My spiritual director, Jean, advised me to go on a writer’s retreat today. I’ve been experiencing writer’s block and she felt it might help if I took a day, not necessarily to write, but to feed the writer in me. So, since I’ve never gone wrong following her instructions, today I retreated.
Last night I checked in to my room, and simultaneously checked out of phone, voicemail, texting, email and Facebook (after informing the three people in my life who might notice if I didn’t respond). My dreams were wild and rich, though I can only remember little bits and pieces at this point. I’m sure they were so vivid because I was in a new and very spiritual place. I awoke early in a lovely rural setting and dined on grapefruit, bananas and yogurt, accompanied by a fine Jasmine tea. After breakfast, I attended an individual yoga class, in a room with a picture window overlooking a small creek and some woods. It was a great start to the day.
Next on the agenda was Unstructured Time. At first I thought I ought to sit down and start writing – or try to. After all, this is supposed to be a writer’s retreat. But I remembered Jean’s admonition to do whatever the writer wanted to do – even if that just meant sleeping all day. I wasn’t sleepy, but I did lie down on the bed in my private room, and gazed out the patio door at a different, but equally beautiful and pastoral view. I thought, and I didn’t think. At one point I had a nice image of the two parts of myself, or two of the parts of myself – the practical, driven, let’s-get-this-show-on-the-road organizer and the relaxed, unworried, somewhat lazy hippie dreamer. In the image, rather than continually fighting with each other or taking turns being in charge, the two parts sort of blended, like chocolate and vanilla ice cream merging into a creamy and delicious milkshake. But I didn’t feel like writing that down just then.
After awhile, the part of me that can’t sit still got up and turned on my laptop. Since I remembered that today was the first day of school back home, I decided to finish a blog post I’d been composing on the subject. (In case you’re curious, it’s called I Hate Skool.) Once that was done, it just seemed natural – and fun – to finish up a couple other works in progress, including more blog posts and a short story.
The next thing I knew, I had missed lunch and it was almost three o’clock! (That’s how you know when you’re in the creative flow: You stop sensing the passage of time.) In a way, I wanted to keep writing, but by then my back and neck were starting to get a little stiff from sitting and typing so long, so I decided to go for a swim instead.
The pool was perfect! It was deep enough to dive and big enough to swim laps, but small enough to feel like mine. It was surrounded by a grassy lawn with big shade trees and hardly anyone was there. I lay in the sun and in the shade. I dove and swam and floated and soaked. I napped and read some hysterical – and brilliantly written – essays by Nora Ephron. And then I thought, I’d love a massage! Since I felt sure it was the writer in me who had had the inspiration, I could hardly argue.
I ended up at the spa about 30 minutes early, so I slipped into the cafe and enjoyed a cool drink while I read another of Nora’s hilarious essays – one which I’m pretty sure she had written to me personally. Then, Oops! Gotta go! It was time for my massage. I hadn’t realized how much I needed…that is, how much the writer needed, some deep tissue work and to be rubbed all over with warm, scented oil.
Now I’m back in my room, having ordered what I’m sure will be a wonderful dinner of steak, steamed broccoli and roasted home grown potatoes, paired with an amusing little Zinfandal. And while I’m waiting for dinner, I’ve been writing this article.
Okay…so the truth is, I never left home today – except when I went to a neighborhood pool and one of those walk-in massage chains, with a brief stop at the grocery store to get wine and the steak that I just took off the grill. (I already had broccoli in the fridge, and I’m proud to say that those potatoes were home-grown by moi!) I didn’t go far, but I really did go on retreat. I unplugged my phone and stayed disconnected from the Internet. I did my yoga in the living room, moved my laptop out of my office and into my little guest cottage out back, and I did a lot of good (I think) writing.
But most importantly, I fed the writer in me. So thanks, Jean. Thanks, Nora. Thanks, Chris, Paloma, Jabo and Bob for helping me to have a home that could easily be mistaken for a retreat center.
And, by the way, thanks to whoever dropped that quarter in the parking lot at the grocery store. The writer not only got fed today, she also got paid!