Back in November, I saw a notice for a writer’s retreat in Kentucky. Just a weekend, something I could justify by cost and time. I signed up almost impulsively. Like many friends and clients, I was feeling worn down by the year and eager for some kind of respite. As soon as the weekend came and I pointed my car north, I felt relief.
C.D. Wright’s Cooling Time serves as a devotional for me. Every reading uncovers another depth. Her cultivation metaphor speaks to the work of making, tending, unearthing. There is stewardship and also the farmer’s hard eye at what can flourish and what goes back into the compost. Wright is one of the spiritual mentors who helped redeem writing as a work, gritty and alive. The farm girl in me loves those last few sentences, those commands. I hear, “Hop to, woman. Get to work.”
Even with such guidance, I have hesitated to put hand to plow. Or worse, started to work then let the fields lie fallow. Everything else is easier to justify. My work as a helper, my relationships, the laundry, the care and maintenance of a middle-aged body. There is a voice that comes from the same farming mindset when I sit down to write, “Of what use is it?” The lines can’t feed or clothe anyone. They wither in the light of utility.
Still, showing up to the Hindman Settlement School reminded me of so much. Much of it I will hide in my heart because I am still making sense of it. This much I can say; I gathered with rooms of other writers, all women. The women had accents distinctly rural. We all told stories shaped by place and families in specific relationships to the lands called Home.
I had the deep joy of meeting a writer I deeply admire, whose work describes personal experiences and obsessions. She was kind and generous to me. Through her encouragement, I took a further step into the work and applied for the Makery Fellowship. The place and the program felt like a wish I’d forgotten to make. The whole history of the place has themes around land, community, social service, culture, rural people…so many of my favorite topics. I had even taught a beginner class called “The Made Thing” to honor the act of making poems. The whole experience made me remember the concept from growing up Christian – “grace upon grace.”
In a day or so, I’ll start my first online class of a two-year study with The Makery. I have deep gratitude for this opportunity and hope my efforts serve as a form of thanks to all who continue to support me as I go. If you are reading this, you are also part of the preserving saints. Thank you.