For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for other writers to share. I’ve spent a few weeks posting their words while I’ve focused on my own writing. This year, I’ve asked Haven alum to write a short piece describing something they’ve learned or a way they’ve transformed through our writing retreats. I’ll be sharing two pieces per post over the next couple of weeks. This is the first post, written by Renee Lux and Tracey Yokas.
Montana Walk, by Renee Lux
This is a Crusade,
A journey to sow the seeds of my soul
Around this Montana landscape.
With you and without you,
Because of you and in spite of you.
I carry your colors on my back
And emblazoned across my heart.
Feel the warm wake of my footsteps
Setting an urgent and steady pace through these
Do not be afraid.
I will blaze a new trail for us.
I will walk this path again and again
And see to it that we can find our way back home
To each other.
There is nothing to fear.
The black bear is just a stump,
The hunter, just a cairn of stones.
There is no mountain lion, no goat, no deer,
Only evidence of them giving us wide berth
Through this new place.
This is the after place,
The place of forgiveness
When I know this place well,
When I have given each pine its own name
Then, I will invite you
To the new me.
Nothing Else Makes Sense, by Tracey Yokas
The horse nibbled the belt to my winter coat. He’s just a horse, I thought as I stood immobile noting his size. He dared me with his big eyes. One of us would have to give up and it likely would be me. Instead Bobbi swooped to my rescue. One flick of her horse-stick and the belt hung at my side spit out like stale gum. “I should have tied it better.”
Bobbi looked at me and said, “It’s not your fault, but you need better boundaries.”
Okay. Wow. My life experience summed up in one sentence by a woman I just met on a horse ranch in the middle of Montana. And I was at a writing retreat!
I arrived for my Haven retreat one week after admitting my teenage daughter into residential care for help with severe depression. She had started cutting herself with a razor blade and was no longer safe at home. I told my husband I would cancel, but he told me not to. I felt scared and sad and guilty, but also needed a break. When I wrote it felt like a chore, but I convinced myself that for a few days I could put on a brave face and pretend to be a writer.
Back at the lodge after my “Your Life Exposed” lesson at the horse ranch, I sat in front of the fire. It cracked, popped and smelled like smoke – perfection compared to our Southern California natural gas-fueled fires. I thought about reading out loud to the group. My chest hurt. I might as well read my diary. The pages I’d brought were about blood. Who wants to hear about that? And when they did would they judge me? I felt more than heard Bobbi’s words. It’s not your fault.
When my turn to read arrived, I held my papers high, right in front of my face, glad I hadn’t purchased those reading glasses I need. Anonymity made it easier to ignore the quiver in my voice and helped avoid what I might see in the group’s eyes. Pity? Disgust? No. Finished, I dropped the pages to my lap and looked up. One’s sniffle, another’s tear. What I found was compassion.
I think often of my Haven experience, the people I carry still in my heart and what I learned in that long weekend. For one, you don’t have to earn a living writing to be a writer. Second, don’t wear a long belt (or any belt for that matter) to a horse ranch or at least be prepared for what a horse can teach you with it. But most of all, writing with honesty binds us to one another heart and soul. You will never be alone in a room full of strangers if you are willing to write your truth: good, bad or ugly. When nothing else makes sense, writing your way to this connection can be what does.