I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Vashonistas

Breakfast at The Hardware Store
It's Sunday morning again, but this time I'm sitting in my bed at Lavender Hill Farm instead of my old familiar spot at home in Bellingham. Some things are the same: I have a cup of tea next to me, and my laptop across my knees, ready to write.

Four years of gathering together, each time a little different from before, but with the same women bloggers who are now known to us as the Vashonistas, since we've been coming to this same sacred place on Vashon Island each year. Some of us blog more often than others, but we all found each other in the world of the blogosphere. In previous years, we would arrive on Friday and spend the weekend together, leaving on Sunday morning. I wrote about our first gathering here, which chronicles our first time together, the event that started this whole adventure.

This year, we extended our visit to six days and five nights. We've been here three nights now, and we still have tonight and tomorrow before packing up and going home on Tuesday. Since we had been good guests at the farmhouse in previous years, we were given a discount on the cost, and it's been very reasonable for all of us. Deb agreed to facilitate a writing workshop for us, and that has truly been an eye opener for me. I wanted very much to find some different directions that I might travel in my writing, both in style and in content, and already I've gained some real insight into how to explore and go forward from here.

It hasn't been easy. Instead of trying to cram everything into a very short space of time, we have days and days of interaction and have put the time to good use. Starting on Thursday evening, continuing into Friday and Saturday, we have been writing and critiquing each piece that we have shared, coming from writing prompts given to us by Deb. It's amazing to me how many different takes there can be in a simple phrase or image. And we are then given a bit of time (varying from five to fifteen minutes) and write in longhand into our notebooks. It's a fantastic technique; when I begin to write I'm sure that my piece will be a close copy to everyone else's, but no, that never happens! I find myself marveling at the creativity that comes from each person's life experience and how differently each of us translates the prompt.

We have two more full days, today and tomorrow, to work together (and it is work), but when I return home I have already decided I will begin to keep a writing journal that is different from what I write in my blogs. It's become obvious to me that what comes out of my fingers when I am using a pen is entirely different than what flows onto the keyboard. At first, I was so unused to writing in longhand that I struggled to remember how to form words, it had been that long. But now it's beginning to feel much more comfortable and legible. How could I have forgotten?

It occurs to me that the young people of today are not learning how to do this, and many schools are no longer even teaching cursive script. I feel very fortunate to have been educated in a time when electronics did not come into the classroom in any form at all. That was, of course, because they didn't exist yet.  Instead we had pictures of the cursive alphabet over the blackboard, showing how to write lower and upper case letters. That has all changed, and before this workshop it never occurred to me how this skill might be lost forever. Do students today write everything down only on their tablets and computers (and phones)? I'll have to ask my fellow Vashonistas, since most of them were teachers, some just recently retired. Curious. I am shaking my head in wonderment at how much our lives have changed over the past decades. Why, I can hardly remember a time when I didn't have a cellphone, which has now become so much more than a phone, but a pocket computer as well.

At this moment as I sit in my bed, I am saturated by all the interaction and all that I have learned so far this week. I re-read my post from three years ago and find much has remained the same in our lives, and for others, much has changed. It was at that gathering that I realized for the first time in years my need for introspection and needing some time for myself. Every night I am the first to leave the gathering and retire to bed. I can hear the others laughing and sharing, but I am happy to slip into my bed and snuggle under the comforter while they continue.

I just got out of bed and moved upstairs to join the others and have some coffee. If I stayed in bed I would miss the sunrise and the beautiful view of Mt. Rainier we would have this morning. Tomorrow I'm going to get my camera out so I can capture the incredible beauty of this place. Sometimes you need a zoom.

Okay, this is going to have to end here, as I already have three other Vashonistas up and chatting with me, and I cannot concentrate on my post. My time to reflect on all this is not this very moment. Next week, I'll have my dear partner next to me, and my life will have gotten back to normal. Until then, be well and have a wonderful, productive time.


Red said...

This sounds like a great learning experience about writing and yourself. I'm not sure about cursive writing anymore but you bring up a good point on the difference in thinking between hand written and electronic. I think I've got lazy with electronic as it's easy. I've attended workshops like yours only the stress was to teach others. I still have pages and pages of writing I did from the workshops and writing I did with the kids. Once in awhile I look back at it. I did keep a journal for about ten years.

Rian said...

Really nice photo of all of you! And I agree that what comes out of your fingertips is different than what comes through a keyboard. Don't know exactly why... since both must flow through your thoughts first, but it does seem to be true. So glad you are all having a great experience. Can't wait for more pics!

The Furry Gnome said...

DJan, we are actually nearby, in Langley, BC, after coming out for two memorial services. Headed for Vancouver today. It's been a wonderful time to be together with our other son, and our daughter and her family. We've met a bunch of Will's friends, which i think will help us in the long run. I'm intrigued with your retreat and the creative writing practice. I'll look forward to going over your posts carefully when we get home. I'd love the opportunity for a few days like that. Enjoy it to the fullest!

