Rosemary with Sarah Campbell

Rosemary with Sarah Campbell

The 2007 Tybee Zona Rosa Retreat

Tybee Island, Georgia:  June 16-23, 2007. A retreat at a beautiful beach house 20 minutes from Savannah, culminating in our annual Zona Rosa Bash at Rosemary's house in Savannah on Friday eve, June 22. For full details view the complete brochure and application form, or contact Pamela Smith at 770-457-5144 or e-mail:

Now that it's over, I can admit that, going into the Zona Rosa retreat on Tybee Island last June, I was a little afraid.

Today I marvel that I ever had those thoughts. Serious women writers are the kind of women whose company I seek, whose ideas I want to hear, from whom I invariably learn something. That week I encountered a group of just such women.

I arrived knowing that I needed to care for my writing self, but I didn't know how to go about that. After having been in a non-productive and noncreative state for nearly two years following the death so my brother and mother, I wondered if the few days would be long enough for me to recapture my desire to write things down.

I also wondered if I was attending the retreat on a false pretext. Was I just going to get away for a few days, to escape my responsibilities?

At first, I felt like a phony around the other women. I had abandoned my goal of wanting to be published and had chosen instead to use my talent as avehicle for self-exploration and healing.

They wanted to publish their work; they seemed so empowered so centered, so focused on their goals, and here I was, a houswife, whining about how hard life is. They seemed driven, determined to write, willing to make huge personal sacrifices in order to tell their stories, while was caught in a web of fear of writing, unable to just let myself just do it.

I was a little surprised, when, on Sunday afternoon, Rosemary led us in an abbreviated workshop session, just a couple of hours to get us started. I had assumed that Sunday would be for relaxation and for getting to know one another. I was surprised, but I was also pleased. The time we spent on Sunday afternoon oriented me to the idea of the workshop and started me thinking about that I really wanted to bring away from it.

I don't know why, but I had packed enough clothes to wear two separate outfits every day. I guess I thought we would be going out a lot, but in the end, I only left the house a few times. I stayed in my night dress most of every morning and wore the same pair of soft black pants three separate afternoons. Eschewing makesup and shoes, I occasionally looked over at the suitcuase parked on the other bed, clothes spilling out of it where I had dug to the bottom for the softest and most comfortable items, and I wondered why in the world I had brought all the other stuff.

We had all brought food with us, and I thought that the week would be a good time to nurture my body as well as my inner creative self. I had packed some of my favorite healthy foods: yogurt, rice and beans, soy milk, my favorite cereal. I took fruit and salad greens, my favorite tea and coffee.

(One day, Sarah, a beautiful woman from North Carolina, made tea for Claudia when she had a stomach upset, steeping freshly grated ginger in simmering water for a long time. Each night, we shared a feast made up of foods contributed by all of us, plus some wonderful dishes that Pamela, our planner, and a four-star cook, had prepared especially for the event. Sitting on the balcony, drinking wine, eating and talking together in the evenings. was heavenly. - Rosemary)

When Rosemary first gave us assignments, I still wasn't sure what I would do with my time there. But along the way, I made a decision; whether it was a conscious one, I do not know. I decided to trust myself and my instincts, and at the same time, to trust the other women involved in the retreat.

And what happened was amazing. They trusted me back. They accepted my writing for what it is -- my writing. They shared their talents and thoughts and ideas with me. I was able to write without feeling a need for validation -- the writing validated itself. Yet as a group, I think we fed off one another, each of us seeing something in the others that we could take away and use. Our individual needs were paramount, but those needs fed the community in a synergistic way.

It rained much of the week, and I thought that by forcing me to stay inside, the rain was helping me to stay centered. After a couple of days, I realized that I was staying inside and actively working on remaining separated from the outside world, not because of the rain, but because I wanted to. And as I nestled into the routine of the house, the barrier continued to come down.
By Friday, I felt clean and honest and true to myself for the first time in a long time. Negative energy had been flowing out of me, and I felt the relief of letting it go. I had opened myself up to all the positive energy in that house. I had gone into the retreat with a healthy selfishness, a need to nurture myself, and I came away feeling that I had more than fulfilled that need. Late that afternoon, I lingered at the house longer than necessary, being slow to gather my things, put them into the car. My soul was trying to tell me something: that I would require a period of re-entry into the world.

What I am sure of is this: what I gained from the retreat was worth the pain of going back into the world. The only thing I will do differently next time is to build in some of that recovery time for that re-entry from the very beginning.

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