|(Nine scribes at the scenic overlook in Rangeley, Maine)|
Last April, a similar retreat was held in the same house -- a beautiful New Englander being updated and restored by the family of my dear friend, the talented Melissa Gates (whose story "Jar of Hearts" is a must-read in the anthology Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification). The month prior, we had just moved north after buying our new-old home, Xanadu, and though I was thrilled to see many of my wonderful friends from my Southern New Hampshire Writers' Group, I also felt something physically wasn't quite right with me. A painful lump had formed on top of my scalp, and agony radiated down both sides of my face, ending in my molars. I headed to that retreat with a smile on my face -- albeit a painful one -- and tried to go about my business as best I could. Unable to sleep by night, I passed out during the day and developed a fever. Four days into the five-day stay, I begged off early and returned home. Two days later, I was admitted to have a massive infected cyst removed and earned myself a five-day stay after all, in a private room on the fourth floor of Androscoggin Valley Hospital. During that time, at least I wrote. Quite a bit, in fact. But for the first and so far only time, the joyous creative experience of a retreat was tainted in a long (and miserable) shadow.
None of which had anything to do with my good friends, our lovely hostess (who went completely above and beyond in terms of hospitality), or that wonderful house. So when a return there was planned, I welcomed the chance to cast out the last, lingering spiritual residue of my brush with Jurassic Cyst -- the physical had already passed, though the experience has left me with a long divot of a scar running along the top of my head.
|(Twelve layers of buttercream Heaven!)|
Rain lashed the house on Friday afternoon, and a stiff wind blew outside. But inside, with the heat cranked, I snuggled down and quickly penned a full short story ("Second Chance"), one of two for that day. I sipped coffee, enjoyed the arrival of the Southern New Hampshire contingent, listened to music on my headphones, and healed. Jurassic Cyst was not some minor outpatient procedure, there one moment, gone the next; what was diagnosed as beginning with an ingrown hair following a haircut had become serious enough to require constant intravenous antibiotics by the time I landed at the hospital. There were long-reaching consequences in the months that followed (including a reaction to oral antibiotics that turned one of my eyeballs into photo-sensitive ground hamburger). But as the retreat unfolded, the specter of that darkness broke, and I gave up the ghost.
|(Short story workshop in town, with the fabulous Esther M. Leiper-|
Estabrooks and Judi Calhoun)
I can't wait for our next writers' retreat to Rangeley -- August, I'm told!