Notes from the Heart (Email Newsletter, September 29, 2019)
Hello from autumn, sweet friends.
It's Saturday as I write, and the sky outside my window has all shades of cloud -- from sterling white to steel gray -- broken only by little sips of soft blue. A few candles are lit, and those wind chimes I've been tuning into are plunking.
I took a solo retreat last weekend to focus on writing. It's been a couple of years since I did this, and to be perfectly honest it was a mixed bag.
The first of September had arrived with a great woosh of creative energy which resulted in me outlining a book (!) in one day. I was as shocked as I was excited about it. I've never written a book before, so the only direction I have to follow comes from writers who've already accomplished such a seemingly Herculean task.
Tthe wisdom to know it's not going to unfold the way I plan, and that writing through the messy foundational things is more of an exercise in butt-in-chair and just-keep-the-pen-moving, comes from Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Natalie Goldberg. Thank the goddess for contemporary women like these who tell it like it is, because the twenty handwritten pages that came out of me last weekend were not what I would even remotely consider promising prose. It was humbling.
She has been published before, and she writes brilliantly, and I trust her. I will do my very best to get joy from the process and love the mystery of what might flow out of me on any given morning. Even if it's hideous.
I stayed near Edison, Washington, for the three nights. It was my first time visiting this enchanted place where small shops and art galleries line the road as it narrows and bends with the slough that runs to the sea. Edison is dubbed "The Kindness Town" and my experience did have this feeling imprinted upon it.
Anyone who has braved a solo retreat for the purpose of giving voice to the heart knows this sort of aloneness almost always brings up our deepest neuroses, too.
It's like Fear is just waiting for us, tapping his fingers on the table until all is quiet and we are poised to create. Which feels awful, compounded by being alone (even though being alone was our choice so we could get down to the business of creating, thankyouverymuch).
It is an important time to practice and remember:
I had to tell myself this over and over. A huge part of writing, I've learned, is to allow the anxiety that arises to just be and to do the work alongside of it. It's less about letting it go (impossible) and more about letting it be.
I found myself saying aloud to Fear, "Yes, I am aware of what you are trying to warn me, thank you. It's really not as urgent as you want my body to believe. Also, I'm in charge. So be quiet. I'm going to light candles now, and I'm going to pour tea, and I'm going to write. You can sit here with me and watch, that's fine. But you may not speak and you may not interrupt until I'm finished with my work."
I also met an artist who spoke one afternoon, Drie Chapek.
Her talk lifted me. She spoke of how she draws her inspiration from nature, and described the way she watched a blade of grass work its way up between two rocks--by bending and forming around them--to grow tall, and it taught her that is what we do when we hit a hard place.
She spoke of bringing play into her life, and how she's been working with a play therapist and it’s teaching her how to incorporate a sense of wonder and engagement with everything in her world, the things she touches, from the things she touches, to the way she moves around her room, to her painting.
She said her paintings are an expression of the love in her onto the canvas, and she sees everything as something that was made to love.
On my last evening, I took blankets to the hillside pasture to watch the sun set into the San Juan Islands. I brought candles, and my copy of A Candle for Autumnal Equinox, and a pen. As the sky changed colors, I read aloud from this ritual guide. My practice was to hold myself, honor where I am now and how the summer changed me.
I held a candle up to the sky with both hands like an offering of light for the coming darkness, and a wide smile melted across my face. Then as I scribbled, what flowed from my left hand felt true. Words appeared that reminded me to keep loving to my greatest capacity. And to listen--ever more deeply--to those whom I love most.
Autumn is perfect for retreating. Part of the magic of taking a solo retreat is getting to experience our inner world in a whole new way. This is comes more naturally when days are shorter, I find.
The effects of last weekend are still reverberating in me, and I know from experience they will continue to do so for years to come. Retreats, when we carve time for them, change us.
The weekend gave me the idea of creating a guide for solo retreating. I have this hazy vision of a small book, or a series of posts in an e-course, something that serves as a kind of lamplight to bring along when you go...sweet signposts, encouragement, touchstones, and "in case of fire break glass" relief in the form of words, camaraderie and love. I'm pondering this. Is it something you'd be interested in?
As for Lucia, I'm so happy Volume Three : Wild has already found its way to independent shops across the country!
Here are just a few of the places you can find us in October:
Bellingham, WA - Village Books
Boston, MA - Brookline Booksmith
Los Angeles, CA - Erica Tanov
Marion, IA - Scout of Marion
Mill Valley, CA - Pollen + Wool
New York, NY - Iconic Magazines on Mulberry
Oakland, CA - Issues
Orcas Island, WA - Darvill's Bookstore
Portland, OR - Powell's Hawthorne
Reno, NV - Sundance Bookstore
You can also order copies or subscribe from our website at luciajournal.com.
In November, we'll be putting out a call for submissions for Volume Four. If all goes well, it will print in the late summer of 2020. If you're a writer, poet, artist, photographer, or dreamer with a creative idea, I hope you'll consider submitting your work.
With October nearly upon us, I'm wishing you an autumn full of exquisite surprises, beautiful sunsets, and warmth.
Sending so much love,
P.S. I'm reading Anna Lovind's new book, "The Creative Doer: A Brave Woman's Guide from Dreaming to Doing." Anna discovered Lucia on Instagram this month, and I discovered her right back! She is a feminist writer who lives in the deep forests of Sweden, and believes in women's creative freedom and the power of our voices and stories. I'm kind of like...oh, soul sister. I have another new woman crush.
P.P.S. I am looking so forward to spending October receiving messages from Kerstin Martin through her free community project, "Asking for Impossible Things." Kerstin poses the question, what would happen if we put our assumptions, self-doubt and fears aside and simply asked? She's invited 15 amazing creatives to write essays with their experiences which she will share throughout the month to those who sign up. I need this.
Laura Lowery is the founder, editor and publisher of Lucia. She does her best to lead a creative life. Whether triumphant or stumbling, Laura shares daily notes (that are often weekly) here on luciajournal, including stories, behind-the-scenes happenings, little doses of inspiration, and large quantities of curiosity and heart. She is pleased to meet you.