I am back from time away, this time at the Create in Me retreat at Lutheridge. I led a workshop on blogging as art form and tool, which I may write more about later. I also led a workshop on the meditative and creative process of making crosses from found objects, and I led a creation station in which people had the opportunity to play with fibers, fabric, and yarn to make scarves (you may remember this post, where I first played with this idea).
I first went to this retreat in 2003, and I found it so wonderful that I haven't missed one yet. My long-term attendance means that each year, I have a chance to see old friends and to meet new people, encounters that make me very happy. I also have the chance to play with all sorts of art materials and to come away inspired in all sorts of new ways. I will likely write future posts about some of these experiences.
I also wrestle with wishing that my day to day life could be spent similarly. I think many of us face this challenge when we return from retreats: how to weave our retreat lives into our regular lives, how to integrate what we've learned into our daily lives.
Here's what makes me most excited upon my return. For some time, I've felt glimmers about a book-length work I want to do, and on the long drive back, I was able to think about this book and to figure out an approach. Back in November, I noticed (not for the first time) how many books are organized around a calendar year, and I thought about doing that for a book of poems. But I didn't really have enough poems, and as I played with this idea, I'm not really sure a chronological approach of that sort works well for my poems.
I've been interested in memoir, and in blogging as a form of memoir in process. But as I've said about blogs, I think that memoir needs a focus to be successful. I'm interested in spiritual issues, but not ready to write a book of theology. Could the world be interested in one more woman writing about a spiritual journey?
As I thought about all the memoirs I've read, I realized how few of them talk about work life in conjunction with spiritual life. I've wrestled with how to integrate my Christian beliefs into the work setting without being oppressive to others. I can't be the only one, and yet, when I read spiritual memoirs, I don't remember any that talk about work and spirituality. I've read plenty of self-help books that claim to do so, although none of them have been useful to me in the ways that I wished they would be when I picked them up.
And then there's the other major aspect of my life, me as an artist, trying to carve out time and space to be creative and to create work of lasting import. I've seen memoirs of work life, memoirs of spiritual life, and artist's memoirs, but rarely have I read the work of someone who is actively wrestling with them all at the same time. And then, there's the element of being at midlife (hopefully the low end of my middle years) that complicates and enriches these questions.
So, I'd like to write a memoir that weaves together my life as a spiritual person, my life as an administrator who works in an office 40-50 hours a week, and my life as an artist. How do these all work together or not work together? And my organizing principal will be both the liturgical year and the calendar year. I will have a complete draft (rough or finished, to be determined later) by next year's Create in Me retreat.
So, now for the necessary task of returning to work and trying to hang on to the inspiration and excitement I've experienced.