On the first morning of the "writer's intensive," I got dressed, had breakfast, practiced my French horn with the Silent Brass I had brought along since I assumed that no one would like to hear scales and chords and hymns I needed to work on for church played at full volume at 7 A.M. I got downstairs early, the cab arrived on time and carried me to the home where the retreat was. I walked up and down the street until another writer appeared, and we entered the gate together. It was quite a thrill to meet the woman who was leading the retreat; she had interviewed me on Skype for one of her online courses, and I had taken several of them, but to be able to hug her in person was a delight. The other woman who was co-leading the retreat was also interesting and struck me as being even more intense, and the two women complemented each other well.
There were fourteen women making the retreat, all very different and very different kinds of writers, from a dynamic red head who was a television producer writing her first book to a blonde who shared sections of her young adult fantasy in a delightful voice that carried an edge of humor. But as I realized that many of the women came with extremely different religious and political views, I started to wonder if I would be an outcast and I could feel myself mentally pulling back from the circle we were sitting in. When we got into our first reading group, after our first extended period of writing, and two of the women read pieces that reflected unhappy childhoods and criticism of various Catholic components that seemed to have contributed to their unhappiness, I felt under attack, at least indirectly. When it was my turn, I read a section about my husband that included the information that we are Catholic, which I judged at least threw down the gauntlet so that they would suspect that I might take random anti-Catholic remarks personally. However, the challenge of writing so extensively, and of being able to listen to intelligent women comment on what resonated with them, and what they wanted to hear more of, carried me through the rest of the day with a deep sense of gratitude.
I had decided to walk the three miles back to the hotel so I could time myself, and didn't think I'd have any difficulties, since it was primarily downhill. What I hadn't taken into consideration was the fact that I was carrying the bag that held my notebooks and a very heavy laptop, which is so old that when I had to have it repaired a few years ago, I discovered that its serial number classified it as either vintage or obsolete. It wasn't an ergonomically designed bag, either, but cut into either my shoulder or hand, depending on how I juggled it from one to the other. By the time I got back to the hotel, I decided that I would have to get a ride or take a cab the other days. There was a delightful breeze blowing, and I would have enjoyed the walk if it had not been for my uncomfortable burden. I decided to go to the same restaurant where I had been the night before, and had another delightful meal, sitting outside on the patio again, chatting with the waiter, reading my book, and feeling very much in harmony with people passing on the street and the world in general, a comfortable ambience that stayed with me back in the hotel and made it easy to crawl into bed, read a little more, and fall easily asleep.