Returning from the Rainforest

Last weekend, I spent 4 days in next to the beautiful Lake Quinalt, at the Rainforest Village Writers Retreat. This was my 4th year in attendance, but every year is a unique experience. I wrote, after my very first year there, that I felt as if I’d finally found a space to be valid. Writers were at all levels of their careers and credentials didn’t particularly matter. Everyone was there to write.

This year, I was late, due to an unscheduled and unprovoked assault by my own body, which I fully intend to turn in for a new model as soon as one becomes available. It’s been a slow year so far, fighting strange illness, fevers, and exhaustion, and the social aspect of Rainforest was daunting. I’d spent my first two years mainlining Pinot Gris and basking in the euphoria of creative energy. This time, thanks to a ruptured ovarian cyst, I spent the majority of the time with my heating pad and my lap-held laptop, looking out over the lake from our cabin’s balcony.

The wonderful thing was, everyone understood. Everyone was gracious and kind and so immersed in their own work, absences (mine and others in similar straits) were noted but not an affront. I included the delay as an example during my Thursday talk “When Bad Things Happen to Good Writers,” which ran the gamut from what the world does to us as artists to what we do to ourselves. My wonderful roommate, Jill Seidenstein, has a blog called Slowbloom, reminding us, “No one yells at a flower to bloom faster.” My roommates, Jill along with G.G. Silverman and Malia Kawaguchi, brought me breakfast, conversation, and encouragement. I wrote 2500 words — not much, but still forward. I came home and wrote 4,000 more. Forward. I completed the outline and sent the sample to my agent. Forward.

My own lecture from Rainforest was something that came back to grace me. I’m so thankful for the writing community that I’ve surrounded myself with. I’m so thankful to call so many of these people true friends. I’m thankful they remind me to give myself a break, that this life is a marathon, not a sprint, that it’s okay to live in the here and now, making the decisions that make us happy, not the decisions that please everyone else. Lifelong lessons from lifelong relationships.