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by Hedgebrook Guest

The car turns in at the drive. You can’t help but feel as if you’re home. It’s been a long journey, and I don’t mean your flight or the ferry. You get out of the car full of hope, your bags crammed full of expectations.

That first day’s memories are a blur: the staff, the other writers, the land, the teacher, the cottage—your cottage—unpacking, settling in. Even the memory of that first dinner that you didn’t think you could ever forget has been burned off like fog by the brightness of what came after. But sitting in that living room that first evening, the teacher asking what were our hopes, our expectations for the week—you can feel the frisson of that memory, rising still—

It’s good to get the fear out in the open. The women sitting with you—these women who will become your sisters—they nod, encouraging you with little sounds. They know the fear, they’ve lived it. Out there, in the world where we all live, people who are not writers think (and sometimes say without thinking), “What’s to do? You sit down. You scribble. You type.” But here, sitting around this farmhouse table, sitting in this living room, these women know, know in their bodies that writing is a spiritual quest and that the fear comes from that place in you that is certain you don’t have what this journey will take.

Then the teacher says, “Wow.” This is a masterclass with Ruth Ozeki on using meditation to support the work. You don’t quite trust her yet. You want to, but, well, you’re afraid. “What if,” she says and you don’t know even now if she was just thinking aloud or if she knew full well in that moment the power of her words, “what if we gave ourselves permission not to write this week?” It’s a shocking notion. The force of it pushes us all back in our comfy chairs. Come all this way, work this hard, be in this place and then not write? Not write at all? Not accomplish whatever unrealistic goals we brought with us? Instead go for walks—or not. Sit or not. Come to the workshops or not. Come to dinner or not. Write or not. Wow.

The magic, the awakening, the healing that is Hedgebrook takes time. You sleep when you want, wake when you want. You read the journal entries of the ones who lived this experience before you. You take a walk down to the beach and have to run back so you don’t miss your group’s morning meditation. You pick flowers, some of every kind from the garden, from the woods, from around the farmhouse, then spend a whole morning making arrangements in glass jars for your sister-writers. You do walking meditation in the woods at dusk, clan corvidae openly critiques your practice. You sit in the tall grass at dusk listening to the herons wending their way home. On the first clear night you drag your blanket out to the field by the barns to commune with the constellations. You show up for everything, every meditation, every meal, every workshop. And finally, with tears and much gratitude you find your way to writing.
Sister, get here however you can. Apply for a residency, come for a masterclass, volunteer. Give yourself over to the experience, to the people, to the land. Let this place fill you up because that’s the point: when you are full you will overflow.

Hedgebrook Guest
About Hedgebrook Guest

2 Comments

  • Shimi Rahim
    10:44 PM - 18 August, 2011

    We writers spend a good part of our life giving ourselves the permission to write. We eke out the time and space and resources to write. To then give ourselves the permission to not write is heady, formidable, and forbidding. But what comes from the moments of not writing – and just being, which we struggle so much with in contemporary life – is writing at a level we never knew before. That is what Hedgebrook does best. A potent and beautifully written essay, Corry!

  • Elizabeth Austen
    4:49 AM - 19 August, 2011

    Thank you for this, Corry–your post reminded me of some things I had forgotten, that I needed to remember right now. Like how much of writing involves learning to tolerate whatever I might find when I sit alone with myself.

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