I attended the annual Hanalei Writer’s Retreat this weekend (sponsored by the Pacific Writers Connection). This year’s instructor was ecologist and acclaimed author Carl Safina.
He shared with us many things over the course of our two days together. Encouraging us to be keen observers. Expressing the importance of revise, revise, revise. He urged us not be afraid. And he offered all advice on the premise that there are no rules. Take what feels right to you and leave the rest.
I often find it scary to read my work to a group, but liberating to face the fear and do it anyway. I did get to practice that this weekend. However, the following piece did not get shared, as we simply ran out of time. The assignment was to write about a process. As I reflect on what I chose to describe, I realize that it incorporates some of the basic principles that Carl shared.
Look deeply. Leave the fear. Trust your heart. Keep refining.
So here it is. A piece from the writing workshop:
My eyes open to blackness, a soft pillow at my cheek, the warmth of my husband’s thigh beside me. I know where I am. Moist, cool air fills our room, still quiet and sleeping. The dog stirs nearby with his signature sound of metal tags jangling. In the distance, the faint sound of one early rooster calls. The sun has not yet risen.
I’m never exactly sure what time it is when my body voluntarily wakes to this morning ritual. I rest with eyes open, barely seeing outlines of shadowed shapes. I linger in the final filaments of dreams. Begin thinking about words. Soak in the quiet. Search the inner recesses. Seek a ladling of essence. Some elixir for the day.
Bare feet step to a wood floor. Hands fumble in darkness for clothing. If it’s January, I may look for socks.
I step out of the bedroom and close the door with quiet care behind me. Feel for the standard switches. I know which lights will be illumined, not too bright, but just enough to show me countertops and the jar of coffee beans. The digital clock glows 4:47am.
My stainless steel espresso maker rests on the stovetop, stained with flame and use. Yesterday’s grounds are added to the compost and all components rinsed. On the outside, my hands move through rehearsed ritual. On the inside, I am dipping the ladle. Looking for Grace to bestow me with a gem. Grant me the sacred nectar.
The earthen scent of coffee escapes beneath an unscrewed lid. A scoopful goes into the grinder, which I wrap tightly in a blanket so the noise won’t wake my family. I spoon measured doses of fine-ground powder into the maker, turn the knob, ignite blue flame. Walk away and open the laptop.
As the connection finds my hub, I light a stick of sandalwood incense, make more requests and offerings to the Muse.
Honestly, I’ll tell you. Every day there’s worry. Fear She will not come. That no words will be found. Or that the words I find are pointless, taking space and serving nothing.
These doubts, they drift with the spirals of smoking sandalwood. I breathe in. Stay awake. The coffee, now percolating on the stove. It’s time.
Hot liquid, steams into an oversized mug, as I pour all trust into this process. This morning time that pulls me from my bed, uncertain, but devout. I am here alone, bowing into darkness, then rising to part my heart like window curtains to the world.
On good days, this fear is ever-present. On bad days, there’s nothing quite this juicy. It seems much worse to just be bland.
I take it all. Swallow my warm brew and watch my mind. Oh, how it loves boxes. Teasing me with good and bad, right and wrong. Trying to make stiffness out of fluid.
The Muse, She is elusive. Moving, yet resting deep within my heart. My ladle keeps to trusting. Ever-dipping. Just a little deeper.
My fingers move to keys. They’ll fumble and sift through threads. Tap more into the seeking than returns. Share something. Anything. Often simple sips. Some kind of morning nectar. This process of retrieving, gifted from a gracious well.
3 thoughts on “From the Writing Workshop”
Beautifully written piece…..you create such strong visual images. So fascinating where our gift of creativity comes from isn’t it……and where does it settle when we don’t use it for awhile? I can’t express myself as well as you but I think you know what I mean….
Thank you! The exercise was to describe a process in great detail, so that was fun to play with. I like to think of the Muse as this ever-present energy which is at the heart of all creation. We decide how thin the veil, depending on how much we want to tune in to it. But like nature, it’s nothing that can be boxed or fit into just one formula. Or at least that’s my thought for this morning. I remain the devotee, grateful for any trace that I’m gifted. 🙂
Oh me too…it’s a gift I treasure dearly