It's been a month since the last river retreat sister pulled away in her rental car, down the dusty road, going back home.
And I've felt kind of guilty not writing this whole time. I mean, after four days of everything I have ever dreamed of, you'd think I'd sprint home, overflowing with joy, barely able to contain the words from flying out onto the keyboard. Except, the opposite happened.
We gathered, and it was the best kind if incredible magic, and then we all went back to our everyday lives, and then I got super introspective, and kind of silent. I didn't want to write because I didn't know how because I wasn't ready to use past tense verbs to describe the things in my heart that absolutely still feel like they're in my immediate present.
In my heart we are still hysterically laughing at the lanterns catching fire, and eating tiny donuts and wading through the river waters.
And really, I don't want to write about it because then that means it ended, I guess. And I now realize I don't want that.
I want these women to live next door. I want us to gather all the time in our pjs and messy hair and talk about everything stupid and profound and real and imaginary. I want sacred sisterhood to be my regular reality.
Last Thursday, I got slammed with the flu. I'm always sick with something, but this has been a doozy. Fever, sore throat, body pain, vomiting, coughing... just really gross and humbling and nasty. I texted a friend and asked her if there are any good movies she'd recommend to pass the time while I lay sweating and shivering on the couch. "Fuller House!" she wrote back. Suddenly I wasn't so upset about being stuck in the house for days. I couldn't get Netflix on fast enough.
I know this might sound totally absurd, and I don't mean to dilute the divine and sacred depth that the river retreat was, and is, but it wasn't until I sat through every single episode of Fuller House that I realized exactly why I really missed these women so, so much.
I cried watching that silly remake show because damn it I realized just how badly I wanted to crawl into the screen and live in a giant house with best friends and sisters who love and care for one another. I even dreamt, in one of my feverish mid-day naps, that I lived with the Golden Girls in their Florida retirement home. Thomas made them scrambled eggs each morning. Sophia made fun of my constant uniform of leggings and white t-shirts.
I fully realize how bizarre this post must seem, but it's something I want to admit out loud. Because I don't think I'm alone in this. Because when we look back, like way, waaaaaaaay back, at how we made it as a species, it was because we found safety and security in tribes. Forever and around the world, human beings have gravitated towards one another instinctually. And I think some people still get their tribe cups filled by working for meaningful companies, or belonging to churches they really love, or even rooting for specific sports teams at a local bar every weekend.
But as for me, I didn't have that. Sure, I have a super tight net of women who I love with a magnitude immeasurable, but none of them live within walking distance. And while we text and send letters and always make sure we know just how supported we are, I don't see them face to face all that much. And it turns out, I like life a whole lot better when I'm not so physically isolated from a real sense of community.
The entire weekend that the River Retreat women were here gathered in Austin, I kept repeating to myself just how good it felt to be breathing the same air. To be eating side by side. To be stitching and singing and sleeping and writing and weaving flowers and photographing and laughing and sobbing and just being, together. At one point I was wearing a visiting teacher's beautiful baby girl in a wrap and she fell asleep on my chest. I went into the back room so she wouldn't be awakened by all the loud laughter and sharing, and she was softly snoring, and in the background I could still hear all of the women, and I cried. This was the music that was meant to be my soundtrack. Women, holding one another's babies and hands and hearts and just belonging.
I am an introvert. I don't like giant groups or constant stimulation. So, to hear myself admitting all of this is kind of strange. But it's where I am today.
I am completely grateful for the memories that were made during our time all together, and I promise I will write so much more about it all sometime. But tonight, as I get ready for another Monday, I just want to share a bit of my honest heart on here.
I am blessed to be an at-home artist who has a flexible schedule and a steady income. I promise you, I am not complaining. I am simply ready to shift things around a little bit to make room for this new and luminous truth: I was meant to be in the company of others, in tribes of really dope women, regularly. And while I love my life entirely, I am lonely during the week when I drive back to my apartment after school drop off, and walk inside, and everything is quiet.
I don't read any other photographer's blogs, so maybe this is something people share about often. Or maybe it's another side to being a professional at-home Mama artist that nobody wants to admit. Either way, I am now more determined than ever before to bring women together, off-screen, and right up close. I am more sure that this path I am on is something worth never giving up. Because for a weekend, I did live inside Full House and Golden Girls and my heart found Home, and like Sue Monk Kidd says in The Secret Life of Bees, "After you get stung, you can't get unstung."
Those women, every single one individually, but mostly all of us being there collectively, changed my life.
And while I have absolutely no idea how or what or when any of this is going to evolve, I know enough to know. I'm sending out the prayer. And for tonight, that's enough.