Writing Retreat

Once my children started school, December became one of the two most fun and exhausting months of the year — the other being April, when four of my family members have their birthdays.

Always so many things I loved doing, and wanted to do, and so little time to myself. I need so much time to myself. And now, with one kid in college and another heading out next year, I have it again for now. And, with friends who still have a lot of caretaking on their hands, or are sick themselves, or dead, I am inclined to seize the day.

It’s been years since I could imagine taking two days off in the middle of this month for a writing retreat, but this year I realized it was possible, and despite thinking, well, do I need it, do I really have time, I did. I am extremely fortunate to live around the corner from Saltonstall, which offers cheap retreat space to New York State artists and writers at their gorgeous property from October to April, the off season from their juried summer residency programs which also offer a chef, a stipend, and a final show.

The Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts is the legacy of Connie Saltonstall, who grew up walking distance from my home, and whose dream house is the foundation of the colony. She died of cancer less than four years after she built it. This time, I stayed in what was her master bedroom, an airy space with spectacular views across Ellis Hollow, with her books and pictures and furnishings all around.

I was there because I recently got the thrilling news that an independent press I admire wants the book I proposed to them. And because it is this particular press (more news when we have the contract settled), I realized that I may have more freedom than I expected to pursue my ambitions for this project. I spent two days contemplating that, organizing my files, and sorting out my thoughts. And, I think I understand Zotero now. I also read for hours in bed and in a deep hot bath, stared out the windows, played a couple of hours of Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands, and listened to the deep silence (and sometimes inarticulate kitchen conversations and microwave beepings) with no aim in mind. That was all helpful too.

Peace and joy to you this month, whatever holidays you do or don’t celebrate, whatever difficult or friendly ghosts share your room.

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