Blessed was that day in July 1998, when I first met JoAnn Macken in the Burlington, Vermont airport. We newbies in the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children Program milled around the one conveyor belt, looking for our bags, but also sizing each other up. (To digress for a moment, Jeanne Marie, I first remember you sitting on the floor, your back against a pillar, reading I, Juan de Pareja which if I am not mistaken, is historical fiction...see last week's blog!)
This was back in the day, before luggage charges and laundry lists of what you could and could not bring on a plane. I was living in Bangkok, and had already been "home on furlough" for two months. My two enormous suitcases were large enough to carry small children (or, in reality, seventy pounds of books). As I dragged my bags toward the jolly green Vermont College school bus, I noticed a woman who appeared to have grabbed Mary Poppins' magic carpet bag by mistake. I soon learned that Magic Carpet Bag Woman was JoAnn. What struck me about her bag was that other than the unusual shape, it was a completely unremarkable piece of luggage. What really got my attention was its size...smallish. Certainly much smaller than my mini-steamer-trunks-on-wheels.
That has to be her carry-on bag, I thought. But no. It turned out that one bag had all she would need for ten days of heavy study and hard writing. I felt a little sorry for her. What could she possibly have in that bag besides a change of clothes and maybe a journal?
I soon found out, that like Mary Poppins, JoAnn's bag contained anything you might ever need. Someone need herbal tea to sleep? JoAnn had it. Epsom salts to ease sore muscles from hiking uphill and down? Ask JoAnn. Blackberry preserves, tiger balm, an extra pillow? If you needed it, JoAnn had it. I never did figure out how she got all that stuff in that one (magic?) carpet bag. I started calling her, "JA the Girl Scout" since she was "always prepared."
JoAnn herself turned out to be exactly like her suitcase...prepared, organized and a head full of images that she weaves into the most amazing poems. I too lived in Wisconsin in a lakeside town for six years. I have many memories of those surreally frigid winters...but some how they did not end up in such beautiful poetry as the ones in this blog from earlier this year. http://www.teachingauthors.com/2012/01/new-year-poems-and-poetry-friday.html
Continue to March forth (and January and the other months as well) my talented and intrepid friend.
Blogging with you has been one heckuva magic carpet(bag) ride.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman