Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Retreat

TOMORROW I AM GOING TO CHICAGO FOR A WEEK

EXCITED

YES

!

That's not the point of this blog entry, however. This blog entry is to talk about last weekend, when I attended Figues Camp: Empire of the Senseless in Big Bear, California.

As attached as I am to cities and all the conveniences of modern life, it's fun to go out into nature every once in a while, which is precisely what we did. Not that we were roughing it--the camp was on the family property of a certain poet, whose great-great grandfather built the log cabins there in 1914. We stayed in those same cabins (although Amber, Beth, and I technically stayed in the 1970's bunkhouse), which are still in wonderful condition and have electricity, plumbing, all that. Let me tell you, though, you can't beat a bathroom with a century-old pair of gloves, spats, and a top hat:


Well, to be honest, you probably can beat that. I'm not sure you can beat a backyard that looks like this, though:


The weekend was filled with much writing and workshopping. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the other campers, especially Amber, my fellow intern (it was nice talking with her in an outside-of-work context) and Oscar, who finished his poetry MFA at UNLV a few years ago (I met him briefly in Seattle last February/March at AWP, but we didn't talk all that much then). The other campers--Reema, Rachel, and Beth--were rad as well. I'm grateful that I got to share my work with them, and that I got to read their work.

The workshops started with all the poets and fiction writers together, and then later we'd break into groups based on genre. The second day Melissa Buzzeo literally hypnotized us during workshop. I'd never been hypnotized before, but my lovely mom is a therapist, so I know it's a real thing that people do. I was still scared, of course. It was a light trance, so I was definitely conscious the whole time. I was sure that if I'd wanted to, I could have opened my eyes and walked away. It was more like a heavy guided meditation--although at one point I couldn't feel the notebook and pen I was holding, which freaked me out. And then when we were writing, I kept writing superfast, as though I needed to get it all out before--I don't know, something. I haven't read what I wrote yet. I can remember the general nature of the content; I was simply writing about what I saw and what I was feeling during the hypnotism. But I want to give it a few days/weeks before looking at it again. I bet it will strike me as funny.

The camp wasn't all workshops, though. We also had a craft talk every day from writers like Vanessa Place, Prageeta Sharma, Lucy Corin, and Matias Viegener, and in the evenings we all gathered for readings--campers and counselors alike. The exchange of ideas was incredible, and a bit too complex to describe in a short blog entry, unfortunately.

Other wonderful things:

FOOD. Our poet/hostess was trained as a chef. Ohmigod. Relatively certain it was some of the best food I've had in my life. And there were s'mores the last night, obviously.

STARGAZING. Hiked out a few nights to the "flat rock" all the way in the back of the property, laid down, looked at the sky. It was honestly harder for me to find the constellations because there were so many stars that I kept getting confused which was which. There were shooting stars, too, and I could see the Milky Way.

NIGHT HIKE. The last evening Oscar, Rachel, Beth, and I hiked past the flat rock to find a "lake" that our hostess had described, supposedly owned by a Christian camp of some kind. This hike quickly devolved into horror movie territory. (Things have a tendency to do that when you're out in the woods late at night with a bunch of imaginative writers.) We first passed what we dubbed the "murder hut," a small structure at the edge of a clearing surrounded by all these twisty pieces of wood. It was too small for a grown person to fit inside--only one very small child could have made it. And up close, you could see these pieces of string hanging from it. Later there was a wood rowboat in the middle of the path, still wet, as though it had been in the lake. Then there were ropes strung between two trees in a haphazard almost-dreamcatcher. It was gone when we hiked back. (Or we hiked back another way, but that's not nearly as fun.) When we got to the lake, we found out that it was actually a dammed up river or pond. We walked across the dam, but then heard these people at a nearby property (with lots of bright, hot floodlights) saying something about us. Figuring that we were probably trespassing, we ran back across and headed back. But don't worry--we made sure to stop at the opening of the abandoned mine shaft to take a peek inside.

Overall the camp was a fantastic experience. I miss it already, but it's okay because we all exchanged contact information so we can be pen-pals for life! Or, you know, however adults who go to camp interact.

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