It is Thursday afternoon. Outside the writing studio window, the day is bathed in sunlight, the limb patterns on the grass motionless. Inside the studio, writers are at work with pen or laptop, or staring out the window, or sitting chin in hand. Chairs squeak, the printer clacks, the clock ticks. Small sounds that only accentuate the silence. The writing group is focused, which is different from a focus group . . . or maybe it isn’t.
I wondered, on Sunday before I arrived, who these people in the class would be, what they would be seeking, what they would be bringing. On Monday, as we tiptoed toward one another, I began to find out. Talking and listening, deciding what to offer up from our own personal stories, we began to trust. This is what I expected.
In the afternoon, we scattered across the campus, each of us to a different studio. The instructor had told us, “Write about what you are seeing, hearing, feeling there.” I heard only birdsong as I walked outside; all the other students were sequestered in class.
Rounding the mulched curve to the Woodworking Studio, I saw steam. The porch was steaming. I asked the man tending the steam if I’d found the banjo-making class. “You have,” he said. “I’m one of the instructors and I’m about to begin a steam-bending demo. Feel free to go inside and look around.” Noise! The moment I opened the studio door I was met with a wall of noise. Not from banjos playing, but machinery noise. What I saw was clusters of students working so intently that they didn’t even notice my presence. I expected to be questioned; instead, I was invisible.