Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm back

Heart-shaped frog spawn and reflections in a muddy puddle in the bush.
Hello there. I hope everyone has been safe and well over the past few weeks. I got back on Saturday after an interesting three weeks at the writers' retreat.

Made some great new friends, had good laughs, long talks, some adventures, found lots of heart-shaped rocks (and heart-shaped frog spawn) and crystals as usual, went for walks, went down to the cove ... and didn't do a thing writing-wise that I thought I would have done. That is, I thought I would have been writing feverishly day and night and would have at least a finished first draft of Lily ... but I didn't write feverishly day and night and didn't even touch Lily. Instead, I produced something new, which is more poetic than prosaic ... even though most of it is laid out like prose and it is a true story. I named it Sending Letters.
Four hours a day were spent in sessions in which we critiqued each others' work with our facilitators (Funso and Merle). Most days went like this: breakfast 7 - 9 p.m., first session - 9:30 - 11:30 a.m., lunch 12 - 2 p.m., free time until dinner at 6 p.m. then second session - 8 - 10p.m. (not my prime concentration time, so I slept through many of those!) Fridays we only had one morning session and weekends were completely free.

There were 12 of us in all: 6 from TT, 4 from Bahamas (one of whom is based in TO), one Jamaica, one Monsterrat. Three were playwrights, four were poets and the rest were for prose (or a combo of poetry and prose). It was really a great bunch of people - no friction, just great connection, communication and support - and friendships made. (Hello to any of you if you by chance are reading this). It struck me as souls coming together ... being brought together for a purpose beyond what we understood logically while being there. It wasn't just about 'writing'. I feel those three weeks and all contained within them were life changing for each of us in different ways and on different levels.
Among other things, I had carried mung beans to make sprouts. Here are some heaped on the plate.
In terms of eating raw food ... I went there as the only 'raw' person. Upon arrival, Rhoda (our 'house mother') introduced me to the chefs as 'Elspeth, the person who will be eating raw'. Barb, whom I had never met before and who became my main side-kick and room neighbour for the 3 weeks, immediately piped up that she would also like to eat raw for at least the 3 weeks. It was great having the company.

The chefs would prepare our raw plates for each meal and I had also carried some of my own stocks, but those dwindled rapidly. Pretty soon I was renamed 'Queen of Raw' and four (or was it five?) others, lured by the colourful sights of our meals, abandoned the world of cooked vegan foods and entered my Raw Queendom. However, our portions became smaller as the chefs seemed to be spreading out their quota of 'raw' among the increasing converted masses.

Even though they are not 'raw' chefs and this was all new to them, they went all out trying to make each plate look interesting and artistic, carving into cucumbers, making little basket shapes, flowers, etc. Everyone was shedding weight, which is natural ... but even I, who really don't need or want to shed, ended up shedding some more. The truth is, as artistic and colourful as the meals were, what we were being given (through no fault of the chefs, let me be clear) was not sufficient nutritionally and I was eating much less than I had been eating when at home.

So ... by week three, those in the Raw Queendom started to combine basic cooked foods with our raw meals. Some also delved into cakes and pastries. As B very aptly put it ... 'adapt or starve'!! It was interesting to feel the difference after having been raw for 2 months now. Even those who had been raw a week or two noticed how it felt. Ground provisions go down well because they are very simple, so I mainly stuck with those. Peas and anything with seasoning, sauces or cheese tastes overly rich, sits on the tongue and can be felt working up in the stomach almost immediately ... before passing out of the body. But, simple is good. I think I will be consuming more roots from now on (root/ground provisions) ... and adapt and evolve accordingly.
X marks the spot: X-cellent, X-citing, X-tatic
There's lots more that could be said about the three weeks and about the writing aspect, but I'll leave it there for now and get on with the day. The time away in quiet Balandra/Rampanalgas was great, but by the end of it, 'life' was calling, we were all ready to return and some had to fly back to their countries.

What does it mean to be back to 'the real' world? Hmmm. We will see. Great things, I would imagine.


Andreamuse said...

oh wow -- it sounds like an absolutely magical experience!

I somehow knew that you weren't going to be working on Lily while there. :) A writing get-away like that sounds so ideal.

My concentration has been so poor the last week that I've hardly done any writing, but I was on a really good role before that for awhile!

GirlBlue said...

Funso Aiajaynay? (bad spelling bout sound it you get the idea)

Elspeth said...

Yes. Aiyejina

Lynn Cohen said...

First I have to say the photos you put in here are beautiful. The one of the rocks made me wonder if you got down at eye level with them to take that photo?

The three weeks sounded interesting. It sounded like you had more time alloted for eating than for writing.

I'm glad the people worked well together/souls grew/and tummies enjoyed raw foods. Made me wonder what exactly you consume on a daily basis at each meal...i'd like to lose four more pounds by August 15. Send me a menu please.

Hugs and happy to see you back here.

Elspeth said...

Thanks, Lynn. Was good to be away, but good to be back too. Sure, will send 'menu' suggestions.

Guanaguanare said...

Welcome back, Elspeth.
Very interested in the fact that your work was "more poetic than prosaic". I have always loved your poetry and I continue to look forward to your photo illustrated anthology.

human being said...

welcome back!
Elspeth... how exciting! you are back with your hands full of experience and love and art..

really enjoyed reading about your adventures there, queen of raw...
your photos are breathtaking... and soooooooo creative...

Elspeth said...

Thanks, HB. Good to be back.

Anonymous said...

I love love love the photo of the frog spawn. You are an amazing photographer, I'll say it again.

Welcome back. The raw adventure sounds interesting. When I was sick recently, the only food I found appetizing after not being able to stomach anything but water were fruits and celery and juices. Slowly nuts and seeds were added back in.