Saturday, February 14, 2009

happiness

Owl Mountain, New Mexico
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp



Staying at the tiny solar-run cabin at the Owl Mountain Retreat back in 2005 was one of the happiest times in my life. I was in solitude, writing my book proposal which I later snagged my agent with (Carol Mann Literary Agency) who then sold my book idea to Beacon Press. I stayed there for 2 weeks, just me and my thoughts, me and my computer, surrounded by the gorgeous red rock landscape, near the town of Abiquiu where Georgia O'Keeffe lived and painted. It was a magical time in a magical landscape. I loved the solitude and I long for it now. I long to be surrounded by nothing but nature. I saw coyotes pass by in the front of the cabin, birds sitting perched in the windowsill, and the thousand colors of the sunrise and sunset change and dance over the dusty land. I need to get back. I blogged about it through November 2005 (entries like blustery day, cotton candy sky, it is snowing!!, purple mountain majesties, laughter -one of the best and funniest days of my life - where I took a bunch of self-portraits and was just cracking myself up on Thanksgiving, chocolate foibles, pee-cans and yesterdays, my first camp adventure, and I have found heaven and it's in NM), and early December.

I've been thinking seriously of finding a cabin somewhere and just writing like mad on my book. I could go back to Owl Mountain, but I'm looking for something maybe a bit less money... like FREE! :) I may go to my friend's in Montana, who has a downstairs "apartment" but wonder about the cold. I'm not a huge fan of cold... BUT that said, it was wintertime in New Mexico when I was there, and as long as the trusty gas faux wood stove was cranked, I was toasty warm. I played music CDs and wrote on my laptop. I took a walk every day, and perched on top of the ledge, observing the world. It was truly a magical time. I think I said that already.

I wrote an essay on my time there for E/The Environmental Magazine that is one of my favorite pieces, Back to Nature: What Is It About Simplicity and Solitude that Inspires Writers?. Writing essays is always gratifying because they're personal, and they tell a part of your life story. I started the piece with a great quote from Thoreau because I felt all Thoreau-like in my isolated little cabin (though this cabin was a bit bigger than Thoreau's!) I know that because the college where I used to teach biology at (formerly Kingwood College, now Lonestar College-Kingwood) had a reproduction of his cabin that students built, and it was TINY!

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." – Henry David Thoreau, On Walden Pond

Trust me, I march to a different drummer! I always have. It's funny, I recently got back in touch with a friend from high school who I hadn't heard of in over 20 years via Facebook (to which I need a 12-step program...) and I happened to have the profile pic of me with the chopsticks in my mouth where I look like a walrus. And she was like, "You haven't changed!" :) Well, yes parts of me have changed dramatically but I have always been a bit goofy and silly. In fact one of my, or rather my only New Year's resolution is to sort of reclaim that part of myself that is joyful, the joie de vivre that I have had since I was young but that life can just suck right out of you sometimes.

I'm a passionate person. I feel everything very deeply, whether it's sorrow, or joy, excitement and anticipation, or compassion for others. I also - generally - don't dwell in one emotion for too long. So if I'm bawling and crying one day and very deeply sad, the next day I am almost always feeling better and back on my feet. One of my spiritual mentors, the writer Henri Nouwen, once said something to the effect that we can circle our abyss, but we need to make sure not to get stuck in it. To me that means that we can go back into those deep painful childhood wounds (or the adult wounds) and think about it and feel it and grieve it and mourn it, but we have to be careful not to get stuck there. And as I've mentioned on this blog many times before. I always vowed to never let life take away my joie de vivre. It's not always easy though.

So today my friends Amy, Melody and her kids will join me and my kids to watch Slumdog Millionaire with some chili and heart-shaped pizza! Then we're going to a Joy Motion class at the opening house of my friend Maggie Grueskin's eco-friendly EKAM Yoga studio in Atascocita!! The Tribune did a great article about it and her.

2 comments:

ROGER BASTIEN said...

Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.Keep it up!

WENDEE HOLTCAMP said...

Amen to that sentiment! Thanks for your comment :)