Some of the best experiences are the hardest to describe. I began each day at Hedgebrook with a deep appreciation for the gift that was given in being selected to come here. And from the moment I stepped onto the property, I carried that gift and took it in. The staff welcomed me in an open-armed welcome. They sheltered me, as they do all of the residents here. Vito Z. gave me a tour and then showed me to Cedar cottage, my cottage for the time. It was spotlessly clean and had only and exactly what I needed (one plate, one bowl, one mug, one water glass, one wine glass…) perfect! A fire was ready to light in the woodstove. Ah, the woodstove.
Cedar is the very last cottage before the path into the forest that covers much of the property here. Though it is trite, the only way to describe the labyrinthine paths in these woods is magical. It is so magical that we writers — poets and prose, memoirists, journalists, songwriters, and activists, ages 27 to 74, of varying colors and sizes and with vastly different voices, including two with singing voices that brought me to tears — joked about expecting to meet up with an elf or a unicorn on the path.
We were encouraged to walk the beautiful gardens and cut whatever flowers we wanted for the vases that are kept in each cottage (with pruners provided too!). There are bikes to ride, maps of walks to take and food. Oh yes, the food. Seven writers met at the farmhouse each evening and enjoyed the dinners prepared by one of the many wonderful chef’s at Hedgebrook. The chef’s joined us at the table, listened and guided us. After dinner and conversation we packed our baskets with our lunches for the next day and jars of the things we might want in the morning or afternoon or evening while we spent time alone, writing, in our cottages.
And that is what I came to do, to write. And write I did.
Cedar cottage, with its’ Dutch door made of yew, the creaky ladder stairs to the loft bedroom with the tulip stained-glass window, became my haven, my cocoon. I finished the revisions of my novel, At The Wheat Line. I’m really happy with it and it’s almost ready to go out into the world. For the rest of my time at Hedgebrook, I returned to the memoir, The Strength of Scars, which I’d written eight years ago, about having been raped when I was a young woman. I began that story again, from a blank page in that safe place. The pulled-back lens of these past eight years, some solid writing experience, and some things that happened at Hedgebrook helped me find the story. After 20 days I have a strong start and a complete outline for the project. I am very excited because I see how I’ve developed as a writer over these years.
And when it was time to come home, I was ready. I’d gotten plenty done and I looked forward to seeings Bill and friends and home and family. And Fred the cat. But still, it was hard that last day, cleaning and putting away, taking the flowers from the vase that has been on my window sill. Saying goodbye to these women, these new friends. And saying goodbye to the rabbits and deer, the frogs and foxes that speak in the night; the owls, with their sexy call, goodbye to the mossy path, the rain, the woodstove smoke, the bathhouse — oh haven of warmth and hot showers — the long wood table, the eagle who soars by the farmhouse, the garden which filled in more each day.
My friend, Kate Gray said I would be changed by this place. I am.