I’m just back from a not quite solo retreat to the cabin. I brought along a friend who had a similar need to get away from family, intellectual goals, and a curiosity to see the place I’ve been incessantly babbling about for years. She also had an SUV that could get us past recent mudslides.
Retreat goals can change once you get to where you’re going. I had planned a writing retreat this time; I hauled along an old IBM laptop. I forgot the mouse. That’s my only legitimate excuse for not writing.
When we arrived, Liz found that the new stovepipe in the guest cabin was leaking. My sister left supplies to fix two cabin doors, and I needed to re-attach the outhouse door. My neighbor Janie was going into town to make phone calls; she encouraged me to come with her and buy materials to re-roof the outhouse. I vaguely remembered the location of a drain behind our cabin which needed excavating to avoid damage to the foundation. Janie and her son Ross also offered to cut up several logs for us; all I had to do was haul them to our new woodpile.
In other words, my writing retreat turned into a fix-it retreat. Turns out that’s what I needed to be doing, and I came away with renewed pride in my abilities and gratitude to the friends that helped me.
I did manage to work on a few other goals. I waded through three chapters of my Latin textbook, crocheted a few rows of a baby blanket, watched DVD lectures on Tudor-Stewart history, and read the stack of medieval mystery novels I had brought. I took more photographs documenting nature’s mad race to fill in the vacuum left by the fire; a month after my last visit a different set of stunning wildflowers was compensating for the blackened forest. I got creative in my cooking to use up as much food as possible before closing the cabin for the winter. (Thanks, Liz, for those terrific apricot cream scones!) I also slept a lot. Sleeping is always a legitimate retreat goal.
There was, however, plenty of time on the two-day drive home to muse about the cabin novel I’m writing. I came up with a structure and got to know my characters. A few real-life incidents–like the toilet paper wars–will find their way, participants disguised, into the novel.
My daughter returns to school next week, and after my son’s wedding on August 29 I can carve out a new writing routine. In the meantime, I have a few things I need to fix at home, all by myself.