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by Hedgebrook Guest

When I showed my kids pictures of the ridiculously adorable cottages at Hedgebrook, one of which would be my home for an August 2015 residency, my son bet that I’d love the cottage so much I’d never leave it and hoped, for my sake, that it had a bathroom.

He was both correct and not (though thankfully, the cottages do have bathrooms). Each day: coffee, editing of the previous day’s writing, writing toward a new poem. I’d make up an excuse to walk the grounds once or twice, like hey, I’ve run out of fresh figs / flowers / blackberries and should go get some. Breakfast and lunch from my fridge: sheep’s milk yogurt, local honey, a container brimming with something wonderful that a Hedgebrook chef had prepared.

Though I didn’t move much in the mornings, I must have burned 2000 calories before noon. I’m a very intense writer and editor when I’m in the poetry zone, and for 15 days I was in, my brain on overdrive. By the afternoon I was wiped out, shaky, useless. Connections I’d seen with words in the morning were gone. If you’d asked me what my middle name was, I couldn’t have told you. I couldn’t even stand to be in my cottage any longer, awesome as it was.

Thankfully, Whidbey Island is a great place to be outdoors and I took advantage of this. There’s the Puget Sound and wildlife preserve with its wading birds and otters; there are cute towns nearby; there are miles of wild blackberries growing fat and sweet. But for me, it was all about getting there.

Hedgebrook Bikes

There was this day I really, really wanted my favorite snack, Cheerios.

The Hedgebrook bikes kept me sane. I biked almost every day, sometimes twice a day because who can say no to a leisurely bike ride after dinner? (Plus we had to check on the otter pups and worry when we hadn’t seen all the babies.) Past alumnae had compiled biking routes that ranged from less strenuous to killer and I rode most of them gleefully with occasional quite-loud cursing, depending on the hill and whether I had the breath to speak.

These rides opened up new writing. When I wasn’t inventing creative curses while climbing a 10 percent grade, my brain was sifting through whatever I’d been working on that day. An ending that had me stumped would get revised, seemingly without me doing anything. Lines for new poems appeared. Not once did I remember a pen, but I’d recite these new lines over and over so I wouldn’t forget them. Biking wasn’t just a break from the work, it contributed to the work, helped me re-focus or find other ways in.

Back from my bike rides, I’d go make a few notes but wouldn’t jump in as I did in the mornings – I’d let it rest, have an incredible dinner with my awe-inspiring, hilarious, and talented fellow residents, read poems or fiction, let the owls hoot me to sleep. When the sun came up I couldn’t wait to start it all again.

Since last summer, I’ve been more mindful of the need for staying active, for the body having its way. I won’t sit at my desk and grind away at writing that’s going nowhere, for days at a time, miserable but hoping for some breakthrough that is unlikely to happen – now I know I can walk away, shake things up, and get better results. I cross-country ski or skate or go to the gym in the winter; I hike or bike in the summer, and how I feel about writing and revising has improved tremendously as a result.


About the Author:

Karen SkofieldKaren Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry. Karen’s home bike resides in Massachusetts and is slightly jealous of the Hedgebrook bikes ferrying around so many fabulous writers.









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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


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