On the Move Again

I'll miss this view from our deck in Summerland, which we've called home for a little over a year.

I'll miss this view from our deck in Summerland, which we've called home for a little over a year.

Re-entry after coming home from Hedgebrook has been hectic and all-consuming. My week on Whidbey Island allowed for writing and reflection, thank goodness, especially after a two-week trip to France, during which I got news that my younger sister had died. It’s been an emotional time. Now I am in the middle of moving again, to a new home across town.

We have only about four more days to pack before the move. And it won’t be long after I'm settled in that Rob wants to begin renovation. I imagine I will be spending a lot of time in the relative peace and quiet of a coffee shop once that starts. It’s never a dull moment with Rob, for whom life is all about the journey.

As I wrote from Hedgebrook, I’m going to stop posting excerpts of my memoir while I revise it. Meanwhile, I’ll write more blog posts about our trips to Ireland last fall and France last month. Travel is a marvelous way to get to know oneself better—and of course your significant other. Both trips have been incredible learning experiences—for both of us. Our next “trip” will be a home renovation…stay tuned!

In the Willow Cabin, Day Seven

I go home tomorrow. And all I can say is one week at Hedgebrook—or really any writing retreat—is never enough. One barely gets settled into a new routine (and catches up on her sleep) before she has to head back home to reality.

Nevertheless, it’s been a lovely experience. I have gotten some writing done, perhaps not as much as I wanted, but enough. I have met some amazing and talented women. And we have been blessed to work with the poet and social justice advocate Carolyn Forché, whose keen insights and encouragement have allowed us to see the ways we can improve our own work while at the same time being inspired.

I did not get to see an owl (at least not yet). Though several of the women here have. We have seen the bald eagles drifting on the winds above the fields across the street. We had a terrific storm the other night, complete with pounding rain and howling winds and a power outage—that was fun. I did take a walk down toward the sound, but turned back when the chill wind started to blow so hard I had to lean forward to walk.

There are journals in each cabin (my cabin is Willow), where women who have stayed here over the years have left little bits of advice or encouragement or poems or, even in one case, a CD with recordings of the frogs at night, which I downloaded. I was delighted to discover I know several women who have stayed in this particular cabin over the years: Hope Edelman, one of my mentors at Antioch Los Angeles and author of, among other books, Motherless Daughters; Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus, poet, teacher and one of my AROHO sisters whose one-woman show “Chalkdust” was produced in Santa Fe last year; and Wendy C. Ortiz, another Antioch peep whose memoir, Excavation, came out last year to rave reviews.

Other women who have stayed here include Kathleen Ross, president of Heritage University (1999), and the poets Amy Pence (1989) and Sharon Hashimoto (1996). Another woman from Santa Barbara stayed here in 1990: Kate Smith Passy, whom I don’t know.

The sound in front of Hedgebrook Farm is, inexplicably, called Useless Bay. Somehow, I know I will write about that someday.

A Blustery Day on Whidbey Island

I woke up early—5 a.m.—to driving rain and pounding winds, and lost power. For a fraction of a moment I panicked, but then remembered I had my flashlight, my cell phone, and a wood stove to keep me warm.

I stayed in bed for another hour or so, and when the power returned, I sprinted downstairs to start water for coffee.

I wrote for a little bit, then showered and went out for a walk in the sunny but blustery morning. It was gorgeous and ominous. Trees and branches down everywhere. But I loved my walk out to the sound. Here are some photos of lovely Whidbey Island and Hedgebrook.

In the Willow Cabin at Hedgebrook

The past few weeks have been by turns exciting, sorrowful, grief-filled, stressful and exhilarating. From flying to Paris for a two-week holiday, only to find out my younger sister had died suddenly during our overnight flight, to coming home to a house still filled with unpacked boxes from Rob’s move to Santa Barbara over Christmas, to preparing for a week at Hedgebrook, it has been a tumultuous time.

Today is my fourth day among the quiet cedars and oaks of Hedgebrook, a retreat center for women writers on Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest. In January, I was accepted into a Master Class with poet Carolyn Forché, and so far it has gone beyond my every expectation. There are six women here, from all over the country: Chicago, California, Texas, Washington, Oregon, Washington, D.C. We each have our own cabin, with practically every convenience. There is a tiny half-bath, which means one has to go to the shared bathhouse for showers, which was my only small concern. But the bathhouse turns out to be a warm and inviting spa, with heated floors and lovely showers and a claw-footed tub for long, luxurious soaks, lit by candles, if one so desires.

We meet in the afternoons for lectures and to share work, and Carolyn has insisted that each of us write for three hours every morning—uninterrupted. This has been my greatest challenge, of course. It helps that there is no Internet in the cabins (unfortunately, my cell phone and iPad work great, which makes it very easy to cheat, and I have—just a tiny bit). I have tried to follow the directive, though, and after three days I’m pleased with the work that has resulted. Raw, unedited, emotion-laced, my writing these past days is nevertheless exciting if only for the fact that I have long stretches of time to decompress and go deeply into it. I’ve written about my sister, and added pieces to a novel I started years ago, and I’ve written new scenes for my memoir.

I have also managed to post something on my blog each day, and hope to continue. We’ll see what happens when I go back to real life next week.

I am in the cabin called Willow. It was randomly assigned to me, but the willow has special significance to me, and so the selection seems to have been divinely wrought. I grew up in Michigan, where weeping willows are both abundant and inspiring. I have always loved them, and over the years the willow has appeared in nearly all of my stories in some fashion or another. When one of my clients independently published his memoir last year (Dick Jorgensen’s lovely O Tomodachi), I created an imprint under which to publish it: Weeping Willow Books.

Carolyn has given me some very helpful suggestions on my memoir, Face, and so I have decided to stop excerpting pieces of it on the blog—for now anyway. I want to revisit it with her advice in mind, and then will decide what to do from there.

I also have two other book projects on the front burners, including an anthology for women writers. More about those in coming weeks and months.

Meanwhile, I will keep writing about our travels, and my life, and books. I hope you’ll continue to join me here. If you’d like to receive my posts in your email inbox, you can sign up at this link. I’ll also see you on Facebook and Twitter. As always, keep writing!