A Week Away and Coming Home

Two weeks ago, I was in Port Joli, Nova Scotia, for a week-long writing workshop/retreat led by Peter Carver and Kathy Stinson. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m grateful to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Access Copyright Foundation for the opportunity to attend.

To be specific, and accounting for the time differences, two weeks ago I was wearing my rainboots and walking down a woodsy trail near the ocean, carrying a purple bag that held my laptop, a bottle of water, and everything else I could think of that I might need in order to spend three hours writing. (Most especially the beautiful fingerless mitts that my friend Jocelyne made for me–it was cold!)

I made my way to a tiny cabin with one table, one chair, and two sets of bunk beds. Positioning the desk just right, I had a view through the woods to the ocean. And I wrote. The only interruption was when a spider dropped down from above, right in front of my face. I shrieked and shoved the chair backward into the bunk beds. Once I untangled chair from legs from bunk bed, I’m ashamed to say that the spider met a grisly end.

(One of the other workshop participants, a wonderful woman from northern Saskatchewan, tells me that spiders should never be killed. They spin the webs that keep away nightmares. I don’t tend to have a lot of those, though, so clearly I’m not sensitive to the spiritual vibrations of spiders.)

Spiders aside, it was a morning of focused writing time in a beautiful setting. And although I tried to write in a different location each day, the other mornings followed the same pattern. The afternoons were spent critiquing one another’s work and learning about writing. After that, we had “play time” until dinner, which generally meant wandering the beach and looking for rocks, or even splashing into the ocean. The food was great, the company was wonderful, and the week was productive and inspiring.

And then I came home.

Don’t get me wrong — I was ready to be here again. I missed my husband and my daughter. But I picked a rushed day to come home to (volunteering with the Terry Fox run, then helping with my daughter’s play rehearsal all afternoon), and the week that followed was start-up week for most of my daughters extracurriculars. Which are many.

It’s a different pace. My thoughts are scattered all over the place, trying to keep track of who needs to be where, at what time, with what. Emails and promises and responsibilities. That’s what writing retreats are for, I guess. Focus.

So I haven’t got focus on my side right now. But I did get a lot of work done during that week away, and part of that work involved making some pretty detailed revision notes. I’m happy that I have them to work from, now. It was wonderful to have that space and that time. And here in the real world again, I feel like I’ve finally got my feet back under me, so I can use what I learned at the retreat and move forward on my manuscript in a more ordinary way.

So there’s no ocean view here, but I can see the garage roof, and the house across the street. And it’s a lot warmer — although I still have my Jocelyne-mitts here, just because they make me smile. There’s a little more than an hour left before I pick my daughter up for lunch. And my revision notes tell me that it’s time to take a look at the Chris-and-Tyler scenes in my manuscript, so that’s my plan for the day.

It was great to be at the retreat. But it’s good to be home, too.


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