August 22 – 28 was the week I spent at an incredible writers retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Well, wait a minute, you say, don’t you live in the Blue Ridge Mountains? No. I live in the valley between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains. So, no, this wasn’t a long trip, but it was out of my house to another place, the longest time spent away from my house since I don’t know when in 2019.
Joining me were four of my writer friends, all vaccinated, as was the retreat venue’s host. And we pretty much isolated ourselves for a couple of weeks before we’d all arrive. We’d canceled our retreat in 2020, and we were all looking forward to being together.
I Should Back Up a Bit
I don’t know what I did in my present life or a past one to upset my Karmic balance, but one week before I was to leave for the retreat, I threw a wrench in my own works.
I’d made it a lazy Sunday. The Indy NASCAR race. A Yankees game, one they won for a change. For the Yankees game, I’d stretched out in bed, and once it was over, around 6:15 p.m., I sat up on the side of the bed and started flipping through Netflix offerings.
The next thing I knew I was picking myself up off the floor with blood streaming down my face asking, aloud even though I live alone, how the hell did I get down here?
Apparently, by fainting and face-planting on the left side of my face. Long story short, a trip to the ER (because I take a blood thinner and hit my head), a CT scan (that showed, ahem, “nothing”), blood work (no stroke, no heart attack detected), seven stitches in my left eyebrow where my face planting on the floor had driven my glasses frame into flesh, two days in hospital, and finally released with the diagnosis: syncope cause undetermined. After querying me about the past few days, the ER doc said it was probably a combination of stress, not sleeping well, not eating properly, not drinking enough water, which caused a drop in blood pressure, which slowed blood getting my brain, and boop, face-plant. He didn’t say, “Boop,” by the way. I’m a writer; I took some dramatic license.
Syncope, by the way, is the medical term for fainting. “I had a syncope” is far better than explaining, “I passed out.”
By the time I was discharged to come home the left side of my face was one big, black eye from forehead to chin. Oh, and “mild concussion” because floor, face, plant.
I was determined, however, to go to my retreat, and I did. It was the most productive week I’d had in a while.
How Is That Possible?
Even with a “mild” concussion, which I’ve had before, you get some forgetfulness, e.g., I don’t remember feeling faint before I fainted or feeling bad at all; you have trouble focusing and making decisions. The day to depart for the retreat was one week after the syncope. I had my navigation app programmed for the trip, so it was making the decisions for me, and I’d made plenty of lists like checklists to prep me for the trip. I made it with no problem, other than leaving my toiletries behind, meaning no deodorant, toothpaste, or toothbrush, no shampoo and conditioner, no soap, etc. Living 40 minutes away meant I could return home, grab the toiletry bag from right beside the door to the garage (where I’d put it so I wouldn’t forget it [eye roll]), and return to the retreat venue before the others arrived.
I think the next five days were productive for a lot of reasons.
One, I was away from home, a break from the same four walls I’d cocooned in for close to 18 months.
Two, the scenery was familiar but different enough to be inspiring.
Three, my room was beautifully decorated, filled with books and amazing art, and restful.
Four, I had four other focused and dedicated writers with me, and we inspired each other. Every evening after dinner (each of us took a turn at that), we’d take out our laptops, read some of what we’d written that day, and have a bit of a critique session, tossing ideas and suggestions back and forth.
And even though my focus would start to deteriorate in the afternoons, I still averaged 5,000 words a day for five days. I think I drew energy from the place and the company, my sister writers. That had to be it because the week after I came home, I was pretty useless.
Afterward Is Always a Letdown
On the Sunday of arrival, we were all excited to have a whole, ong week together, but when Saturday came and we had to make room for the next batch of retreaters, we all wondered where the week had gone. We’d worked hard, we’d had fun, we’d been silly, we’d been serious, we’d laughed, we’d cried. We wrote. And we wrote good shite.
Going back home, however, meant adulting, and adulting is time consuming. Since we came home, we’ve all lamented how much our word counts have fallen off. But we enjoyed our critique events so much, we agreed to have a ZOOM critique meeting once a week. Even though the five of us are in three different states, we can keep that retreat energy going.
Take one syncope, add in a dose of sister writers, and, bah, what mild concussion?
If you’re interested in a calm, beautiful venue for a writing retreat, The Porches in Nelson Country, Virginia, is a wonderful place for a writing getaway. You can find out more about The Porches HERE.