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 know there will be a Welcome Gathering and meal this evening, and I will meet them then. Around 5:00 p.m., I go into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. The colony directors are setting up for the gathering and we chat awhile. I tell them how much writing I was able to do today. They tell me we have a full house with the new arrivals. That means 7 people at dinner tonight – 5 writers-in-residence and 2 directors. 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.