New Workshop

Posted on 17 August 2004

It’s early early morning and I’d like to put down words that were written over the past few days before we launch into the body/soul writing session.

Yesterday a new group of women arrived and unfortunately I have yet to meet two because they were stranded at the airport as I did not receive their email. Hopefully they will arrive this morning and not still be upset.

Everything appears to be moving too quickly for me to settle and type this public journal each day. Rob, Gill, and Shirin were supposed to be leaving for Spain today but only Rob will go. Gill and Shirin have not been well (Gill was on and off feverish for two days) and so I took them to the doctor who prescribed four medicines. Although feeling a bit better, they will move into Susan’s bottom rooms today so they have freedom to move about and not disturb the workshop.

August 15th

The first session has ended and as I stop to catch my breathe, I am pleased with what has been accomplished: every writer who attended the Life Writing session is content.

The last half day, we wrote jumping from an image that summed up the past week’s experience. Marlene, for the first time, joined us. She described the evening before, when all of us walked up to La Vierge and sat on her base under the night sky, bright with stars as the perfect place to be in the company of women.

(Strange, Rob said last night, after an evening barbeque in Lyn’s garden that the celebration felt too feminine for him.)

Ursula’s heart was so full that she expressed her feelings through body, head, arm gesture, and facial expression. Bett chose a series of images and then alit on the blue kitchen bowl, full of soapy water. I, like Marlene, chose the night sky at La Vierge and then, through some leap of thought, recorded a conversation between Ursula and I in which she told me that I write well and I returned the compliment, not out of politeness but because I do love the way she records her images. Something made me look her in the eye and I asked, “Do you believe me?” She said “no.” I asked why I should believe her and she said “Because I said so.”

Marlene becomes a little impatient with us all comparing our writing and dismissing it. I have been thinking about this. My plums and I have discussed it in the past – each one of us wondering why the other three allow us to be part of the group. Why is this? We do not think our individual writing without merit but the first raw outpouring is like a new born baby in that it is difficult to see his or her beauty when fresh from the womb, wrinkled and covered in blood, not quite human (or too human?)

I wonder if we need this self-criticism to be more objective in the editing process.

But something strange happened to me in regards to my writing this week. I forced myself to read aloud, no matter how ridiculous? trivial? bad? I thought my spontaneous flow as I wanted to put myself on the line once and for all and expose my smallest thoughts. Interestingly more than one person complimented me and said they wished that they could write like me. This shocked me. I am so messy, I think, and still I caught a glimpse of my power as a writer.

Last night we celebrated Kay’s 84th birthday and Marlene, Bett, Ursula and I wore our Isadora Duncan dresses. Ruth, a friend of Lyn, a musician, brought her accordian to serenade the elegant birthday woman.

Picture this – twelve women, two men, in Lyn’s garden that borders on a sunflower field and a vegetable patch. The village is perched high in the background. Ruth sits behind a tree-like bush, some yards away, playing her accordian and the music drifts over us, sitting, standing, sipping champagne and wine, around a long table. Marlene and Ursula, in olive and black matching dresses, shawls on shoulders are standing to the side speaking quietly in German. Rob is at the far side of the garden laughing with Lyn who is crouched over the hibachi cooking salmon. Gill and Shirin, both gorgeous in their mini skirts are serving miniature squares of shrimp, vegetable mousse, and meat balls, all on little sticks. The stars come out as the sky darkens and Marlene and Ursula pick up candles, globed in glass, break into “Happy Birthday” accompanied by Ruth on the accordian who has joined them, and I present the cake “poire au chocolat” to Kay. I felt as if I was in a scene from a D.H.Lawrence story.

August 14th

Our last full day was yesterday and in the evening we celebrated with a dinner at the Light house, prepared by Christine. I admit I was a little worried as she is working full time in the restaurant in the new hotel but she came through beautifully with poached salmon, ratatouille, citron-flavoured rice, salad, bread and steamed pear, covered in chocolate and nuts. After dinner, I climbed on the table and struck a dancing pose hoping that would constitute another step towards freedom from convention.

After eating, all of us wandered down to the Esplanade and up to the Vierge to sit on her base and watch for shooting stars. Afterwards, we returned to the Esplanade where the Chipendales (yes, one p) were performing to raucous music. The first two numbers were performed ty two scantily dressed young women and then Zorro appeared on stage, flinging his cape, strutting from one side of the stage to the other in a mask that came half way down his face with slits cut for his eyes (reminding me of Erica Jong’s “zipless fuck.”) He chose one woman from the audience to sit on a chair middle stage and danced and gyrated around her, slowly removing his clothes while some of us – Ramona, Bett, and I got as close as possible. (Bett, who does not stand on ceremony was dancing earlier by herself, shameless in a low-cut polka dot top. Marlene, who had left early to prepare today’s lesson, was also a flussy in her red stretch lace top that looked as if she wore nothing underneath. And me, I was sedate as usual.) The strip-tease was hilarious and strange. The Esplanade was full of families, small children running and the town’s older matriarchs, sitting front row centre. I wondered who had chosen the evening’s entertainment, part of the four day village fete for the annunciation of the Virgin.

I slipped into bed near one in the morning and woke at five, dressed, and drove Kathy to the train station, returning for our last half day. Time eludes me.

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