It's been a little more two months since my mother died. I've created an altar to her in my living room, but I find myself rushing past it without really seeing it, without actually stopping and looking or feeling its significance. Somehow, I just can't. I think I'm open to the grief, but so far, in the first weeks of this journey of mother loss, I feel very little. The words, "My mother is dead," come easily from my lips, but they haven't reached my heart. They haven't hit their target. It's not real to me that she is really gone. Gone forever. Really dead, permanently dead. When I think about my mother, I mostly feel relief. Relief that she is no longer suffering. Relief that I no longer spend my days worrying that she'll forget she's not supposed to walk, and that she'll fall, that ... [Continue Reading]
I’m sitting on one of the old, soft couches in the lobby area of Newbold House, in the midst of all of my belongings. My soft black duffel bag is packed to the brim. I’m surrounded by a variety of outerwear since I don’t know what today’s weather will bring. To my right, my backpack is bulging with my international power strip adapter, my ipad, my laptop, a toothbrush, my travel pillow, and a bottle of Speyside Glenlivet single malt whisky, aged 12 years. This morning, most of our group left for early morning flights—as I will tomorrow. They slipped away while I was still in dreamland. As I ate my last bowl of Scottish porridge, the dining room seemed empty ... [Continue Reading]
We have entered the final days of our retreat. There is talk of taxis to the airport, last minute gifts, the loved ones we left behind, and the things we will be facing back home. People are letting in the reality that we will soon be saying goodbye to Scotland, to Newbold House, and to each other. It is my job at this point in the retreat to remind people to remain here, to stay present with each other, and to keep open. As I write these words, it is 1:30 AM and we still have two full days left. Tomorrow we are going on an all-day outing to Caingorm National Park, and Friday we will have our final writing class and our closing circle. This is what the ... [Continue Reading]
The basic schedule of this retreat, (on the days we aren’t heading out on a major outing) is writing group in the morning, free time all afternoon between lunch and dinner, and writing class in the evening. Open afternoons are important—they give people time to digest, to integrate, to spend time alone, to enjoy new friends, to catch up on sleep, to hike, to explore, to walk to town, to sightsee, to shop, to have adventures alone, or of course, to write. Downtime is crucial because writing class can be intense, evocative, and at times, exhausting.