By Saturday, I could perceive the general structure of the writer's "intensive" retreat. We would have a writer's prompt, a writing session, and then gather in small groups to listen to each other's writing. The comments we were asked to make were pointing out what resonated with us and what we wanted to hear more of. After lunch, we would "dance" to several different songs, and later in the afternoon, we took a walk in silence, a bit of an undertaking for sixteen women! However, it did enable us to pay far more attention to the beauty all around us rather than thinking up conversational tidbits.
At the end of the first day, I had decided to walk back to the hotel, which was about 2.7 miles away, almost all downhill. However, what I had not taken into account was the fact that I was carrying a bag with a relatively heavy "vintage" laptop computer, two notebooks, and assorted other writing gear. The bag was not ergonomically designed, and I spent the walk juggling it from one shoulder to the other and one hand to the other, because the weight dug into me wherever I held it. By the time I'd made it halfway there, I decided that on the other days, I would either call a cab or see if one of the other writers could give me a lift part or all of the way. And one of them was happy to do so for me and another writer, and even introduced us to a little store where we could buy snacks and other necessities. So each morning, I took a cab, and each evening, this kind writer brought me down to the street where my hotel was.
I did incredible amounts of writing, and surprised myself with some of the directions I took. During the last session, we met with the same group we had started with, and one of the things that several of the women told me was that they wanted to hear more about the love letters that my husband and I had written to each other every day for 30 years. When I thought of writing more about our relationship and less about my widowhood, I felt like a flower that had just bloomed. The dead ends that had seemed to appear whenever I tried writing the book I thought I should write vanished, and sharing our life as a couple, with all the struggles and reconciliations and triumphs we experienced as young newlyweds and as our family grew, seemed to open out before me as the path down which I should wander, with poems and prayers of reminiscence and whatever else appears along the way. My husband often said that my poems almost seemed too personal for him to want to critique them (even though when he did, he proved to be the best editor I could have ever had), but the ones that are autobiographical will probably say in 20 lines more than I could put into several chapters. So as I gathered my things, and headed down the three blocks to the train station the morning after the retreat ended, I felt a sense of completion as well as a new beginning for my book.
There were no mishaps on the train going back, I arrived on time, and my daughter picked me up, three of the grandchildren gave me huge hugs to welcome me, I talked almost nonstop about my experiences until we got to her place, and I took off for home, feeling as if I had returned from another planet, grateful for the experiences, and happy to be back to my house, my garden, and my life that is full of meaning and blessings.