After Residency, Home

The first few days after residency are always odd ones to navigate. There is a sense of straddling two different realms and a kind of reluctance to let go the one in order to fully inhabit the other.

Back home, after winter residency, Christmas is caught in an almost amber-like stasis. The tree, the lights, the stockings hung by the chimney with care are exactly as I left them. After so much rush and hurry to get ready for the holiday the solitary day between it and the rush and hurry to get ready for residency simply isn’t enough for me to get everything done. I leave up all the décor so that I can take some meditative time to take it down when I get back from Nebraska City. Oddly enough, however, the first days back are just as packed with duties and tasks, joys and sorrows, as were the days leading up to departure.

How Life-like, right?

Added to the quotidian mix is the longing for the Spirit of Residency – that total immersion in the writing culture, the companionship of so many writers who care as deeply as I do about the scope and the minutiae of the writing life. These first days I move slowly back and forth between the housework and the page.

Teri Grimm’s farewell address to the graduating students reminded us all that once we leave that space we become solitary stewards of our own writing, our own art, and that role in our lives is as important as any other caretaker role that belongs to us.

Hers are good words to remember as I take the last big step out of the Lied Lodge and into my “real” life. Taking time to write, nurturing my writing career, continuing conversations about creative work – these are not ornaments to be packed away. These are the things that matter. These are the things we do.


Karen Gettert Shoemaker is the author of The Meaning of Names and Night Sounds and Other Stories. Her awards include a Nebraska Center for the Book Award and Independent Artist Fellowships from the Nebraska Arts Council. She is a faculty mentor with the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing Program.