Words, wise and otherwise

Trying to pay attention more. Remembering that I do not have most of the answers. Or that when I make a pronouncement, that is not the be all and end all. It’s only my piece of the story.

Remembering that it all turns out all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then it isn’t the end. (One of those pronouncements I wish I’d made, but alas, and probably not originally, it’s from “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”).

A Calling

My word for 2012 when I picked one (choosing amongst plenty is so very difficult for me) was FOCUS. And upon reflecting today, I realized that while I am distracted by an endless list of interests, I have managed to pull some focus. What helped was moving away from the Cape to New Bedford for not even a year (!) and learning that I missed my family and the community I have created here. Terribly. And that it’s also okay to miss Vermont after 15 years, but that Hyannis is now my home, for better or worse, and I am ready to commit.

Having a house with a bit of land certainly helps with the commitment factor, but I returned here with no thought of ever owning again, and I was fine with that. Then a well-loved house down the street from my Dad’s (Home has been a vision I’ve held in my heart for close to the 15 years I’ve been back here) manifested. I am fortunate to have a generous father. He’s a quiet, simple living, traditional and conservative sort of guy, but he is so good to my sisters and me. And if that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.

The folks I sold my Vermont home to sold it this past year (I dreamed about buying it back) and that probably helped me move forward too. And there is a vibrant community here on the Cape, I had just dropped out of it for several years. Got tired of working at it, the ups and downs, slips and slides, big fish in a small pond syndrome, cliques, and all that. But not anymore. Belonging, to myself, to a community, to the landscape, is WORK. And it is my Work. I thought my word for this year was going to be HOME, but after writing this I am not so sure. My word for 2013 may be WORK. It is a good 4 letter word.

The Ruby Slippers

“Our soul is about the process while our ego is about the product.”
~Julia Cameron

Laura’s reference to Julia’s quote synchronized with what I had read in Petra’s post about process and product the other day. In the midst of writing and rewriting a comment to her post, I checked my email to discover an email from Christine Rathbun, a spoken word performer who was unavailable to teach at Bear because she has another performance debuting that weekend.

Turns out we have a mutual friend, Diane Hanna, who is teaching at the retreat. And Christine was inviting me to join her in February at O’Shea’s open mic to present my work. Which brought me back to Petra’s post about her first photography show. Because this would be my first performance sharing my writing through storytelling, a path the sweetest Jen Lee inspired me to follow. (Incidently, Jen is hosting another retreat in April with this teacher, someone I hope will teach at the November retreat, along with Christine, Antje and a couple of others).

Petra mentioned how much she loves the actual doing of her art, rather than the results of her effort, something I can totally relate to. I love process, pulling things together, all my varied interests — people, food, places — but once I get them all together I’m at a loss as to where to go from there. Because, like her I’ve had my fun, and I get bored doing the same thing repeatedly. Which is why the retreat’s a little different for me. Each time can bring together different people, different processes, different ways of being in the world and so on.

I like that process is so important because it’s my favorite part. But once I reach my goal, I’m usually ready to try something else. I get bored easily, I like constant change, movement. But I haven’t reached my goal with this yet. Or have I? I’ve said from the very beginning of this process that I wasn’t sure where it would all lead or what I would learn from it or even if the ultimate product was an actual retreat or if it would morph into something else. I started out creating this retreat simply because creating something like this is play for me. I have a ball doing it — connecting with people, traveling, checking out chefs and menus, meeting new people, and doing the proverbial pig in sh*t dance I do whenever I get near anything to do with expressive arts, the soul, tools for gaining deeper self-knowledge, the collective psyche and just plain hanging out with kindred spirits. I like the many twists and turns a path can take.

Unexpected adventures arise. And reading the Julia quote and Petra’s post reminded me that this is why I am one of those people who hasn’t yet figured out what to be when she grows up, what to do with her life, what her calling is. I have so much fun with the process, I forget about the original product. And I’ve been realizing, what if the retreat doesn’t end up being the product after all? What if most of it’s about journey, in my case, my journey home? To myself. Who knows?

