I just returned from four glorious days nestled deep in the evergreen woodlands of Northern Arizona. Rim country they called it, referring to the Mogollon Rim. Two hundred miles of dramatic rock formations, deep canyons and more sky than you have ever seen at one time. Three of my treasured writing pals and I gathered at a mountain cabin in Christopher Creek. Call it retreating, recharging, the rebirth of the muse, call it the long exhale. Okay, call it heaven if you must.
I am well into a job transition, deciding to leave the classroom and develop a writing based business that encompasses all of my loves: writing, teaching, speaking, traveling, and more writing. It has not been an easy road. And though I knew, as I stepped in that direction, that few writers can make a living this way, I felt a pull toward it. A call. And if I have learned anything from writingHalfway to Each Other, it is to follow that call, no matter how absurd it may sound to you or those around you. It is the call of your creative soul, the dwelling place of sanity, of peace. It will only call you, and if you don’t answer it…who will?
These past two months, particularly, I have been working furiously on a new book. It has taken awhile to get started on it, but now I am in the thick of process, shaping and rewording and spilling blood. Recently the pieces were more difficult to birth. The muse was stingy, my well of words running dry. Pulling the proper ones into place became arduous like lining up pebbles on a steep slant. They kept rolling, shifting, falling over edges. I didn’t realize that I was entering extreme fatigue, not the kind that sends you in search of a pillow, but the kind that sends you in search of a glass of wine hoping your muse is swimming in it.
When I was invited to join these writers, I left my computer at home. I found an old notebook and pen and off I went without expectation. I awoke the first morning, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, grabbed a mug of steaming coffee and ventured onto a wraparound deck that stood fifty feet from a creek, the border of the Tonto National Forest. Surrounded by greens of every shade and texture, I felt immediately calmed. The sort of calm that comes from a mother’s hand on your shoulder. I could stand and stare into that green forever, watch the tall grasses gently bending with drops of dew, count and recount the species of trees and bushes and wildflowers that poked their heads up to greet the sun.
All of a sudden a large dragonfly with bulging iridescent blue green eyes stopped about twenty feet from me and hovered as if he was surprised that a human had appeared. I stood still and held his gaze to see what he might do. He continued to hover, did not go about his merry dragonfly way. Then he slowly advanced toward me, inch by steady inch, until I could hear the beating of his wings.
“Hello there, my friend,” I whispered thinking my words would scare him off. “Good morning to you, too!” The sound did not scare him at all, he only moved closer. And when it became uncomfortable I waved him off until he buzzed above my head and over the roof of the cabin.
I was intrigued by our greeting of each other and chewed on it all day as I went for a hike through the forest and then sat with my friends as we shared meals and writing prompts and picked apart shorts stories written by the masters of our time. The memory of him perched on my shoulder as I fixed an early afternoon gin and tonic, that we all agreed was medicinal, for one of us who had received a deflating rejection letter that very noon. And he haunted my dreams, in a good way, as I slept the deep restorative sleep that comes when you find the courage to break open the shell of your heart and share your fears with like minded comrades around a campfire that sends red sparks to meet the full moon.
The next day, he returned, but it was not for a morning greeting and it was not alone. The four of us were seated in folding chairs, in the shade of the bordering forest, working silently on the art of imagery. We were, if I may speak for all of us, happily lost in creative wonderfulness. The way it feels when your words are pulsing upwards like geysers and soothing hot springs. As we painted metaphors and placed poetic phrases in our notebooks and wrapped these images around our hearts, the dragonflies appeared. As we answered the knocking doors of our souls, walked toward that voice that has called us, quietly and persistently, all of our lives, to write and claim our places as true artists, they swarmed in gentle circles over our heads.
We looked up from our notebooks and remarked about the magic of that particular moment. Indeed it was. The dragonflies never landed, never bothered us in any way. They did, however, perform a dragonfly ballet to the music that only a writer can hear as he/she creates. Their dance, a visual response to our collective song of joy.
Upon my return home, yesterday, I looked up the meaning of the dragonfly and was not surprised at what I found. A powerful symbol in many cultures it represents a number of things. It stands for renewal, positive force and the power of life. Because it has wings sensitive to even the slightest breezes, it represents change. Also a creature of water, it is symbolic of the subconscious, the dreaming mind, a reminder to pay attention to our deeper thoughts and desires. Lastly, because it has such a short life it reminds us of the value of living in the moment. Living life to the fullest by heeding the call of our souls and making choices to connect and give birth to that which we are called to create, whatever that means and however that looks.
Those moments with the dragonflies will inspire me the rest of my life. Those four days were vital ones that have restored me on many levels. I share this story, this moment in my writer’s journey, as encouragement to others who may feel stuck or unsure. For those who have written themselves dry, or have piled manuscripts into a drawer afraid to share them with the light of day.
Seek renewal from those who share your creative journey. Find the courage to stand before the dragonfly and bid him a fine morning then welcome him to begin his pirouettes as you let your soul free.