I’ve just returned from spending several days at The Writer’s Colony in Eureka Springs, AK. I haven’t been on a writing retreat before that was solely for the purpose of writing and didn’t include workshops. It’s a present you give yourself that makes you smile. At least that’s how it seemed to me and my husband John and the other writers in residence while we were there.
You are probably thinking a retreat doesn’t count with your partner present. But at the colony, everyone has their own room complete with desk and coffeepot, refrigerator and enough outlets for all the gear. Separate rooms make a huge difference. It’s psychological, I’m sure – we both have our own studies at home that are farther apart than our rooms at the colony, but there is something about being honored as Writer by yourself, and each other, and the place that makes it different.
Leisure is such a rare luxury anymore. Having no plans and no commitments stretches out the hours and allows one to gaze out the window and think or rest. Did I mention that every desk faces a window that looks out on a hillside of trees? Did I mention the inviting covered porches furnished with tables and chairs that offer the same treehouse effect as those magical writing desk windows? Words present themselves in their own time without interruption or haste. The long uninterrupted hours leave time for the slow unfolding of a line of poetry, a paragraph of prose. In between, you can jot and doodle, erase, replace and scratch again– there’s time for it all.
We both spent the day working on our own projects, then met with the other residents for dinner at six, delivered each weeknight by their excellent chef, Jana Jones. Her meals were consistently delicious, healthy, varied and abundant. John and both enjoyed the conversations at dinner so much. Interesting lively conversations, animated and enthusiastic in which everyone remained engaged, interested and willing to listen. I’m sure that Chef Jones’ lovingly prepared food contributed to the conviviality of those meals.
I’ve always loved long airplane trips because they cut me off from every responsibility and concern while I am up in the air. Flying 30,000 feet above the ground with no way to get off or turn back makes it impossible to deal with whatever is happening below – its free time, off the books, a short trip to another dimension…. That’s what time spent at the colony feels like. We could have happily stayed another week, but we drove away replete, refreshed and inspired to insert the spirit of the colony into the context of our daily lives.
I can’t go without touching on the beauty and charm of Eureka Springs, the vibrant historic town surrounding the Colony. It is home to a vibrant art community. Restaurants, galleries and shops abound. It’s also a destination drive for motorcyclists of every ilk. That’s what brought us to the town the first time –amazing roads winding through one of the prettiest states in the entire country. Only later did we discover it as a Mecca for all the arts. Someone recommended Lucidity; a conference of poet’s who meet every April in Eureka Springs. It was at Lucidity I first heard about the Colony.
Next time I need to jump-start a project, or finish it, or work out what happens next, or revise and edit, I’m coming here. I hope you do too. Maybe we’ll eat together and talk and read each other poetry…