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 9, 2016

Sun, rain, and wonderful times

Taken from the living room window
Here it is Sunday already, the last full day we will spend on Vashon Island at our writers' retreat with the five of us. This year, and I hope for many more years to come, we have all agreed to come back again in October 2017.

This has been a magical time here again for our fifth reunion at Lavender Hill Farm, and when I think back about how it all started, it seems hard to believe that we have grown together so seamlessly. For the first three years, we only came here for a weekend, arriving on Friday and leaving on Monday morning. Then last year Deb, who had been attending writers workshops to learn about the Amherst Writers and Artists method and to become trained in teaching the method to others, is our guide. We have now had two five-day-long retreats, focused mostly on learning how to use writing prompts and a time limit (five, ten, twenty minutes) to write in longhand whatever comes to mind from the prompt.

Then we share our writing, if we wish to, and get positive feedback from the others. Each complete session takes more than an hour or two, depending on the length of our writing. Deb has been shepherding us through the process, and learning how to use the method to hone our own craft. It's all based on a book by Pat Schneider, Writing Alone and With Others, and gives us a safe place with each other to hone our craft. Here's what Pat says:
Whether your purpose for writing is artistic expression, communication with friends and family, the healing of the inner life, or achieving public recognition for your art — the foundation is the same: the claiming of yourself as an artist/writer and the strengthening of your writing voice through practice, study, and helpful response from other writers.
What has emerged for me this week is a new voice that I didn't know I had: the ability to write fiction, creating characters out of whole cloth. In several sessions I have focused on characters who have come alive, and it is rather astounding to me, since I usually (make that always) have written pieces from my own past experiences. I'm not sure what I will do with this new knowledge, but it's very exciting to me to think about exploring it more deeply.

Today is our "adventure day," and we will take a break from writing to head to Quartermaster Harbor and get into rented kayaks for a two-hour paddle. I've never even been in one before, and when Jann suggested it last year, I didn't give it another thought, since we were talking about it from the distance of a year. And now it's today! Who knows, this might be another exciting sport that could help take the place of my now-ended skydiving career. I'll find out today.

In any event, it's been a really wonderful week. The weather has gone from brilliant sunshine to periods of rain, sometimes heavy, but still every morning three of us, me, Deb, and Sandi, have gone for a three-mile walk at sunrise. The two night owls sleep in, but at 9:00am sharp we have begun the day's writing. Today we will not write in the morning, but once we've returned from our adventure, we intend to have a shortened afternoon session.

I've been feeling so blessed to be part of this group, and I think all of us would say the same. We learned several good things during this, our fifth reunion, about how perfect the number five has been. Although last year Sally made six, when she decided not to return, we decided not to add another person but go with five. Now we all know each other so well, I can't imagine a new person joining us, and why would we even try? Last year we had Linda Reeder, who lives in Seattle, join us for an evening, and that was very pleasant, so a "guest" is always possible. But now we are sisters of the heart, joined very deeply through our love of writing. Five bloggers who are branching out into other areas of our lives.

And we are all sisters of a certain age, happy to still be learning and growing as we celebrate our diversity and love. Aren't we a good looking bunch of senior citizens?
Linda, Sandi, Deb, me, Jann
And so, with that I will leave you with my wishes for your upcoming week to be a wonderful one. I'm sure my hubby is still gently snoring, without me next to him, and I have to say I miss that sound. But soon, tomorrow night, we'll be sleeping next to each other again. Until then, I'll be enjoying my remaining hours with my dear sisters of the heart.


Gigi said...

I'm so glad you are enjoying yourself and learning new things about yourself!

Marie Smith said...

Self discovery at any age is wonderful. It keeps us young!

Enjoy the kayaking!

Sandi said...

Certainly, we have become sisters of the heart! Lovely recap of the experiences of the past five days, DJan! I am also looking forward to this new-to-me kayaking adventure, with just a tiny bit of trepidation. I am confident the sisterhood of safety that has been building this week will sustain me, regardless of the outcome on the water. I'm hoping I don't fall in, but it will only add to the telling of the stories if I do! :)

Red said...

I find your comment on fiction interesting. I'd never thought of fiction that way. So go on and try some fiction. they must have done an activity that showed you had some talent for fiction.

Arkansas Patti said...

So glad you have had such a productive visit and perhaps opened up some new directions with your writing. Please let us know how the kayaking goes. I found the sport addictive and some how think you might also.

Elephant's Child said...

I am so very glad that your retreat was a joy. A productive joy. And hope you loved kayaking. It is many years since I have been, but I thought it was wonderful. And now I am wondering whether I can revisit that joy.

Meryl Baer said...

Kayaking is a wonderful sport. I am sure you will love it. And immersion in writing and learning new techniques is a great experience.

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of trouble writing fiction. No imagination, I guess. Lol.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

Great to read that you are really living, open to always learning and growing.
You all are a great bunch of good looking women.


“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information, but makes our life in harmony with all existence”-Rabindranath Tagore

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Aha! Here comes your novel.Or memoir! Hurray!

Linda Myers said...

Sisters of the heart, indeed.

Carole said...

What a lovely post. There is nothing like connecting with others, especially when the the commonality you share has drawn you together. It must feel like magic! So happy for you :-)

Rita said...

Wow! Having that ability to write fiction...you have to explore that. I even had a fiction class in college and just could not get into it, so I envy you. Another wonderful year of writing and soul sisters under your belt. I'm sure you'll be glad to be home, but next year will be even better. :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Fiction...way to go! I can see a pretty young gal who is a sky diving instructor having some kind of mystery to figure out! So glad you have this time with your friends! By now you are safely back at home with your Smart Guy:)

Linda Reeder said...

I thought of you this week, knowing the setting and the people and the talent there just a bit. So glad to hear it was another wonderful experience.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Thanks for your report on Vashonistas 2016. I have to admit I'm a bit envious of such a nice group of writers getting together and enjoying the camaraderie! Your group photo is excellent and so is the pic looking out the living room window. For this type of gathering I can't think of a better place than Vashon Island. Hope you will tell us more in next Sunday's Eye! Also, just wanted to say thank you for all your comments on my blog ... Your October 8th comment was especially kind!

Unknown said...

DJan I am so envious of you for having had such a tumultuous childhood and coming out on the other side. I am 56 years old and still have no sense of place, having a similar childhood experience, always the "new kid" in class. I'm not hating it mind you, but still trying to find out where I want to be. Love your blog. Thank you.

C-ingspots said...

Amazed that you found the perfect sign for your picture! And what beautiful senior citizens you all are!! Such a lovely retreat this is, and so vital to keep in touch with special friends. They nurture the soul in a very special way that day-to-day friends cannot. So happy to hear you've enjoyed your time away, and your kayak trip!! :)

C-ingspots said...

Oh, forgot to mention something...it just doesn't surprise me at all that you'd be an amazing fiction writer. Not one bit! You have a lovely way with words, and in telling a story. Piece a cake! Looking forward to it.