At this time last year, I was approving the final audiobook files of The Burning Light of Two Stars and seriously ramping up to promote my soon-to-be released book, ten years in the making, for an October pandemic launch. Now the book is launched and it’s a year later, and here I am, savoring the sights, sounds, smells and most definitely the tastes of Tuscany—and this is my day job!
The other day, I dove into the Villa’s swimming pool in the 90-degree heat, swam a length underwater, and when I popped up for air, looked up and saw one of my students lying back on a chaise lounge, fully absorbed reading my book. That was a thrill. To have this dream of a retreat succeed beyond expectations (after three years of serious setbacks) just months after my book’s release feels wonderful.
For both these events to have occurred in one year’s time is remarkable. Yet in that moment, I reflected, too, on just how much of this past year I’ve felt stressed, worried, and anxious about the huge risks I was personally taking on so many fronts—and my grief over the dysfunction, pain, and uncertainty of our world. Sometimes it’s hard to open my arms wide enough to embrace it all.
Yesterday in writing class, I read my favorite chapter of The Burning Light of Two Stars, Rainstorm, out loud and then deconstructed how I wrote it in layers, what it means to create a composite scene, how to integrate environment and inner monologue and humor and pathos into the same scene. How to weave disparate chapters into a whole book. I spent the rest of our session fielding questions about the writing and publication of the book. It was a wonderful experience of coming full circle. To have my teaching and retreat leading and writing life integrated like that. I felt whole and satisfied.
Can you tell I’m enjoying my time in Italy?
Today we’re going on an all-day outing to the town of San Gimignano with some time and space for us to all explore on our own before an afternoon tour. Writing class today is homework only: bring your little notebook and a pen and be on the lookout for a story. Take notes that will help you bring that story to life once we’re back in class tomorrow, and otherwise, have a great time exploring the town.
This is the path I walk to our Villa apartment many times a day.
Photo by Graseilah Coolidge
If you don’t want to wait for the email digest version of my virtual vacation posts, you can follow me directly on social media where you can also find short posts, videos and photographs from Tuscany: