On a rainy day last week, I parked on a Montpelier side street and walked into town to attend an opioid summit as a writer.
The last time I had been in the conference space in the Plaza Hotel was nearly precisely two years ago, when I attended a conference as a journalist, charged by my editor to “make connections,” and spent most of it drinking coffee and eating sugar cookies and talking with a para-educator at my daughter’s high school about his experiences. Like darn near everyone else in Vermont, he has a side gig for income, and runs a seasonal bakery.
I sat at a table with people I admire who I’ve met through writing. For those few hours, I had the nearly heady experience of meeting new people; I had remember that deep pleasure. Years ago, I traveled on a train from Charlottesville, VA, to Chicago, and sat beside a man from West Virginia. We talked off and on for those hours. It’s been so long since I had that experience of just listening and talking with people.
For a few hours, I listened to stories about addiction and struggle, about suffering and redemption, about profound loss and grief. Listening, my heart grew full. Our stories and words, the act of telling and listening, of sharing the hard and the beautiful things in our lives, bound us together. The summit began and ended with singing. I’ve never been one for group activities, for open sharing, but at that moment, I utterly understood; I got it. The melody of our language and experiences pulled us together, acknowledging both the beautiful and the terrible about human life, and made our world shine brighter.
…. Grateful to have a terrific piece about Unstitched run in the Brattleboro Reformer and the Manchester Journal by Gena Mangiaratti. And The Rumpus included my essay about the backstory of Unstitched in their Voices On Addiction column this month.