I came into my Trélex Writers Desk Residency expecting some things, but I knew it would be even more challenging because of the issues I've had.

Residencies are scary. Rooming with strangers. Sharing everything. Only basic creature comforts. I came into my Trélex Writers Desk Residency expecting those things, but I knew it would be even more challenging because of the issues I’ve had. An inability to write and at times put together a cogent thought. Doubt feeding doubt feeding doubt….an avalanche of doubt. I walked into a tiny Swiss village a dried husk, convinced I’d leave unaltered.

My heart is fuller. My mind is still. I emerged from my residency cell unwilling to return to the noisy, screeching, clashing chords of my world.

Thoughts From My Last Day In Nyon

Time in any cell alters a psyche. I dreaded the quiet, afraid I’d hear absence, a void, a black hole of nothingness. But I relished the quiet, too. My world is too loud, and I’m complicit in the discordant cacophony. I surf the internet when I should be making words. Scroll through my newsfeed when I should be setting up my next trip. Read second-by-second news updates when I already know the world has become a soap opera: I can pick up a thread of the plot anytime because it creeps in its deluge of data. I may’ve slain a pack of hungry lions, but my blood pressure is lower than it’s been in three years. My heart is fuller. My mind is still. I emerged from my cell unwilling to return to the noisy, screeching, clashing chords of my world.

I walked along Lake Geneva's shore on my last night of residency and tried to weave a tapestry, intricate, tight, resolute.

I’m not commenting on what others choose to do with their time, only how my residency helped me understand my role in contributing to noise, to stress, to strife, to crap that doesn’t matter. I walked along Lake Geneva‘s shore on my last night and tried to weave a tapestry, intricate, tight, resolute. My life was permanently changed last year. I hope I use what remains to be a positive force in the world……and that means guarding the tapestry I wove like I spun it from gold and spangled it with precious stones. I can’t take care of anyone if I’m not taking care of myself.

I'm also grateful to the other residents, especially painter James Kao, who was there for my full three weeks of residency.

I’m grateful to Nina Rodin for giving me this opportunity. She opens her home to strangers and shares everything-cars and laundry and guests and garden bounty-with them. I’m in awe of her unbounded generosity. I’m also grateful to the other residents, especially painter James Kao, who was there for my full three weeks. I needed to meet a fellow American who’s grounded right now. Some of James’s zen rubbed off on me.

Leave your noisy cares in the water, and come away whole. It works for me, as long as I avoid my phone.

So I end with a challenge. For me. And for you, Dear Reader. Next time you walk by any body of water, be it a fountain, a puddle, a pool, or a lake, take off your shoes. Run through it. Splash. Plunge your feet in. Leave your noisy cares in the water, and come away whole. It works for me, as long as I avoid my phone. 🙂

———-

P.S. Wondering what I’m doing in Switzerland? I’m at The Trelex Residency in Maison Binet!

The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!

Artist Nina Rodin started The Trelex Residency in her home, Maison Binet.

Artist Nina Rodin started The Trelex Residency in her home, Maison Binet. Her father entered this eclectic architectural addition to Trelex’s skyline 80 years ago.

Artist Nina Rodin started The Trelex Residency in her home, Maison Binet. Her father entered this eclectic architectural addition to Trelex's skyline 80 years ago.

Multiple architectural styles are on display, almost like he couldn’t decide what sort of home he wanted. Plus, the house expanded over time. As an artist of some renown, Nina wanted to make space for other creatives to retreat, recharge, and make art. She makes studio and living space available free of charge to artists.

The Trelex Residency in Nina Rodin's home, Maison Binet.

This year, she started the Writing Desk Residency program. A writer can apply for spots in Trelex at Maison Binet, and poets can apply for residencies in Paris. A third Trelex Residency is available in Peru, with more on the way. For more information, go to thetrelexresidency.com.

Nina’s work is in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection, among many others. Learn more about her and her work at  ninarodin.com.

The artwork outside my door at Maison Binet

If you look closely, you’ll see faded words within each piece. Because that’s history, right? Things happened however they did, but we only know what people chose to tell us.

In some cases, they lied to glorify themselves and be remembered as grander than they were. In others, they tried to smear enemies to keep their accomplishments from being remembered at all. So much history is faded words and phrases we barely grasp.

Much like Merry’s journal in To Live Forever, we don’t really know what happened for much of Time. Yet we try to interpret it. We read various accounts, both pro and con, sympathetic and not. But in the end of our searching, history is a few nuggets of truth layered with a century or more of opinions.

In “I Am Number 13,” I’m grappling with a historic event that was never recorded, but I’m certain it happened. On a dark night lost to history, men met. They agreed. And they implemented an audacious plan. Theo was there. Maybe Merry was, too, though unwitting. Their failure doesn’t stop people from making bold and doomed plans.

We don’t study history, because the living want to believe they’re more powerful than the dead. We’re the ones who breathe and dream and eat and orgasm and explore. But we could learn a lot from my characters’ failure. Emmaline is finally flowing, and she’s ready to see what she’s supposed to see. I’m not sure I’m ready, nor do I know what price I’ll pay for delving into something best forgotten. But my butt is in my chair. My fingers are nimble. And my soul trumpets words.

——————

See what my room and view is like in this post about my writing residency, and tour the town of Trelex in this post.

To paying attention. Here's to the now.

Am I the only person who spends hours and days and weeks of her life absent?

I was in Houston recently, and I managed to squeeze an hour between appearances to visit the Rothko Chapel and De Menil Museum. For those not married to architects, Marc Rothko designed his chapel as a place of peace, a respite from the loud world, a space for silence and reflection.

I put my phone away and sat in front of each painting, trying to use the place as intended. Only I couldn’t concentrate because a woman was camped on the floor, scrolling through her phone. What was she paying attention to? She never looked away from her screen once.

Perplexed, I wandered over to the De Menil Museum and sat in the lobby. White walls were spangled with Ellsworth Kellys, and what was everyone gazing at? Their phones. We’re becoming like those dreamers in the film Inception, preferring the dream world. Absent from reality.

I didn’t bring minute-by-minute social media on residency for myriad reasons. I want to be present.

I’m fortunate to have dear friends in Milan. While they worked today, I walked the city without any real purpose. I sat in Parco Sempione and listened to conversations, watched couples make out, and savored children playing. Stumbled into a Milan Men’s Fashion Week event and an architecture week lecture. Enjoyed a latte at a favorite haunt, and noticed how many Italian men don’t wear socks. Sweated and huffed through almost 18,000 in-the-moment steps. I need to live in the present tense.

Here’s to the now. To paying attention and hearing what everything tells me. To writing snippets and weaving a tale.