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by Lea Galanter

Woody Allen says that 80% of life is just showing up – an adage that is certainly true for me and Hedgebrook. I’ve attended multiple Master Classes and Salons, as well as other assorted special events and workshops. I first heard about Hedgebrook in the late 1990s through a friend, who pestered me to apply for a residency at a time when I had absolutely no confidence in myself as a creative writer. I didn’t get in (not surprisingly). Years later, someone dragged me to a Salon, which is when I heard about the new Master Classes. A week with Theresa Rebeck? A cottage all to myself? Sign me up!

Little did I know how much I would change over the next few years, none of which would have happened without the women I met at Hedgebrook. Every Master Class, Salon, and event I attend expands my world a little more, and today I am in a place I could not have foreseen when I first drove to Hedgebrook. Master Classes gave me the opportunity to learn story-telling (and the writing business) from phenomenal writers, to spend time away from the world, and to commune with other women writers – not to mention spoiling me with delicious food. Looking back, however, I have to say that it’s at the Salons that the most surprising things happen for me. The Salons are a smorgasbord where you can learn from many and make powerful connections. I never would have found the wonderful teachers I’ve had without them. One Salon presenter helped me discover hidden details for a story by using procedures (you mean, that boring thing I do when writing technical manuals??). I would later attend other workshops from this gracious and supportive writer.

But the most profound change came through a lunchtime chat with a poet at a Salon in 2012.  While making idle talk, I offhandedly told her that I thought you had to be deep and sensitive to write poetry – you know, like those romantic 19th-century poets we read in high school – certainly not sarcastic, cynical me. She regaled me with a heartfelt rant about how our education system ruins poetry for people. Did she mean that perhaps, maybe, possibly even I could write poetry? It was almost a year later, at a Hedgebrook workshop at the Seattle Art Museum on ekphrastic poetry (ek-what??), that I learned that, yes, I can. Exploding with newfound energy, I dove headlong into learning about poetry, and I haven’t stopped. I realized that my years as an editor prepared me well for this form, and I am now working on multiple projects and even starting to perform (scary!).

But there’s another side to all this – it was also at Hedgebrook that I suffered through some of my darkest moments. There were times when I felt out of my depth in the presence of women who knew so much more and had done so much more than me, and I became heartsick and demoralized. At times like these I would retreat into my cabin, lick my wounds, and grab for the nearest piece of chocolate. But the Hedgebrook magic never knocks you down without giving you the wherewithal to bounce back. Each time I thought I would never return, the Universe would offer up a reason to once again take that ferry to Whidbey, where the perfect person would unknowingly show me the way. If these women could only know how they kept me going when I wanted to give up. Gloria Steinem says that Hedgebrook isn’t a retreat, but an advance, but it’s also an advance, a retreat, and a re-advance.

When I drive through the gates of Hedgebrook, I never know what new lessons I’ll learn. Like the Fool in the Tarot, I walk blindly and boldly over the edge of the cliff in search of knowledge and experience. The divine Fool, filled with crazy wisdom and holy madness, is the beginning and the end – an apt metaphor I think for this special place.


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

Lea Galanter
About Lea Galanter

1 Comment

  • Amy
    5:24 PM - 1 December, 2013

    Lovely piece, Lea! You capture the journey of time at Hedgebrook…the divine fool! Yes!

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