Hedgebrook Dreams

I taped a hopeful note to the fridge as four 12-year old boys slept upstairs and three 16-year old girls slept in the basement. “Please walk Millie and keep the kitchen clean.” I snuck into the pre-dawn Saturday morning fully prepared to arrive home later that night to a kitchen that looked like a dirty dishwasher had sneezed on it and a rambunctious terrier needing a late night walk. This day would be worth it.

After picking up Kelsye, a writing group friend, we drove onto an 8am ferry headed toward Whidbey Island. Desperate for some caffeine, we clanked up to the deck of the boat. We were headed to Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat built specifically for women writers. The retreat, situated on a chunk of land overlooking “Useless Bay,” on Whidbey Island, is comprised of  six “Amish” style cottages, a farmhouse kitchen  and a long room for a day-long “salon” where a group of women were about to have the opportunity of being coached by master writers and teachers.

In the ferry’s “galley”, getting coffee (tea in my case), we bumped into Christine, one of Hedgebrook’s board members, her daughter and Storme Webber, a renowned poet, performance artist, writer, singer (I am sure the list is much longer than this) who was one of the teachers at the day’s salon. Her braided mohawk was tucked under a white cap which seemed to float above her head, giving her the jaunty look of a child actor from the 30s – both innocent and street-wise. I expected her to have a loud, booming voice so was surprised by her delicate, quiet cadence as she told us of her recent trip to perform at another retreat on Martha’s Vineyard.

Just two days before, invited by Christine, I “observed” my first Board Meeting for Hedgebrook as a prelude to being considered (wooed?) for a position on the Board. I couldn’t be more thrilled by the possibility of making a contribution to an organization that welcomes, nourishes and creates a community for women writers.

Evidence of Hedgebrook’s “extreme hospitality” was found in the buttery smell of hot croissants and buttered bagels, fresh fruit, tea and coffee that were offered for breakfast upon arrival. The long room was chilly, but quickly warmed with the stoking of the wood stove and the warmth of the women who began to fill the room. Before I’d been there 15 minutes I’d been asked about my project several times and I found myself digging into my bag for my business cards, wishing I’d thought to pack more. I was equally entranced by the women sitting near me and quickly made new friends.

After an initial greeting from Amy, the Director of Hedgebrook, we eagerly headed off in small groups toward the tiny cottages that normally held just one, industrious writer. Paths were matted with pine needles, and we passed a large wood shed stacked neatly with kindling for the tiny wood stoves that heated each cottage. I felt as if I had escaped into an enchanted forest and was about to meet face-to-face with Frodo. I snuggled into the cushioned window seat of “Owl” cottage for my morning session called “Screenwriting Tools for Fiction Writers” and was likely the only person to notice the sprite who tiptoed onto the porch to leave a bundle of wood.

We settled in and learned. Were inspired. Made friends. Gained community. Breathed deeply in appreciation. Laughed. Ate beautiful, lovingly made food.

It was easy to feel the magic.

At day’s end, we gathered back in the longhouse once more, fulfilled, giddy, warmed. Storme led us with her ethereal voice, bending notes, bending words, bending minds. I looked around to see eyes closed, and heard those low belly grumbles of appreciation when she was finished. Other volunteers stood up to regale us with their stories, their voices, their bravery, their laughter.

That night when I got home, the dog had not been walked, the dishes had indeed been sneezed around the kitchen, and I walked into a teenage drama unfolding. But for the opportunity of becoming a “Hedgebrook alum” and all that entails, it was a small price to pay.

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  1. annie December 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Envious. The closest thing like that around here is in Banff, which is a bit of a trek. Sounds wonderful though.

    1. Abigail - Site Author December 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      Ha! Banff ain’t too shabby… Probably worth the trek.

  2. Cathy December 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm


    How WONDERFUL!!! Yes, I’m jealous too, I will admit! I have read about Hedgebrook, was interested due to it’s proximity to my best friend in Seattle! I hope you will be able to join the Board. Maybe I can come to a program there someday. I started my graduate program in the fall… I am either in the MFA or Masters in Creative Writing, don’t know yet, we’ll see how it goes. MFA sooooo many classes! Really enjoyed my first semester. Hoping to see you at Camp Widow again. Sending you very best wishes..
    Cathy (yoga instructor)
    http://www.cie-change.com (dormant at the moment!)

    1. Abigail - Site Author December 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Great to hear from you. Thanks for commenting. Yes, its a pretty special place. So grateful to be asked to be a part. Good for you for going the MFA route. Huge step! Now I’m jealous. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  3. dampdynamite December 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Your descriptions were awesome…felt like I was there.

    1. Abigail - Site Author December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm

      Awesome indeed. And maybe someday you can come and see for yourself.

  4. marie February 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Dear Abby, (nyuck nycuk, bet you’ve never heard that one before0.

    On a more serious note, I picked up your book on Friday at the local library. I could not put it down until I finished it about 1am last night.

    I missed one of my favoutie movies (Hot Shots) ate all the junk food I could find and didn’t even go out for the papers which I usually do on a Saturday. Oh and my personal hygiene has also suffered.

    Extraordinary, beautiful and quite funny, I can’t really describe what a wonderful book it is… and I shall be purchasing a copy for myself post haste.

    On I am on a bit of autobiography/biography reading trip at the moment, I guess September 11, whilst I was quite devastated as I watched it on TV, it was half a world away. Your descriptions really transported me to what it must have been like for people in New Jersey.

    I just had to let you know how much I enjoyed the book. Can you recommed any other bios/autobiographies, am not working at the moment, so I am reading heaps.

    Kind regards,

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