If you’ll remember I attended an essay workshop up at Lake Tahoe. Turns out it was actually at a house in Squaw Valley, site of the 1960s Olympics, the entrance complete with Olympic rings and the famous flame: six women, a massive stone fireplace, hammered iron balconies, and a dining room table that belonged in King Arthur’s court. This was where we dined, but mostly where we wrote. I’m not going to tell you about how I stalled time and again on the page in response to the writing prompts.
Instead, I’ll tell you about the desperation run I took in 25-degree weather that second day to clear my head. Dressed in my winter clothes—Laguna Beach style—blue jeans, a sweatshirt and gloves, I tried to ignore the cold as I charged down the road and into the meadow that is Squaw Valley proper, evergreen trees not yet dressed in their winter white. It was only at a point where the trees converged into a dark narrow path, lowering the temperature by a couple more degrees that I finally turned around. By now, my nose was dripping, my toes about to snap off and I was shivering so hard I veered drunkenly off the path.
There’s a soft crackle and I stop. Around my feet, a carpet of tiny frozen spears of grass pokes up this way and that. I drop to my haunches and press down on an untouched area with my gloved hand, feeling the resistance there. Another satisfying crunch. Feeling a sense of wonder, I grin. Moving around, I press down on another spot, then another and another. I finally have to stop; the cold has become unbearable.
I run back to the house, feeling some kind of reintegration beginning to take place inside of me, something I vaguely recognize. I’ve undergone this experience before when beguiled by nature, whether it’s here in my adopted country or my native Africa. I’m reminded that as in nature everything in its own time and that I have to trust myself. The words will come.
I wish I could tell you I aced the rest of the writing prompts. I didn’t. But I did come up with a killer ending to an essay I’d been working on.
Ah, the writing life.