Monday, July 26, 2010

Home Again

My intention was to pack up and drive home on Friday, but instead, I headed home Thursday afternoon. A friend who came for an overnight left Thursday noon, and my hope was to have one more afternoon on the dock reading and writing, but what appeared to be an all-day soaker drowned that plan. All of a sudden I knew I was done. It was time to be home and to let the fruits of the month in Door County be harvested. Within an hour and a half I had packed up everything and dropped off the keys and was on the road. How good to sleep in our own bed--no damp sheets! How good to get the laundry chugging along. How good to have all Friday to unpack and re-enter.

When I lead retreats, I always include time at the end for participants to think about their re-entry. What awaits you at home? What do you most want to bring with you from the retreat? How will you integrate the lessons and ideas from the retreat time? How receptive will your loved ones be to your experience? True, my month in Door County wasn't really a retreat, but I did have open time to reflect on the questions I brought with me and time to listen to promptings from Spirit. Since my drive home through intense thunder storms required more concentration than reflection time, I didn't respond to my own end-of-retreat questions. The lingering question of "what now?" didn't take long to reappear, however. How would my retreat time manifest itself in home time?

Here's my answer: Here I am. In my office, writing this blog. It is Monday morning and instead of doing errands (I had a month of the only errand being occasional trips to the grocery store. How is that possible?), I am in my office writing. I have been to Curves. I have walked. I have had my devotion time. And now I am here. True, I have done one load of laundry and emptied the dishwasher, but I am not paying attention to the vacuuming that should be done on the first floor. Nor am I making the phone calls on my list. Errands, hometending, and life-organizing phone calls can wait till the afternoon.

Mornings are for writing. I repeat, mornings are for writing!

Another decision. I have moved my laptop from my kitchen desk on the main floor to my office desk on the lower level. This is now my default location. I suspect I will be running down here a lot to check my emails, but not only will that get me in my office more, I suspect, eventually, emailing will have a more balanced rhythm in my life. A good thing. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week Four: Fantasy Time

Yesterday afternoon Bruce and I sat in Adirondack chairs on the dock by the Ephraim Visitor Center. He read and I wrote reflection questions for four of my essays. A sailing class was within view, occasionally distracting me when one of the boats rolled over. Necessary lessons for young sailors. Kayaks glided by, oars in unison, looking effortless. At one point page one of the one of the essays got away from me and landed in the water. No need to try and retrieve it, for it is safely stored in my laptop, but as it floated "out to sea," I chuckled at the fantasy that like a message in a bottle a mythical agent might find the title page of my essay about regrets and be so impressed that she would find me to announce, "I must represent you." (Ah yes, the symbolism of the essay being about "regrets.")

That's not the only fantasy explored while here. One day Bruce and I followed back roads as close to the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula as we could. What would it be like to live there?, we wondered whenever we saw a For Sale sign. No, too woodsy. No, too small. No, too close to the road. No, too ugly. No, too expensive, even for our fantasy life. As we came around a bend, however, we both gasped. A take your breath away moment. A small cottage in a field, standing alone looking out on Lake Michigan. Property lines with a split rail fence. An overgrown yard. Driveway blocked. No one there. Abandoned? We both remembered finding the one room schoolhouse we eventually bought and renovated as our vacation home in the same around the bend way. That had been a magical moment, too. A fantasy we breathed reality into.

Bruce, of course, reacts much faster than I do. He clambered over the fence to investigate this lake view cottage. I waited in the car, but wrote down the address, 1114 South Lake Michigan Drive, Clay Banks. "Looks abandoned. There's a story here," he says upon his return as he takes a picture with my IPhone. At the next house he chats with a neighbor. "We've summered here six years and never seen anyone."

I love the fantasy of such a find, but am more often content to let it live in the imagination. I think that's where this one will stay. There's a time to turn fantasy into reality, like doing the work to finish writing my book and finding an agent. Sometimes, however, the fantasy and imagination is its own pleasure.

The mystery is we don't always know.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week Three: Writing Time

Along with my pile of books and cooler of food and beach towels and chairs and on and on, I brought a key question with me to Door County. Should I continue working on my book of essays on grief and loss or should I set it aside and start something else? In the shadows was another question: "Should I confine my public writing to this blog and my journals? These questions are part of an even broader question about this stage of my life. What is this decade of my 60's to be about? What is my purpose now?

And you thought a month in Door County was about the beach!

Here's what I am learning.

Yes, I want to continue writing my book.

Yes, it has merit and deserves to be finished.

No, it is not done and in fact, needs not only editing, but needs to be bigger. I need to write additional essays, including one on spiritual practices. Other essay topics are bubbling up as well. I need to do some restructuring and write introductions to each part.

Yes, I need to start an additional book as well. Maybe that will be about transitions. Maybe it will be a spiritual handbook for people touched by cancer, based on the material I developed for the spirituality groups I led for many years.

Being here cleared the space for me to arrive at these understandings. I have walked and prayed and meditated and eaten well and read and slept well. And I have been writing. One of the things I realized is that when I am not writing, I feel passive and even negative about my writing, but when I am engaged in the writing process, I love what I am doing and believe in it. In this case absence does not make the heart grow fonder. I think what this means is that writing needs to be a CORE activity for me.

