Finding words in the wild

 

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Even the wild roses were tightly closed against the cold and rain.

Sometimes, a person just needs to escape. The mountains, trees, running water, and time can be just what the body, mind, and spirit needs. I was lucky enough to be able to do just that.

Last week, I took two days off of work and ran away to Mount Hood, Oregon. It was a writer’s retreat of sorts called CampCon. I went with the publisher and the author of the book I illustrated, Uniforms of the Fleet: Leah Cutter of Knotted Road Press and Author Blaze Ward.

Blaze and Leah have been a great help to me; providing motivation, goals and inspiration. They are incredibly positive, and their motto of “build a longer table” is just the sort of inclusive and encouraging attitude I need to be around. They’re all about opening doors for people if they can. If there is a way they can help, they will do what they can.

So for four days and three nights we camped in the cold and rain, with canopies and a generator so we could run computers and write. Internet access was sparse at best.

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The “get shit done” area. Cold, a little wet, but there were tables, chairs and power strips.

The struggle was quite real. We dealt with unpredicted lows in temperature –38 degrees at one point– which made typing tough. Fingerless gloves are definitely in my future for typing outside.

The rain came and went, but it was enough that one of the canopies reached a saturation point and began to leak. The other canopies would simply dump water from time to time, so we were often scrambling to make sure no electronics, notepads or valuables were left where they could get wet.

I packed plenty of tea, coconut milk and honey. My brand new Jetboil was a life saver. (Turns out Jetboils were quite popular. There was a table with four of them set up in a row) The Chaos Cup I stole from my husband was also a life saver. It kept my drinks scalding hot even hours after the tea was made. Hot tea was my writing fuel.

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My SurfacePro, my mess kit, and my wonderful, marvelous Chaos Cup.

And write I did.

I wrote and finished a short story for an anthology by the second day. I sent it off to two of my favorite readers, my cousin and husband, and both said it made them cry. Considering the subject of the piece, it was a perfect reaction. I’m excited to send it off as soon as I can manage to put together a decent cover letter.

With that piece finished — it had been my only real goal for the trip —  I started in on editing. I worked on some cover designs and drawings as well.

Then, I wrote some more on a silly piece about Bigfoot, a cow, and a couple of tricksters. It proved to be more of a challenge and is only about half finished at this point. Luckily, on the drive home inspiration found me and I think I have what I need to be able to finish.

This trip, this escape into nature was just what I needed. Despite the fact that I slept on the ground for three nights in a tent and struggled to keep warm and dry, I got more creative work done than I have in months.

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My hiking tent, tucked away in a flat-ish corner of our group site.

The recent changes in my diet really helped. I had a level of energy I hadn’t enjoyed it quite some time. Even now as I write this, the burnout I had expected isn’t near as bad as I had thought it would be. I don’t feel desperate to avoid human contact and become a hermit for the rest of the month.

I think the size of the group, the fact that it was outside, and that we were there work really helped. The only pressure was the pressure I put on myself.

If socializing was too much, go for a walk. If inspiration wasn’t happening, go talk to someone about writing and maybe something would click. And if inspiration struck, write like the wind!

I grew up camping more weekends than not in the summer. Hiking and horseback riding were regular outings. I spent one summer working at a boy scout camp, another summer I went to a girl scout camp during which we went on a pack ride that lasted several days.

I am no stranger to hiking, outdoors and sleeping on the ground. We’ve been investing in gear to up our camping and hiking game. So when this trip was proposed, I was all over it.

I’m exhausted, but I feel amazing. I am inspired, and oh, so thankful for the experience and opportunity that was CampCon.

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