Bread Loaf 2012: Recognizing the Familiar

Posted on 19 August 2012

Is there a name for the phenomenon where you travel to a new place and keep believing you recognize people you know among all the strangers? Like my semester abroad in London, where for weeks I thought I recognized people in the tube stations, in the museums, in the little Tesco at the end of my street. I saw in those Londoners the faces of my friends from college, people I left behind in my home state, people I knew long ago but hadn’t seen for years. This happened when I first left for college, again when I moved to DC, and again when I moved to Cleveland. Over and over I’d have to remind myself that I’d started somewhere anew and these people were strangers to me.

It’s happening here again at Bread Loaf. Like the woman in the pink pants who looks like much like a coworker that I get flashbacks to the office whenever I see her, or the girl in glasses who looks like some long-lost friend of mine, I just can’t remember who.

I’m here on the mountain, traveling from yellow building to yellow building for workshops and readings and meals and cocktails. So many good things: the vibe in my workshop, the weather, my roommate, the salad bar, the $2 beers, the Robert Frost Trail, the soy milk by the coffee, the new friendships, the readings that leave me in awe and in tears.

Today I walked where Robert Frost walked, tomorrow I’ll see where he spent his summers. Robert Frost, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, Shirley Jackson, John Gardner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers. They were all here, back when the martinis flowed freely and the cigarettes sparked. I’m posting this after a reading that blew me away and before the barn dance. I have napped and am ready to go, and in my notebook waits a new idea not just for a story but perhaps for my next novel, something I never would have conceived of if I hadn’t come here this summer. And I’m off.


6 responses to Bread Loaf 2012: Recognizing the Familiar

  • margosita says:

    Whoops. I have now been reduced to a puddle of envy at my desk.

    (Glad you’re having such a good time!!)

  • mary grimm says:

    I really liked it there – do they still have the adirondack chairs dotted on the hill?

    • Yep, they are still there! Probably the only major thing that has changed is that this is the first year in conference history that some cell phones (Verizon) are getting reliable service around campus. Seems like a shame…

  • Teri says:

    You are in my dream of what heaven is, Laura. Truly. Those names. Those chairs. That landscape. The readings.

    Can’t wait to hear even more! Enjoy!!

  • I’m hoping it was even half the fabulous experience for you as I imagine, Laura. Sounds like heaven. *sigh*

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