Lavender Hill Farm
No, I didn't take that photo. I "borrowed" it off the internet. But I was there!
In fact, I did not take any photos, if you can believe it. I did have my small Canon camera in the car, and I did have my iPhone handy, but I didn't use either camera. I was too busy meeting six powerful women who call themselves the Vashonistas.
How they got together is their story, but the short version is that they are all bloggers who met in "space" before they met face to face. This is the fourth year of their gathering at this lovely house on Vashon Island, in Puget Sound, just a ferry ride from Seattle.
What you may not know if you follow any of these women is that I was to be Number 7. When the invitation came from Linda Meyers four years ago my introverted self registered fear. Then I looked at the calendar. Stuff going on; Tom's birthday, Sounders match. What to do? So I did nothing, and that non-action was my answer as the group formed, found a six bedroom place to spend an October weekend, and the saga of the Vashonistas began.
I have followed their adventures and their bonding through their blogs. I have only met one of them, DJan, in person. but I felt I knew Linda and Sally and DJan quite well, Sandi and Deb and Jann not as much. Through their writing I could tell that they were all strong, intelligent, and thoughtful women, people with whom I seemed to share a kindred spirit.
The invitation came via email early in September. Would I like to join them for dinner on Friday? They wanted to meet me. Fear crept in again. And thoughts like "Do I know how to get their? Tom does most of the driving these days." But I said yes.
I am very glad that I accepted their invitation. Once I got to Lavender Hill Farm, another story in itself, I was met by Linda and Sally and Jann. I got a tour of the house - lovely- and we settled in to visit - easily. A while later DJan and Sandi and Deb arrived from an outing. I found out later they had staged this so the I would not be overwhelmed by all of them at once. That's how thoughtful they are.
But that would not have been a problem. Conversation flowed freely. There was much laughter, a few almost tears, and I revealed more of myself over the course of a few hours than I hardly ever let people see of the real me over years of time. What a safe and trusting environment these women have created.
We shared experiences and dinner and writing. The six had decided to have a longer stay at their retreat, since all are now retired, and to focus on writing skills. Deb has been leading the group through prompted writing workshops, where they all write to a given prompt for a given amount of time. After dinner I got to do a five minute prompt with them. We wrote and then in turn shared our writing and received positive feedback from each other. It was a very safe environment, and even in five minutes it's surprising how much a person reveals about themselves. I have a lot more in common with some of these women than anyone else will probably ever know about. Childhood was a long time ago for all of us, but what is hidden in one's heart still manages to resurface, surprising with its intensity.
There was also laughter, much laughter, and smiles and nods as our own little mind movies illustrated the readers words. It was brought home to me once again how we all envision another's writing through our own experiences, and when we can make connections with the writer the written word becomes so much more meaningful. That's why I worked so hard to teach my students, and the teachers I worked with, to be aware of making connections.
I made a lot of connections yesterday. It was an enriching experience. I am better for having it.
Thank you Linda, DJan, Sally, Deb, Jann, and Sandi. You are wonderful.