My Retreat weekend started on Friday night. My daughter Rocky graduated with high honors, from her excellent and very competitive high school*. Here is one of the few images, after the pomp, wherein she (on left, Eli, my youngest, on right) isn't making faces.
I got the two things I wanted most that evening: First, when she accepted her scholarship, and later her diploma, I clapped and stomped, put my face to the hazy Hudson Valley blue and howled. Along with her two sisters and mama, and Bubbe and Zayde. And there wasn't a thing our cranky, easily embarrassed whizbang athlete/scholar could do about it. So Ha!
Second, I snuck up behind her (after she ungraciously refused and "ewww'd" her mother's ecstatic hug), and by pre-arrangement with my grown daughter Molly I beamed huge for a picture. So there are, in a camera, pictures of Rocky glaring (Roxanne! Smile! Stop making that face!), her teary, grinning mom beside her, and me looming beyond, my hands prudently behind me, with a look meant for Rocky-10-years-from-now, to prove that her temporary crapulous teen thang didn't matter, because I love her like stars love shine.
Despite what others say I was poorly prepared for the Saturday retreat.
My stroke aftermath -- shakes, panics 'n grimaces (o my, o my) -- were on the up-tic for weeks, prior. For a month I had hoarded the last Xanax - 4 for Saturday, 1 for Sunday, and they worked well during the event. It was worth the 2nd round of withdrawal starting Monday, after.
People marveled at how well everything went and how calm I seemed. But in the days leading up to it I planned various ways to call in sick. I also feared my writing would suck. And that people who admired me on OS would find me boorish, fat, slow, weird, un-likable, trying-too-hard, unsuitable.
I feared no one would show for the Readings in the evening, or folks would leave early. I imagined my readings -- scheduled for last, only if the slot was still open -- dying as sweaty-handed mumbles, delivered to Molly, perhaps Jeremiah, and the irritated Mohonk clean-up staff, looking at watches.
Instead it was beautiful. The whole thing.
Half of the people I love, and some OS friends I admire ever so much, working/writing and relaxing and laughing and crying together for almost two days, in the refuge of Americana (Lea!) itself, Mohonk.
And you thought hooking up a wifi card was hard.
Mohonk also hosted landmark conferences
on Native American Rights (1870)
True Fact: Mohonk, despite its 19th Century ambiance (you only get one of the few hotel room TVs if you ask for it; they wheel it in like a rooted Cagliostro), it was here that the planners of the Transatlantic Cable formally met, in the early 1900s, to get us started on the interwebs. Of course, Mohonk now has wireless everywhere.
But one is expected to Do at Mohonk. Walk, ride, swim, skate, golf, climb, duck into the countless hallway nooks and play a board game, build a fire.
And write. Kate Hymes was unfazed by the newcomers, and of course brushed off my weeks of little asides about the writers from OS. For her Writing Must Be. Publication? Fame? Ffft. What can you write now? and what does it move in us?
She let no thing deter us. She got us on track from her first unhurried ground rules, and we settled into the safety and infinitude of Amherst Writing.
We produced. It is the brilliant thing about this method: whatever your skills at syntax, however indistinct your goals, over-wrung your apron? in the heady rush to unpack Something in 30-45 minutes, we can't help but Reveal, Make Art. Since all is Raw, there is no Wrong or Bad or Disconnect.
We shared the delight of gods at creation, however rough-chapped and platy-pussed. And then had tea.
(Everyone was just as they seem on OS, as charming, witty, kind, and talented. Good eggs all. Uncanny, like icons come to life, in all their breathing, productive, ordinary and itchy glory.)
I stop abruptly. Here are the links to all the posts I found, written by attendees:
- Filter Free - Nikki Stern
- Americana: Mohonk Then and Now (and a comment about Greg)
- Lea Lane
- More Than Words -- OS writers' retreat with pics
- Gail Walter
- What I Learned from My First Writer's Retreat
- maria heng
- Jane Smithie's in Love, or God Bless You, Captain Alex
- jane bourne ultimatum smithie
- OS Retreat-Woodstock Memory/Greg's Delicious '60s Town
- Jonathan Wolfman
- OS RETREAT AT MOHONK: "The Chinese Night I Was Held Hostage"
- Jonathan Wolfman
- OS Mohonk Mountain House Retreat--A Very Brief Poem
- Jonathan Wolfman
- Just be quiet and pass me the spoon
- Giving credit where credit is due - Jeremiah Horrigan
- Open Salon
- To Hold Her
- Molly Lilly
In the many comments to these posts there is considerable interest
in more Writers Retreats, at Mohonk and in other locations.
If you plan or produce such an event, let me know?
I will promote it.
And tentatively, our next OS Writers Retreat
will be in October 2010, so PM me
if you are interested, please.
Nina and Laura: you were so good.
Thank you, everyone. Special thanks to
Molly Mirren Lillith Clabaugh-Correll,
estimable writer, capable friend, brilliant daughter.
Non-sequetorially, my garden:
In my gazebo:
grapes, gew-gaws, the nest that kept me from making repairs
* Rated in top 5% of HS's nationwide, Newsweek, 2010
(Yes, I will write about that Dreadful Thing, the untellable story, from the boat)