I pulled into the drive for Everwood Farmstead on a warm afternoon, feeling the luxury of time at the start of a week-long artist’s retreat and the self-imposed pressure of wanting to use it well.

In my  backpack was a partially finished manuscript. The first two hundred pages were pretty well crafted, the last hundred trailed off into notes and incomplete thoughts. The bones of the story were in place, but the flesh to knit them together became increasingly spare as the pages turned.

Since Karen and I came off the road, I’ve been working hard on editing and producing our next exhibit. The files are with the designer and we are getting close to the final proofs to review before printing. The last several months, I’ve shifted my attention to the book. 

In December I applied for an artist retreat at Everwood, imagining I might need some uninterrupted time to finish the book. In February, I learned I had been selected and now here I was, in desperate need of that focused time and with a pile of work left to do. As the summer progresses, our programming will pick up and writing will be harder to fit in. By fall, the window of opportunity will close. It was now or never. Well, it was now or sometime in 2024 and I didn’t want to wait that long.

I met Olivia, the caretaker and summer intern who tended to the day-to-day. I said hello to Chris and Bill who founded Everwood as a place to nurture creative souls. And I reconnected with Darren, the musician who I met a month earlier when I went to see him perform at the Cedar Cultural Center when I realized we would be sharing the retreat space together.

I had arrived feeling an urgency to write, but the mechanics of settling in kept me from it. I visited with Darren, unloaded my suitcase, brought in my food. Then I decided to explore the 100-year-old barn, walk  the trails, and listen to the birds. As the sun set and dusk delivered a cool breeze, the fireflies started their magical dance in the yard and the fields around it. 

I moved inside and opened a guestbook that was signed by other artists who had come through this retreat before me.

“Creativity is a concept, perhaps not well understood by the people who practice it most successfully.”

“Dear Everwood, Was that a dream? Did I just get to live a week of my life here?”

“Pressure turns coal into diamonds, true. But, ‘You won’t screw this up,’ is rare advice. ‘Cuz lack of pressure creates gemstones, too.”

“the wind moves / the living prairie / and I am reminded / my soul has a sail”

“When possible / walk barefoot / but mind the acorns”

Page after page of encouragement. Whimsy. Recognition of the punishing pace of the world and permission to step away from it for a time. And I felt the slow embrace of Everwood’s welcome replace the urgency I had arrived with.

I could sense the lingering presence of the creative souls who had walked here before me. They had prepared the soil and planted the seeds. It was my good fortune to harvest the bounty.

Sometime in the spring, a welcome packet from Everwood arrived in the mail. There was an envelope with a single blank slip of paper inside and we were invited to write our intention for the week. I wrote, “Finish the damned book!”

And on Wednesday night, sitting at the old wooden table in the dining room, in the light of a single bulb illuminating the room, the sounds of crickets and spring peepers floating in through the screen of the back door, I did just that.

Lessons on the Road to Peace.

Four months is a ridiculously short time to write a 300-page book, but this one has been turning over in my mind for every inch of this 2-year, 93,000-mile journey. It was ready to be written. There’s work left to do. Revisions, editing, and the small bits of finesse and magic that turn a good phrase into a great one. But the heavy lifting is done. We are well on our way. And I can’t wait to share it with you.

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