ode to hedgebrook

hedgebrook, women writers residency, retreat, african literature, african writers
I have been back for over a month now. Not necessarily hiding from the public, but certainly from this blog. I developed a distrust for the public-personal while away at my residency in the woods, in my cottage, with a wood burning stove and an owl hooting outside my window. I think the personal should be private, and I think that blogging sometimes cheapens my experiences.

It is not truly possible for me to distill the essence of what happened to me in that month alone in the woods. Suffice it to say, it was the most overwhelming gift of divine love I've ever received. A love I never even thought was in the realm of the possible for me. And in that love, I was able to give birth to a novel I've been dreaming of and scribbling in notebooks for over three years. I also dreamt a piece of choreography that I had to get up and dance at five o'clock in the morning. And watched my student films with some of my writing sisters and had a chance to reflect on my process and progress as a filmmaker. And watched other marvelous novels, poems, and memoirs being born that made me feel like a witness to the unfolding of literary history.

I came away believing in myself as an artist -- as a writer, filmmaker, dancer, singer. Given the space, time, and opportunity to do anything, I found myself doing all those things quite organically -- and also taking long bike rides, picking up shells on the beach, picking flowers and raspberries and fresh salad from the garden.

I had not previously realized that this need to create was somehow programmed into my DNA, that my utter misery doing anything else was simply God telling me so. I also had not realized how much I really hate living in New York. I am in the process of making some changes, I think, that you cannot unmake. And I think it is a very good sign.

There is a quote by Anais Nin that states: And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

I imagine that my bud is only now blossoming, coinciding with my 28th birthday that I celebrated while away. Though I had always thought myself a late bloomer, I found myself to be the youngest woman at Hedgebrook (the next youngest was 41, the oldest 70). And they welcomed me with such respect and regard that I found myself maturing to my call to join the circle of women writers.

We had the most thrilling conversations about life, work, love, politics, and writing, that I wept bitterly while leaving. Wept over the ashes of my wood stove, over the drying petals of my birthday flowers, the cedar trees that swallowed the earth, the banana slugs that slithered on the foot path. I thought I was in danger of leaving my best and truest self there, and so I did not want to come back. Yet I find that marvelously creative woman is still with me, waiting inside every time I sit down to write.

And so I wrote on, fifty thousand more words in November, in NYC, back in the Bronx, completing NaNoWriMo for the first time. And I am still writing, silencing the din of the city, trying to write my way back to that peaceful place that I found in the woods with the women and the dahlias and the sunrise over Deer Lagoon.

3 comments:

{ Eyitemi Egwuenu } | November 30, 2009 at 4:02 PM said...

Coming back to the city must have been jarring and chaotic after spending what I deduce from your blog must have been an idyllic month, tucked away in the calm recesses of leafy woods and inhaling the aroma of the evergreen. To seek the hills, to draw strength from the silent grandeur of the mountains and to commune with nature, . . . I can see how the love of the divine in all of these can stir the creative impulse - one moment, you are walking through the woods at sunset, a gentle breeze on your face, trees rustling in harmony with bird-songs and the next moment, a song, a poem, a dance, leaps up from within you; melodies are refracted through your walk in the woods just as light is refracted through jewels - one is transmuted into the other. This is why I believe that there is none greater than the Artist - hers/his is a world of metaphor, fantasy and beauty.

You came back to the city richer than before you left for Hedgebrook and the challenge for you now I guess is to keep the poetic idyll of Hedgebrook in your heart amidst the grind and prose of everyday life in the city. On some days, this poetic idyll may be hard to reach, but even at such times, it is never lost because it can still help for navigation through such "nights."

I believe with all my heart that the poetic idyll always wins if we allow it.

gradatum vincimus (we win by degrees)

{ Myne Whitman } | November 30, 2009 at 9:11 PM said...

Reading this post touched something deep within me. I find I write better too when surrounded by the woods. And I identified with the Nanowrimo too, I just completed my 50,000 words today and I was amazed by myself...

{ Alligator Legs } | November 30, 2009 at 9:56 PM said...

@Eyitemi - Thanks for gracing my page with your poetry! I am so glad I broke the blog silence to write this. I am already imagining myself walking through the woods again...

@Myne - Congrats on your 50K! Isn't it amazing?? I hardly know what to do with myself, I think I will set another goal (maybe 25K?) and try to finally finish this book draft. Hedgebrook is on Whidbey Island, just a ferry ride away from Seattle. :)

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