In August, 2011, I traveled to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico for A Room of Her Own Foundation's Writer Retreat. As I got ready to go, I was nervous, afraid I didn't belong among so many talented women writers. Today as I begin my packing list for this year's retreat, all I feel is excitement to once again mingle with a wonderful group of writers. And I owe that to AROHO and the women I met two years ago.
Here is a piece I wrote about that first retreat:
The Day Moon
I had come to AROHO with only the idea of pushing myself forward – to bring myself back to writing. The first night at Ghost Ranch I slept poorly – a new bed, new night sounds and I was at such a high altitude – 10,000 feet above the sea in the New Mexico high desert. The desert air was dry, dry, bone bleaching dry. I had tossed and turned all night dreaming fragments of dreams in and out of consciousness. I thought of my friend, Kathy who had taught me to love the desert and once again mourned her death. I thought of the red rock hills and mesas that surrounded me on all sides. I dreamed of what would greet me the next day in Ghost Ranch.
That first morning, tired of my bed, tired of pretending to sleep, I got up early. I went out on the porch of the Tumbleweed bunkhouse. I guess it would be called a bunkhouse. It is a long low building of several rooms with a kind of porch or walkway that ran the length of the building. This bunkhouse sits up on a small mesa covered in sagebrush and cacti. To reach my room I had to walk up and up a zigzag switchback path of desert grit uneven with rocks and fallen twigs. It was, for that week at least, the most beautiful place I had ever been.
When I stepped out of my room, taking care not to let the screen door slam against the frame, the air was still crisp. The sun hadn’t fully risen over the surrounding mesas, and the mountains in the distance were still hung with purple shadows. The sky was completely clear with not one cloud, not even those beautiful white columns that often come to the desert in summer. The deepest blue hadn’t come either, the sky still pale like a lovely silk shirt.
And there to my surprise the moon still hung in the sky. Not full yet but rounding towards fullness, at the point in her cycle that made me certain that I would still be in this magical place when she rounded fecund to shine full upon me. That day-moon softly glowed in the sky that was just beginning to pink at the edges. I had gotten there just in time before the sun bullied its way in, causing her to fade back. Mist wrapped her soft roundness.
I stood there graced by that moon, gazing at all the mountains north, south, east and west, mountains that Georgia O’Keefe had painted over and over in this place of her soul, and the sleepless night fell away from my shoulders.
I can’t honestly say that any lingering doubts or fears were completely gone. After all I still had to navigate my way to breakfast in the dining hall full of women I had barely met the night before. No, the fears were still there. The doubts about myself as a writer or my right to be there were all there, small pebbles lying heavy in my center.
But the moon, bravely hanging in the morning sky when she wasn’t supposed to be there, gently muscling her way in, gave me the courage to set my pack on my back and head down that switch-back mesa path. It gave me the courage to stride out under the cottonwood trees, plunk my cafeteria tray down and to find a place at the table.