Feb 24

Retreat with Your Writing


Dear friends,

I’m writing from the study where Brenda and I worked together a few winters ago on The Pen & the Bell. From where I sit, I can see out the sliding glass doors to a stand of madronas, their curved trunks glinting in the fleeting spring sunlight. Beyond them, the waters of Puget Sound ripple, a ferry marking the passage of the day.

Hanging on the wall are three photographs of owls, and they seem to bless my words as they come in fits and starts—more fits than starts today. Some days are like that, and today, I’m letting that be OK, knowing that the perspective I’ve gained by spending a few days in retreat will serve me well in the busy weeks ahead. I may not have written as much as I’d hoped, but I’m able to see my projects with fresh eyes—and to see better what’s needed.

This room holds good memories, good writing energy. I remember when all the letters Brenda and I wrote to each other were laid out in piles on the heavy oak tables, and we walked among them with Sticky Notes, mulling on all the possibilities for order. So it’s no surprise that I hear Brenda’s encouraging voice, laugh when I remember the day we wrote letters to each other even though we were working in the same room!


While we all know it’s often not possible to get away—that’s why we wrote The Pen & the Bellthere are times when just a few days in solitude can give you valuable perspective on your work, your life, your relationships. 

Consider if you might be able to design such a retreat in the months ahead.  You can apply for a residency at one of the many artist/writer residencies throughout the country—or even the world!  (Remember, a girl can dream, right?) Or find a house or cabin to rent in the off-season and create your own writing retreat, alone or with friends (the website VRBO is wonderful for finding low-cost options). We hope you’ll tell us about the writing retreats you create!

With gratitude for this time and place—and for you, dear readers, for being here with me.



Feb 14

“Friends Make Us Fuller”

Blue-Sea-Ocean-HDAnd here’s a Valentine from Holly….

Dear Friends,

I’m choosing to spend Valentine’s Day on retreat—more on this next week—and in doing so, am  feeling grateful  both to those I love and those from whom I’ve been drawing inspiration this week.
Here’s a poem by Northwest poet Robert Sund that I offer as my valentine to you, dear readers.

Friends Make Us Fuller

Friends make us fuller.
When friends leave, their light stays behind.
It is like the blue sea
that supports the white breakers
that come and go.

No matter how far I go
I long to return and be with friends.
It is never the same fire I left,
but beneath it are the ashes
of all our meetings that have gone before.

For more of Sund’s poems, check out the Poet’s House Trust website.

May your Valentine’s Day be filled with love in its myriad forms…


Feb 14

Partner Yoga


Dear Friends,

Remember sitting at your desk in grade school on Valentine’s Day? Remember the agonizing rituals? The way your heart thumped as kids left small cards on each others desks? The way you surreptitiously counted those cards to see how much love you were allotted that year? The decoding of  messages on candy hearts, wondering if “be mine” really meant be mine.

No? Was it just me? Well, much as I would like to proclaim otherwise, I really haven’t grown much emotionally in all the years since then. The hearts. The candy. The special couples dinners at restaurants. I’ll admit it: Valentine’s Day can be hard on us single folk, much as we might scoff at it. Not even the day itself, but the days leading up it. The reminders everywhere that you’ve gone solo.

I’d been so busy these past few weeks, that I thought Valentine’s Day might fly under my radar this year. But then I went to my Yin Yoga class last night. And about halfway through, I had a sinking feeling in my chest. Oh no, I thought, she’s going to make us do partner yoga.

In Partner Yoga, you team up with someone about your same size. You go through a series of poses together, creating counterbalance and traction. Your partner’s presence makes it easier to go deeper than your ever could on your own. It involves trust. It involves getting over yourself.

I didn’t wanna. As I stood on my mat and my teacher’s words reached me—sometimes it takes a partner to help you learn your true self—I wanted to bolt. I wanted to opt out. I wanted to take my teacher aside and say “I really don’t feel like connecting with anyone today.”  But of course I couldn’t. And I resigned myself as I turned to the woman on my left, a woman I’d never met before. A stranger.

We laughed nervously then sat facing each other, knee to knee. And the first pose we did was quite simple: I sat with my palms face up, and she put her palms face down on mine.

We sat together with eyes closed and breathed. Holding hands, but in the most vulnerable, open way possible. I felt a soft energy flow between us. It’s been so long since someone held my hand. And I started to cry.

Not with sobs or tears. The kind of crying that happens all on the inside: a welling up from the chest. A tingling behind the eyes. A dissolution of boundaries.

And then it passed. And what followed was a peaceful opening. We switched our hands and I gave her my warmth. We did straddle split forward bends together. We sat back to back, leaning against one another, and simply breathed. We reached back and found each other’s knees and twisted deeply.

The whole room grew….how can I put it? The only way I can say it is: in love. Our teacher looked around, her smile wide. It was a big class, had felt crowded when we started. And she said: See how it doesn’t feel like a big class now? It felt like there were so many of us, and now it feels like there’s just one. We all sighed our agreement.

This Valentine’s Day, may you find the love you seek deep in your own heart. And reach out to all the partners—inside and out—that support you in this devotion.

Many blessings,