Some people asked about the trees in the header. They are at the corner of Double Bluff Road and Milliman on Whidbey Island in Washington State and these trees take me back to last year, taking the picture on a bike ride during a 3-week residency at Hedgebrook, a woman’s writers’ retreat. Picture 6 cottages spread out on a 40-acre property of old growth forest, meadows, gardens, and a farmhouse and barn. Each of the six cabins houses one woman writer who was offered a residency of two to six weeks. Fir, which was mine is the pictured one. The women who come to Hedgebrook are from all over the world and the founders wanted women from dense urban areas to not feel too alone or frightened in the woods. Designed with exquisite intentionality, each handcrafted cottage is in view of one other cottage.
Each has a work area, a cozy chair with blanket and light for reading, a wood stove (and unlimited wood and kindling cut to size for the residents), a small kitchen and implements for one. Each has a half bath and a sleeping loft up a ladder with an arched window that opens to all the night sounds of the forest. The bathhouse, in a central clearing, has two shower rooms, a claw foot tub room, and a washer and dryer. The founder, Nancy Nordoff believed in the power of nature to inspire, in the importance of women having a room of their own, and of the need for more women’s voices to come forward in print.
Imagine getting up each morning, building a fire, fixing breakfast from the food foraged in the farm house kitchen, making a pot of French press coffee or putting the kettle on the wood stove for tea and settling in to write, undisturbed by anything other than your own thoughts. The night before you brought up your foraged food and a lunch, specially prepared by last night’s chef, ready to heat and eat when you are ready. More time to write fills the afternoon, or maybe you will include a walk, bike ride, or reading and researching. Then it is dinner, at the farmhouse with the other 5 residents and the chef. And oh the food: most often local, beautifully prepared, and delicious. Check out (and buy) Hedgebrook Cookbook; Celebrating Radical Hospitality. Conversations over dinner are far-reaching and rich with reading suggestions, thoughts about writing, and life. After dinner you might go back to your cabin to work more, read, spend the evening in continued solitude, or reconvene with the other five residents at one person’s cabin to share readings from everyone’s work.
The place, the women, the nurturing by the staff…what an idyllic and protracted moment. Can you imagine radical hospitality now?