The other day, after dropping my husband, Jon, at the airport, I had to lie down for a bit of a nap. When I woke up, I saw these angel wings on the ceiling. They were even moving, like real wings. But they only lasted a moment, and then they were gone. That's just how things work sometimes.
Did I tell you that Lillie, my youngest, left in June for a whole year in China? That happened right before our fourth annual Summer Solstice Retreat, which was indescribably wonderful, as evidenced by the amazing song we wrote together on the island with Brianna Lane and also by the fact that every single writer, for the first time ever in the history of Elephant Rock retreats, leapt off the dock for the ritual jump. I mean, it's always allowed to "leap in spirit," and that totally counts. But having every single physical body in the actual splash was pretty cool. As the amazing Jan Taylor, who so gracefully led our yoga and meditation, put it, "This is a one-hundred-percent group." And they were!
Other things happened this summer, which, by the way, evaporated as quickly as a morning dream. For example, my firstborn, Sophie, moved from Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon. And my son, Max, moved home temporarily, between one apartment and another. Changes and moving and missing, this was the theme of my summer. But all around me the natural world just keeps doing what the natural world does. It's both baffling and comforting. Like the family of wild turkeys that has moved into our neighborhood, two parents and about a dozen babies.
Turkeys, it turns out, are very slow moving birds. You notice this when the whole family crosses the road, single file, as birds are wont to do, and a line of cars backs up ten deep waiting for them to get to the other side. And sometimes they take you by complete surprise, like this morning when I walked from the dining table to the kitchen to get a second cup of coffee and, as I passed by the picture window overlooking the back deck, saw a gigantic creature perched right there on the railing. Its mate and the rest of the brood were ambling about the yard, poking around the fire pit and the back fence, looking relaxed and a little confused.
So, yes, turkeys. Other things are somewhat more urgent and less ambling, like the fact that I am currently completing a critical thesis on the provocation of emotion in fiction through the lens of craft, neuroscience, and personal experience. Books I am leaning upon heavily include The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk and The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio. I highly recommend both of these books for anyone deeply interested in the connection between emotion and the body and how this shapes our lives (which, as it turns out, works exactly the same way on the page as in real life).
Speaking of the page, my most recent stories include this short bit about prom and the nature of forgetting for the essay section of the Star Tribune and a longer reflection on what it's like to be young, pregnant, terrified, and overjoyed all at once over at the Eckleburg Review. Meanwhile, the novel is close, so close that bits of it are shaping themselves into real stories that stand alone. So much so that one of them is out for submission now. It earned an honorable mention from Glimmer Train this spring, as well as a finalist slot the New South contest, and for now is still floating around waiting to land. I'm crossing my fingers.
But I can't keep them crossed all the time because of the writing, obviously, and also because the school year is upon us, which means teaching. This year I will be assistant teaching in the some writing courses in the University of Minnesota's Health Sciences PhD and Master's programs. It's a wonderful way to challenge myself to think harder about language, because I have to apply what I know about creative writing to science and data. I'm continually amazed by how much the principles overlap. Good writing is good writing, whatever the genre.
As for Elephant Rock, I am so excited to announce that the Mystery of Yin Retreat for women is finally back by popular demand. This time, the retreat will take place on the shores of Lake Superior in November at the historic and secluded (closed for the season!) Naniboujou Lodge, perched between the lake and 3,000 acres of wilderness hiking! I'll guide writing specific to drawing out the yin creative energy of the feminine, while the wonderful Allison Coffelt will lead yoga and meditation while also supporting the writing workshops. Other surprises are still in the works. Please consider joining us for this very special three nights on the big lake this fall. Meanwhile, enjoy this magical thing that is happening all around us, this slide into fall. The spice of it is already filling the night air. It's so dark, so fruity, so rich. But it only lasts a moment. Then it's gone.