My birthday gift from three loving friends is two hours from home. I drive under clear blue sunny skies to a beautiful bungalow for three days of writing. Here I bask in comforting serenity and solitude, with skyscraper palm trees and magnificent mountains peering down at me. I begin my retreat in the powerful hands of a blond haired petite woman massaging and pounding physical tension out of my body. Then I sit in front of a waterfall listening to birdsong, and all chatter leaves my mind. I'm only an observer and every moment is a surprise.
Although my retreat and story environments are completely different, the mystery and complexity of the characters are newly revealed to me. I walk amidst painted landscapes, yawning mountain lions, hovering hummingbirds and hot pink bougainvilleas, sipping fresh orange mint tea. And I see the child in my story beginning her life embraced by adoring parents and ending up embracing the meaning of life and death. I listen to the adult in my story whose journey starts with the village pronouncing his destiny, and him ending up with a higher mission. There is a wise and faithful horse who serves his master and a forest filled with healing magic. I am grateful for this opportunity to see the story with fresh eyes.
On the third evening I drive home beneath a dark rainy sky, and few and far between freeway lights. I drive slowly in the right lane due to these dim conditions. My wipers can't compete with eighteen wheeler trucks splashing water onto my windshield and my lane keeps turning into exit ramps. I stop for gas and notice that the driver side headlight is out. I lose my way and ask for help. Then I drive on surface streets for six hours until I'm home. This is also the story. Just as darkness spun me into a scary shadow, in the middle of my tale, the characters' outer vision and aspirations are dimmed, and their lives are a shadow of what they once were. This is a most invaluable transition. When we lose what we know, we can awaken to life beyond ordinary human comprehension. And this is the greatest gift.