A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I studied at a women's writing workshop called "Flight of the Mind" in the forests of central Oregon.
It was an amazing experience, organized and run in ways that taught me about a lot of things in addition to honing my writing craft — insights that come from wisdom rather than knowledge, the kind of deep-rooted knowledge that comes from the soul rather than from the intellect.
One of the most important lessons I learned there was the need to stay with my own efforts and to protect my creative life — even to the point of becoming fierce in defense of my own needs. Regeneration of energies in preparation for a new beginning is what I am thinking of now, and I was blessed to have this lesson hammered home one day at lunch with the legendary writer Ursula Le Guin on the deck overlooking a bend the wild McKenzie River, in the dappled shade of ash trees.
We were talking about how many new threads and ideas we wanted to follow after the workshop, but how tired we were and afraid of running out of steam.
She told us something that has stayed with me and that seems applicable to life as a teacher as well.
She said, "You need to build in time to 'refill the well.' You've been working hard, and experiences like this one draw out even more energy and insight from you. The temptation is to go home and dive into the work with renewed intensity, but the reality is that you need to allow time for your spirit to refill the well. Be sure to give yourselves time and space to allow it to soak in. This is time that is not wasted."
Later that week, I watched her climb out onto a boulder a good way from the shore. She climbed gingerly, but with quiet confidence. When she reached the spot where she wanted to sit, she took her time settling in and hugged her knees to her chest, watching the water rushing over the clear pebbles on the river bottom.
I always have to remind myself of this when I hit this point in the process. One time is ending and the next time has not yet begun. I am tempted to allow this between-time to be gobbled up or frittered away, either in cleaning up the old year or in setting up the new year. I forget the need to just sit still and let myself rest and digest. I forget that this time is not wasted.
I am refilling the well.
Thank you, Ursula, for the gift of this memory.