Day: September 26, 2012

Surviving the Second Day and Making it into the Third

The stated purpose of this writing retreat is to travel outside my usual round of responsibilities so that I could focus on just writing. The first day I spent on travel, which is to be expected. I traveled both physically and mentally, arriving tired. I then suffered the common traveler’s lament of spending all the energy arriving only to desire to rest by being at home. I expected that. I also expected to spend some time grounding myself, becoming familiar with the house and surroundings. I did this at DeepSouthCon when I spent a good portion of the first day photographing and noticing the design choices of the hotel, much to the amusement of the hotel staff. They humored the odd lady taking pictures of the wall sconces and carpet. I’d planned to write up a post using those pictures, but the post never happened. It didn’t need to. I’d situated my brain and was ready to focus on the convention instead.

Except I arrived at the house and it felt familiar. I used to dream about my grandma’s tiny house. In the dreams I went upstairs and through a door to discover that her house had extra rooms and floors. Stepping into Woodthrush Woods was like stepping into one of those dreams, my grandma’s house–only different and bigger. I did not need to wander the house and get to know it. But I was tired from traveling, and despite feeling welcome I was not at home. There were other writers who had just finished dinner. I was introduced and we had a pleasant conversation and then everyone scattered to go write. I was left to myself. Which is the point. It is what is supposed to happen. Yet I did not write. Not really. There is a different feel when I am writing a blog post where I’m saying stuff and where I’m deep in the words. I was saying stuff that evening.

Surely the next day would be better. I would be settled and would begin to accomplish the purpose for which I had come.

Except I did not sleep well and the second day turned out to be hard. It was hard on me. It was hard on Howard and the kids back at home. Their struggles reached out to me across all those miles via internet and innate instinct. Instead of being here and now, my heart felt stretched across half a continent. I wondered why I had come. I was afraid that the logical and spiritual impulses which had guided me to take this trip were about growing through hard experience rather than reward. I really wanted something happy to result, but it was hard to believe that such a thing could happen.

On the second day of the retreat that I learned I bring my emotional baggage with me even when I leave the trappings of my regular life. I could suddenly see the baggage for what it was, but I couldn’t see how to re-pack it, get rid of it, or ship it back home. It was a day of bright and dark. I loved the woods. I needed to be there in the woods. But I wrote no words that were strong enough to convince me that they could not have been better written from home. I cried on the second day. Not all day, but sometimes when I was away from everyone else. I did not want to make any of the other writers responsible for making me feel better. I didn’t know if they could. I felt awful for being away from my family when they needed me at home to provide structure. I knew that they were competent and would find ways to muddle through. I worried about the comic work Howard was not getting done because he was shouldering my work at home as well as his own. I looked at my paltry words. I felt the even greater space of words I didn’t feel like I would ever be able to write. I felt awkward and odd with the people around me because I come from a social and religious context which often requires explanation. When all the worries got too much, I would walk in the woods or watch the birds. It helped, but I spent the day tangled in my own head.

Howard and I shared a phone call where we commiserated about how hard this trip was being for us both and how we weren’t sure what would come of it. I considered paying the extra fees to change my flight and go home early. Except I could tell I was not supposed to. My wise Kiki sent me an email acknowledging that the day had been hard without me there, but ending with “the second day is always hard. It’ll get better.” I marveled at her wisdom and clung to her words, wondering where she had learned it. Oh. She learned it from me. I tell her that at the beginning of a new school year.

The morning was brighter. Howard called and told me things were better at home. I went running up and down the long driveway, because running is better than crying. I walked in the woods. I wrote a blog post about it. Then I opened the file for my magical realism book and story spilled from my brain out through my fingers. I finally felt the deep word focus that I saw in the others when they stared at their screens. 1000 words later I have the bare beginning of characters and a problem. I’m going to have to discovery write this one, but it feels like the right beginning. I have written. I just might survive this experience after all.

My preferred writing bench.

Walking the Woods

Behind the house there is a table and chairs for eating. We’ve been taking our lunches out there to sit. This is what I see from my preferred seat.

The forest beckons me, and several times a day I go wandering through it. I can label it research if I want. I’m sure that many of the photographs, sensations, and sights will make it into my fiction. The real truth is that this forest makes me happy. I very much want to take it home with me. Sadly, it will not fit into my luggage, so I’m just trying to spend as much time out walking in it as I can. Memories are easy to pack.

The variety of life here is astounding. I wish I could photograph the birds, but they do not hold still nor let me get close. I would need a camera with a more powerful magnification than what I have. Instead I capture trees and rocks which will hold still. Some of the life looks really alien.

I begin to understand “parasitic” in new ways looking at the vines climbing up these trees. Though some trees do not mind, or have grown to the point where they are too big to be bothered.

If I lived here, or if Gleek lived here, that mossy giant would end up with a name. So would dozens of other little curves of creek and dells created by dead falls. I half want to name them anyway. I can picture in my mind Gleek running out the door and calling “I’m going to the fairy glen!” Perhaps this evening the lighting will be better and I can capture that place.

I did see one forest dweller who reminded me of home.

The yellow jackets here are less aggressive, smaller, and friendlier than the ones I encounter in my garden. Perhaps this is the result of them being part of a fully-balanced ecosystem rather than the oddly misbalanced ones found in suburbs. This guy was content to ride his leaf boat while I got close to take his picture.

Now I need to settle in and write words of fiction, while trying not to be too distracted by the pair of mockingbirds who appear to be playing tag through the trees over my head.