By Christine O'Connor

The Power of Women Telling their Stories

I serve on the Hedgebrook board. And it all started with a book.

The book, in this case, was a slim volume of essays called “After Patriarchy.” The editors, one woman and two men, organized a volume of eight essays written by women from different religious backgrounds. Each writer made the case for the idea that their tradition was robbed of its full potential by how it treated women. Misogyny was equated with self-sabotage: if humanity’s spiritual traditions could overcome their own misogyny, their expression would be true to their own teachings.

If books are the ignition, stories are the fuel. The headliner of the New York Times online edition on Saturday, March 26, was an example of what Hedgebrook means to me: a place that makes sure that women get to tell their stories.

The photograph was stunning: a woman, disheveled and clearly upset, had broken into a hotel meeting room where Libyan government officials were debriefing a group of international journalists. She refused to leave: she had a story to tell.   Read more

By Sara Campos

Trickster Muses at Hedgebrook–Summer 2009

I saw it one day while walking from my cottage to the farmhouse and it startled me. It was a clear day and its snowy peaks, crags, and ridges were visible in all their magnificent glory. Mt. Rainier. It was so stunning; it hardly looked real. It was as though a magician had sketched it with fine pastels. The next day it wasn’t there. Perhaps the artist who’d put it there erased it. During my three weeks at Hedgebrook in the summer of 2009, I glimpsed it only three times.

That mountain was a fickle trickster–sometimes it showed up; sometimes it didn’t. Like my writing muse. In the middle of the night when I least wanted its company, it blared like raucous rock music, robbing me of sleep. Other times, when I pressed my temples and sat before the computer begging for a visit, it shot out of sight. Not even a whimper.

Before I went to Hedgebrook, I worried about this. Friends teased me about it; they cringed at the very idea of living alone in the woods for three weeks. Suppose I got a cottage and no ideas came. Suppose I sat alone with a blank screen before me with nothing to do.

Aha! You are a fraud after all!   Read more

By Cathy Bruemmer

Slow Spring

Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide refers to April as the month of the slug. If you’re at Hedgebrook it’s the month of the snail. They are everywhere. I hunt in the mornings, watching for their slime tracks and looking under leaves. The rhubarb is an especially popular hangout. Sorry to those of you who are squeamish, but I’m merciless with my boot stomping. I feel a bit like the momma bear out there protecting my young. Given the cold weather and slow growth, the seedlings need all the help they can get. Fortunately, there’s Sluggo, an organic slug and snail bait that I buy in the giant 10-pound jug. Between the boots and the bait I think the garden has a chance.

There’s not much to harvest yet. This past fall I decided to put the garden to rest and cover crop every bed that wasn’t planted in garlic. I dug the cover crop into about half the beds in late February. Those have been planted in peas, salad and cooking greens, herbs, beets, spinach, carrots, fennel… Today I hope to finish the second round of bed prep. I grow starts at home on my sunporch, and it’s about time to move some flats out.

Two years ago I discovered a new pest in the garden: root weevils. They are tiny, the color of dry dirt and they devour new seedlings. I’ve always preferred direct seeding. It’s a labor-saving choice, and I find transplanting tedious. Twice I’ve added parasitic nematodes to the garden beds hoping they’ll eventually win out over the weevils.

Between the cold and the pests it’s been a slow start this year. My usual springtime optimism seemed to finally return, along with the swallows, last week. A little sunshine and a few degree increase on the thermometer makes for a happy gardener.

 

By Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

It started at Hedgebrook.

After two weeks of nurture and building fires, of re-dreaming the structure of an old novel in my Waterfall cabin, I ambled down to the pumphouse where I could connect my laptop to the internet and sent an essay I had written six months earlier to an editor at Salon.com. No one had been interested in my essay when I first finished it, but Hedgebrook is magic. Sarah, the editor who accepted it, had a keen eye for cutting disclaimers and retitling.  Several days after I returned home, new novel finished and lifelong friends made, Sarah sent me a note that the essay would go up that night, with a gentle warning that comments on the site could sometimes be aggressive and I shouldn’t take them as a reflection of how the piece was being enjoyed by the larger readership.

I woke up to fifty pieces of hate email in my inbox.  By the next afternoon, the “firestorm” as one host on The View would later call it, had prompted an interview request from MSNBC-TV. Someone from the Today Show came to the green room while I was waiting for that interview, and by the time Meredith Vieira’s interview with me aired the next morning, the emails were coming every thirty seconds: I enlisted vetters since many were too vile to read. The hate was not about me, or my essay, or the very literary memoir that inspired it, about war and motherhood, which had been tapped for an award but otherwise had not attracted much attention.

