My writing retreat room was on the basement level. Just outside my bedroom door, I could access a deck with steps leading to the steep hill, at the bottom of which was the lake. There was no house to one side, so my window overlooked the hill, the lake, and the woods.
Besides walking within the house and on the decks, pretty much every other step involved a grade, rocks, or trees. Outside the house, every step changed my perspective. I had to pay attention to just about every step. It was beautiful and inviting and challenging. It was breath-taking and step-changing. I wouldn’t have gone out at night with a flashlight.
One day I stood at the edge of the trees and peered inside. I didn’t see any trails or I might have wandered in. I didn’t know what critters I would find, and I also didn’t know if the steep grade would deceive me on a return trip despite me thinking I surely wouldn’t struggle to get back, since I’d find the water or a road if I steered off course too much. But I’ve walked in hills and mountains enough to know that it’s easy to gradually shift directions and lose my bearings, which are usually fairly accurate. I decided just to peer into the woods and wonder about life within them instead.
As the clouds broke away, and the sun shined through the trees, the filtered light and dappled, leafed floor beckoned me once again. I walked closer and realized the area was much more overgrown and rocky than first presumed. I decided to explore in my imagination more than with my feet.
One of my favorite places when I was little was the woods near my house. There was something about the hushed sounds and filtered light and subtle hues that appealed to me. There was a peace not only in my surroundings but in my mind. My imagination would soar as I pretended all kinds of stories, but no matter how wild my thoughts ran, I felt peace. One of my favorite children’s books was about a girl who found a private place under a tree and had tea parties, read books, and invited imaginary friends under the tree. There is something peaceful and imaginative about the woods—perfect for a writing retreat.
I could find peace without going into the woods. I could assess the risks and make a wise decision while simultaneously finding plenty of imagination and inspiration from the edge. That’s often how adventures and creativity take form. We are on the edge of something and find the peace to move forward. Our minds soar and create strings of words and shapes and colors in ways we didn’t expect. We lasso snapshots of our minds and release it on the page.
But we have to be willing to walk to the edge. We have to be willing to stand still long enough to find the peaceful place from which to soar. Finding peace on the edge is an exhilarating and comforting place to seek and settle into—long enough to grasp armfuls of inspiration to carry back and tenderly arrange to share with others.