Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017
June 7-11 (still spaces)
June 21-25 (still spaces)
September 6-10, 20-24
October 4-8, 18-22
I feel invisible in winter. Every year, I steep myself in the varying greys, and even with a bright orange scarf…I feel like the palest grey. I’m speaking of my internal landscape. It is penury and I like it that way. Northwest Montana matches my mood– sonata after sonata of greys from October to April—sometimes panorama, sometimes stuck in treetops. But with the exception of the here-and-there sapphire skies, the blanket of snow I sleep under is a stark white-grey against the steel-grey sky. Where I tap my keys, solo with accompaniment: she is always my muse. Always. And no, it is not depressing. Not if you need to be very very quiet for a while, and I do, if I am going to hear what it is that I am to understand and say when the world wakes up. Even the Netherlands for the holidays matched my winter mood, only there it was in countryside mud walks and slick streets along the canals of Amsterdam. Still grey.
I went this winter of 2017 with purpose, and it was with this purpose that I did this parsing. What makes a person visible? Knowable? Seen not for the orange scarf, but for the woman wearing it, under the frozen bedsheets? I wanted to know what this question of voice really means. I spend so much time talking about how writing can help you find your voice. But what does that really mean? Because I don’t mean soap box. Have you ever been on a soap box? It feels good for about two seconds. But it also doesn’t feel good watching someone on a soap box and thinking that you’d never have the guts nor the words to ascend one. If we don’t listen in sacred solitude, how are we to hear behind the lies that say: I don’t have anything to say that’s important. Even if I had something to say, someone probably already said it better than I ever could. Who am I to take that stage anyway? It’s self-indulgent at best.
I live in an almost mute life in Montana in winter. Unless I am leading Haven Writing Retreats or doing a speaking engagement, I’m quiet. Writing. Watching snow fall in swirling fury one minute, and then flake by floating flake. Sun peeks. Shies. Retreats. Raven flies by. Chickadee and deer and squirrel prove themselves Bad Ass. Icicles form, drip, break. I see it through my window—the ozure dogwood, the only red. The Doug fir and larch the only green. Except my dirty truck. Which I leave in the driveway unless I am out of almost everything. There is always something in the pantry. I want to stay invisible. I have thinking to do. Writing to do. Quiet to learn. Restlessness to remind, because stillness is a better boss. Because…I have learned…that stillness is where the true voice lives. Like the frogs who will soon fill the marsh with mating cacophony. Real voice comes from quietude. Prelude. Sonata.
It’s over now. The ice dams are crashing off the roof. There is gravel showing in the tire ruts. I heard a red-winged blackbird yesterday. I saw a V of Canada geese too. Today the first robin pecked at stiff stink bugs on my roof. The deer and chickadees tell them tales of stillness and staying and yes, penury, unimpressed with stories of migration and color, juicy bugs and monkeys. My orange scarf will soon enough become kindred and invisible, next to wild honeysuckle, poppies, climbing ragosas.
And I ask: Did I listen well? Was I quiet enough? Did I sleep or sleep walk? Will I get wooed by all the waking? The color? The voices of spring that aren’t my own?
Because now is the time for greening and saying.
What is it that you have to say?
Listen to what’s left of the grey, as it melts. It is speaking to you.