Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island, WA -- a.k.a. a generous slice of heaven.
The Collegeville Institute’s Writing Spirit, Writing Faith workshop, which brought me to this temperate rainforest, has provided ample opportunity to write, walk, and wonder with other writers about the work we do. Surrounded by tall evergreens, listening to the rain, discussing my work with other creative people of faith -- all this I looked forward to for months. What had not occurred to me was how much of a difference a good night’s sleep and three square meals a day make in my work.
Christyn, the chef at the Whidbey Institute, uses fresh, local (often right from the garden here) produce, a variety of grains, and very little meat and dairy. She told us the first night here that she likes to feed us things that help nourish our creativity. I smiled at this, agreeing in theory, but I did not realized just how true that would prove. Bountiful salads, green smoothies, pumpkin curry, tomato basil soup, freshly baked cookies (not everything is green in the literal sense). Everything Christyn creates is a delight. This food tastes good, and makes me feel good.
This is not so much a soliloquy about the need to eat healthy as it is my realization or remembrance that writing is a holistic, embodied practice. When I am not sleeping enough, when I eat burritos for dinner one too many days in a row (don’t get me started on the protein bars and lattes for lunch habit), is it any wonder that I struggle to create? That my brain is fuzzy, and my prose fuzzier? My creativity is fed by reading, music, art, but it also needs to be fed in the more literal sense. I forget that too often, if I ever even knew it quite the way I know it now.
There is something really important about being here this week and not being responsible for any of the food. Someone takes care of me. I sleep eight hours every night and rise to a damn good cup of coffee (this state and its coffee! Bless you!), scones, eggs, and whatever other surprises Christyn has for us. I feel cared for. Someone else (dish crew! Bless you, too!) does the dishes while I tramp on back to the farmhouse to write, and take breaks to ramble in the woods, the fresh air and rain also holding me, granting space to open both my heart and my mind. I breathe in and I breathe out. I am a whole person.
Is it odd that I feel a bit guilty sleeping so much? Yet productivity is not improved by over-work. If sleep is a burden, it is also a gift. Humans need rest, food, movement. Here on this island with a bunch of other human creatures who are also creators, I am grateful for the creativity of a brilliant chef, who takes the fruits of the earth and makes art for the plate, art that nourishes me, body and soul, intertwined, a whole human being.