From the moment we turn off onto the rural roads outside of St. Joseph’s, I’m ready. I’ve been anticipating today for days, weeks even. It’s almost writing retreat time! I’m soooo ready.
A full weekend of writing. Talking about writing. Talking about POETRY. With other writers and teachers. Being able to relax completely, not worry about showing what a geek for poetry I am. How much I love and know this art form and its siblings: academic writing, creative non-fiction, essay, memoir, and fiction.
So here I am, and the rain has stopped. The mists have lifted, and the blue Missouri sky is soft behind the high trees that ring the windows. I can hear the murmur of a writing group: someone is reading a piece to friends. (We’re all friends here, even the two newbies.)
I’m in heaven. Appropriate at a Benedictine abbey, somehow. Between the sense of spiritual calm, the inclusive welcome of writers I’ve known for a decade or more, and the satisfaction of working on new material? What’s NOT to love? 🙂
You need to get away. Soon. For whatever feeds your inner happy. Trust me — it’s worth the time and planning. Because nothing will connect you to your beginner’s heart like friends, time to enjoy them, and nurturing your own sweet self. Sleep in. Eat something delectably junky (I recommend my friend Sioux’s fudge). And try to write something about it all.
Buddhism teaches that everything changes. Annica, the absence of permanence and continuity. It all goes away — good, bad, indifferent. The clouds move on; the sky remains.
This is more comforting on a bad day than a good one, I assure you. And today was a pretty good day. My chapbooks came! At least the first printing — I wanted to take some with me to a retreat this weekend, and my wonderful publisher (Kattywompus Press) worked overtime to make it happen.
There are few places more stimulating and still relaxing than a writing retreat with nice people. And these are some of the nicest — teachers, from a National Writing Project site. I get to spend ALL WEEKEND at lovely Conception Abbey, in Missouri, talking about other people’s writing. While eating home-cooked food, surrounded by lovely gardens. It’s even going to be cool and rainy!
I know this won’t last. But holding my chapbook in hand, thinking of the months I spent working on it, anticipating arriving at the Abbey tomorrow? I’m thinking I’ll enjoy today while it’s here. Right now, the sky is pretty darn brilliant. And the Oklahoma sun is that rare honey that’s usually long past by now. A good day. Even if it won’t last.
I’m finishing up the editing details on a short essay. So of course I did grammar check. Now note: I teach writing. So I’m well aware of grammar. But, as a poet, I’m also aware of style. And style trumps formal grammar.
For instance: don’t begin a sentence w/ ‘And,’ as I did above. Nor should I use fragments. Even for rhetorical emphasis. 🙂
What’s even funnier than the stuffy pedantry of grammar check is realising that I don’t care. As Tulsa’s once-upon-a-time Grammar Hotline (if you called the paper, or the university, with a grammar question, they transferred you to me :)), that may be heresy.
But it’s true: I am confident enough these days that I don’t care what grammar check tells me. I know the rules. Ergo? I can break them when I choose.
Don’t do this at home.
Seriously, though:it’s a kind of Buddhist mantra, if you think about it. Know what’s expected, and then decide if that’s appropriate. If it suits the time, the context, the need. Like I once heard a Unitarian minister say (and he might have been a Buddhist, as well — some are): don’t let ersatz tolerance be your excuse for not getting involved. “Tolerance’ may sound good, unless you’re tolerating injustice. Hate.
Letting people get by with horrible behaviour is not tolerance. That doesn’t mean you have to whack them (although I’ve often wanted to!). It does mean we’re thinkers — we’re supposed to question. Questions lead to well-thought-out answers (if we’re lucky, and think long enough…).
Like grammar, it’s a question of style. And mean doesn’t work for anyone.
So when it’s 96 degrees the first days in June, and the air conditioner is busted (1st world problems…), and I forgot to pick up stuff for a dinner I’d actually enjoy, and my arthritis is killing me, and the new air conditioner is going to cost THOUSANDS we didn’t budget?
Stardust. Each of us. All of us. Everything. Even the hot air I’m breathing.
That’s pretty cool, when you think about it. A guaranteed chill-out for what ails me. Maybe you too.