Almost six years ago, I traveled to Whidbey Island for the first time to participate in a writing circle of strangers. That week, I made some dear friends who picked me up when I was hurting and helped me to work through some of the pain. Last week, three of those women – Bridget, Janis and Lynn – traveled to Texas to spend nearly six days in the hill country with me. For five nights, we stayed in an old rock house on property owned by my parents and previously occupied only by cows. They opted not to leave the house except on Sunday, when we ventured to the LBJ Ranch. Mostly, we wrote and talked.
After they departed, Dave and I went to the rock house to bring home some of the things we had used from our house to prepare the space for my friends.
We loaded up the coffee pot and the tea kettle. Each morning, someone would brew a pot of coffee. And as needed, we brought water to a boil for tea. As we wrote, we drank a variety of flavors, as my friends and I each brought some of our favorites. For me, the best part was drinking out of my new “Somebody in Minnesota Loves You” mug that Janis brought for me. It’s a heavy mug and holds for me the strength and support of my dear friend who is both honest and encouraging about my writing and, perhaps more importantly, about my life.
Dave and I emptied the refrigerator of uneaten lettuce, cucumber, leftover picnic food, eggs, deli meats, hummus, condiments of every kind, and drinks that remained. I smiled thinking of the meals we had enjoyed together in that space. The fish, steak, and vegetarian poke that Dave made for us on our first night that easily fed us another couple of days. The asparagus Lynn made. The quiche Bridget prepared with love. The sausages that Janis cooked up. The dolma, rice and greens that my mom prepared. The brownies that I made with Janis’s help, as I did not know that I could substitute butter for vegetable oil! During our stay, we ate well together. And as we sat around the little four-person table in the kitchen, we talked. I loved those meals.
We packed up the popcorn maker that I’d purchased on a whim after my friend Rhonda suggested that a house full of women writing screamed of the need for popcorn. Lynn was the first to open the box and make popcorn for us. I smiled recalling the nutritional yeast that was meant to be a delicious alternative to parmesan. Skeptical of the nutritional yeast, the group decided it was better used in our individual bowls, rather than the collective one. So two of us enjoyed it, while two of us stuck with butter. The popcorn invited a couple of gatherings around the kitchen table between meals. I loved those gatherings.
We loaded up the Lazy-Boy recliner that we had put in the living room as an additional comfortable place to sit. I could picture each woman sitting at that chair at different times – Janis with her computer, Lynn with her paper and pen, and Bridget with her knitting needles. I love that each night we sat around that room reading bits and pieces that we had written, either prior to our arrival or during our time there. My friends are beautiful writers, each one of them.
Once my Toyota FJ was loaded with our things, Dave and I drove nervously and for the last time over the mud where the girls and I had gotten a much smaller rental car stuck a few days earlier. There had been so much rain. We thought we were wise to be moving the car before more days of rain came. We had no idea that we were already too late! That incident brought my parents to the property with my dad’s big white truck, similar to the kind that Janis had been counting as she sat on the deck watching the road each morning. I loved that my friends got to see my parents at work, spinning tires and slinging mud every which way, and got to visit with them. They connected during that time. I loved witnessing that connection.
With each item that got loaded in my car and with the final close of that front gate, I took the memories of that time in that house with those people home with me. I also took home a piece of pottery that Bridget brought from her studio. I had no idea that my friend who works, writes, and knits also makes pottery. And I love having a piece of her work in my home.
I enjoyed being in my town with these women. The space was precious. But where we gather is less important than that we gather. The gathering itself is where the magic happens.
Ladies, I’m ready for the next one. Tell me where and when.