This weekend I had of the pleasure of attending a spiritual writing retreat hosted by the Divine Center of Queer Renewal. I needed a little break from the city feeling the downs after coming back from my trip to California, so I signed up, packed the car, secured my dog in the passenger’s seat and headed upstate. Board Advisor, Padre Tony Amato, edited the first draft of my novel The Liberation of The Black Unicorn and I had never met him face to face. When I arrived, I was greeted by him at the front door at Executive Director Susan Corso’s home (so appropriately named Cupcake Manor) and the magic of the weekend began.
The retreat brought my such calm, creativity and spiritual grounding. I consider writing a spiritual act but I am only just beginning to write about my connection to my ancestors, my practice and the divine. The weekend was an opportunity for me to explore how I communicate my understanding of an inner light that challenges, heals and grows. The workshops led by both Tony and Susan guided me through two new chapters in my first draft and their encouragement helped me see myself as a lifelong novelist. Over cupcakes, home cooked meals, intentions and writing exercises, we opened ourselves up to share the progress of writing ourselves into spiritual growth.
I would recommend this workshop to anyone who is beginning to experience themselves as a vessel for the diverse meaning to spirituality and for those who are looking to bring that experience into their writing.
Here is one of the pieces I wrote based on a quotation prompt:
We are on a journey to keep an appointment with who we are.
– Gene Roddenberry
She was always on time, if not early. It was because her mother brought her to every appointment late. The attendance office even had a pre-signed notepad for her daily tardiness so she was not suspended from school.
Maybe she truly thought if she were late again, she would be suspended from life.
She woke early to decide what to wear. First the yellow dress she wore to graduation, then the pink pants suit she wore to her first double butch wedding, then finally the purple lace maxi dress, the one her grandmother gifted her that she always hated but on her passing, had learned to love.
It was a 10am appointment at an office downtown and the day was hot with a temperamental breeze. Her bag was a comfortable heavy on the train, always with a journal and pens, a book and cosmetics, candy and stones, always filled to the brim. She walked the half mile to the office, having never been before, and hoped she knew where it was. She had always given herself plenty of time to get lost and she always needed it because she was always getting lost.
But she found it.
It was an old brownstone with a tree in a tiny yard beyond the front gate. The stairs were lined with plants, some blooming, some dead and the welcome mat read, ‘You were always already home.’ She had forgotten which office and which floor but the door was already open. Still she wondered where to go. Something kept her feet moving down the hall to the back of the house to the office glass door shining warm with light. That door was open too and she cautiously entered.
“Oh child,” a woman said before she could open her mouth, “I’m not ready for you yet. My flowers are the only ones I’m up for this early in the morning.”
The woman was tall and glowing with wild grey hair and a Kente patterned gown. She was the kind of women who looked as if she were born one without an age or beginning or end. And she was singing out for the flowers to grow, singing a song she made up that morning just like every morning.
“I’m sorry. I thought we had an appointment at 10.”
“What appointment? If you woke up to see me, you came here on your own without that funny grown folks calendar time and you’re here now. And I’m sure both you and I will be thankful after I finish with the flowers. Now sit.”
She looked around as she took her place in a sofa chair. The bookshelves were floor to ceiling, paintings of trees and landscapes, statues of the same female figure in different poses over and over.
“It’s beautiful. Do you live here?”
“I live where ever I am. Now you’ll have to be quiet or the flowers won’t hear me.”
She sat mouth-less while the woman tilted her metal water can and hummed to her petunias. The woman swayed on steady feet, as if she were courting them to grow, asking them to stretch as wide as they could until they decided it was as far as they could go. When the women sat down across from her in the matching sofa chair, she placed her can beside herself, pressed out her gown on her lap and looked in the eyes of the women before her.
“What brings you to me?”
“Someone sent me.”
“Who sent you?”
“I can’t remember now. Someone gave me your card and told me I should come.”
“Oh child, I don’t have a card. I’m a story no one writes down. Are you sure you’ve come to the right woman?”
“I think so. Yes, I think I have.”
“Well then it doesn’t matter who sent you if you knew this was exactly where you needed to be. Now enough of the how, let’s get to the why. Why are you here?”
“I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’m trying to get a job and I’m not sure where to move and my relationship is ending and I think I’m just afraid to decide because I don’t want to be alone.”
“No child. Why are you here?”
“Because someone sent me.”
“No, no, now we are back to where we began. If you don’t remember who sent you, then no one sent you. You came because you were called to. So why are you here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let me ask it in a different way. What do you love?”
She sat quietly for a moment, as if she had to think twice.
“I love to write.”
“And what is given to you when you write?”
“Escape. Peace. Freedom.”
“And what do you learn about yourself when you write?”
“That I’m more alive than I’ve remembered or at times knew.”
“And I can tell you there is more. That your words are your ministry. That you open something divine in the humility of language. That you heal others who’ve forgotten they could heal when you give it away.”
“I’m nothing wise. They’ve been telling you this all along. You just came with the open door of your ears and gave me the blessing of allowing me in.”
“So my purpose?”
“No child. Purpose is about doing. This is about being.”
She sat for a moment slowing the machine of her listening to take it in past her throat and heart down to her gut into her feet. The women knew what she was watching and when she felt it reach her souls, she spoke.
“Now do you understand what I’m asking?”
“I think so.”
“Why are you here?”
“So write and all the answers will come when you do.”
The women stood and went to the window. She grabbed the figure of a women standing tall, pulled down candles from her shelves and began to light them. This was always the way she started her day. By then, the women thought she had left but noticed her still sitting in the chair.
“Oh, you’re still here.”
“Yes, I didn’t know we were through.”
“Of course we are. The day has only begun and I promise you, you have somewhere to be.”
She rose and began to say ‘thank you’ when the women interrupted.
“Don’t thank me. Thank why you came.”
She bowed her head as she said it inside and walked out the door.