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Every winter I give my blog over to alums of Haven Writing Retreats who have all come to Montana to dig deeply into their creative self-expression, using the powerful and transformational tool that is writing. Leading Haven Writing Retreats is my way of giving the support I was either too stubborn or too scared (likely the latter) to give myself in all my years of writing. It is my deepest pleasure and honor to offer this powerful program, which is really a writing retreat and a writing workshop in one, to people who long to learn how to write a memoir, how to write a novel, how to become a writer, how to write a story, how to start a book, or simply how to find their unique voices and stories…and set them free! The Haven Writing Retreats community is all about continued support, and the annual Haven Winter Blog series is one way that we offer just that. My blog is their blog, and in it we parse the creative questions that so many of us have.
This year’s theme is one of my favorites so far: ”How do we give ourselves the permission to be creative in the first place…and what does that look like?”
In the next weeks, while I go into the winter dormancy of Montana and give myself my own permission to write, these Haven alums will be diving into their heart language to share with you how they show up for themselves creatively. I hope you enjoy their posts. I will be chiming in with some of my favorite winter recipes along the way
so stay tuned, stay warm, making a nice cup of something soothing, and “lend an ear.” From Haven to you. yrs. Laura
Now Booking 2016 Haven Writing Retreats in glorious Whitefish, Montana:
I didn’t tell her where we were going – or why. She wouldn’t believe me and would begin once again, her rant that has echoed in my ears for a very long time. I packed my bags when she wasn’t paying attention. Throwing in a favorite wrap she would be comfortable in and our favorite pjs, slippers and boots, we were ready. I bought a beautiful journal dedicated to this new adventure, kissed my kids and grandkids goodbye and headed to the airport.
She was quiet. I could tell she was frightened.
How did this happen? Here we sat – her still very quiet – in a room full of strangers. Her presence was ominous – my mind replayed her last words over again and again in my mind. “Who do you think you are?” “Why do you think you can do this?” “You can’t!” “You don’t belong with these people!”
That was the first time I had ever uttered the words, “I think I should write a book.” She went ballistic all over me and scared me so bad, I laid my pen down and walked away.
Her silence frightened me.
I didn’t tell her how frightened I was too.
Her silent, me becoming brave, somewhere deep inside me I found the courage to sign up to read something I had written about my mother’s journey into death. I don’t think this little, still silent voice had the courage to interrupt.
Finishing my story, I dared look up. Ten sets of eyes looked at me and one by one as they spoke, they gave me a gift unlike anything anyone has ever put in a box, wrapped up with a bow on top and handed me.
They gave voice to my muse – instilling her with a confidence and assurance that we should continue processing our life through stories. She quit the negative comments – she was born again with a spirit empowered with belief in us. She awoke connected to my soul and refuses to let me lay my pen down – for long.
When we both get tired, as a team we pick up our pen and continue writing. I like to connect dots, comparing it to laying a trail of breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel did. When I feel empty or discouraged, I follow that trail leading me to inspiration and words. Staying connected to people and walking into their stories with them inspire me. Listening to the world around me – by physical interaction and by sitting quietly in the spaces where I can pray, read and listen to life around me – is a critical component of processing for me.
I am continually amazed where in the world we are when the words come. Maybe we are on a plane surrounded by strangers, we might have just had a conversation with a complete stranger and the stories take life on the page.
We might be walking through an airport or a remote village far into the cane fields of northern India or the classrooms of our students in Honduras when the inspiration comes or recently on a mountain side in Israel, at the foot of the Western Wall and on the Sea of Galilee. It is my prayer I will be the inspiration to others around me like others on this planet have inspired me.
Often, it happens in places where I don’t even speak the language.
Does life have a universal language? Is it of hope? Is it of grievous tragedies? Is it of injustice? In hunger or illness? Or smiles or hugs? And the tears – of many tears shared.
I have learned it is a combination of all of these. Our stories overlap in ways that need no translation – they just need to be told.
There is nothing more humbling than finding yourself in a bear hug as this woman on the other side of the world has thrown her arms around you, crying, smiling and speaking in tongues unknown to these ears. Her beautiful brown hands hold your face as you have connected as you shared your story through a translator. We are more alike in our hearts than we would ever have known.
Before going in search of the story. Before waking the muse and becoming inseparable friends. Before courage and bravery.
Before the gift others gave me as they told me to keep telling the stories – it is hard for me to imagine a world without my stories now.
So my muse and I go out into the world. We retreat from the world. The best part of all is how we found peace with each other and how we travel this life of this woman called Janet who found her courage and voice in a place far, far from Covington, Louisiana in a placed called Whitefish, Montana.
- Janet Hines www.janethines.com
I show up for my creative self by putting pen to paper, by easing the pain with words. When my waking reality is too difficult to comprehend or hold myself safe within, I give way to the caretaker of my soul; The part of me that holds safe the longing for things past, the doubt of a bright future and the belief that either of those things are my forever story. I have not always known my creative self although if this conversation was with her I am sure she would tell you she has been there all along. The girl that saved herself in a terrible marriage: how many nights spent writing all those hopes and frustrations down when the babies were sleeping. The days spent in a massage parlor….creativity was there then when I lived inside the day dreams that took me away from the physical realities that were occurring, hell creativity was there when I made those men believe that I was having fun. In all of the darkness there was always the light of my own self expression, I walk down the corridor and the hallways with the girl who saved herself from the trauma that was occurring around her by writing down the ideas that she had for the tomorrows that she believed would never come. “Reflections of a tomorrow land” that was one of the titles that got me through sitting in a cell reflecting on how that happens to a little girl from the “right side” of the tracks….pen and paper, they went with me on that journey. I have shown up for my creative self by letting her have those days, through the tears, when she could not get the words and the feelings out fast enough to keep the snot from water marking them beyond recognition on the page. Yet still I kept writing, with each word numbness held at bay, with each thought, blood starting to ease to a dull thud instead of the deafening pounding, with each word created on paper self- love returning, belief that at least the words of this woman deserved to exist and by default if those words deserved life, then so too did this broken human. As I read through the journals of that girl who never planned for a future, who never expected to see the other side of thirty, I realize that she has had a constant companion and without knowing she has fed, watered and cared for that companion by letting her express herself when the girl could not find her voice. This year the girl, now a woman, and that companion went on a journey. Unchartered territory was discovered not in the wilds of Alaska as she had once imagined but in the remote wilderness of a safe space called Haven. I chose to show up in full reflection for my creative self and offer her the life that she had been holding safe for so long. I chose to give us the chance to trust the creativity that saved us to lead us from the darkness to the light. Let the battle royal begin woman and I will show up with pen and paper to defend your honor until the day we die.
- Josefina Barbero
2016 Haven Writing Retreat Schedule: