I'm tucked away in the loft of a barn at a writing retreat, curled up on a cozy chair, my laptop on my lap.
Ready to go.
I've got everything I need up here. A bowl of mixed nuts. A blank notebook. A glass of water with a slice of lemon. Three pens and one pencil. An inspirational book on writing that I found earlier gathering dust on a shelf. My reading glasses. A journal where I've been brainstorming.
The idea is hovering around the edges of my brain, not quite coming through, but I can feel it there, a naggy itch.
I went for a walk this morning. There are woods on this retreat. Hiking trails. A stream. Supposedly there are brown bears loping between the trees. I haven't seen one (thank God!) but I did see a snake. It crossed my path and slithered off into the leaves at the edge of the road before I even had time to be afraid.
It's a weird thing about walking alone. Especially when you've got a book flickering around in your head.
I kept looking for signs of it along my walk and then I stopped looking for signs and looked for snakes.
Sometimes I am terrified of being in the woods. The quietness that isn't really all that quiet. The stillness that isn't quite still. How the moment you step in, the temperature drops ten degrees. The way the leaves on random trees flicker and twitch even when there isn't a breeze trailing through them.
I am the only one out here. But somehow, I am not alone.
The road bends ahead and disappears in shadow. Where does it go?
My sneakers crunch on the gravel. The woods surround me, dark and impenetrable. I think lines from random poems. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep/ but I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep...
And weirdly, an old song from Girl Scouts pops into my head. Which gets me singing the song in time to my feet slapping the ground. I wasn't always afraid of the woods. I'm not afraid now. I'm not.
Around a bend, a farm. So that was unexpected.
And then back into the woods. No closer to figuring out my story. It takes me a year to write a book. It is a crazy-making level of commitment that starts out with good intentions -- to find balance and joy and trust the process and just write for the sake of writing and yadda yadda ya,
and inevitably ends with a manic stretch of ranting and never changing out of my pajamas and forgetting to brush my teeth and who gives a crap about vacuuming. Or making dinner. And disappearing so far inside my own head that some days it's hard to claw my way out.
It's no wonder I have to gird myself to begin. I heard the author Jane Resh Thomas speak once about what it takes to write a book.
Why THIS book? she asked. Why have you decided to devote a year of your life in service to this particular story? You won't be the same person on the other side of it, you know that, right?
Oh, yes, Jane. I know it.
My feet keep smacking the road.
Another dark windy section of forest. A stream somewhere hidden behind the trees, burbling over rocks that I can't see.
Boom, a cornfield. Also, unexpected.
Who plants a cornfield in the woods?
And then I am back in the woods. A shadow walking on the road. Searching for my story. Walking.
back to the barn
up the stairs
to the loft