Ten years of posting here for every turn of the Wheel of the Year has left the habit ingrained, so Brigidtide rolled around and I found myself composing an update, however brief. A week of sea and sky has left me filled up to the brim with nature’s glory and healing.
I spent the week leading up to Imbolc on a personal writing retreat in Santa Cruz, home of my alma mater and the place I still feel at home in my heart.
I didn’t intentionally plan to mirror the writing retreat I took last summer, but after I returned home I looked at the calendar and saw that it was just a half year ago that I went to the mountain for the same reason. This time I took the same manuscript, left to marinate for these six months until I was ready to begin untangling the hot mess I created in that rough draft. I worked steadily every day, and walked out in the magic hour to see the sun finish out the day at the shoreline.
While this book was waiting in the wings, I committed to writing a second book, a memoir about living in Tehran during my tenth grade year, in 1968-69. I have lots of interesting stories I have promised to tell for a long time. At first I felt a bit insane to have taken on writing two books at once, but they are at different stages of creation, and working on something new is a relief from the trials of editing, and will keep me in writing trim.
At first I approached the revision process as a wordsmith, with hammer and tongs, ready to take it entirely apart, rebuild with new walls, a different entrance, better wallpaper. After the struggle of finding a new framework, and the flash of inspiration about what to do, I chose a different stretch of the coast for my magic hour walk, and watched the surfers at the world famous Steamer Lane near the lighthouse. As I watched, I realized that even editing is about allowing for the flow, for the skill of riding the waves, taking them as they come. It is all the great sea of words.
Being away, I did not have the time or focus to make an altar at home, but I did arise before dawn on Brigid’s Eve and went to the sea to watch the sun come up over the waves. A few too many folks at my usual bench sent me down the way to find this grandfather tree, its roots gnarled and exposed by years of wind and waves. As the sun rose over the sea, I spoke a spell to my ancestors, whose help I continually invoke with this project. And I called on Brigid as my helping woman, with the invocation I use every morning at my own hearth. This was indeed Brigid’s fire altar, Her water altar.
Listening to David Abram’s Becoming Animal has helped me understand why I seek out these wide open or deeply forested landscapes for slow thinking of this kind. There is a way that the elements of earth – sky, wind, water – companion us, and offer us a greater mind than our own to aid and enliven us. I have written about this writer’s ideas before, when I first stumbled across them during the making of my artist’s books. Now I have been diving in a bit deeper, since I am wrangling words on an even more immersive level.
The spaciousness of the sky and sea in Santa Cruz helped me access the spaciousness in my own mind. It always has, ever since I first pursued my writing dream here in the 1970s. Beauty is a luxury, yes, and not everyone can have it. But when I live so near to it, it is helpful to come and visit from time to time. And not only helpful, but sustaining and nourishing.
Blessed Imbolc to all my friends in the northern hemisphere who celebrate the Wheel turning. May all of your creative endeavors spark and flow with Brigid’s blessings.
p.s. Apologies for the stunted email notification that went out earlier today, with my working title “Winter Writing Retreat, With Brigid’s Blessing.” WordPress is having some technical issues and I got caught in the net of publishing fail.
Always enjoy your writing, Cari, whether it’s visual and/or verbal! I’m reading The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, your soul sister, just now, and I think you two should meet….
I love Rebecca Solnit’s writing. The Faraway Nearby is the only physical book of hers I succumbed to. (I’ve become quite fond of reading e-books on my iPad mini, which is just the size of so many of my favorite real books.) I was fascinated by the parallel narrative thread running along the bottom of each page of that book. It’s something you might see in an artist’s book. I was also curious to see how she wrote about her mother. I think I can safely say that many of us would consider Rebecca Solnit a soul sister.