what stays (part 1)

good morning good morning — I’m back from Hedgebrook, and am slowly moving back into (and transforming some of) the rhythms of my away-from-retreat life.

Happy St. Pat’s day to you, if’n you’re celebrating. Don’t forget your green. Don’t forget, either, that snakes often have good things to teach us; driving them all out of our garden doesn’t always serve us.

(Or, hasn’t always served me; let’s just keep it away from the directive/dictatorial here, shall we? :)

There’s so very much I want to share with you about these last two weeks at the writing retreat; I’ll bring those words here, over the next week or so. Here’s what I want to say now: I met my writing body there on that island in Puget Sound. I got to unpack all the different parts of my writing world and scatter them around a small cabin, look at them all, hold them in my hands, in the light of the fire from a woodstove, in the birdsong, in the green-grey early morning light that is particular to the Pacific Northwest — and gently, organically, find (again, again) how all those pieces, projects, longings, aches and words could fit together inside this life.

I wrote every day, mostly by hand, some into the computer; each morning I tucked myself into the thick green cushion of a small window bench in my cabin, propped my notebook on my knees and wrote myself awake.  I walked or ran every day, too, down to the shore or around the hilly side roads. I walked in the rain, talked to eagles and sheep, talked to the green ponds and crocus and cedar. I held this waking body in my hands and reminded it/us how far we have come, even from the places we thought were our greatest healing.

And I wrote letters, which was one of the greatest gifts of these weeks: the chance to remember how much I adore the epistolary form. Every night after dinner (all of us writing women gathered together for dinner each evening at 5:30, where we could laugh or commiserate (generally both) about the day’s work), I would come back to my cabin, put the tea kettle on, start some music (I spent a lot of time with Lila Downs during these weeks), and sit down at the big writing desk. I’d pull over the notebook I was using for letters (the one that so nicely releases the paper from its perforated seam), put the date at the top right corner of the page, and started with Dear… and then I was off, in intimate and contemplative conversation with my friend. What spaciousness! So different from the sense of pressure I feel when composing an email (even if I can give myself time to reply, still there is the urgency of immediacy that inheres in email). I described that day, taking my time, and then wove in poems or bits from whatever I was reading, maybe responded to question from email or continued a conversation we’d begun in person. Here, then, were all those parts of my writing self getting to interweave, organically, and through the movement of my hand on the page. It felt like a new form of writing practice, and I am hooked again.

And then, the pleasure of getting to fold up, address, stamp each missive. Then the pleasure, each morning, of the long green walk from my cabin down to the mailbox, placing the letter inside it’s wide mouth, closing the lid and putting up the red flag that would alert the mailperson that I had something important to share with someone I love.

This is some of what stays from Hedgebrook. More soon. Thanks for being here, for your everpresent and everflowing words.

One response to “what stays (part 1)

  1. Pingback: what are your nonnegotiables? | writing ourselves whole