Retreat is a word that always makes me giggle because, in my line of work, it means going off to the woods/sea/countryside for writing/reading/contemplation/quiet reflection/time to one's self/a room of one's own whereas I am always instead thinking of running away from marauding hordes. English is a funny language.
I spent last week at the first kind of retreat -- the kind in the woods with writing, reading, reflecting, and time and room of my own. It was my very first retreat of the non-running-away kind, and it was pretty of amazing.Hedgebrook is a retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island, WA. One can apply for residency and stay for between a couple of weeks and a couple of months. One can pay to attend workshops and salons. Or one can come teach, as I did. I'd have done so with joy and delight just for the pleasure of doing it and of working with and meeting such talented, committed writers, but when payment turns out to be a cabin to myself for four days with all meals gloriously prepared (and delicious)...I actually lack words to sufficiently describe this experience. The best one I have is generous.
It was also a week left to the imagination. There's no phone. Cell reception was essentially non-existent. No wifi in the cabins. So alone felt really alone, disconnected, isolated. Good for the imagination certainly, but good for the imagination is not itself always good for the soul. Hedgebrook is a safety-first sort of place. They warned me that the fire alarm in the cabin rings the fire department directly, so don't burn toast. There's a fire extinguisher, a total ban on candles, a battery-powered lantern, a panic button for instant police signaling, and air horns on both floors. But the provided flashlight is one of those small emergency crank things that sheds a tiny amount of light on only the half square foot immediately in front of you. The way back from dinner is woodsy, windy, and wet, branches blowing, rain spattering, noises noising...let's just say it was a long quarter-mile every night. It is perfectly, perfectly safe, but I imagine things for a living...and imagine I did.
My friend Tara, of the lovely blog Tea and Cookies, points out that being in a city is much more dangerous than being in the woods on a rural island. True enough. She says there is much more to fear from people than animals. But I was not worried about being attacked by a bear. I was worried about being attacked by a zombie.
Freaking Joss Whedon. I get it. I do. Really. But one wants to see a film and then move on with one's life whereas the memory of Cabin in the Woods prevented me from achieving the proper zen retreat state. I thought too much about the other kind of retreating -- the kind where you have to run away from a redneck zombie torture family who might be lurking just outside the beam (a charitable term in this case) of your so-called flashlight waiting to cut you open with a rusty saw. Thankfully, this did not harsh on my productivity -- only on my mellow and my willingness to leave my cabin for really any reason at all. Except food. Oh the food. There are times in one's life where someone else cooking is like the greatest thing you can imagine -- besides zombie survival -- and I am at one of those times apparently. Meantime, novel #3=underway. Not very underway. But underway nonetheless.
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.