Singing Over the Bones at Moniack - Pt 2

Dawn from the iron age fort
 Writing retreats are strange things - you’re taken from one world into another - a little bubble of solitude, but solitude within a group.  There’s a feeling of life suspended, other worldly.  A writing retreat is a threshold - you can step back into your own life afterwards, or you can cross the threshold and come out of it seeing the world differently. 

Highland Cattle

There were some big questions to think about. 
What exactly is a sense of belonging?
How do we re-learn living in a way that doesn’t harm the planet?
How do we deal with the sense of impotence and despair faced by pollution and despoilation on a global scale, that we as individuals feel powerless to change? 
Is one person giving up plastic carrier bags in Tescos going to have any effect at all in a world where millions of tons of plastic is jettisoned every year in places like Asia where we have no influence?
Have old myths and stories anything to teach us about the way we relate to the landscape today?
And how do we deal with the disconnectedness that is increasingly felt by people living in Urban environments?

A birch tree decorated with lichen
I was a little apprehensive when I arrived. I’m not a group person - I like people in ones, twos and possibly threes and I’m definitely no good at disembowelling myself emotionally in front of others.  But this was a week of like-minded people, there for a common purpose - a generous and supportive group that included a farmer, an ecologist, a psychotherapist and someone running a tourist company - all of us poets and writers.

We walked to Loch Ness but didn't see the monster!
We explored our own wild sides, which included sampling malt whisky, howling at the full moon (not necessarily in that order), watching the dawn from an iron age hill fort, walking in the rain, as well as more mundane things like early morning conversations over tea in the kitchen, cooking and washing-up together, and late night huddles round the wood burning stove.

Waking up to snow
We had quiet writing sessions and workshops designed to stretch us, expertly run by Roselle Angwin and Sharon Blackie.  Some of the work that came out of these sessions was mind-blowing!
Sharon under the mirror, Roselle unfairly at the edge of the photo. Apologies!
And, yes, some of us did miss our men-folk.  But it would have been different if men had been around.  We wouldn’t have talked so openly, or bonded so tightly.  There’s something about same-sex groups that permits free thought and discussion - there’s no inter-gender dynamic to distract or censor.  Ironically, one of the things we looked at was the negative effect of dualism and the necessity of working together if anything is to be achieved.  We left vowing to Do Something - to Make a Difference, individually and together.  Watch this space .....

If you would like to read one of the things that came out of the course, Finchley Road, by Vivienne Palmer, please click on the link.


  1. What a stimulating week you have had!

    What a wonderful part of the world.


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