I spent seven days in February at a writing residency at Wellstone Center of the Redwoods. Wellstone is a writers’ retreat tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains, four miles away from the Pacific Ocean.
Quite a few people have asked me what it was like—this blog lists topics I’ve been most asked about.
My room is named The Glass House because two and a half walls are windows that look out on a grassy yard bordered by a redwood forest. The views were distracting in the best possible way.
The Glass House room is located at the back of the main house and has a private entrance as well as a door that leads to the communal areas of the house: the yoga room, living room, kitchen and dining area. The room has its own bath and is furnished with a king size bed whose comfort is unrivalled, a desk with two chairs, and a swivel chair where I read for hours (and in full disclosure also watched a little Netflix on my phone).
When I’d return to the room after spending time in the communal areas, I felt like I’d stepped into a sacred space. I must mention that from the communal areas in the front half of the house you look out over the Santa Cruz Mountains all the way to the ocean.
I had use of the kitchen and residents take care of their own breakfasts and lunches. There is a welcome dinner on Monday night and residents are invited to dinner each night. I looked forward to hibernating and had not planned on eating with the group, but the day I arrived was very stormy and the last mile of the road narrowed to one lane with a drop on one side. I did not want to worry about driving up that road during the storms predicted for the rest of the week so decided to join the group dinners. I am so glad I did as I was ready for a bit of conversation by 6 pm each day and the food was fabulous. A few menus:
• Filet of sole, pureed turnips and cauliflower, brown rice, salad
• Chicken parmesan, layered roasted vegetable casserole (russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, red onions, tomatoes, zucchini), green salad
• Butternut squash soup, green salad, beet veggie burgers (beets are one of the few foods I rarely eat; I don’t even like to have them touch anything on my plate) and my burger was so delicious
• Crab tacos, homemade black beans
Who Was There
Six adults and two children were staying at Wellstone: the married couple who own and operate the center and their two children, a friend of the couple, two interns, and me. We reflected some of the diversity that I love about the United States and particularly California—two of us had grown up in the Bay Area, two were from Germany, one intern currently lives in Los Angeles but grew up in El Salvador, and the other intern was visiting from Ireland. Oh, and Sallie the dog, and a few goats and chickens live onsite also.
The Week’s Schedule
There are no required activities for writing residents. A few activities are offered and I participated in most: yoga class, open mike night, Wednesday morning hike, and the already mentioned welcome dinner. And I had many lovely casual conversations in the communal area. But I mainly stayed in my room, writing and reading.
A little more about that hike . . . I love to hike but storms had battered the trail for days and it was still raining the morning we were to go. Steve, the co-director of the center, had run the trail the day before (yep during a big storm) and with great enthusiasm told me the run made him feel like he was whitewater rafting in Belize. This did not increase my confidence. I told him I was afraid of slipping and falling, but he was insistent that I come. He was right, as I loved the hike. It was challenging but very manageable for me. The redwood forest with so many spots with running water was beautiful. I came back energized and grateful.
How Was It Being Alone With Your Writing All Week
Fantastic. Usually, I grab an occasional weekend to write and about two years ago went on a five-day retreat. This was the first time I’d had seven days and I could have gone longer. I did not get bored and only left twice during the week, once to meet a writer friend for lunch and to get groceries, and on the sixth day when the sun finally came out, I went to the beach for a walk. During both excursions, I was eager to get back to The Glass Room.
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