A wash of pink spreads across the lavender sky. The apple orchard grays into view. Soon Shotpouch Creek will surface, rippled in white. But first something new: bits of darkness darting through the air. It’s too early for the robins that will dot the meadow feeling out worms or the kinglets that will flitter in the willows along the creek. The winged darkness flies at the floor-to-ceiling windows and disappears soundlessly. Bats. A dozen visible and then poof—gone. One flies toward me and then melts away. Another scrabbles against the glass for half a second before slipping under the flashing over the sliding glass door. They pour through the dim morning light and secure themselves for sleep.
This is the ninth morning I have stood in this cabin without internet or cell service, under skies snowy gray, palest blue, tinged pink. From a hummingbird trapped in the carport to the gray jay conversing with us along the gravel driveway, and now the bats, creatures have shared each day with us on this forty-acre parcel of land nestled in the Oregon Coast Range.
Victoria Doerper and I are here for our two-week writing residency awarded by Oregon State University Spring Creek Project’s Shotpouch Collaborative Retreat. Spring Creek’s mission: The challenge of the Spring Creek Project is to bring together the practical wisdom of the environmental sciences, the clarity of philosophical analysis, and the creative, expressive power of the written word, to find new ways to understand and re-imagine our relation to the natural world, underpins their belief in the power of the collaborative retreat—that the writing life is far richer than the myth of the solitary individual, struggling alone to put words on paper, would suggest.
Richer indeed. We write, we hike, we share book recommendations, we write, we walk, we talk shop. We read some of that day’s work out loud each evening during our private happy hour.
I came here to write, to work on my memoir about being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at the age of thirty-six, to observe my mind and my body in nature. After a few days, the urgency to work, the panicked certainty there will never be enough time—here, or at home—to write all the words I need to write, softens. I came here to work but I also came here simply to be here.
Shotpouch Creek sings an ever-present serenade whether I stand with my hand on the rough bark of an old growth tree or sit surrounded by moss-laden branches as I write observations in a journal, whether I seek out the dippers flying low over the water and genuflecting along its edges or type the story of a long-ago afternoon spent in the Austrian Alps, whether I follow the trajectory of a soaring red-tailed hawk or ponder the workings of my brain. The song and flow of the creek always changing, always there. Our stories, always with us, rippling in our minds, ruffling across the page.