Last year was difficult. Anyone who reads my articles for Embrace Transition will be aware of this. But the last posted (http://embrace-transition.com/2014/01/09/east-and-west-walking-the-wood/) put many things to rest. My childhood family has gone. My aunt’s home is gone. Any residual fear – extending into the wood behind Downalong (the name if her cottage) – has gone.
Time then to move on. Move on in to a new year… a new phase. A new course of consideration. A new course of action. No new resolutions, just a natural movement onwards, a progression…
Time also to begin a new writing course.
I began developing Drawing on the Writer Within, using right-brain techniques to help dispel anxiety, build confidence and authenticate the writing voice, in Tokyo in 2005. What began as a series of drop-in classes swiftly transitioned into an 8-week course, at the end of which writers asked when the next would start. By the time I moved to Scotland in late 2012, DOTWW had grown into a four-course programme – a movable feast of creative and therapeutic opportunity that could be offered via courses, workshops and retreats.
I first offered Level 1, INITIATION, at the Birnam Arts Centre (on the far side of the River Tay from Dunkeld) in the autumn of 2013. But there were no takers. Concluding that no-one thought ahead to September in summer, with children home from school and holidays uppermost in everyones’ minds, I tried again in mid-autumn, advertising in The Bridge (the local monthly magazine) to put out the word for 2014
Five signed up. All women. Ranging in age from 18-80s. And so we began on January 14, filled with enthusiasm and in a great venue. Sadly the three-hour stretch of the class proved too much for the oldest participant, and she dropped out. But not without starting the memoirs she has been so keen to record; I dropped in on Saturday and we talked through how she can continue at home.
“Stop TELLING me your stories,” I found myself repeating constantly. “Write them down.”
I hope she does.
As for the others, they are excited and motivated, and even the youngest (as quiet as a proverbial church mouse in the first class) is slowly gathering confidence to share her work with the others. To date her writings have been in the form of notes and scribbles from work, daily life and dreams. Interesting then that her poem last week spoke of scattered fragments with blanks in between.
Two of the students – close friends – are quite independently writing crime novels. One hopes DOTWW will push her on in terms of developing characters; the other not only seeks to flesh out and deepen her descriptions of Nature, but has recognised a need to research and write about the generational impact of Scottish history, religion and culture on her as a woman.
The other writer – a therapist – wants to deepen her understanding of what not only makes her tick, but those around her.
So a good start, and while four is less that five, they show all the signs of being the right four.
How many will turn up at the DOTWW taster session booked for this coming Sunday, as The Bield, a retreat at Blackruthven near Perth? On January 1st only two were signed in. At the last count. seven. So that is very encouraging.
Having set the maximum at ten, I now have to decide what to do with them. (Joking, of course.) Am thinking exercises in the morning, and offering them the tools of PW (Proprioceptive Writing) in the afternoon. While the feedback from guided WRITES (RITES as in ritual writing) is always immensely useful, one of the great advantages of PW is that students can continue the practice on their own at home.
Three of the women on the current DOTWW course had each done three WRITES in between weeks one and two.
A woman from Falkirk who attended several monthly PW sessions last year at the Orchard and Apple House at Kilgraston, Bridge of Earn, did 30 WRITES in one month, reporting the experience as “illuminating and inspiring on so many levels”.
Friend Jillian Yorke attended a PW session at The Orchard last summer because she and her partner Hitoshi were visiting us, and it seemed opportune. Jillian, who now divides her time between New Zealand and Japan, was one if the very first DOTWW students to complete Level 1 in 2007. She found it really interesting to do a guided WRITE after so many years.
We recommence these mini workshops at this retreat at 10am on Wednesday, January 22.
Blairgowrie’s second BOOKMARK festival is also on course for October. Three of us, all indie writers and self publishers, met last week to brainstorm how we might extend the scope of our interests. Workshops seem a positive way forward since they very much appear to meet popular demand. We meet again later this month to hear how our ideas went down with the main committee.
So yes, despite the continuing rain (flood plains are flooded, water tables saturated with water coursing from high ground to low in any which way it can; even race courses resemble swimming pools!) a far more constructive start to the year.
January 2013 we were both stressed out – and the arrival of all those boxes in February (ten remaining unpacked even now) hardly helped! But while Akii slowly recovered, to begin enjoying a stress free life beyond all the rules and constraints Japanese culture imposes on its people, I struggled with incipient waves of threatening depression.
Akii had left behind a life he was more than happy to let go: “So much pain.” His father dying in 2010. The earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns of 2011. His mother’s passing from cancer in 2012; at 89 she had decided against further courses of treatment. The further trauma of trying to decide whether to stay or leave, the trials and tribulations of applying for a visa, and packing up the home we had lived in for a decade. The life he had lived for 62 years; the one I had created over 26.
As the months passed I found myself clinging to the memories of the rich, fruitful and rewarding life that I had exchanged for what? It was not the lack of convenience (having to travel 10km to the nearest shop rather than cycling three minutes to a vending machine). It was the sense of no longer having any kind of meaningful life… of not contributing. This and (despite the great beauty of our surroundings) the isolation, the lack of social contact.
But I am optimistic. City life no longer calls to me as it did. We have joined a spa to swim and workout; Sorcha is creating me a course for Thursday to help build strength and stamina. We are making friends. Filling our diaries with provisional dates for visitors. Really, the calendar is looking quite busy (relatively speaking) compared to this time last year.
Whether we stay long term is still up in the air. The combinative effect of cold and damp on my joints is worrying, and it may be that we will need to seek a warmer drier climate. Japan was cold in winter, but dry; in summer it was hot, but humid. Very different here.
But are we okay for the moment? Moving forward into longer lighter days with a spring in our step?