Janine and I have been friends since high school. We met at a tiny church far removed from civilization where both of our families attended. The youth group consisted of my siblings and me, Janine, and two other sibling groups. Several years ago, she and her husband Ted bought a 3 bedroom cabin in the middle of NoWheresville, Mississippi. Using it only on the weekends, they generously give me access on weekdays when I need to write. A large portion of Good Night, I Love You was written in this amazing log cabin with a wrap around porch settled within 80 plus wooded acres… in the middle of nowhere. The Wi-Fi is good enough for email and some slow Internet but phone calls are almost impossible. This makes it a perfect place for a writing retreat! We scheduled a few days this week to set aside time for my new writing endeavors.
While on a conference call yesterday with my agent and publicist we discussed my rapidly approaching book launch this September for Good Night, I Love You. The details heading into these last 10 weeks before it’s release make my head swim. While discussing the long view, I assured them I am also working on the next thing…new material!
I arrived at Janine’s cabin yesterday and felt as if I were coming home. I turn into their lane then press the code to open the gate. As I hear the gate squeak slowly open, I creep my car forward down the winding road to the cabin. At this point, I usually roll down my window a bit so I can hear the peace. The sound of the pebbles crunching under my tires instantly relaxes me. I feel lighter as I leave the weight of my mind and heart behind me. I haven’t been here to write since last fall when I was finishing my first book. I embrace these few days of beauty, creative writing, and God’s all encompassing presence.
There is a supernatural peace here. I completely decompress here. I sleep deeply here. In fact, on my first day here, I go straight outside and lie on the queen sized swinging bed that hangs on the porch. I never intend to fall asleep, but usually find myself slowly waking up after about 30 minutes of catnapping. I go days without speaking while I’m here. I don’t watch any movies or television. It’s my laptop, the pond, the trees, the turtles, the swinging bed, a dog named Foxy, and me. Foxy’s an outdoor dog with beautiful blue eyes that are a striking contrast to her white hair. She’s my company when I eat meals on the porch…Foxy likes me.
The solitude is a healing balm to everything in my soul. I hear the bugs and birds at all times. Most people couldn’t handle the seclusion but I love it. I spend much time soaking in the beauty. It’s my inspiration. Beauty carries my thoughts deeper into a bottomless well where God nourishes my soul. He quenches my hunger and my thirst through beauty - he ignites my passions through beauty. With huge windows on every wall on the first floor, I take in nature while I’m on the couch with my laptop. When I take a break, I step outside to eat at the table on the porch with my friend Foxy resting at my feet.
My other breaks are spent on the swinging bed. I like to lie there and think of absolutely nothing. I watch the water, make myself aware of any sounds, stare at the tree tops while looking for birds, stretch my legs out into the air just for fun and because it feels good, or I take a siesta on the swinging bed. I give my mind space. I sit alongside Beauty. I inhale her. I inhale her serenity. I inhale her silence. I inhale the beauty of God’s presence in the simple life. In the mornings, I take my coffee outside and sit on the corner of the porch facing the water as the rising sun breaks through the trees to warm my face. Foxy joins me on the corner of the porch but stays cool under the swinging bed behind me.
This morning I sit and linger a little longer with my coffee and Beauty –she’s offering too much of herself to walk away. I study the way the mist moves then swirls over the water. It hovers, then, in random spots, lifts into mini tornadoes before opening and releasing into the warmth of one of the rays of light streaming through the treetops. It’s as if the mist is traveling through the ray of light back to heaven from where it came. The rays are like multiple staircases leading to the sun in the heavens. I feel God’s presence. My imagination takes me back in time to creation. “God’s spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.” Genesis 1:2MSG The Amplified says, “The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.” I’m transported to Day 1.
A turtle launches into the water from the dead tree breaking through the water. He had been doing his morning yoga stretches with his neck while basking in the sun. I hear the multiple varieties of birds calling to one another. I even hear an owl. This is normal for me. Owls follow me everywhere. My husband Michael knew how to speak to owls. When he heard them call from a distance, he made his call back. They spoke back and forth to one another until the owl perched on top of a tree right next to him. This made him giggle with satisfaction. There were a couple of owls that lived in our neighborhood while we lived in Jackson. Standing on the front patio with his glass of Cabernet, he lifted his chin and joined in the conversation with our neighborhood owls. When I moved to the countryside of New York, woods surrounded our home. An owl called for me on my first night. I felt as if it were Michael watching over me. The owl touched base with me weekly. I couldn’t help but smile every time. The owl finds me this morning, in the middle of NoWheresville, Mississippi. I smile back at him.
A fish flops in the open water, the dragonflies dance across the tops of the stalks of grass on the edge of the pond. A cow’s voice rises up from a distant pasture. I hear Foxy crawl out from under the swinging bed. She’s at my feet looking up at me with adoration while swishing her tail back and forth on the porch. I’m drunk with beauty now. I feel full and satisfied. Reaching down to Foxy, I rub her neck and chest. She closes her eyes relishing the moment.
I carry this satiation with me into the day of writing ahead of me. My time with Beauty was time well spent - the fire igniting my passions has been stoked. I'm captured once again.