I open my eyes to a soft light peeking through the curtains
and the sound of birdsong.
I’ve been here a week and have another week left. Yesterday, I said goodbye to writers whose time at the colony was over. I didn’t know them when I first arrived, but now I consider them friends. Today, new writers will come and I’m excited to meet them. Though a stay at a writers’ colony is filled with times of solitude as we write and focus on our projects, the community aspect has been a positive experience – more so than I expected.
I get dressed and start the morning routine I’ve developed this past week. I make coffee and toast, and with my journal and a writing craft book I borrowed from the colony’s library, I settle into a chair on the writing porch. Light streams in. The pink blossoms of a crepe myrtle drape beneath a pale blue sky. Under the arbor which holds a huge wisteria vine, the shadowed tunnel leads to a garden. From my perch on the porch, it looks like a secret space that belongs only to me. And right now, it does. I’m the first one up. There are benefits to being an early riser.
After a quiet hour, I feel enthusiastic about the writing I intend to do today. I carry my dishes to the kitchen and greet a sleepy writer. We say a soft good morning and laugh again about last night’s dinner conversation. We wish each other a productive day and with fresh coffee in my cup, I head to my room. I decide to take the long way back – through the writing porch and reading room, to the entry hall. There, I pause. In the compartments of an antique seed cabinet that once stood in a general store, the directors have placed affirmations – “I am . . . ” sentences that provide motivation and inspiration. Frankly, I had not heard of affirmations presented in such a concrete way before and wasn’t sure I needed them, but something changed my mind. During my first 2 days at the colony, I felt distracted and unsettled. I was told this is a normal reaction as a writer moves from a hectic lifestyle to the serenity of a writers’ colony. Normal or not, I found myself drawn to the affirmation “I am focused.” I took one out of the bin and glanced at it often as I struggled to write. Eventually, the words came.
But today I need something else. I am starting a chapter in which my characters will face conflict and confrontation. I need to write from a place of strength. I find the affirmation I’m looking for. “I am fearless.” I walk through the library and down the hall to my room. The cream-colored walls and soft teals of the Flat Creek Room feel comforting and peaceful, but the desk in the bay window is the selling point. I settle in my chair and take a few moments to gaze at the horses across the field. I open my laptop. I have a lot of work to do.
Hours pass quickly at the colony. I know it’s time for a break because my stomach growls. I’m hungry for lunch and it’s already past noon. I fix a sandwich, slice an apple, and sit at the small table in the kitchen. I’m a little stiff from my morning writing, so I decide to take a short walk after lunch. It’s a warm day with a breeze and the fields are lush and green from last night’s rain. I take my cell phone so I can take photos as I walk. Everywhere I turn, there is a photo-worthy scene. I take the sidewalk to the pool and test the water. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll take a dip. As I head back toward the house, I stop to pat a couple of horses in the adjoining pasture. I pass through the small gate to the secret garden, walk under the arbor, and out the back gate. I follow the stepping stones through the deeply shaded side garden to the front porch and sit in one of the green rockers for a few minutes. Across Giles Hill Road, cows roam the rolling hills. I can hear them lowing across the landscape. As I rock, my mind opens to the scene I was writing before lunch. It’s time to return to the page.
Later in the afternoon, I hear the arrival of new writers and conversation as they are given a tour. I look forward to meeting them. Around 5:00 p.m., I go into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. Other writers are moving about, some taking a writing break, the new arrivals still exploring. We decide to have dinner together. At dinner, we settle into easy conversation. We are all writers, and our shared love of words creates an immediate connection. Don’t get me wrong, we are all very different – from different states, different backgrounds, and we write about vastly different things – but we are all here at the writers’ colony together, sharing a meal, sharing our projects, and tonight, we are a community.
I’m tired after an intense day of writing, so I bow out of additional conversation. As the others head into the reading room and I’m left alone in the dining room, I stand in front of the bookcase with the unusual label: The “Un” Bookcase. It’s filled with baskets containing activities that are alternatives to writing – should we writers need a break or a change of focus. More labels on the shelves say “Unleash,” “Unlock,” “Unplug,” and “Unblock.” These small poetic details make me smile. I take the basket containing meditation activities – a Tibetan Singing Bowl, a book with simple meditation ideas, a list of meditation apps for my phone, and a card explaining why meditation might be helpful for writers. I take the basket with me to my room, thinking I might try one simple exercise before bed.
Sleep has come easily here. The hush of a rural landscape, the settled old historic farmhouse and the comfort of a modern room combine to make me feel safe and content. As I close my eyes, I breathe in peace and feel lucky to have found this place. It is special – a harbor, a sanctuary, a place of belonging – one that I can return to for years to come.