Hollyhock Journal 1

After returning from Japan in early April and completing my account of the trip, I thought it might be time again to write to Ruth, who’d never returned my November’s email telling her about the recent Michael Pollan incident at Cal Poly. Before doing so I checked out her blog and discovered that she was offering a five-day “Writing and Meditation” workshop together with a Zen priest/poet at Hollyhock on Cortes Island in June.  This striking combination appealed to two of my interests. Her postings about an address she gave to the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment and about grappling with internet overload dealt with subjects I cared about. And her dual residency on Cortes Island and in Manhattan mirrored my upbringing in New York and forty year association with Lund, B.C.

Even though it was expensive and too close to our recent international excursion and our upcoming family trips to Idaho and Canada, it was hard to resist such a perfectly taylored educational opportunity.  Adding to the appeal was the workshop’s setting at Hollyhock, a legendary place I’d never visited that could be reached with a six hour kayak trip across the Georgia Straight from our place in Lund. Three years ago I’d considered making the trip in November, but concluded it was imprudent.

Ruth wrote a welcome email to the registrants, inviting us to bring our favorite writing instruments and any projects we were working on. My previous writing workshop experiences–NEH seminars at Berkeley in 1989 and Yale in 1993–took their enduring value from the clearly formulated topics and publication goals I’d come with, but this time I have no such motive in mind. “What,” I ask, as the plane finally gets airborne at LAX, “do I want to bring back from this quest?” Hints of answers coalesce and dissolve like cream on the surface of coffee. A poem or two, some experiments with forms I’ve never tried, a sense of future direction, a commitment, an adventure story?

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