It's hard to imagine that things could have gotten better.
After dinner we gathered in front of the small, but warm, fire. I slouched in a leather chair. Amy beside me in her chair, Carol F, backed up to the ottoman in front of me. Laura sat near Amy, Leeanne and Louise shared the couch. Carol O. sat center stage on the hearth. As the founder and facilitator of Chat Noir Writers Circle, she could have shone like the sun, while we, her planets circled around her. Instead, she sat among us, an equal and leader at the same time. Her brightness enhanced by the light of her friends. Hard to pull off, but not for Carol.
Our last night together began with Leeanne, Laura, Amy and both Carol's sharing their vision boards. It was amazing to see how board reflected its maker's beauty. We noticed how Leeanne's favorite color turquoise, stood out among the pictures and words she chose. A surprise even to Carol F, was how instead of travel, her board spoke of her love of dance. Laura's board identified her desire to be more courageous and bold. I couldn't miss the quotes were soft and gentle, yet powerful, like the woman who chose them. " joy is 1 part inner pece 1 part giddy delight and 100% attainable" or "the soul is here for our own joy" (rumi). Carol O's board pictured a layering of doors. Each opening as if to call her in to a new place. I didn't have a board to share. I read some of this blog about how the experience had opened me up when I didn't even know I'd been so tightly shut down.
If this week had been a movie, the final scene would be each of the women reading their favorite piece of work. The words were awesome. Powerful. Touching. Hearing them read by the artist who wrote them incomparable. It's been a long time since I sat in a circle being read to. I think it was nursery school in Philadelphia. I can remember lying next to my mother for an afternoon nap, dozing off as she read me a story. The child in me was comforted by this firelit circle of women and stories. The writer in me wanted more, and more, and more.
Like all good things, the evening had to come to an end.
Still aglow from the evening's readings and warmth of the fire, I said, "sure." It would be a perfect end to a perfect week. Simmering in hot water with Amy, Laura and Carol brought out even more flavor from the week, like cooking a beef bone makes a meatier broth than opening up a can before adding it to the soup. The end product is so much better than the individual ingredients. The conversation(s) were raw but honest. One of us has a brother who could best be described as an #%AA#, one has a few mother issues, one is in a constant battle with her son. Yet each of us believes in the power of forgiveness and moving on, in finding a place of serenity that includes troublesome loved ones. Although painful family dynamics can make for a good story, staying stuck in them zaps writers of their creative edge.
Disabled Amy (I don't think she'd mind me saying that) maneuvered in and out of the roiling water better than I did. Bubbles filled my bathing suit so that I felt like one of those channel buoys ships use as a guide. I had trouble sitting still. It's been 20 years or more since I've been in a hot tub. Without estrogen flowing through my body helping me maintain a constant livable temperature, I've grown into a woman that can't stand much heat (literally and metaphorically). I must say, however, my back screamed an orgasmic, "oh God" as my muscles began to relax.
The clock's hands passed midnight, then one, then two. Knowing we'd have to get up in just a few hours, we stood up on wobbly legs and made our way to our separate bedrooms. (Amy, of course, didn't stand. But she did hoist herself out of the hot tub, with way more strength than I did.) Before falling asleep, my down time consisted of re-counting sweet memories rather than sheep.
And just like that, as if Cinderella's coach had turned back into a pumpkin, the magic faded. Pollen-laden worker bees we turned our thoughts toward home. Saturated with the glories of the week's experiences, our casual laid-back personas morphed easily into those of the job-focused women we are in the "real" world. Our pace quickened as the time for departure neared. The hustle and bustle of packing, cleaning, loading cars and getting Amy down the steep ramp over-shadowed the mountain's stillness. We paused only once, for a final photo shoot. We let Cherish Rose, the youngest of the group, yet every bit as wise and witty as her mother, position us for the best light.
"Say Chats!" instructed Carol.
"Chats!" we chimed in unison. Knowing that one picture could not capture the spirit of the whole week, we smiled over and over again, as cameras clicked.
Standing on that balcony, with the mountains as a backdrop evergreen trees moving on the tiniest of currents appeared to be waving goodbye. The bird songs bid us a fond farewell.
As must happen when the final goodbyes are said, the solemnity of the moment breaks. Louise began singing, "Memories" from her favorite musical Cats.
psider removal requires an extra set of hands, she does not blink before sticking her hand into a toilet's plumbing apparatus. She hugs like a mama, encourages stretching your muscles (physical, spiritual, emotional) like a coach, cooks like an Iron Chef, and drives like a multi-tasking trucker on a long haul. She is a great listener and wonderful to listen to. I called her Wonder Woman more than once on this trip.
I feel like a bee who has gone from one flower to another collecting succulant bits of life. I've traveled in a group and I've soared to a place I, alone, needed to be. Now it's time to pollinate the thing I love. To write. You know the sound of a 1000 bees humming? Imagine the stories they tell.
I am the woman who felt so
anxious, nervous, scared she almost backed out of going on this retreat. Now I'm the woman who can't wait for next October so I can go again. It won't be the same, but I don't want a do-over. Instead, I look forward to something new, like a person who has been baptized in the jacuzzi of life. I hope I won't soon forget the pleasure of opening up to the "yes."