Spring has Sprung in Paradise

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Day Evening 13 of 18. I don’t want to lose a minute so I won’t rush into tomorrow. Each day and night at Ragdale offers magical momentsIMG_0259 and the last few have been exceptional, at least in terms of weather. I can’t recall the last time I was out and about and so warm I had to take off my coat. With the ice and snow melting and the right boots,  inspiration surrounds us.

Tonight those of us with rooms in The Barn shared some welcoming moments at the Ragdale house that involved pizza, wine and a sunset that couldn’t possibly be properly captured with a camera.

IMG_0257The thing about Ragdale is you want to soak it all in with as wide a lens as you can bring to your senses. Walking back to my room I looked up into the dark sky to see it sprinkled with stars. Such a magnificent view defies a caIMG_0263mera lens, but hang in my memory it will.

Since my last residency, pictures and sculptures have been rearranged. Amid all the books near the stairwell to my room stands this proudly poised dancer.

On the other side of the wall in a room housiIMG_0265ng a TV I’ve never once seen turned on, this boy and girl quietly stand next to each other, forever too shy to turn and introduce themselves.

A new season has sprung. We lost an hour last weekend setting the clocks ahead, and it feels like an hour lost in paradise. If anything, a reminder of how fast the days fly by and how extraordinary are the moments when we follow our passions, even if they seem unreachable. But who knows? Maybe I’ll catch a star tomorrow night.

Step by Step

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I even found new pictures to take.

Day 7 of 18 at Ragdale, the artist retreat in Lake Forest, IL, and I’m into some intense editing—so much so that I’ve already done two loads of laundry. Those who know me will realize I’ve gone through the entirety of distractions I’m capable of unearthing so edit I must, right after I’m done with this blog.

The writing process is hard. Draft after draft you work on structure, point-of-view, character and scene-building until your story feels organic. It has a beginning, middle and an end that takes the reader on an interesting journey. Then you workshop it or have other writers read it for their advice. Often that means creating a new draft, other times it brings you to the revision process.

We were talking about that process last week in class. (Yes, I actually left Ragdale for half a day, stopped home to see the extent of destruction that occurs in 48 hours when I’m not there, then headed to the second to last class of my second semester at The Writer’s Studio. “I got the printer to work,” I was told on the way home. I was thrilled. Imagine my surprise to find it does in fact work, on the counter between the dining and living room….. More on the value of the room we call the office later, but see how good I’ve become at distraction?)

In class I compared completing an essay to giving birth, only harder. My teacher, Kevin, has a child, and he was the closest to relating. I know the younger women in class who picture children in their future will agree. It’s painful beyond belief but unequivocally worth it in the end. I’m at the point where I have to look at every word in every sentence to make sure it’s not only the right one in the right place but that it moves the story forward. I like this step. It means I’ve created something that works and now I need to fine-tune it. Nothing’s ever perfect so it’s a difficult step to complete. There comes a point where you just have to let go.

In one of my earlier stages of distraction yesterday, I emailed a former neighbor and writer and likened this step to walking your daughter down the aisle at her wedding. There she is: your greatest project, the prettiest moment of her life to-date, bubbling over with happiness while you’re still processing how she learned to ride a bike, read a book, get to school on her own. Already you have to “give her away,” and she’d prefer you do it with a smile on your face as you hold back cardiac arrest, billions of memories and tears as well as a newfound utter disrespect for the passage of time—what the hell is the hurry?

Letting go is a stage in nearly every part of life, and it’s a tough one to face in any situation. Not much is ours to keep and nothing worth having lasts forever. Letting go means you’ve held on to something you value otherwise whatever you thought you possessed would be easy to give away. Letting go is packed with insecurities and fears, doubts and disbelief, what ifs and if onlys. It’s as much an act of faith as any religion. People say “trust me, it’s part of life,” and “you’ll survive, I promise,” but those first steps without something you’ve learned to appreciate quake with anxiety.

I need to get back to a story I hope is worth sharing, one I believe some will identify with and may even help them feel more confident despite the fundamental imperfections uniting us. Letting go of some stuff is easier than others. Much isn’t nearly as important as others. Still, letting go step by step is relative. Whatever we’ve worked so hard for or in service of is hard to release because whatever “it” is always takes with it a piece of our soul.

Lighting Fires at Ragdale

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We moved recently and the one thing we don’t have in our new condo that we really miss is a fireplace. So how fortuitous to spend 18 cold winter days at Ragdale where of course they have one!IMG_0246 I haven’t lost my touch either, it’s burning pretty darn good and that’s without the help of last year’s expert fireplace lighter and poet extraordinaire, Katie Riegel.

They’ve rearranged some of the furniture and artwork recently. I don’t remember this beautiful piece of sculpture here where all kinds of plants including geraniums IMG_0251anxiously await Spring, literally sprawled against the windows to soak up enough sun to bloom. I appreciate their impatience.

I’m in the same room I was in last year, the Hay Loft, and this year my neighbor is my friend and mentor, Rita Dragonette. Last year that room was occupied by Jill Wine-Banks, who I met through Rita. We both miss her lots but know she’s on to something special with the book she came here to work on last year.

As was the case before, there’s a fascinating group here again–visual, composers, poets, non-fiction, fiction and multi-genre artists, all who raise the bar so high it’s both exhilarating and intimidating. In other words, I really need to quit circling this wagon and jump on. Enough procrastinating this morning. I’ve got stories to tell.