Wednesday, July 30, 2014

RE-Creation for Writers

From Merriam-Webster: "rec-re-a-tion...n [ME recreacion, from AF, fr L recreation recreatio restoration to health. fr recreare to create anew, restore, refresh. fr. re + creare to create] (15th c) : refreshment of strength and spirits after work: also : a means of refreshment or diversion : HOBBY."

You might say I'm re-creating this blog after a long absence. Aurorean readers are promised musings of the editor (that's me) and Aurorean-related updates here. And so it shall be—since I have found refreshment of strength and spirit and have felt created anew (as well has having created anew) after two back-to-back writing retreats in the Adirondacks. 

Photo ©Cynthia Brackett-Vincent 2014

In the first, "Life Writing in Nature," a weekend workshop facilitated by Ellie O'Leary, the question was raised, "What if you wanted to write?" She emphasized "moving through it," meaning beginning with genres that came easy and continuing on. The first genre mentioned was the letter. Everyone writes letters—even if in the form of e-mail. We were asked to pick one element from nature to fall back on should we get "stuck" in our process. I chose a birch leaf and one evening on my way back to my cabin, I was lucky enough to get the photograph above of sunlight streaming through birch leaves. Could I write a letter to my birch leaf? Yes, I did! We moved through essays, memoir, and poetry. 

In my letter, I questioned the birch leaf about budding in the spring. How does it feel to push through, to claim life, while some of last year's leaves still clung on? In my poem (a haiku) the entire matter had been worked through (because of the other genres I'd been encouraged to experiment with):
     soft-budded birch leaf—
     last year's brittle one still there—
     you must take its place

We were reminded to fall back on letter-writing if we were having a hard time with another genre. We were made to feel as if where we were in our writing was okay. To write about the thing that speaks to us, to write in the genre that works for us. To be sure, I will take Ellie's workshop again. 

I found recreation as well as renewal at this place in the Adirondacks known as Pyramid Life Center. I have had health issues over the past months and had been feeling as if some of my independence (and thus self-confidence) had been eroding. Since Lyme disease left me with a heat intolerance, getting out to enjoy (recreate, restore, refresh!) activities in the summer can be challenging. As a matter of fact, after a seven-hour drive and arriving at the retreat center, I felt certain I was not going to be able to stay. My room was upstairs in Cabin 3. There were several bunks to choose from, but it was about 100º in there. The super-helpful staff brought me two large fans, but the fans just cranked in more hot air. I felt defeated. After explaining my situation in detail to the staff, I was given a new cabin with a room on the first floor. Although it was a more difficult climb to the new cabin, I felt such an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude to the young men who helped me move my baggage to the new cabin. They were patient, kind. Even if they did not grasp the full gravity of my unusual health situation, they made it okay.

In the winter, I find restoration and refreshment in snowshoeing. In the summer, swimming is good. Hiking, another of my outdoor passions, is not possible right now with my physical limitations. Canoeing with my husband is nice, but I am of very little help to him hoisting a 75-pound canoe onto our roof racks. So what was I to do to find that much-needed relaxation and re-creation? I bought a kayak. A kayak that is small, lightweight (I can throw it in my Toyota!), and stable. Of course, I had no idea how to kayak and I also have a fear of drowning. In true Pyramid-serendipitous-style, I met a gentle, kind, patient outdoorswoman who was willing to teach me the ropes (or the paddles). As I fell getting in the kayak the first time, it was okay. As I created my own method of getting out of the kayak for my own body's quirks, it was okay. This was a new-found freedom: A boost to my self-confidence; a way for this poet to get out in nature in order to recreate and create. Robin Follette changed my life. Her blog is "Robin's Outdoors," and you can find it here:

The second retreat was a women's writing retreat. Once it began, I was invited back to Cabin 3 (on the first floor! easier to get to!) by Diane Kavanaugh-Black, who I now refer to as my "roomie." She was the one (unbeknownst to me) who told the staff I needed help the first evening. She invited me to share her two-bunk room. She made everything okay. We made fast friends and Diane and I enjoyed kayaking with Robin. Ooh, here I am right here: 

Photo ©Diane Kavanaugh-Black 2014

Diane is an essayist, memoirist and photographer (and I would add, Yoga Woman Extraordinaire). Her blog is "Of-the-Essence" and it can be found here: The point of this entire post is to say: we writers need to tell ourselves its okay to take the time for re-creation. If we can't actually go to a retreat, we can make a mini-one of our own. We can sit outside in nature (or just as easily, in a city café) and retreat from the daily must-dos and shoulds just for a little while. We need to renew and refresh, in order to create anew. It is okay to give ourselves that permission.  

In my next post, I will talk more about the five-day women's writing retreat and its impact on me as a person and as a writer. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, to learn more about the Pyramid Life Center, see

"Recreation." Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2012. 1040.

No comments:

Post a Comment