Here's where everyone around me may glaze over. For how many times have I announced that writing is going to be priority in my life and then I let everything interfere with it. That is true for losing weight and how many other declarations, as well. I know once I am home it won't be easy to implement. In fact, I know what happens when you make an announcement to the universe. All sorts of other opportunities or interferences starting ringing your door bell. Spirit wants you to be sure, wants you to stand firm, wants you to act on your intention. This doesn't mean that I am not open to new opportunities nor that I will discontinue doing other activities that give me joy and allow me to grow, but I will be examining them in light of writing time and writing energy.

This weekend Bruce and I stopped in an artist's studio and she asked me what I do. Now you know if you have been reading this blog, that this is a question I have been struggling with since our move to Wisconsin. Well, this is what I said. "I'm a spiritual director, but I am no longer in private practice. Instead, I plan to be a spiritual director through my writing." I have posed this idea tentatively, softly, in the past--more as a question than as a statement. This time, however, it felt so clear, so clean. I think Spirit heard me. I think Spirit spoke.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week Two at Cedar Cottage: Playtime

First, there was quiet and then there were grandchildren. First, there was one car in the driveway and then there were four plus the boat that belongs to the Cedar Cottage's owners. First, there was no conversation and then there was Peter's two year old nonstop talking. First, there was open space and then there was a bike in the living room. First there was my own company and then there were good morning greetings and good night hugs and kisses. First, there was me and a book and then there was Maren sprawled on the couch reading yet another BoxCar Children book and me reading Peter his naptime and bedtime books in the comfortable chair we called the Reading Chair. First, there was me walking to the water with beach chair, a book and a Diet Coke and then there was everyone filling the van with umbrella and towels and sand toys and snacks and beach chairs and sunscreen and books and wondering what we were forgetting. First, there was not doing much of anything and then there was a trip to Washington Island on the ferry and playing miniature golf and checking out some stores and going to a drive-in movie and eating out and hiking to Cana Island, and putting together puzzles and being at the beach as much as possible. And it was all good. It is all good.

When I decided last winter to spend a month at Door County, I envisioned the time as writing time. Contemplative time. I didn't think about it being family time, kid time, too, and I must admit I was a bit reluctant to give up one week of solitude for a week of intense interaction, but oh, how wonderful it was to have the kids here. Now, returning back to solitude, the space and the time feels that much richer for all the activity and conversation and play encompassed here. Yes, there were some tears and some frustrations and some impatience, but now there are so many more memories and joys to count and images to recall.

First, our son in law left to return to work and then a few days later our daughter and the kids left and then a couple days later my husband left and then there was one, me.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Dr Seuss

First Days: Settling in at Cedar Cottage

NOTE: I am spending a month in Door County, Wisconsin, and don't have wireless connection in the cottage. Periodically, however, I will go to an Internet cafe and add to this blog and respond to email. In case you aren't familiar with Door County, it is the "thumb" of Wisconsin, a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan and is often referred to as the "New England of the Midwest."

Thanks to my husband Bruce, who helped me pack my car Sunday afternoon, I was on the road to Door County by 6;30 Monday morning and four hours later I had the key in hand for my July home. I planned to offer a blessing as I crossed the threshold. I intended to sanctify the moving in, the unpacking. Really I did, but I confess my eagerness to feel settled surpassed sacred ceremony. Truth be told, I moved many times as a child and my parents were masters of the unpack the boxes, hang the pictures and "we're home" technique, and I know how to get settled.

Hang up clothes. Fill drawers. Make the bed. Zip. Zip. No more frilly, lacy bedspread, but instead an antique white quilt with a lightweight, vintage summer pink blanket folded at the end of the bed. Unpack the cooler. Fill the Lazy Susan cabinet with cooking basics. Check. Clear the coffee and end tables of romance novels and Door County magazines dating to 1998, replacing them with a small pile of current magazines and creating a book shelf and filing cabinet from a wooden bench for my writing materials. Done. Poor Teddy Bear is now stashed in the closet for the month. Finally, unfurl vintage cherry print tablecloths on dining room and patio tables. A flag here, a flag there, and I am home.

Many times while preparing for this month I thought about my mother who orchestrated our annual summer vacation at one of those old-fashioned family resorts in Northern Minnesota. The kind with individual cottages with lumpy mattresses and see through bath towels, but oh, how we loved being there. Instead of bins, Mom had the "lake box," which held beach towels and blow-up water toys, life preservers, swimming suits and a big car blanket, vinyl on one side and brown and beige wool plaid on the other. I am sure she nodded her approval from above, seeing me add a bedside lamp to my Door County pile. She always brought a pin-up lamp for the screened porch, so we could read after dark.

Thanks, Mom. You made it seem effortless, even thought I know it wasn't, could not have been. Many times these last weeks I've pointed out to family and friends that the privilege of going away takes a lot of work. However, that's not exactly what I felt. Instead of work, the preparations took considerable time and thought. And focus. Sometimes in the "making a list, checking it twice" stage, I wondered about this hurry, scurry to rest and relax, but in reality I loved the preparations that allowed me to daydream about opening Cedar Cottage's screen door every morning for a month.

No more daydreams. I'm here and I'm so grateful. May this be happy and holy time.