This is where I am right now.
And yes, it's grey and windy out at the moment, but that's not particularly important.
I signed myself up for a Writing in the Mess retreat organized by Beth Woolsey of Five Kids is a Lot of Kids. And then I told my boss I wouldn't be in during the post-service days after kids get out of school, but I'd come back at the end of the week and clean out my room on my own. And then I shushed the voice in my head that said, "Don't you have to be a writer to go on a writing retreat?" (That last step had to be repeated several times.)
I told my weeping daughter that Mama Always Comes Back. I told my anxious but heroically supportive husband that yes, he gets dibs on the next solo trip. I didn't tell my son anything besides I love him, because he would never admit that separation from me would bother him in any way, but I made sure he heard some of the Mama Always Comes Back stuff too.
And then I left my family. For four days.
And here I am, in the most beautiful beach house I've ever stayed in, and I'm from Oregon, so I've stayed in a lot of beach houses. (I would say it's the most beautiful house I've ever stayed in, but there are two places on Mt. Hood that outrank it.) Not that the gorgeous house really matters, not when you look directly across the beach grass to the beach and the ocean. Not when the fire pit is ringed with those Adirondack chairs, and the sauna shares the ocean view too. Not when the PILLOW in a RENTAL HOUSE is quite possibly the comfiest pillow I have ever experienced. Not when other people are cooking, and we have all been SPECIFICALLY FORBIDDEN from washing dishes. Like, they get twitchy with you if you clear your plate or rinse out your coffee cup. All those things being true, this house could get away with being one of those funky, weird-smelling, rust-carpeted, fake-wood-panelled little shacks that tend to be in our family budget.
So here I am, and here I write, and here I talk about writing with other people, most of whom also aren't really sure they have a right to be here. There are writing professors here to walk us through workshops and writing groups and to share, with shaking voices and tears in their eyes, their own writing. There are a surprisingly high number of special education teachers of various types, and a math professor. There is one teenaged daughter and one very brave male, who asked Beth if she would ever be doing a co-ed retreat, and was welcomed to come join us with the understanding that there would be no censoring of any kind of talk to protect his male sensitivities. Anne Lamott has been quoted or referenced no less than six times.
We have people from Wisconsin and Iowa and California, as well as a cluster of folks from the same smallish Oregon town.
I've been here less than 24 hours, and many people have cried, and everyone has laughed. A lot. It turns out that while writers do tend to be a bit on the introverted side, we also tend to think and talk in stories, so there has been lots and lots of sharing of stories.
And I'm on, oh, my fourth cup of coffee? Plus there are little bowls of peanut m&ms everywhere.
"But do you have to go?" wept my daughter two nights ago. "Whenever you go, I feel like you aren't ever going to come back." A piece of my heart cracked for her, but I still answered with the truth. "I don't have to go; I want to go. You know how you feel about horse camp? That's how I feel about this."
Slice of Life is sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Link up every Tuesday to share a slice of your life.
My writing presence has been sporadic lately, but after this week, I should settle back into a better rhythm. I'm also thinking this week about how to balance my continuing interest in book blogging with my growing interest in other kinds of writing as well. Start a second blog? Parcel out this blog into different sections? Lots to think about.