With all of the Chrismas chaos, my blog updates have gone temporarily to the wayside. I recently took a course on how to organize your life so that you can fit everything in and achieve balance and serenity. Aside from staying on top of my daily work tasks, I'm not sure if I'm following my life schedule as closely as I had intended.
At the end of November, I was able to escape my day-job desk and immerse myself in poetry. For the past six years, I have attended an annual 4-day retreat at a place called Glenairely (Centre for Earth and Peace) in East Sooke, BC. Our fearless instructor for these retreats is Patrick Lane, who with tongue-in-cheek usually kicks off the retreat with a confessesion of his own mixed feelings and dread about setting us all up for failure in the assignments he's prepared for us. At the end of the retreat, he always comes back to this point and tips his hat to us for astonishing him with our work. His main mantra is that a writing block is simply fear - we all have something to say. During these four days, each of us is challenged to say it, and say it in the best possible way through our poetry. This year, we accommodated 17 poets (in the past, our limit was 12) and yet we still managed to cram ourselves around the kitchen table. We pay a reasonable amount for beds, meals and a quiet space to write. Our meals are prepared by our maestro chef, Wendy Morton. We spend our days sharing our poems in a circle, then breaking to work on our own writing, and being called for meals by a clanking bell on the porch (makes one feel as though they are on a homestead).
In this place, we each strive to stretch our own personal boundaries and comfort zones, as well as lose ourselves in the words and lives created by our fellow poets. Often, for me, a theme will arise in my writing. On this retreat, I began to explore the lives of my grandparents. For the first time, I wrote a poem for my father's father who passed away when I was 14. I didn't have a strong connection with him, and sometimes I grieve it, not really understanding who he was and what he wanted in his life. Therefore, I wrote a brief poem about his coming to Canada from Scotland in mid-life, and having so much uprooted. So much left behind.
These retreats are soul-feeding and sacred, and every year (usually the following Autumn) we publish a beautiful chapbook through Leafpress (leafpress.ca) from one of our poetry assignments. These books are memories, rewards and gifts.
After the retreat, a few of us were fortunate to read poems at the Mole Restaurant in downtown Victoria as part of a Chocolate and Poetry evening. The restaurant revised their dessert menu to include raw chocolate, and there was a good-sized, yet intimate audience to indulge in both features. It is always helpful to discover a new venue that is willing and enthusiastic to lend a space for our poems. A sweet success, to be sure!