Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Walking is an ambulation of mind." (Gretel Ehrlich).

I can't fathom how people find time to do things like "Facebook." I have this one little online project--this occasional, unthematic, skitterish and scattered, come-what-may blog to attend to--and I'm hard pressed to get here even every few weeks.

May was busy. Good busy. Let me take you first to Chateauguay, Quebec, where I was invited by the Quebec Writers Federation to lead a weekend retreat at Manoir d'Youville, a stunning and pacific rural retreat centre. (On an island!). From Friday until Sunday at 3 PM, I had the pleasure of spending time with 10 writers from Quebec, Windsor, and Detroit.

"Meandering leads to perfection." - Lao Tzu

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than (s) seeks." - John Muir

"Our way is not soft grass. It's a mountain path with lots of rocks.
But it goes upward, forward, toward the sun." - Ruth Westheimer (!)

After dinner Friday, and some "Getting to Know You" conversation starters with the group, I gave a presentation on "Get[ting] the Poem Outside" (with a nod and a bow to poet Raymond Souster).

We got up close and personal with the flora and fauna, walked, wrote, read, and shared. My favourite event of the weekend was the nocturnal walk. We wandered through the shadowy woods with wildlife
--deer with fawns; a fox with a kit sharply "yipping"--warning us to keep our distance. Mist lifted off a swamp area and I was in a bayou. The bent and broken trees were sculpture-esque and eerie. Things slithered. And the frogs were in full throat: holy chorus. After, we sat in the grass by the water and told scary stories, like 13-year-olds.

The Workshop

The writers.

In Session.

Photo by Ann Stratford.

Laura Teasdale, playwright (doing extraordinary outdoor theatre).
As I said to her: "Why doesn't all of Canada know about the wonderful work you're doing? It should."
I got to watch the sun set over the water on the night American Christian radio host and evangelist Harold Camping professed that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place (May 21, 2011). (He claimed--or still claims, I excpect--that the end of the world would\will take place five months later, on October 21, 2011.) I suppose if the world as we know it is about to end, sitting alone in the woods, being thankful, wondering at the marvel of it all, watching the sun sink into the horizon and having deer gallivant a few meters from me is not the worst way to go.

I admired blossoms in the orchard. I caught my breath (at least in snatches ... as at the Banff retreat in February, I found that when not conducting a session I was busy with one-on-ones ... it is time-consuming and energy-draining, but it really is the best way to get to know the participants and discuss their work, and they deserve that).

The participants were a talented, fun-loving, eclectic group. Another favourite moment was when writer Laura Teasdale, from the Eastern Townships of Quebec, played her banjolin and we all sang. (That song "I'll Fly Away" stayed with me for about a week.")

Thank you to the QWF, and director Lori Schubert, who drove me out to Chateauguay. Thank you to Angela Leuck, who suggested me and the location in the first place. Thank you to participant Bassel Atallah for the ride back to Montreal. And to Tiffany, Thecla, Marcia, Melanie, Milena, Julie, Anne, Laura and Rhonda (thanks for the book and CD!) -- merci. It was my pleasure, all the way around.

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