Recollecting an ocean visit in the depth of winter…
It’s a biting cold March day in our valley. Winter in New England.
Dance of the Letters I welcome five women, the monthly Saturday writing tribe, into the warm belly of the small white farmhouse that is home to Dance of the Letters. We are grateful not only for the shelter of walls from winds tearing across the snow-covered fields, but also for the shelter of each other’s presence. Writing together, we have learned to greet and hold our own and each other’s most tender and most outrageous expressions and everything in between.
Hot tea in hand, we get cozy on sofas and rocking chairs, behind us walls the color of peach skin. In the center of our circle on a low table, bold orange tulips age with the grace of dancers. I kneel to kindle a tea light in a purple lotus holder, pausing to listen to ocean waves crashing as if they were just outside our window.
Usually, by now, I would have turned off whatever music had been playing as the women arrived. Today, it is a recording of the ocean. Instead of turning the ocean off, I let it roar in the background. Added to the ocean are waves of sound rippling from a brass singing bowl I tap three times with a wooden mallet. The kindling of the flame and sounding of the bowl signal the “official” start of our writing session.
As I am about to introduce our first writing spark, a member of our group interrupts to present a small wooden box tied with a green ribbon. The mysterious offering reveals a collection of tiny artisan chocolates tucked side by side in two layers: small squares and rectangles with names like Baton Framboise and Praline Croquant. A silky paper enclosed in the box identifies the ingredients seasoning the “chocolate ganache interiors”: chamomile, lemongrass with a hint of vodka, cardamom and pistachio marzipan… all “enrobed in dark chocolate”.
We pass the delicacies, delighted to have exquisite handcrafted chocolates to share at the beach.
I stand and, with my newfound magic powers, make the ocean even louder as if I were the Creator with a remote in hand. I ask the women to close their eyes. The gulls, blasts of the foghorn, and the hefty, uninhibited rush of the tides summon our attention.
I invite us now to go to the sea, in mind and body– whether a much-loved beach of one’s childhood, an imagined or real refuge by the sea. We can be there alone or accompanied.
I close my eyes, too, as a winter day is transformed by six eager, playful imaginations.Carpet underfoot one moment, creamy sand, the next.
Somewhere, a smooth boulder may offer a seat with a view, a puddle of saltwater pooling close by in the lap of a neighboring boulder.
Play– that’s primarily what we do here, even when we get serious in our writing. We play because we allow. Becoming free of rigid agenda and emptied of the need to fulfill the expectations of others (or of ourselves), we know by now that here there are no writing rules to follow, other than to let it happen and to be willing to follow and lead our writing at the same time.
Well, perhaps there are a few more—non-rule rules:
> Never mind grammar or spelling.
> Never mind comparing oneself to any one else, not even to oneself yesterday.
> Be willing to not know, to surrender to the flow of the writing.
> Don’t hold the reins too tight. Let the horse gallop, stop to graze and even lie down deep in the meadow of wildflower and breezes, image and feeling.
> Trust in one’s voice and if that is too hard at first, then at least suspend judgment while trusts sends down roots that drink from one’s very soul.
> Have fun!
We help each other trust and suspend judgment. In fact, it’s really hard to pick up the familiar self-judgment in these adventurous writing circles. They are adventurous because we journey in deep and out wide.
We come to our writing rendezvous full of encounters and feelings we may choose to re-enter through writing. In our busy lives, it is so easy and natural to skip over becoming still enough and willing to write into the tender, puzzling, love-or-fear-filled moments of our lives.
In the shared silence, punctuated by taps on keys, I enjoy the waves, gulls, foghorns and occasional sound of a page turning. I don’t yet know where my companions have wandered, what treasure they have found. I adore this experience of being alone together, anticipating what we will each bring back.
Soon I will ask the women (softly so as not to intrude too suddenly upon their respective reveries) to prepare to pause. We will return from wherever we have wandered and gather around the sacred fire of our creativity.
Wherever you are and whatever the season (outside and in) as you read this, perhaps you will pause, too, and meet yourself on the page? Ocean and chocolate, optional, as are winter winds and even companions. All you need is your willingness to play and your own attentive heart.