Writer’s Retreat: Part 1

Spent exactly 45 seconds on this tire swing before getting too worried about falling in the river.

When I envisioned my writer’s retreat, it was a luxurious haze of creativity, productivity, and relaxation (it kind of bugs me the last word doesn’t rhyme with the first two but I’m moving on). I had some things to accomplish in Wisconsin before heading off to my cabin in the woods, but mostly my head was already on retreat. My first choice for an AirBnb was in Wisconsin, but the heavy winter was too tough for me to be able to stay there safely. I switched tracks and found a similar set up in central Michigan — on a river, in the woods, away from lots of people. Just no sheep across the river (sad face).

I intended to leave before 8am on Wednesday morning to get to Michigan at about three local time. There was a cute diner I wanted to stop at for lunch, and provisions I needed to pick up. I packed up the car, said good-bye to my family, and …. and… turned the ignition key, heard my poor car struggle, and listened as it would not turn over. I was stuck in my parent’s driveway. Already feeling significantly not relaxed, I stewed angrily as my awesome brother took the battery out of my car, replaced it, called the mechanic, and finally got it started. An hour and 45 minutes late, I got on the road. I skipped the cute diner and chose McDonalds instead. How deliciously retreat-like, right? Right.

The cabin is wonderful and totally cut off from the world. I cannot get on the Internet and service only exists within a foot of the very tall and very fast moving river. It is shaped like a triangle and is light blue, and you have to drive down a muddy road to get to it. It is blessedly warmer than expected, and I can comfortably sit outside on the porch swing in a sweatshirt, or precariously swing on the tire tied to a tree branch right next to the river. There’s an upper loft with four bunks above the living space, a bathroom, and a small bedroom. The kitchen is stocked with some essentials, including a coffee maker, thank the Lord.

In the evening I started to wonder what to do with myself. I’ve been on two silent retreats before, but always with other people. The silence in the cabin started to feel deafening, so Jim Dale’s narration of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows kept me company for a while. I took out my manuscript and started to cut and tape together the different stories I wanted to keep. This didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I made dinner, walked out to the river, read a little of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, doodled, walked back upstairs, showered, and made tea. I felt like Rapunzel in the first few minutes of Tangled — so many activities, but only fifteen minutes pass. Getting comfortable with yourself I think is one of the most important parts of a retreat.

Eventually I put myself to bed and tossed back and forth for a while. I got up to check all the locks again, as well as the closets in the upstairs loft. Went back to bed and eventually fell asleep. I didn’t realize how distracted I usually am before bed, whether on my phone, petting Luna, talking to Henry, or watching YouTube. Here I was just in silence and darkness by myself. It was a weird feeling.

I woke up this morning with much more purpose. I knew what I wanted to accomplish: Chapter 1 before leaving for Panera, chapters 2 and 3 at Panera, a hike after, and chapters 4 and hopefully 5 back at the cabin. Chapters 1 and 2 are done, and I am turning back to chapter 3 very soon. That one is going through some major revisions, but so far the people at Panera don’t seem too mad at me.

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