I am delighted to be participating in the Writing Together year hosted by éireann, starting this month! I’ll be posting here at least once a month, about whatever happens to catch my fancy. And the best part is that everyone who is participating will be reading and commenting on everyone else’s posts, like it’s 2008 all over again, in the best way.
After sharing the Year of Light posts through 2021, it feels good to have (what feels like) another manageable project ahead of me. The freedom of being able to write and share whatever I feel like, within the framework and commitment of a monthly post sounds just right. And I’m very much looking forward to reading everyone else’s posts, too.
I have been trying to make writing more of a priority for the past couple of years, and when the invitation from my friend Sandra Phinney to attend the Birchdale Writers Retreat in August appeared on my Facebook feed, I knew that actually doing something was the only way forward, and that if I didn’t commit immediately, I just might chicken out. So I sent off an email, and the ball was rolling. One intimidating thing was not knowing who else would be there (aren’t so many writers just, well, odd?), and of course there was the reasoning that the money could be spent on any number of other “more important” things, etc. etc. As it turned out, I knew three of the other participants already, and the rest were also gems. One of the participants and I knew each other 20 years ago, were placed in a cabin together, and since the retreat, we have already begun to work through Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write together.
It feels deeply uncomfortable to call myself a writer - it’s not something I’m paid for, or that I’ve had formal training in, and I don’t have a book to my name (yet). But I do write, and so I am a writer, in the same way that I call myself a gardener, or chicken-keeper. I do, therefore I am!
On our final evening together at the retreat, we were invited to share a short piece that we had written. I had nothing prepared, so that afternoon, I sat at the ancient wooden table in our cabin, pen in hand, and scribbled out 5 drafts based on a prompt that I had saved on my phone on a cold day in February. Each of us shared our work by the light of a roaring fire in the massive stone fireplace in the lodge - it was so lovely to be together in such a beautiful place and hear each other’s work.
I trudge slowly up the steep field on this blue-bright February morning. My path through the knee-deep snow crosses intersecting lines of deer tracks, doe geometry in Mother Nature’s textbook. Field mice have left loonie-sized tunnels under the snow, but a few tiny tracks and the imprint of owl wings are all that remain of one who dared to scurry across the surface. At the top of the field, the treeline is grey and leafless between the snow and sky.
The light shifts, and suddenly it is summer. The deer tracks are now clearly imprinted in the warm mud of the path. Sweat trickles down my back as I crouch to gather precious clusters of dusky blueberries. Bindweed climbs the goldenrod and catches at my sandals as deer flies circle noisily before entangling themselves in my hair. The buzz of cicadas rises and falls as the bees bumble and the spiders lie in wait.
The light shifts again, and a pop-pop-pop underfoot tells me that I have found the patch of cranberries for Thanksgiving dinner - perfect ruby jewels buried under golden tufts of spent summer grasses. Frost gilds the edges of brown leaves as the berries bounce, bounce, bounce into my bowl.
The sun emerges from behind a cloud, casting deep shadows in the tracks, and the field is once again a glittering expanse of blinding beauty, to be remembered come July.
Is this what becomes of our lives? Snippets of memory connecting people and places and objects making themselves seen, and with every shift of the light, the refrain: remember this, remember this, remember this?