I returned home from the God's Whisper Writing Retreat in Virginia last Sunday, driving my husband's rattly old pickup truck through four hours of heat and humidity. The truck lacks AC and I swear it was hotter inside the cab than out. By the time I hit our driveway I was spent. I was also greeted by the usual signs of my absence - an empty refrigerator and mountains of laundry. So I dove back in to home and put off reflecting on the weekend away until now.
It's always a gift to be among other writers and more and more, three years into this writing life, I find myself thinking, "These are my kind of people." Friday night 20+ writers gathered in the barn before dinner, mingling awkwardly like sixth graders at a dance. Dinner helped us shake off our nerves and then, after introductions, we took turns reading at the open Mic.
Writers, at their heart, long to connect, to be known. So, one-by-one we stood and read from finished and unfinished pieces, each person revealing a small square of their heart to a roomful of strangers who waited and welcomed with awe.
Saturday was long, lovely and exhausting in all the best ways, full of connection and reflection. I re-discovered my fear in Shawn Smucker's workshop and others rediscovered their bodies in Andi's. Some writers became unstuck, others learned how to write safely about vulnerability. In the evening we were all captivated by the only woman I know whose reading can compete with a flash-flood. Author, Sharon Morgan, drew us in with stories of life and love in Paris, she reminded us how good storytelling can bridge continents and help us connect like strangers gathered for a moment in time around a shared meal.
Sunday morning, as many as wanted, started the day with silent meditation. Then we welcomed a presentation by Jane Friedman on publishing. I sat in the back because I have "issues" with discussions of publishing - I'm just not there yet and not willing to get myself tangled in knots before I even have a manuscript to submit.
But, Sunday morning as 20+ writers in every stage of the game sat listening and calmly asking questions I realized the weekend had accomplished exactly what Shawn, Andi and I hoped it would. The writers in attendance asked good, solid questions in voices that revealed a healthy awareness of their own location in the greater scheme of things. I didn't hear a whisper of panic, a breath of anxiety. I heard writers who, through the course of two days of balancing words and silence, were deeply in touch with the truth of their own situation.
Did most of us have a lot of work to do? Yes.
Did current publishing trends leave us with more options and less clarity than ever before? Mostly, yes.
But I sensed in myself and in those around me a deeper connection to their own abilities and desire - two tools that equip every writer to move forward even when the way is not quite clear.
We closed the retreat with a sharing circle and I was so grateful to hear how each participant would take some small piece from the weekend with them. Over the course of the weekend I marveled at the beauty of human beings and how we open so beautifully to each other when time and circumstances allow.
Sitting in that circle, I remembered Merton's famous vision,
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
For a few days last weekend in a barn in the mountains of Virginia, a handful of writers came together and found that we're not so separate as we imagine and for a few moments we all shone like the sun.
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Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA. Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world. Visit link to learn more.
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Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.
While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.