Grace and Generosity, Don and Jane
Though poet and essayist Donald Hall died on June 23, it wasn’t until last night that memory washed up on the shore for me. In 1993, I attended the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference in Middlebury, Vermont on a fellowship. I had never been in that gorgeous part of the country, so I cut most of the sessions and walked in the mountains. One evening when I returned to the barn from one of these rambles for the big reading (I probably had leaves in my hair, striped white and gray rocks in my pockets, and smelled rather sweaty), I found almost all of seats taken. So, I slid into the first empty one I could find, which happened to be next to an older couple. We introduced ourselves. I vaguely knew who Donald Hall was. Someone had given me a copy of Here at Eagle Pond, which didn’t interest me then because I saw the essays as the ruminations of an old man. I’d never heard of Jane Kenyon, much less read one of her poems. I no longer remember what we chatted about, but do I remember feeling that I was attending the reading with my friends, Don and Jane. I'm always touched and inspired when people with fame (Hall would become the 14th U.S. Poet Laureate), power, and accomplishments treat others with grace and generosity. That is a mark of true greatness. Today, I’m finally reading Here on Eagle Pond.