Saturday, May 8, 2010

Retreating to Iona

On Iona it is about 20 minutes past midnight. The evening session of Angela's writing retreat ends about 9:30. So, if I were there, I would be tucked in my cozy room reading or journaling or just happily remembering the day. From this side of the pond I wonder who is attending this year. There were so many amazing people there and I know I'm missing some of the wonderful writing they will be sharing. But I am there in spirit and this year that will have to be enough. Knowing that I will be there in 2012 helping organize a retreat with Beth Lodge-Rigal gets me through this nostalgic time of year.
This year Angela is celebrating her tenth retreat on Iona and I know she had some special things planned. I can't wait to hear about them. It never really gets dark in Scotland in the summer time so nighttime sojourns are quite easy and magical. Last year on our last night there, we went to the nunnery ruins and ready poetry by candlelight and shared a wee dram to warm us. It was magical.
And yes, Iona is a magical place and those who are attuned to that sort of thing have powerful experiences there. But Iona has lessons for us all. My lesson is awareness, awareness of my surroundings wherever I am. Appreciate them. Get the most out of them. Enjoy and learn from the past, but live in the moment. Some days I forget that and Iona taps me on the shoulder and says, "Look around you. Look at all the faces of the people you love, look at your beautiful little town of Bloomington, look at the words of others on the written page." Iona wants to remind me that she will always be there waiting to embrace me and welcome me to her warm shores and that is a comfort on this cool Indiana night.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I'm not prone to melancholy as a general rule. It does sneak up on me occasionally and it's always this time of year, the time of year (if I were going to Scotland) that I'd be preparing for that journey. And, for me, it is a journey, not a trip. A journey that "eases my soul" to quote one of my favorite poets and my spiritual guide, Van Morrison.

I love Bloomington and my life here. My son is here, I have an amazing group of friends and a wonderful writing community. Yet, I long to be in Scotland. It takes a lot of energy to want to be in two places at the same time. So this is the time of year that I become very melancholy and lethargic. The past few weeks I've been doing my uncanny imitation of oatmeal. I've been a lump on the couch that doesn't move. I haven't been doing much writing, which makes me even sadder. And I've learned that being sad takes a lot of energy, what with all the sighing and such.

A couple of Sundays ago I made myself get up off the couch and go to Border's and write. (Thanks Angi MacDonald for meeting me there.) I decided to address this situation head-on. The way for me to do that is to write and the best place to address this particular issue is my blog. I've ignored this blog way too long. It's time to get back on this horse and ride.

This time last year, I was preparing for that journey. Preparing for a writing retreat on Iona. I love the ritual of preparation. I love organizing, putting mix and match outfits together, choosing and packing well so that I can travel light.

Once I had my reservation confirmed for the retreat then I started the fun (for me) part of planning out my various modes of transportation once I landed in Glasgow. Planes, trains, buses and ferries. All carefully timed and coordinated.

The retreat was all and more than I had imagined it would be. I felt very welcomed and supported by these educated, amazingly talented writers. And Angela Locke, who facilitates the retreat, felt like a kindred spirit to me immediately. She's a wonderful teacher/guide. And so is David Clemson, her co-facilitator. What better combination than a mathematician/poet? I wrote a couple of magical realism stories that were well-received. I'm still carried by my time at the retreat.

Last week at my Women Writing for a Change class I wrote to the prompt: If you saw me walking... Of course, my walking takes place in Scotland. I'm still working on it and will post it on this blog when it's ready. So I'm writing again. I won't say the clouds are lifting, because I like clouds and stormy skies, which is probably why I like Scotland so much. But the heaviness of heart is lifting so that I have the energy to write again.