For myriad reasons, I needed a break. Some privacy. A solo ride.
Naturally, I decided to drive to New York to make this happen. We know I don’t do things the easy way.
While I did really need to get the fuck out of town, the most valid reason I needed to leave was to write a paper I had been saving to write during April break. Virginia Woolf famously said that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction;” and I can argue that this must happen in order for a woman to do, well, anything. I knew I would not accomplish anything surrounded by animals and laundry. I needed to escape.
I booked myself a room at The Inn at Green River in Hillsdale, New York for its free wi-fi and breakfast and its proximity to my main event: Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Austerlitz, NY home at Steepletop. Total home run. The innkeeper emailed me this morning to check in, and she met me at the door when I arrived (after an eerily easy and beautiful drive). The inn is settled in a little valley in the Berkshires. It’s early spring and the trees are just beginning to bud. It’s my favorite time. You can see the bones of the trees and the landscape but everything is softened by that smoky fuzz of budding limbs. Nature’s airbrush? Maybe. I can barely keep my eyes on the road, and I am completely enamored with this place. “No wonder she (Millay) moved here,” I said to myself as I drove back from dinner, “I want to move and I just arrived.”
After I settled in (washed my face and read in my underwear for an hour) I got dressed and ventured into town for dinner. Innkeeper Deb suggested Old Mill, a pub/bistro in Egremont, and since I do enjoy not having to make decisions for myself, I went with that. The drive into town was all hills and valleys and old homes and cows. I waved to them, as always.
I sat at the bar flanked by two older gentlemen, both engrossed in their phones. I was served quickly, olives and bread straws and a Sheffield Big Elm lager (delicious- I had two), and the place was obviously banging for a Wednesday night. I pulled my glasses and book out of my bag and settled in with the menu. I noticed a quotation at the bottom of the hand-written specials menu: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf. I opened my book, a worn, blue, paperback copy of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and found the same passage on page 18.
I ordered a small plate for dinner knowing full well I didn’t want leftovers but I also wanted dessert. It was good, but oily for a grilled dish. What the eggplant lacked, though, was made right with strawberry shortcake and conversation.
Once the early dinner rush subsided, the bartender looked up and asked me what part of Maine I was from. We hit all requisite conversation pieces (fishing, weather) and got to the reason for my visit. I told her about my grad paper and my sort-of Millay pilgrimage and THAT is where it good good.
My bartender? Her grandmother was one of Millay’s roommates at Vassar – THE Charlotte (Charlie) Babcock mentioned in Nancy Milford’s biography of ESVM, Savage Beauty.
Now I am not a believer in kismet or fate or true love or destiny, but the whole situation practically shimmered. I half expected to ride home on a unicorn.
I’ve already finished outlining my paper. And here I am. Having a terrible time, drinking wine and talking to you while I sit by the fire.