Ideas are like cats, seemingly calm and peaceful from afar but suddenly ferocious once you start toying with them. I say this because I know how it feels to be the squeaky toy mouse clenched between the teeth of a crazy-house-cat possibility. One moment I’m innocently dreaming up an idea and the next moment–just when I’m deciding whether to commit–it pounces and bats me around with all its power.
It all starts benignly enough. I’m out cross-country skiing one night in January and with every lunge I think about poems, words, and essay hooks. By the last hill I might be able to write a thousand pages if someone would just hand me a pen and paper. Of course, instead of penning a masterpiece after clicking out of my skis, I go home; home to a kitchen sink with rotting lettuce floating in dirty water, home to two daughters asking me to lay down with them until they fall asleep, home to a pile of utility bills yet to be paid. I know then the clever phrases will have to wait until tomorrow when I will have more time, or next weekend, or next month, or when the kids leave home. And that’s when the idea is born.
What if I don’t have to wait until I’m seventy-five? What if I set aside a weekend, just one weekend, where I have space and time to create without the distractions of normal life? I swoop into my kids’ room with kisses for both of them, adding that I can’t lay with them tonight because I have something important to discuss with their dad instead. I run out to the garage where Stan is bent over plywood and parts of an old bed frame (he’s constructing an ice-boat which deserves a separate post of its own) and share my idea while my cheeks are still red from my ski. He keeps working while I talk, asking a few questions but not saying much, which isn’t out of the ordinary–he likes grappling with wood and steel more than half-thought-out ideas. I interpret his neutral response as full-blown encouragement.
The next morning I wake long before dawn and start a new page in my notebook titled Wonderscape; A Creative Wellness Retreat. The idea has now taken on the frenzied cat persona. For weeks I lie in bed at night unable to sleep. I try deep breathing, praying, and stretching to trick myself into slumber but all I can think about are the singer/songwriters I want to invite, the fresh cinnamon buns I’ll serve, and hiking in the October sun. One night, when sleep proves elusive I turn on the computer even though I know I shouldn’t. “Dear women whose opinion I value…” I type, addressing a few of my close friends, and then pitch my idea:
“Imagine hours to commit to your craft, whether it’s writing, origami, song-writing, painting, or juggling. Imagine doing it after a run or hike through the boreal forest. Imagine an inspiring speaker, or evening festival of art. Imagine choosing from 2 or3 workshops to learn something new, or hone your skills.”
The next few days responses trickle in and fuel my excitement. Maybe I’m not crazy! Maybe I can really do this! I start talking about it with almost everyone I run into, casting my net wide in hopes of snagging other leads. I gather names of people I should contact, venue options, and all kinds of other suggestions. During one of these brainstorming sessions with an acquaintance in public I see another woman sitting within earshot of our conversation. I cock my head in her direction and raise my eyebrows while whispering to my friend, “What about her? Do you know her? Would she be interested or have ideas?”
My friend shrugs her shoulders, which is all I need. Soon I am introducing myself to the strange lady and when I finish my spiel I sense I may have just ambushed her.
“Wow,” she says slowly, like she’s buying herself more time to come up with an appropriate response. “That’s really, um…” Long pause. “That’s really artsy-fartsy.”
I smile weakly and try to lighten the mood, wishing I had just told her about schlepping my kids to soccer practise instead of baring my passion.
Both of my older daughters are beside me and witness the entire exchange. Belén looks at me, looks at the other woman, and then looks away. I can’t tell if she’s embarrassed or bored. Later Susanna chides me, “But mom, you don’t even know for sure if you’re going to do this. What if you don’t? What if nothing happens?”
“Well then I’ll just tell people I had a good idea but I changed my mind. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it great to have ideas?”
Neither daughter looks convinced and I don’t blame them. I’m not really convinced myself, but I can’t stop from moving forward. Sharing my idea with the world is risky–I might look silly after all–but not pursuing the inspiration would be even worse than looking silly. How will I know if this kind of retreat could work if I never even try it?
Slowly my scrambled notes turn into budget pages, schedule outlines, and session details. I get confirmations from an accomplished jazz singer, a storyteller, and other artists. I create a website, print posters, and even file for a business name. Then I sit back in my rocking chair and wait. The cat is still there but it’s a little calmer. It even jumps onto my lap and I pet it for awhile. Yes, I think while I relax for a moment, this idea is going to work out just fine.
Now I need your feedback. Have you been to something like this before? Do you have any suggestions? Wanna come? Can you share this with others who would love a weekend like Wonderscape? Please feel free to post links on your social media platforms to help me get the word out.
Finally, I’m still looking for a caterer for the farm-to-table dinner on Saturday evening, October 1. Is cooking your art form? Would you like to create a meal for 25ish people? Do you know someone who might be excited about this? If so, leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you with the financial details.
So grateful for ideas and opportunities to share them,