On retreat…..to write

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I have been called home, to the Montana mountains and a small family cabin there. I left Portland hours after the movers backed up my furniture and boxes to haul to a storage unit in Livingston. On the evening of the second day of my drive, I arrived, unpacked the loaded Pathfinder, got the water system running, and built a fire to dispel the chill of winter contained within the logs of the cabin.

The desire to come here, for as long as the weather will allow, came on me suddenly last summer, during my annual vacation month in the cabin. I had just begun writing in earnest, was once again figuring how to stretch my savings out as long as possible to give the words a chance to flow, when it struck me that I was part owner of a writing retreat. An isolated cabin on a dirt road in the mountains, closest full time human neighbor over a mile away as the crow flies, town a dozen mile drive when the road is passable…. and surrounded by life at its most basic. Yes, a writer could not ask for better than this.

So here I sit on the porch, computer on my lap and sun on my back. I am one month in, with four or five to go depending on weather. I have already been somewhat stranded by a driveway and road too muddy for easy passage despite four-wheel drive. The 80 pound bags of sand in the back of the rig have helped (rig is the local term for vehicle). But it has been easy enough to stock up on groceries when I do finally make it down the hill, and there were nettles by the creek when I ran out of fresh greens.

So I will be here for a while, trying to capture some of the flavor of this life and pass it on as I get to town and the access to electronic communications (did I mention that I have no cell service or Internet here? Just a landline, and a hike up the hill with my phone to check messages.) It seems like the chance of a lifetime for me to have this freedom for however long it lasts; how could I have done anything else?

Do you need a little darkness?

This is another creation from the Wednesday workshop.

Do you need a little darkness to get you going? Into yourself, I mean, that world inside that you have tried to ignore all these years, preferring instead the outside, the light, the illusion that the goal is happiness and sunshine all the time. Who taught you that? Who taught us that? Where could we possibly have gotten the idea that Life is so one-dimensional, only existing out there, in increments to be measured and explained and planned and controlled. How silly, as if She could ever be so predictable.

No, better to remember Rilke’s words – “You, darkness, from which I come; I love you more…”

Oh, alright, yes, you’re right. There is a balance. Actually, I really don’t like that word. We don’t live on a see-saw, careening back and forth as we try to stay in the middle. A spiral is more like it – a never-closing circle that cycles us in and out, darkness and light, sadness and joy, all together but apart, all at the same time once we realize there is no such thing as time.

I know, you say you never intended to be in this world in the first place, that you didn’t sign up for the pain. I don’t buy it. You made the choice, you’ve simply forgotten. It is your nature, just as it is mine, and hers, and his. After all, you are love, and this is what Love does: it comes back, over and over for as long as it takes – to heal, to live, to redeem. And let me be clear about this, crystal clear: redemption does not come in the light until you have been in the darkness. How can it? After all, you aren’t redeeming what is bright and pretty. Well, not usually. You are redeeming that which hides, ashamed and frightened and so sure it won’t be loved. So your job is to see, hear, taste, smell and then embrace that which is un-embraceable, to be Love, to love the dark and all things hidden away, all things uncomfortable, the agony and the joy.

And more, to finally, eventually, spectacularly know this:

They are the same thing.

Prompt: The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac by Mary Oliver

everything I needed to know about self-love, I learned from Buffy

everything I needed to know about self-love, I learned from Buffy.

This is a beautiful and potent tale of healing from my friend and soul-sister Belinda. She eloquently puts into words another story about the damage we do to our bodies by suppressing emotions, often as childhood survival strategies, and that embracing our history can help us heal whenever we are ready. For anyone who felt they had to stay strong as children in order to protect something or someone, maybe Belinda’s story will resonate. And what the heck, pop-TV shows can offer great metaphors, too!