As soon as I saw the symbols, I knew it was the right card. I would be attending a workshop put on by The Sun Magazine. The ankh between the trees represents eternal life and plays a role in the fairy tale I would be working on the first part of the week. And then there was the eye. Eyes have been showing up for me. This one signifies healing and protection. The text on the card identified the background as an "enchanted forest."
We started out on Wednesday and Thursday at the Celo Inn, a B&B halfway between Spruce Pine and Burnsville.
My room was a north facing room without much light, but it had a desk and a window chair. We had no cell phone or internet service. It took me a while to get used to not checking my phone. It was nice though, because it allowed me to have uninterrupted writing time in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
Right across the street was a dirt road that went beside a beautiful clear stream. Each morning, after breakfast at the inn, my friend and I took a walk. Here are some of the things we saw on those walks.
On Friday, the weather continued to be sunny and warm and we started driving toward Wildacres Retreat Center where we were to participate in The Sun Magazine's "Into the Fire" writing weekend. Wildacres sits on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest and is so peaceful and serene.
Saturday morning, the fog rolled in.
The retreat center's buildings are all made to blend in with the natural surroundings. This is one of the dorm buildings that also houses the offices. The rooms were similar to hotel rooms except without television or phones.
The food was served family style and every meal was creative and delicious. Fish, chicken, interesting salads plus the regular salad bar - everything was fresh and obviously prepared with thought.
There were three sessions of classes on Saturday. I was fortunate to work with our Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti. He told us to identify our threshold in telling stories that involve friends and family, deciding what would be too hurtful or harmful to others and what is the writer's story that has to be told. I also took classes with Krista Bremer, a Sun Magazine writer who has a book coming out in a few months, and the very crazy Doug Crandell. Doug, in contrast to Joseph, told us to tell our stories no matter what, but to try to involve hostile family members through an interview process too complicated to go into here. (I'm linking to their Sun page so you can read some of their essays if you want.)
There were many impromptu moments of grace, including this one when a woman from the workshop went up to the piano and began playing. That is Sy Safransky, the editor and publisher of The Sun Magazine listening to her. I enjoyed learning more about him through his interactions with the participants and from his reading from his "Notebook," a regular part of each issue.
The last thing, at the end of the closing session, Angela Winter sang a travel blessing a capella in her haunting voice, then we all got up to drive down the mountain in the fog and rain, to resume our normal lives.