Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweet rewards of reTREAT

Fourth day of a writing retreat and I am finally in the groove. It always takes a couple of days and I have been balancing the solitude and work with some treats and treks into town, which have taught me as much about myself as any retreat. For example:

• INDIANA hits a chord with me; one I never expected. It's middle-of-the-road, middle-of-the-country, not flashy or flamboyant. What you see is what you get. People here are who they are, be it the edgy college students or the farm folks sloshing into town for supplies. Whenever I jaunt into Bloomington, I pass Baker's Junction Railroad Museum, more like a rusty hobo camp still dressed in skeletons from its haunting season, and Ned Fleetwood's grander-than-life fiberglass animals – small giraffe, large giraffe, giraffe sideways on a crane, elephant, wide-mouthed bass, gorilla, buffalo and Pepto-Bismol pink pig – vying with the twisty road for my attention. Both make me smile and grateful to have to pass them.

• Exploring a COLLEGE TOWN transports me to my own coed days and the student experience that universally transcends time. Doesn't hurt that the IU campus is so very Gothic that I feel Professor Dumbledore will appear any minute. A  draft at the local dark bar and spin through the food coop preserve the flavor of memory.

• Stumbling into the ART MUSEUM with its unexpected Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Monet, Pollock, Duchamp, Daumier, Henry Moore, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams and Max Beckman pieces was an inspiration to keep pushing my creative process no matter what the outcome in my lifetime.

• Meeting the self-proclaimed TOWN CONCIERGE and learning how the Dalai Lama's brother and Tibetan Cultural Center (as well as another that may be a cover for the Chinese government to keep tabs on the real one) landed in Bloomington was a grounding human connection during a time of silence, writing and imagining.

• Attending the local QUAKER MEETING, feeling called to minister about the importance of acknowledging shadow, even loving those dark and messy parts, and being told it touched another affirms the work I am undertaking and provided corporate accompaniment.

• Bending to NO ONE'S SCHEDULE and whims but my own creative call has negated a lot of guilt and freed energy for work, play and reflection.

• LIVING MORE SIMPLY with only the things I immediately need and not spending time and energy needlessly offers a pace and flow my mind, body and spirit relish and periodically require.

• BEING ALONE reinforces that I really do like myself, contrary to negative self-inflicted messages, and is an experience I will remember and draw on when I have episodes of self doubt.

Wow – all of this and also making progress on my book! Such a gift.

... that's it ... tapped out on queries and after notes because of the book-shaping process


  1. While you're in Indiana (or even after you get home), track down essays by Scott Russell Sanders. He's a professor at Indian University and one of the finest essayists and writing teachers I've encountered. You especially might like his collection, Writing from the Center. The center he seeks is geographical, emotional, artistic, and spiritual - and is rooted in his home in Indiana.

    Glad to hear your retreat is going well.

  2. I will Iris, thanks for the tip. It was an amazing week that went all too fast!