As I sit here in the afternoon sunroom stillness, the green leaves filling all the windows outside, I’m filled-up with everything summer. It’s been bananas, like drinking from a firehose! But when a friend asked me recently if it’s stressed me out, I just smiled, “Nope. I’ve just been riding the wave.”
Collegeville Institute! A year ago (and another year prior) I posted my disappointment on Facebook about my rejected application for The Collegeville Institute. Thankfully, third time was a charm, and I was accepted along with 11 other writers to travel to Minnesota for 10 days for a writing retreat sponsored by the Lilly Endowment. It was a professional experience, a spiritual experience, a bombardment of blessings–learning on steroids. Peak. Life. Experience! I’m not exaggerating when I say I will think of my life as “before Collegeville” and “after Collegeville.” The Collegeville/St. John’s campus has such a unique vibe. Originally created around the quietude of a monastery, the two colleges and ecumenical institute feel like a vortex-of-love. The area is surrounded by hiking trails and a lake which I had the opportunity to kayak.
My writing coach at Collegeville was Michael McGregor. Wowza, what a teacher. He pushed me in ways that were frustrating, then freeing, then challenging throughout the week. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a teacher willing to push me so hard, someone who could see what I was trying to do and hone in on what might help. He wrote (among other things), Pure Act, The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. It’s a biography of Robert Lax, a creative and spiritual seeker who was best friends with the famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. I love this book. I read it in a flurry, unable to put it down, even in spite of the parts that made me feel upside down in their headiness. I left the institute feeling like a jar of ocean water whose salt has all settled to the bottom. Looking back, I can see how the time there not only gave me new practical writing tools that I’ll use for myself and with my students, but it also gave me a greater sense of how I can share the joy that lives in me, how I might write a book filled with laughter.
Oregon. . . a.k.a. Waterfalls! After Collegeville, three gal-friends and I headed to Hood River, Oregon for our adventure trip this year. We hiked, we rode e-bikes, we went to breweries, we saw more waterfalls than I could count. It zooms me up in the best way to learn about diversity of plant life, diversity of ecosystems, diversity of other women’s experiences. One little nugget I can’t help but share is that 14 species of flowers only grow in the Hood River Gorge–out of the entire world! The wind in the Gorge creates a prime location for kiteboarding, which I learned is like windsurfing, but the athletes ride on their boards feet above the actual water and pump their sail. The sport attracts very athletic, adventuresome people to the area. Not only were the people and the nature so diverse, but the waterfalls were too. We saw two-layer waterfalls, trickly waterfalls, horse-tail waterfalls, roaring monster falls, and everything in between. Oh, and the icing on the cake was an eagle who flew circles above our mountain-top lunch site. All of it left me with a sense of awe, filled up with beauty.
Family Time. . . After Oregon, my family and some other friends headed to Milford Lake for the 4th of July. My immediate family also spent a short week at Mahoney cooking on the campfire, laughing in the wave pool, and lounging in hammocks. I do love the energy, the fresh start, and the new school shopping that’s coming, but for now, I’m thankful to soak in these last bits of summer sun and time not measured by a clock. It has truly been good stuff. And for that, I am thankful.
It’s easy to feel thankful when life is so juicy, so full of travels and zest, but even on the most epic trips, I come to a place where I’m ready for home, ready to see Nebraska with fresh eyes and get back to our community, to my beautiful, regular life. People say Nebraska is the good life, and this year’s scattered showers have left it lush in July in a way that feels like nature showing up. I’m thankful to have been away, thankful to be home, and thankful for a place that’s always here waiting for me to plan the next adventure.
This and That
- A quote: “I make a point to appreciate all the little things in my life. I go out and smell the air after a good, hard rain. I re-read passages from my favorite books. I hold the little treasures that somebody special gave me. These small actions help remind me that there are so many great, glorious pieces of good in the world.” – Dolly Parton
- A book: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I am working through this 12-week creativity/spirituality program for the fourth time this summer. Each time I learn something new. If you, or someone you know is a creative, or wants to be, this is my top recommendation. It’s woo-woo and farm-girl practical in the best way. 🙂
- Worth a listen: A Little Bit of Everything by Dawes, a song that inspired this post’s title. I love the joy and the pain all wrapped up in this. It’s Gratitude Gal vibe–not sugar-coated Polly Anna positivity, but joy that knows how hard this all is and yet daring to see the good. If you like Dawes, Free As We Wanna Be is like a prayer.
- Worth a watch: Stranger Things Season four. Yep, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. After falling out in season two, we skipped ahead and watched season four in two days. If you can get through the (sometimes cringy) horror flick nods stacked throughout, you’ll find an epic battle where love conquers fear/hate, and who isn’t up for that? Plus, Eddie’s character arc and Metallica solo are pure perfection.
- Also worth a watch: Kurt Vonnegut, Unstuck in Time. This bio-pic of Vonnegut is a long-term labor of love. The relationship between Kurt and the film’s director has so much heart. If you like documentaries, authors, or creativity, this is a good night at the movies.
- Something that’s inspiring me: “Don’t delete parts of yourself,” and “You don’t have to be just one thing.” I’ve always been searching for some unified-field-theory-of-Evi. Emilie Wapnick’s Ted talk about multipotentialites has helped me feel less alone in this search, but these two quotes above (said by different guys in my life) have given me permission to lean into the sides of myself. I am a teacher, I am an academic, I am a scoliosis kid, I am a writer, I am a mother, I am a leader, I am a wife, I’m a listener, I’m a spiritual-yoga-nature-gal, and I’m just goofy ole’ Evi Jane. Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Me too Walt, and maybe, just maybe, it’s a good thing.
May right now be a time to slow down, a time for thanks. Amen.
Evi (rhymes with Chevy)
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