Are you sheltering like me? Hermetically sealed into my house, waving across the backyard fence fully masked, every summer writer’s conference, retreat, panel, workshop, coffee, lunch or glass of wine now lives (oh, man) online. My big summer vacation is packing up the lap top from my desk to my dining room chair, a journey of six feet.
I dream of, I crave a writer’s retreat where the desk is not this one, the view not here, the meals not my creation, where I can look in your eyes and hear your story.
My imagination is wild with an idyllic retreat cottage in the woods on the edge of a bog, but also an ocean view, but also dry (not salt spray damp), reached only by a secret winding path through the bug-less sun-dappled overgrowth, near but far from other writers. This magical island retreat hums with the history of writer’s voices. The Journal by the hobbit-like front door speaks directly to me:
“Doubt will rise, but your creativity will prevail.”
“Not knowing where you are headed is the true gift.”
These hearts, veins opened onto the page, give the courage to start. But first, a knock. Open the carved wood door smoothed by the hands of writers before me, to an overflowing basket of treats left by the chef fairy. Healthy carbs with zero calories. All made by someone-not-me.
Suddenly, the words sentences poetry flow from my well-fed fingers onto the page (in startlingly beautiful flowing penmanship onto gorgeous handmade paper, since this is the idyl.) Page after page. Hour after hour. My every sense, my every brain cell utterly consumed by the maelstrom of ideas forming into a cohesive whole, no stopping to re-read obsessively, no correcting, crossing outs and erasing to make perfect phrases, the world arises from the bits and pieces and sounds of vowels matching vowels, consonants crashing then soothing. She, my character, has formed from my hidden imagination and lives, alive alive!
Wow! Morning session has flown by, the chair the most comfortable, the desk perfect fit, a little worn groove where my arm lies to support the pen. I look up. The window frames the changing view. Where before a slight mist, now brilliant sunshine. Lunch has appeared on the little porch–on the porch swing, of course–and as if the chef fairy knew, a crusty but soft roll and gorgeous cheeses, grapes and peach slices, maybe (definitely) a fizzy drink.
From the porch swing, I spy the start of a white sandy trail, and the new She and I (She as real as if she walks beside me) hike a quarter hour out to the edge of the sea, and then a quarter hour back to the magic cottage. Now her voice leaps out in full sentences onto the page. She’s a little messed up, this She, she has her desires and, man, does she have the dilemma of all dilemmas, the universal dilemma conflict arising. By dinner, hour after hour (again!) I’ve filled the pages, and I’m fully in it, I’m living in the She world now.
Off in the faint distance, Ding! Ding! the bell to call all writers, the secret word-less signal that we need to ground back to the real world for a time. On the pine-scented path, I meet up with another, lost in thought, startled to see a real-life human, mirroring my own sense of interruption. Yet, like nowhere else on the planet, I am understood, and I understand. We smile. And laugh. The joy of creating like no other, how lucky we are.
Dinner, well. My god. First, amazing. Second, six other writer creators and the retreat leader, joined by that chef fairy for dessert. We sip wine, we raise our glasses. The normal aphasia of new meetings, the hesitation to share the work, disappears in the generosity of the room, the history of the carved wood table and the writers come before us. We are open. The stories these writers tell, some real, some imagination, some hybrid mixture, they float above us, dancing together, ecstatic. Somehow, my She has gained mystery, an unpredictable and new foreign quality, I once again do not know, reside in not knowing. But instead of doubt, there is excitement, instead of insecurity and despair, all is possibility.
Retreat is taking care. Retreat is being embraced into the community of creation. Retreat here, and you will put aside the normal worries of eating, drinking and viruses. Retreat into imagination and tell us, tell us, who you find.
Where will you go?