Hello, friends! Yes, this email is to give you a chance at the Summer Solstice Retreat before the last four spots are gone. More on that if you scroll down. But I also wanted to say happy not-so-new-anymore year! I hope yours has gotten off to a wonderful start, truly (in spit of the harsh weather, if you happen to live in Minnesota, like me). I’m not a lover of winter, but it does teach me something about hardiness and survival. Also, snow is undeniably pretty—the way it is so improbably dazzling, the way it insists on reflecting.
As for my new year, it began in Sri Lanka at the Buddhist retreat center Sanatha Suwaya, where I did some deep soul searching while expanding my knowledge of and commitment to a mindful practice of loving kindness. This, in the company of soul friends, warm yellow sunshine, and comically cute monkeys. It was transformative and beautiful. One thing I learned in Sri Lanka is a kind of truth that I apparently need to revisit often, because I tend to forget it. That truth is this: attention is like food, like love. Where we put it matters a lot, because the thing that receives attention tends to grow. This is a powerful concept, not unlike what Annie Dillard meant when she said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Obviously, this law governs our creative practices … but it also shapes so much more about who we are and who we become. For me, 2019 is about attention as love, and that means being very careful about where I place my attention and, therefore, what I choose to “expand and grow” in my life in the next year. Toward that end, I’m paying a lot of attention to my family, including our granddaughter, Esme, who is the one-year-old equivalent of a summer night full of fireflies: tender and brilliant and utterly magical. As for my writing practice, I’m giving my attention to a new essay project with my daughter, about which I’m so excited I could burst, and also to my second novel, which is almost finished. Meanwhile, I’m still teaching with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and serving as a jurist for Millay Colony for the Arts. Both roles are incredible honors and bring me great joy.
Last but not least, I am, as I mentioned, finishing up registration for the Seventh Annual Summer Solstice Retreat for Writing and Yoga. This wonderful week at Stout’s Island is where almost all of my most fruitful recent writing projects were born or nurtured, along with many dozens of exciting writing projects of others, many of which have gone on to appear in journals, magazines, and bookstands. We started registering earlier this year, by request, but we do still have four spots left for this year’s retreat, and we would so very much love to have you join us. If you’ve been thinking about this retreat but still have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m always happy to talk about the retreat and answer whatever I can. Suffice it to say it’s a great place to ignite your writing practice.
Between now and then, or until we meet in person, know that I am sending you wishes for love, peace, and wonder in the year ahead. And I am so grateful to be walking the path with you.