But the end was nearing and I could feel it.
An unexpected bonus to the retreat was the expanded cast of characters who would enter our daily routine and enhance it in ways unimaginable with little unexpected opportunities to watch, listen, learn and embrace. One day we were treated to a visit from Helen who runs a lovely business dying her own wool for knitting. When she arrived with her tubs of yarn I had to resist just jumping in. Her skeins varied from delicate 2 ply to the big thick and chunky. The yarn had combinations of cashmere, mercona, alpaca. They all felt wonderful as they caressed your hands. The colours came from within Helen’s own imagination and largely echoed the vibrant nature outside the windows of the surrounding Assynt basin.
Or Phil who just occasionally joined us for a walk and as magically as he appeared, he would disappear.
Or Martin, an Iyengar yoga instructor with eye popping blue shorts, who had an exquisite command of every muscle and could move each in isolation of another. He urged me to hold poses for longer than I ever had and stretch my shoulders out way beyond the boundary of the Arctic Circle in a downward dog. And boy, I felt that stretch in the morning.
And John who greeted us and helped lug our bags about on the first awe struck evening, spent the first night with us and then vanished never to be seen from again.
But what had I really accomplished? My objectives were vague. I had always loved writing but felt that my writing lacked depth and was one dimensional. I had written a journal from the age of 9 until I was 36. For some reason I stopped when I met my husband and in the intervening 10 years have completely failed to pick it back up again. My blog was an outlet for a while but that too fell into disregard when I ran out of ideas. I suppose I needed to discover if there was more to my writing than just my day to day, self-indulgent capture and recapitulation of what happened in the last 24 hours.
I needed to discover if I had a creative bone in my body; if my imagination could soar with the eagles. If I had the power to move people with my words the way so many authors have done and continue to do for me when I read. Could I actually take all these ideas for novels, short stories, and journalism articles in my head and put them down on paper? And if I did would they be worth reading.
During the week I discovered that I could indeed get the words out of my head. In total I wrote more than 30,000 words not including my morning pages and my daily journal. I started my novel writing the plot arch, most of the character profiles and the first 4 chapters. I am very happy with how Chapter 1 reads although I am still tinkering. I wrote several professional articles which I am hoping to send into to professional journals. I wrote some more articles which I hope to get published in magazines. I wrote poetry! I’ve never written a poem in my life but somehow the people, the place eeked the words from me and they landed on the page resembling something that vaguely resembles a poem. I’ve submitted it to the Royal Berkshire Poetry Competition. It won’t win but I did it.
I write my morning pages most mornings. I’ve skipped them a couple times since I’ve been back and I can feel that impact the rest of the day; my state of mind is distracted and grumpy. I am forcing myself up out of bed at 5:45 in the morning to make sure I have time before work, children, the rest of my life invades this precious space.
I’ve written quite a few lengthy blog posts which you know if you are reading this. I’ve loved writing about it. I cannot recommend this retreat highly enough if you, like me, harbor a desire to write, or just want to see what is in that other side of your brain.
Work continues on the novel. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
I can only imagine the sheer scale of Mandy’s exhaustion when we waved goodbye as she stood in the purple doorway. I can’t remember ever feeling the conflict of emotions as we pulled away and headed back to our other lives, our other selves, the other side of our brains.
I’ve struggled to find the left side of my brain since I’ve gotten home. My education and professional life seems to have sent that part of me into a long enforced silence. Now that the best has been awakened from its winter sleep I don’t want it to go back to bed but equally I don’t think I can do my job solely from the right side. I am trying to integrate the two.
For now, I’m a writer who just happens to also be an IT Manager by day.