It was about the essay’s title: “Why I Left My Children.”        Read more

By Denise Barr

Rhubarb Cake

Each spring, when the rhubarb begins to flourish, this recipe is a hit with staff and residents at the retreat. It’s just one example of the way Hedgebrook features the bounty of the land and garden in the kitchen and at the table. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Cake

Preheat oven 350
Butter and flour baking dish (9×9 or 7×11)

½ C butter (soft)
1 C sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ C unbleached flour
3 tea baking powder
¼ tea salt
½ cup milk
1 tea vanilla extract
2 ½ C chopped rhubarb (¾ to 1 in pieces, about 4 stalks)

Cream butter and sugar until light
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beat well
In separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt
In separate bowl combine milk and vanilla
Alternate adding wet and dry ingredients to butter mixture
Spread 1/2 batter into buttered and floured baking dish
Sprinkle on rhubarb (do not press rhubarb down)
Top with rest of batter

Back 35-40 min. plus (test with a tooth pick, should come out clean)

Variation: May replace rhubarb with 2 ½ C blueberries or 2 ½ C raspberries

By Amy Wheeler

Welcome to Hedgebrook’s Much-Anticipated Blog!

Several years ago, Hedgebrook friend, local writer and owner of Whidbey Island’s iconic Clyde Theatre, Lynn Willeford, asked me point blank (in true Lynn fashion), “When is Hedgebrook going to have a blog? I’m interested in knowing what’s on your writer’s minds.”

Lynn was, characteristically, ahead of the curve with her vision! But she planted a seed in my mind about how we could begin to communicate the growing impact of Hedgebrook with our community. And not just on the impact on the writers who come here, but on the world-at-large because of those writers and the work they produce here.

In short: the idea that what happens at Hedgebrook doesn’t stay at Hedgebrook.   Read more

By Hedgebrook Guest

There’s No Place Like Hedgebrook

14 years later, on a teasingly sunny newly spring day, sitting at a desk in Hedgebrook’s office, I’m remembering my first trip out to Hedgebrook. I remember the feeling traveling over here from Seattle, where I was then the Literary Manager/Dramaturg at ACT Theatre. We were partnering with Hedgebrook on producing the first annual (then called) ACT/Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival, which, in two weeks, will now be in its 14th year. I remember then my curiosity, excitement, anticipation…venturing into the unknown that was Hedgebrook.

14 years later, on this teasingly sunny day, I remember boarding the ferry, and feeling an energy shift midway out on the water as the ferry approached Whidbey Island. A calmness set in, a peacefulness, a pause. I remember approaching the farm, riding through Hedgebrook’s welcoming gates, and feeling the energy around me—the quiet and peace, yes, combined with the spirit of all the generous work and gifts left here from hundreds of women residents before me.

14 years later, on this teasingly sunny day, I remember the face of one of the playwrights who, after an amazing dinner of food prepared from the garden, rose to take her plate to the sink, and was told by the chef, “Sit down, you are here to be a writer. Let us take care of that.” The writer’s face froze in mid-reaction, mouth open, eyes beginning to well up with tears. That image remains with me: a poignant example of what it means for a woman to be given the gift of nurturance, space and time.        Read more

By Elana Lim

Women Authoring Change

After attending Hedgebrook’s inaugural Master Class, I was inspired to contribute to the Board of Directors, joining others in furthering Hedgebrook’s mission.

“Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come.”

This mission has personal meaning for me. Just two generations before, 人人 (Ngin Ngin, meaning paternal grandmother) in our Toisanese dialect of Chinese, came to America as Tow Yee Moo (wife of Tow Yee). She started her American life in Seattle’s Chinatown in 1921, where she died in 1981. During her life, she never felt safe to tell her story to any of her family. However, because of her trek during uncertain times, she changed the direction of future generations, and I was now benefitting, having been granted an opportunity to sit at the Hedgebrook table and write stories of growing up in Chinatown.

During my Master Class experience, I was touched by the fairies in the circle of their mushroom rings. I was astounded by the depths of the women I met. My sanctuary became the worn wooden bench, set inside a fairy ring, where the sun rose beyond the cattails. A dancing fire snapped its fingers in the wood burning stove and kept my toes warm and my body fed. The pressure of a midnight silence was so deep and still that my head felt as if it might explode.   Read more

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