Every winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.
The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?
If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:
February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!
Click here for more info. You do not have to be a writer to come. Just a seeker…
by Sarah Hunter
My little suitcase yawned on the floor waiting to accept my dirty laundry. I filled it, purposefully folding and placing each soiled garment, hoping that someone would knock on my door and say, “You don’t have to go! You can stay . . . possibly forever!” Despite my dawdling, this did not happen and I was borne away from Haven, my haven, in the white rental car of a former stranger who is now one of my tribe.
At Sea-Tac my patient and loving husband pulled up in our silver sport utility. I threw my little suitcase into the back and jumped into the passenger seat. He looked at me like someone peeking into a musty box from the attic – is there a big hairy spider in there? Will it jump on my face?
I blurted, “We need to spend more time in Montana. In fact, months at a time. I heard God. I found people who are like me. It was simply transformative. It was the best experience of my life, well, except for when we got married and had the kids” I added lamely. He stared but the corners of his eyes crinkled and his mouth twitched up into a smile.
“Ok,” he played along, “I can work from Montana. Can we still spend some time in Seattle so I can get into the office now and again?” He was clearly prepared to humor me for a bit. “How was it, really? Transformative is, well, a lot.”
But it was. It was transformative. Despite Laura’s admonishments to the contrary, I was ready to sell our house, move to Montana and live in a yurt with nothing but a desk, lamp, pen and paper. I was ready to become, let me state this as humbly as possible, a great writer. Not just good – epically magnificent. I had complete confidence in my competence. I commenced to prepare to write. I set up my writing room with my writing desk with my writing lamp, my writing pens, and writing notebooks. I ordered books on writing and organized a bookshelf for them. Once the books arrived, I began feverishly reading them, carrying them around like sacred texts. Interestingly, I did not put pen to paper and write. I thought a lot about it, read a lot about it, but did not do it.
The afterglow lasted for a long time. Right up to the point where I became utterly dismayed and desolated at my narcissistic depravity. Who would want to read anything that I wrote? I’ll tell you. Nobody. Why? I had nothing moving, inspirational, transcendent or even vaguely interesting to say. Nothing. Not only did I have nothing vaguely interesting to say, I couldn’t put it down on paper anyway. No skills. None at all. So, there you had it. I avoided my writing room with all of its’ writing accoutrements. I regretted the money I had wasted on my silly escapade. I was embarrassed that I had made an ass of myself in front of Laura and my Haven tribe by making them read and listen to my schlock. I almost wore sack cloth and ate ashes but I realized that might have been too much.
In the middle of this self-flagellating nighttime, creeping tendrils of an idea came to me like a clematis climbing a trellis to get closer to the sun. Hubris and desolation – opposite points on a spectrum, right? I had occupied both ends rather painfully for myself and for those around me. What was in the middle? Eventually I settled into travelling a wide place between the two ends where I am practicing being compassionately myself. Having dreams, daytime or otherwise, witnessing truths in the world and witnessing truths in me. Sometimes just making-believe. And writing all that down. For my own enjoyment. Or, just because I have to. Or, want to. Because it’s fun and it’s for me. It’s a practice I get to do, I get to make it a way of life, a vocation, a calling. It’s what I do and now, thanks to Laura and Haven, I can claim it without reservation. It is me. I am a Writer.
I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, Now What?
by Sharley Bryce
I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat. Now what? In the fields of Montana, where the grasses blow softly and the dust settles on the tops of my riding boots, peace abounds. Whether I come there with a troubled heart or a full one, the experience brings me in touch with my true self. There simply is no denying it; and, the “now what?” is: “what a I going to do with me?” Somewhere there are footprints I left, in doubt, and many in faith and love. They are a part of me now. Like the “Now What?” poster of the baby chick hatched out of the egg. I am overwhelmed by all the possibilities for me now. Having touched the hearts and souls of others at the retreat, sharing and caring, it would be, quite simply, a waste to leave that experience behind and not put it to good use for my own future. Inspiration felt or learned must find its place in me and take flight onto the page.
Too late in life we regret things we didn’t do more than things we did do. We think life is what happens to us, but isn’t it also the other way around; we make our life happen out of all the opportunities we encounter and give to ourselves. The hard part is giving ourselves permission to use those opportunities for our own growth and development. It would be so nice to continue to stay at Haven and write as I am moved to do there, in the beauty of Montana, with all the time in the world, in a safe haven. To be true to myself, I must be willing to make time in my individual life. If I am the instrument through which my words are played and my gift of writing is shared, then I must give myself permission to take the time for writing no matter what. Thoughts and ideas can come in the shower, in the dark of night, or driving the car. I am scrambling to get them down on snippets of paper in my purse or running from the bathroom to the kitchen lest the magical words that sweep me away from the mundane to the real are gone. These same magical words on the page hold me in great anticipation of a finished work. I am moving forward from where I once was to where I am now and that is my truth. I dare not ask how far I have come since Haven because I am still pushing through my fear of being adequate enough to choose just the perfect words for the page. It doesn’t matter so much to me who reads these words as it matters that they are written. That is what I am doing with me now.
Often after I have been with a friend and seen their face light up, I have pictured them alone, serious and still. It reminds me that we all are alone and serious and still at times but we can put those times to good use. Haven is a gift I took with me. From time to time I unwrap it to see again what is inside and enjoy its mysteries. There is great freedom in that.
Sitting at a player piano pushing on the pedals and letting the music of those wonderful paper rolls sweep me away was the happiest of past times for me as a teenager. I thought I was a movie star somewhere in a life of fun and romance. It was one of the most comforting and cleansing of my soul things I could do during those years of searching for my true identity. Of course I didn’t compose those songs, yet they were favorites and still have the same effect on me today. Today, writing allows me to go to a place of peace and joy with my own words and “music” and be fully present. It beckons and I picture the sharing of it which I find exciting. The challenge is to move things around and give it a high priority in my life. Perhaps the real answer to “now what?” is figuring out how to doge and fake in the face of all the things that get in the way of writing. Many things are going to happen and, when they do, we say “now what?” as if we expect it and as if it is just one more thing on top of a lot of things. I am going to make it the important thing for me and let the rest happen as it will.