It began with a full slice of chocolate cake, the night before departure. Perhaps that should have told me something about what the week at Squam Art Workshops would hold, but I didn't want to throw too many expectations - or any, really - on my first time there. For once, I was happy not to know, happy for the surprises that lay in store, happy to loosen my grip from the story I might normally have created before I even shut my drivers' side door and started the engine.
The map. Folded open to the state where I spent 7 years of my adolescence. Everything looked so familiar, the geography imprinted on my brain, my hand steering the wheel almost from memory.
The evening at Nina's house. Swooping Jenica in my arms, like a long-lost friend. The sweet comfort of women around a table, making art. I stayed the night, bundled in my mother's sleeping bag, and woke the next morning to the sound of Pixie. And I knew everything would be just fine.
The drive to Squam Lake. Peaceful, easy. I sang at the top of my lungs to some pop music station. I left 93 for Holderness, and squirreled my way to Rockywold-Deephaven Camps. Parked at Longhouse and walked down to the water. Pristine, soothing. The sound of waves colliding with the dock felt like the beginnings of a mantra.
The buzz of registration. The drive down Deep End Road, where my cabin was. Wayonda. Way yonder. It lay at the furthest edge of camp on a gently curving cove. Unpacking. Meeting my cabin-mates. Reconnecting with Kathy. Everyone lovely, sweet, full of energy. I changed into my swimsuit, walked onto the dock, and dove in without testing the water. It felt like the only way. It was the best way.
Dinner. Reunions. Friends from far-away places. How simple it was to just slide in, the cafeteria full of happy bodies, open, willing, ready to play.
The view from my window at 6:00 in the morning. A pink-tinged sky, like an apple waiting to be plucked.
Art-making in the rain. Penelope guiding us with a perfect blend of instruction and freedom. I swept a space clean, then began. And barely looked up, I was so in it.
A cafeteria that reminded me, in a good way, of being 15. The clatter of silverware. Cranberry juice on ice. A salad bar. Round tables filled with conversation and eagerness and whimsy and glow.
Evenings in front of a fire. Belly laughs I could feel deep, deep in my gut. Swapping stories. Glasses of wine. A bag of Bit o' Honeys left over from a birthday. Nothing too precious to share. Everything, a circle. A linking up. An acceptance.
Breakfast. Waffles and hot syrup. Coffee with cream. The unhurried welcome of morning.
After Susy's delightful class, a walk up Rattlesnake Mountain with her and Noel. Impromptu headstands. Fish pose. Pigeon pose. Wanting to see differently, to try something new, to trust in gravity, to let go.
Building alliances. Joining forces. Jen and her amazing ability to connect the dots. To see the story underneath the story. To navigate new pathways. The feeling of being in her back pocket, tucked away safe and sound.
Reading poems aloud at the Coffeehouse. Taking my time. Feeling new reverence for syllables and sentences strung together. Feeling the importance of voice. Feeling the importance of out loud. Knowing that I was being heard.
Rest. Rejuvenation. Reorientation. More mountaintop yoga. Laughter into the night. A woodstove heating an entire room. Taking nothing for granted - a hot shower, steamed broccoli, a pair of borrowed gloves, a blank canvas, the birth of an idea, the sense of possibility, and even in the dark, trusting my feet to know the way.
There's so much more, of course. Beauty and joy and the kind of astonishment that comes when you realize how much fullness is before you, a smorsgasbord of nourishment. That's what it felt like. There are so many people I want to acknowledge - Kathy for her solid calm, Catrina for her whimsy, Lisa for her enthusiastic companionship during the workshops, Jen and Jonatha who darted among the camp like sprites, Jolie for her warmth and sly smile, Amy for the burst of her giggle and her gin and her big heart, Gretchen for her outrageously good photos, and her unselfconscious humor, Jamie and her earnestness and storytelling, the other Amy for the arrow of her wit and wisdom...and that's just the beginning. Thank you to Elizabeth, the brain behind the beauty of Squam. For creating what is a magical experience for so many.
It's hard to wrangle this experience into words, but I feel unmistakably changed. Softer and stronger all at once.
. . .
And the return. How a small window of time can open into a new way of being. This last week has been another transformation, a molting, the pouring out of lessons and learnings. I am seeing my own story differently, identifying places that need re-writing. That need NEW writing. And I'm recognizing how far I've come, too, how much I already carry within me that's solid and real and good. The places where my work has landed, and the people who know me and see me because of that. Squam gave me an orientation around what IS, and that which is TO BECOME. I have been in a flurry of art since I came back, filling canvases with ripped paper and old poems. Dismantling, then building again.
It suits me, I think.