am grateful to the Rensing Board and to poet GC Waldrep for opening the door to my stay here throughout this season.   

I’ll post more in a couple weeks with further reports on my excursions in writing, and in Pickens, and further abroad, out of this eco-haven and liberal-progressive bastion in the center of Trump territory (photos forthcoming of the Texas Longhorn cattle who are our neighbors –  if I can manage some snaps of the reclusive beasts when they’re not hiding from me).

With warmest greetings until next, 

- Hannah Lee Jones 
Resident, Poetry/Fiction September - October 2016

Friendly goats
Aijung Kim, showing me how to sew together a chapbook

Reading at the kitchen table in the Guest House on a cooler day

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