I do know that while originally I wanted to offer a retreat scholarship, I realized it would be more fun to do pledges to favorite causes. It’s a way of nurturing the social justice activist in me. Like Petra wrote about her photography show, she doesn’t really like framing her work or promoting it. Ditto — me neither. But what is fun for me and is something else I’ve always wanted to do (besides creating retreats and other ways for women to gather) is to play philanthropist. So, I’ve mentioned the Uniform Project before and I’m going to mention it again. Books, schools, kids, India, I love it all. My goal now is 20 retreat registrations by the 2oth of February, the deadline I’ve set for making a go of this retreat project. If I meet that goal, I have told Jessica at the Uniform Project that I will write a check for $600 (the cost of attending the retreat) to the project. And then I can look forward to moving ahead with the November retreat and another cause.


Been laying low lately here in blogland, feeling overexposed — in that foolish way I do when I forget my friend Mary’s words so many years ago: “I’m a star in my own play and I’m the only one watching it.”

About this BEAR thing. It’s kind of had me freaked out — the marketing piece and the lack of response. I remind myself to pay attention to my creative process and I realize, number one: I always waited til the last minute for everything. Like when I got married — my shotgun wedding, you know?

Today, I reached out for some marketing advice, and I didn’t have to go far — my own backyard, so to speak. I’d met Beth at Melissa’s shop for Handmade for the Holidays back in December, and finally emailed her for help — her response was almost immediate and her tips were awesome! So, I’m feeling better. Then I called Kofi, the farmer I’m renting the space from to update him.

But for a while, rather than reaching out I’ve been hunkering down with my monkey mind, the gremlins and my journal. Trying to talk myself out of doing this retreat — I’m not the person for the job, I can’t pull it off, I haven’t allowed enough time, don’t have a large platform (i.e., readership — that much is true), don’t have the experience, can’t do it by myself, yadayadayada…I’m not the person to deliver this experience for people. I’m merely a servant — I’d rather be a servant, someone else’s sidekick.

See, I’m paranoid that I’m a fraud — I don’t have the money to front for the deposit, I don’t want to disappoint Kofi or Erin (they’d love to see Bay End used for more events like this), and I don’t want to let my teachers down as they are amazing and deserve the opportunity and space to share their works and wisdom. (But, I’m breathing easier now after talking to Kofi — there’s still time.)

I’ve always been better in a support capacity. I’m Norton to Ralph’s Kramden, Lucy’s Ethel. Barney Fife, Deputy Sherriff, Mayberry RFD. I don’t want to be the star of the show, the leading lady. I much prefer supporting her, I can be a best supporting actress. So what I want to know is, where the hell is my Lucy??!!


At least one more teacher coming for the retreat, possibly two. Gathering teachers is not as easy as it sounds.

That’s been one of the hardest parts for me, besides the marketing. While I am definitely a people person, marketing is not my strong point. Selling, you know? I can sell when there’s no pressure, nothing at stake (my pride, definitions of success and so on). I can sell what I love that someone else has made, but not when it’s my own. It’s that struggle with ego and when to toot your own horn, when no one’s even heard it to begin with! But I’m excited to think the final pieces of the teacher puzzle are coming into place.

This process has taught me how much work is involved putting one of these things together — even a wee one like BEAR. I have tremendous respect for the herculean effort Elizabeth puts into Squam. It boggles my mind. When I saw five retreats listed on her site the other day, I gasped — and then clicked on her staff page which brought a big smile — just little ol’ her and Peg! How can you not love someone who dreams so big?

I believe in spirit guides, in the energy of a place and in the energy of beings gone before us — where so of and of whom we channel through our own existence and actions. Miss Alice Mable Bacon and Mrs. Mary Alice Armstrong are very much alive in Elizabeth MacCrellish. When she referred to her climb up Rattlesnake when all was said and done the other day and she saw a sign she’s never noticed on previous climbs, that’s when I knew.

“To the Aborigines, geography is memory. Every mile sings, every mountain speaks of their ancestors’ journeys. Nothing is irrelevant, nothing is lost to death. All things partake of life’s spirit and vitality, the land is vigorously alive, unseen forces flourish, and all have a special site (or Dreaming Place) that is a spiritual home for them and their ancestors.”
~ from my current bedside book, Deep Play by Diane Ackerman, one of my favorite authors.

** image from my heaven on earth, Owl’s Head, Groton State Forest, Vermont