Just Under the Surface

Oh yes, we saw whales!
This weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to take part
in the Tutka Bay Writers Retreat. Eighteen of us from many places, many
professions, many experience levels, all together with the express purpose of
concentrating on writing for a few golden days.
Throughout the weekend, we heard from the retreat leaders
Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson about how their own lives have influenced their
writing. And as we spoke, questioned, shared, listened, ate incredible food,
stirred up the bay’s waters for phosphorescence (both real and metaphoric), I
felt profoundly that one of the great purposes of writing is that it does
indeed transform the raw stuff of our lives into something that sustains us.
Writing is a way to make sense of our world.
Several times during the weekend, we had the opportunity to
watch huge whales surface and dive in Tutka Bay right in front of the lodge.
Whatever it is that impels us to write is like those whales, large and
awe-inspiring, right below the surface much of the time, but only showing a
single fin or the spume of its breath. It is up to us to keep watch, up to us
to find the words that bring the whole of it bursting forth like a whale
spy-hopping into the clear air.
Humans are meaning making machines. On Saturday night, as I
sat listening to the participants read from their work, I marveled at the sheer
variety. But one thing was consistent, each reader demonstrated an essential
generosity; for writing to touch the heart of another person, the writer must
be willing to open their own, share what hurts and what pleases. This doesn’t
mean that that all writing must be autobiographical, but that to write about
the pain of your main character, you must delve into that dark place in your
own life when you felt pain; and to describe joy, you must be willing to share
some of the spark that lives deep inside you.
I was so deeply touched that every participant shared their
work, in whatever stage it was in, however they felt about it. That trust just
solidified my gut feeling that our stories are what save us as individuals and
are what will save us as a culture and a species in this world. We are bound
together by stories. What an incredible honor it was to share them.

Whales and a rainbow. (Thank you, Gus.)
Thank you to Kirsten Dixon and the incredible staff of Tutka Bay Lodge; without your dedication, your generosity, and your magic, 49 Writers
could not provide such a fertile place from which writing can spring. Tutka Bay
Lodge is surely one of the most amazing places on earth. If you missed this
year’s retreat, look soon for an announcement of next year’s retreat leader,
and remember that 49 Writers members get first chance to register.
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