Far Side of Fifty said...

What fun for you! Enjoy the last few days there! Have a wonderful couple of days before you return home to Smart Guy who must be missing you like crazy:)

Linda Reeder said...

I love the photo of the six of you. You all seem like old friends to me now.
We'll be off soon to a BIG Birthday brunch for the twins, Ton and Jan. I'm hoping for some down time this afternoon before we head to the stadium for a 6:30 sounders match. It is such a beautiful day that I'll have to include a bit of a walk, just to work off a bit of that brunch.
Yesterday I thought of you all often. I was alone here at home choosing to have a day to be alone and get things done while Tom was at the Whidbey cabin helping to finish the exterior staining job. I walked and blogged and did laundry and cleaned the house. It has been a long time since I had to do the cleaning all by myself. Vacuuming is NOT my job. But it is part of my gift to tom that he doesn't have to do it this week.
I'm off to pick up some gift cards to add to the birthday cards i created yesterday. And then we'll EAT!
Have fun, and make sure those writers give some time for the walkers.

Arkansas Patti said...

Hum, I haven't written in long hand in ages. Even my shopping lists show the rust in that skill. You are right though, when I did, the words seemed to flow more easily. Of course, my pen had no spell check. I'd miss that.
Sounds like you are a hugely compatible group and hope you keep up the separate journal when you get home. Keep enjoying that lovely place and the great company.

Elephant's Child said...

I know what you mean about the prompts taking different people in different directions. I am always amazed at other people's uses of the Words for Wednesday.
And yay for quiet time.
Work hard - and have fun.

Gigi said...

As much as I love my technology nothing beats sitting down with a pad of paper and a pen. It's a shame that this is a skill that will become a lost art unless it is re-introduced into the classroom.

I'm so glad you are having a good time!

Joyful said...

It sounds like a wonderful retreat you have every year. And, in such a beautiful part of the world too.

Anonymous said...

I had trouble commenting here yesterday, because the robot said there was an error. Hope to get through today.

I think this retreat has been valuable for you, but I would have difficulty writing longhand as I have a cramp in my right hand that is incurable, per a neurologist. So, writing on a computer is easier for me.

Rita said...

I handwrite in a journal nearly every day--been about five years this time. With the move and lack of space sometimes I have skipped days and I miss it when I don't sit with pen in hand each morning. Even the years I never wrote in a journal I always have been a letter writer since I was nine or ten and got my first pen pal in grade school. It makes me so sad that they aren't teaching kids penmanship in school and that some kids will never learn how to do anything but print and maybe one day they won't even know how to do that! There are already young people who can't read cursive! My own spelling has deteriorated since I have become more dependent on spell check. But I will never give up pen and paper. I think if I had to strap a pen to my arthritic hand I would want to keep hand writing. :)

I also need my alone time to refuel--always have. (Yes, I know--I have an excess of it now--LOL!) What a wonderful group of ladies, though. Having been in writing classes I am not surprised that every prompt elicits a unique response. Even if two people remember a similar type of event they will describe it differently and have a different take on it. I found that fascinating! Anyways, what an adventure for all of you! I love the picture of you with pen and a journal. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJ, I so remember four years ago when you bloggers came together for what has now become an annual adventure. Your latest project together sounds a perfect blend of what you are all good at plus your interests. For many years I have written "Morning Pages" for at least 12 weeks each years. Now I'm on the 24th week of my second full year--so 76 morning postings. these are not creative. Instead they are a stream of consciousness writing--in longhand--that is done spontaneously. They help me sort my problems and asset my desires and come to grips with decisions. I find them invaluable. I've been doing this since first reading "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron back in the early 1990s.

I'm so looking forward to sharing--whenever the mood takes you--what is happening with you and your private journaling. I'm not thinking of learning private details, just the overarching thrust of your writing. Isn't writing wonderful! For me there is nothing more joyful than crafting a good sentence.

To learn to write from Deb would be such a treat. She is a fine writer, both perceptive and descriptive. I've always thought that her students were blessed to have her as a teacher. Peace.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I really enjoyed this report on the outing to Vashon. While following this story I found Linda Reeder's blog and it is excellent. It sure sounds like you all had a fine time at the Lavender Hill Farm! Thanks for sharing all!

jo(e) said...

That sounds like the most wonderful retreat!

Barb said...

I like this reflection on friendships, traditions, and going beyond established patterns and comfort zones. Lavender Hill Farm sounds like a magical spot to reflect and communicate. I just returned from my own Girlfriends' Vacation. It's always joyous to reconnect and bittersweet to say goodbye. Be well - hello to your fellow Vashonistas, some of whom I "know."

Barb said...

Oops - I just realized you're already back home - I'll have to say "hi" myself!