To get to the place from where you live, you must get up early, even before the break of dawn, to drive to the airport and make an early flight. And you must get up that early even though friends have graciously let you crash overnight at their house that is only ten minutes' drive from the airport. You must walk the halls of the biggest bus station you've ever used, going to parts of the station that you've not encountered in your eleven years of experience with it. You will search in vain for a place to sit down without having to purchase anything--a coffee, a juice, a bagel, a banana--and yet you will know why there are no seats. While you sip your orange juice, you will see the blind woman's seeing eye dog surreptitiously licking the trouser cuff of the old man at the table next to hers. You will raise your rasped voice to a harsh grating in order to buy three stamps from the postal worker who will want to know what you're taking for that illness. You will head off to wait for your bus, trying to figure out whether anyone else is waiting to take the same trip you are.
Two other people are, as it turns out, but you will not know that until the bus lets you off at an intersection in a tiny town. Later, you will wonder whether you saw them in line as you all waited in the bowels of the station. Together, you make three among the first four to arrive for the weekend, and so you band together to explore. Though one of you has been here before, you will all be just a little tentative--unsure of each other and unsure of yourselves. One person will seem particularly nervous, will proclaim himself nervous and even a little desperate, here as something like a last-ditch effort because it seems like one he can manage to make. You will do your best to broadcast calm and steadiness to him, much as you do when students turn up fearful in your office. He will be gone before the first 24 hours are out.
You have waited four months to be in this place, and in the last days leading up to the journey, you'll feel the keen edge of possibility--possibility for something revelatory but also possibility for something difficult, even for failure or for censure--pressing you when you're least ready for it.
By the end of the first night, your nearly absent voice and all-too-present hacking cough notwithstanding, you will be well on your way to feeling the utter inevitability that this place would formally enter your life--if not now, then sometime. Once another week has passed, once you've returned to your own home, you will realize with a small, happy start that it is coming to seem as though this practice, with all its questions and rigors and silences and sounds, all its new words and old beliefs, has always been becoming your way of being, and that you have found it now, and it you, not only for good but for better and for worse.
As everything is about to get underway, and as the others make their careful way back over the muddied and icebound gravel toward the main building, you will, as is your wont to do, pause to look up. Look up and look down, she told you all those years ago, when you wondered aloud about making pictures, just as you were finding the path toward this path. Look up and look down. This time, you will be looking up for the buds, but it will be the omen of the nest that you will carry for the rest of the weekend.