I am on a writing retreat this weekend. Originally it was a retreat with a friend, but it turned out to be a retreat for just me. (I wish her a good weekend of peace and love tinged with a small amount of appropriate sadness that she is not here.) With only one retreatant to consider, plans have evolved to high levels of flexibility. The place I am staying became available sooner at the last minute, so I started my retreat twelve hours early.
Besides full kitchen and private bath, my quarters come with access to a state of the art kayak and nearby river, accessible bike paths and a slew of bikes to choose from. Anything I could wish for is in walking distance. My picturesque room overlooks a neighbor’s black paper roof in reasonably good condition. Couches in my sitting room are clean and comfortable. I am expected to take out the paper recycling on garbage day and give a one time drink of 1/4 cup of water to a very unpromising bit of green sticks who claim to be an ailing orchid. Presumably I am to do my own dishes, although that wasn’t mentioned. Besides that, I am tasked to sit quietly, write, rest, and eat.
My inaugural retreat meal last night was red pepper humus, cherry tomatoes, extra old cheddar cheese, a fat slice of homemade bread, and some red wine. Preparation: one minute. Clean up: approximately 15 seconds. Perhaps the wine was slowing me down. First deep consideration: How can no one in my family like hummus? First deep conclusion: There should really be more meals like this.
In keeping with good retreat etiquette, I’ll be out of commission and away from the blog until Wednesday, July 1. By that point, half of you will be celebrating Canada Day, which incidentally is much more retreat like than the bombastic chest thumping of the American 4th of July. So here’s to the written word, beauty, truth, the yearning need to create, mental health, rest, re-charging, and Canada. With a nod to them all, I am on retreat.
I am in a small state of creative depletion. Two reasons. My daughter asked me to write her a book two years ago. It will someday be a gift for all of them. I had hoped to send it to a friend to peruse for the beginning of December. Then I hoped for January 1. Currently, I am a third of the way through my latest round of “final,” revisions. On good days, I knock off another 15 pages. It is a bit maddening. At times I am in tears that I am still not able to offer this gift. Other days, I think that since I don’t end up really running my life anyway, the completion of the book can rest where it belongs, in hands not my own. Lately, I am leaned considerably more towards the former sentiment (tears) and a little further from the latter one of peace, so I have put a self-imposed burn on and am trying desperately to get through this next stage.
(No doubt my need to finish the book is influenced at least in part by the suggestion of a friend that I begin preparing another book . . . one that I would very much love to write. I can’t in good conscience start that book while the latest copy of hacked up corrections sits on my porch waiting for me to finish entering them all.)
For the 38,000th time in my life, I call for Jeffrey. If Jeffrey would only come, I would speak the corrections to him as he typed madly, or better yet, hand him the sheaf and let him come to me when he couldn’t figure the arrows and notes. Jeffrey is my servant and has been so for years. His talents are many. His only shortcoming is his refusal to materialize from my imagination into a real, live, working assister to my needs.
The truth is, the book gives back at least as much creative energy as it takes away. It’s more the allocation of the time. The real creative depletion comes from making such big decisions recently. I don’t know if this is a common human ailment. For me, it is real. I can study things objectively, engage situations that pose conflict, and make decision not everyone will understand. But when it’s all over, I’m finished. All the considered risk taking, all the change . . . it takes it out of me. I need recovery time.
Last week, we decided to move the three youngest kids to a new school. It was a good decision. I’ll write more later. All the meetings and questions and more conversations have taken just about all the energy I have. I would like Jeffery to come now. Make breakfast. Eggs Benedict perhaps. Give the house a once over. While he’s at it, use the magical dead mouse sounder to find the decomposing bodies in the wall. Then use the carcass vaporizer to remove them. Thank you, Jeffery. That will be all for now.
By Sunday we will be three quarters through birthday season. Birthday season is something I should have been warned about. At my high school we had an entire semester devoted to reproductive education. Hours upon hours on basic mechanics and never, not once, ever, did anyone give so much as three seconds to such a thing. My mother, that matron of proud practicality? Also silent. Ten years ago, the fact that she was unfortunately only here for the birth of my first child might have excused her, but I’m Catholic now and that means the little line between death and life on earth isn’t quite so cut and dried. Believing now that death is no match for love and that if anything she loves me more now, there really is almost excuse for the oversight. I’m not holding it against her, but really as my mother – surely she could have found a way to say something, after say child #2, about the importance of NOT creating a birthday season.
It isn’t the number of kids – we’d have been happy to have more if had worked out that way – it’s inventing a new holiday season when there are already enough. It’s having four birthdays in ten weeks. And all. those. parties.
Because we a) live in the country b) are a tiny bit introvertish and c) live in a world where everyone we meet runs madly from thing to thing to thing, birthday parties are the last best piece of kids being kids together. . . at least that’s the kind of parties we try to have. Our kids really look forward to their parties, so that means 4 friend parties plus 4 birthday dinners with extended family . . .all in 10 weeks.
Did I mention that it was birthday season that brought Misty and Shorty here in the first place?
It’s ok, Mom. I forgive you. Besides, I’m already half way through it again this year.