- Published on Monday, 30 July 2012 07:41
- Written by Barbara Klein Moss
Adapted from Barbara's acceptance speech upon receiving the literary Annie Award in 2008 from the Anne Arundel Arts Council.
When I tell people that Annapolis is my home, it's no casual statement. Growing up in a small town in rural New Jersey in the fifties, my brother and I–children of liberal Jewish parents from Brooklyn–learned early what alienation was. We were in exile, our parents taught us, but only temporarily. One day we would find our way back to civilization. I've lived in many interesting locales since then, but in a way, I've never stopped looking for that perfect refuge. It is no surprise that a recurring theme in my fiction—one that takes many forms—is the Garden of Eden: our banishment from it; our search for it; the serpents that subtly, inevitably, inhabit it.
I'm not naïve enough to think that perfection can be found in any place on a map, and I won't tell you I found it here. That would be a chick-lit ending – and I don't write chick-lit. But I can truly say that Annapolis is as close as I've come. It has the intimacy and quirky eccentricity of a small town, seasoned with the sophistication of a city. It's not Manhattan or San Francisco or Boston, where every other person is either working on a book or thinking about one, but I've found it to be a fruitful place to write.
Several years ago I spent some time at an artists' colony. Many of the other colonists were from New York, and at dinner one night, someone asked me, "What's Annapolis like?" I could tell from his tone that he was inquiring about the outer reaches of the universe, that vast, anonymous wasteland beyond the Hudson. "It's very pretty," I said lamely. "Lots of history." The conversation soon moved on. I wish now that I had done a better job of translating for him the special character of this town, and why it's meant so much to me. That the past is not a museum here, but a living culture, where it's just good manners to give a farewell party for an ancient tree before the surgeons saw clear across its multiple decades. That strangers smile and say hello when you pass them in the street, and that our neighbor Janet – they'd never believe this in New York – came to our door with a fresh-baked cake. That Max Onder, owner of Karavan in Eastport, gave me a Turkish good-luck charm that I'm convinced brought my husband and me back to the area after we'd been away for over three years. That two such polar institutions as the Naval Academy and St. John's College not only co-exist here, but meet congenially on the croquet field.
I can't talk about Annapolis without mentioning Ann Jensen, who I met soon after we moved to town in 1996, and who has become a dear friend. Our backgrounds could not be more different. If I've been a wanderer, she's the most rooted person I know, still living in the house her forebears built 300 years ago. Ann was the first local writer I encountered, and, thinking she might need to get away from the desk as I do, I asked her if she liked to walk. Since that first meeting, we've walked almost every day that weather permits. We talk about what we're reading, and always, what we're writing: the struggles and perplexities and doubts, and occasionally, the small triumphs. We talk about our lives and our families, local history and national politics. We talk about everything under the sun, and, some days, not much at all. By now Ann must have heard all my stories at least twice, but she's always too kind to tell me so. After we've finished our walk, we reward ourselves with a few minutes in Amos Garrett Park. We sit on the bench. We look at the water, with its cargo of boats and birds, and the banked trees of Truxton Park reflected in it, and I think for the thousandth time what a beautiful and peaceful place this is, and how lucky I am to live here. We get up, reluctantly, and go back to work.
Find Barbara's bio on Our Contributors page.