Bicycling in the Rain at Hedgebrook

Having a moment

Hedgebrook is a residency on Whidbey Island in Washington state for women identifying writers. I first stayed there back in 1999. It wasn’t as well-known then, but in the years since it has become a very sought after residency. I’ve been fortunate to return as an alumna in 2016 and again this past March. Some things have changed, such as the prevalence of cell phones and internet access, but the essential elements of time and space to write have remained the same. 6 writers each get a private cottage and chefs prepare nourishing and delicious meals with some homegrown ingredients. The writers choose how to spend their days and nights but gather for dinner around the farmhouse table.

My goal was to finish another draft of my The Old Globe Theatre commissioned play Penumbra in preparation to workshop the script.

Well, I got a little distracted. The day after I arrived was field trip day. We went into nearby Freeland to pick up junk food and any other supplies we needed at the local shopping center. I picked up a 1,000 piece puzzle.

Puzzles are dangerous for obsessive personalities. But it was so pretty. And the theme! “Everything is Made out of Magic” Plus there was a waterfall and I was staying in Waterfall cottage. It became my reward. Write a little, and then I could swivel my chair and work on the puzzle. I stayed up one night to finish it.

It was time for some honesty.

“Thelma, if you can stay up all night to complete this puzzle, you can finish this play.”

Sidenote: Hedgebrook is magical, but it is sustained by the hard work of the staff and the generosity of its supporters. They believe in the importance of women writers, so yeah, I was gonna finish this play.

One of the characters in Penumbra is a Vietnamese adoptee. I brought the book Somewhere Sisters by Erika Hayasaki for my research. Once I started reading it, I knew I had to finish it before I continued writing. Being at Hedgebrook, I had the luxury to take a day to do that. Although it focuses on two women younger than my character, it included a chapter about Operation Babylift, which was part of my character’s timeline. I couldn’t sleep after I read that section.

After I finished the book, I set daily goals for my writing. I pulled oracle cards for inspiration.

In addition to wildlife, I saw writers from my window seat! (Charlene Allen and Sophie Wereley below)

I’ve met some incredible writers at Hedgebrook, during this recent residency and from the past. Some of their books are in the Farmhouse library. We’ve had great conservations as we shared walks and meals, and our relationships continue. (Below: Ashaki Jackson with umbrella; Me, Ashaki, Colwill Brown, Charlene, Sophie–missing Judy Bolton-Fasman)

Ugh! My time at Hedgebrook was coming to an end. I finished my play! On my list of things to do in the time I had left was to ride a bike to Double Bluff Beach and collect wish rocks. Of course, it rains in the Pacific Northwest. You can’t take sunshine for granted. But it was on my list, so I went.

It was ridiculous. I got soaked. But I did get wish rocks to give to my fellow writers and this picture of a dead crab.

I also found a spiral shell, which matches the medallion I bought that says “hope” on the back. I left the shell with a grape hyacinth with the other offerings at the foot of Waterfall cottage.

I spent my last full day packing and getting the cottage ready for its next inhabitant. Sigh…

When I got home, I kept scheming, scamming, trying to figure out how to bring Hedgebrook with me, or at least that feeling of complete creative freedom. Reality has meant spending more time working on grant and fellowship applications proving that I am an artist than actually being one. I’ve picked up a new teaching gig and still have to pick up the teenager from school. I’ve signed up for multiple snack bar shifts, which means slinging nachos. As Colwill wrote in a commiseration text, “To hell with reality!”

Here’s what helps:

  • I would blast Lizzo in my cottage on the Bluetooth Tribit speaker they provided. I bought a ridiculously expensive Lizzo concert ticket AND that same speaker.
  • Nature! It brings me back, whether in my garden, pulling weeds, or taking a walk. It works.
  • I’m always in a rush and always late. Brilliant discovery–don’t do so much!
  • I’m going to have a couple all day writing marathons. Keep the pressure up, in good company.
  • Puzzles. Savor them.
  • Be ridiculous. I didn’t mean to go for a walk in the rain the other day, but I did.

Thank you Hedgebrook for beauty and time and space. May you live forever.

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