For at least a decade, I’ve daydreamed about an artist’s retreat. A place magically separated from the everyday. A place without my scribbled daily to-do list and filled calendar blocks. A place where I could read and write for hours, days, weeks.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote her classic, Gift from the Sea on a personal retreat to Florida’s Captiva Island in the early 1950s. The island’s solitude, nature’s decorative shell collection, the tide’s precision clock—all soaked into the pages of her book. Her retreat was a place to remember and forget. She would remember her great talent, and she would forget, at least for brief moments, what she could: her household duties, often overshadowing husband, and heartbreak after the loss of their son.
This year as been one of extreme challenges and heartbreaking loss. But like many painful time periods, 2020 provided opportunities. I spent more time in nature, even during the colder months. I found creative ways to connect with others, especially those most vulnerable. Front porches became places to drop off books or flowers. Computers served as catch-up sessions over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Firepits were the centerpiece of cozy outdoor living rooms for small gatherings. And on my phone, I curated a mix of songs from another time, playing and discussing with a loved one to boost her fading memory.
Finally, I found time for that writer’s retreat. I read the widest mix of genres since my teen years. I identified well-executed techniques as lessons for my own writing. I listened to podcasts, watched webinars, and took classes on the craft of writing. I finished drafting my second novel.
I wrote in a repurposed bedroom with shelves of books, a comfortable reading chair, a picture of the beach above my desk, and walls painted Caribbean green. Inside my little room, there was the comfortable routine of daily reading and writing. The search for illumination. The struggles to improve my work. The seasons changed over the past 12 months, flowers pushing up, leaves transitioning, snow and ice falling. The world changed as well. At times, it seemed angrier. But mostly, I saw people become kinder and empathetic, seeking wisdom from their faith, serving others. Friends sewed masks, distributed boxes of food, and donated groceries, warm clothes, blankets, and money. Some of the bravest and most loving people cared for the sick and dying, substituting for family in those final moments. The retreat is officially over, but the lessons continue.