And so it begins

Today is day one of my Writing Retreat. The sun has gone down, and I am sitting in a dark house out in the middle of rural North Dakota. And so far, I’m ok…kind of. It’s more accurate to say I’m “keeping it together.”

It’s dark out, and to really top the tater, there was a massive rain storm, which also means that the full moon I was counting on is completely hidden from sight.

But let’s focus on the day:

I arrived to this beautiful location full of sunshine and tiny hopping frogs and beautiful art and the most gorgeous bag of garden produce from Matt, the one in charge of welcoming artists to the house.

I unpacked and explored the house–it’s really quite magical–built in the 1920s and inspired by French farmhouses. Lots of windows with streaming sunlight spilling across the nooks and crannies of bookcases filled with the kind of eclectic collection that makes you know you’d love the owner of the house: coffee table art books, novels by Steinbeck, Woolf and Erdrich, tiny books of best loved poetry, feminist theory and architectural digests.

First things first, I made a big bowl of popcorn and got to work reading. The simple joy of eating popcorn at my own leisure, without my silly pup pleading for another mouthful, cannot be overstated.

The house felt cool, so I opened some windows to let in the afternoon sunshine. But I also put on this absolutely gorgeous writing wrap that my former admin Sue crocheted for me, knowing that I would need to wrap up in something to fend off the chill, loneliness and the dark. It worked–at least for the chill and the first pang of being alone.

I also made a pot of tea and drank it from my newly commissioned mug (freshly out of the kiln and delivered to my doorstep last night!) from Fermie Studios. Somehow, tea just tastes better when you know the artist who made the mug, and when it’s this pretty, one can be inclined to drink more black tea than one should in a single afternoon.

I spent a big portion of the afternoon reading the first letters, starting in November 1949. This is going to be a longer process than I anticipated because of the immense number of letters (nearly 500!) and because many of them are quite lengthy–3 full front and back pages of swoopy, swirly cursive. I am surprised, however, at how relatively easily I am reading their two distinct styles. And I am relishing learning about these two people, at the time 36 and 46, who eventually become my grandparents.

I dutifully made a quick, simple dinner from some of that incredible produce.

But as the sun started to set, I could feel a chill moving through the house. And as the waning light moved towards the tops of the fields, I went out for a quick walk down the country road. This cloud indicated what was coming for me tonight.

And then the wind picked up and moved through the trees, making its own percussive medley as it guided the geese on the start of their long journey south.

Now I’m in bed, tucked into the beautiful master bedroom, listing to the rain and thinking about this dark. Are you wondering how dark is dark? Wonder no more.

I can’t say I feel like a full-fledged writer yet, but I can say that I’m a bit uncomfortable, I’m completely grateful and I’m looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning and starting in again. All in all, not too bad for the first day.

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