FINDING A SAFE PLACE by Eileen Enwright Hodgetts
“Wisdom is like a fire; people take it from others” (East African proverb)
I joined the Mindful Writers Group in 2012 just before the group went on its three months winter hiatus. I had attended only three meetings and looked forward to the Spring 2013 when the yearly session was to start. I had no idea if I would really feel at home writing in a room full of people and food (although the food was definitely a bonus). But now that I know and understand the group mindset I find it a very fulfilling experience.
The Group is an interesting exercise in trust and acceptance. Perhaps some of the writers know each other outside of the group but I do not. Yet I come eagerly every week to sit with these familiar faces. Basically all I know of the people is their face, the shape of their laptop, and what they eat for breakfast or lunch, and it doesn’t matter. The fact is that these people are serious writers and we take the journey of writing mindfully together every week. We focus on writing not publishing, (although publishing is certainly celebrated if it is shared).
Our understanding exists on a deeper level. We are driven by the blessing and curse of being a writer. We just don’t write because we like to write but because we must write even when the experience is hard and painful. Each person tapping away on a keyboard or scribbling in a notebook is on a personal journey of exploration into their own past and present, mining their life experiences for words and memories to commit to paper and perhaps posterity.
The mindful meditation urges us to find our own safe and serene place within. This has been a challenge for me because my mind was filled with images of unsafe places and lurking dangers. Thirteen years of working in Africa amongst some of the poorest people in the world left me with no way to process the violence, the hopelessness, as well as the radiance of African life. I had already spent a year away from Africa trying to decide what I could write that would reveal the true nature of life in modern Africa to a Western reader without demeaning Africans and their daily struggles. Sitting with Mindful Writers in the comfort of a modern restaurant, with coffee on tap, and a breakfast buffet just outside the door, I have revisited the displaced people camps of Northern Uganda, the child soldiers of Joseph Kony, and the astonishingly resilient women and children who have lived in fear the past twenty years; and I have finished the book.
I write from the serenity of a safe place that I have finally established in my mind (a place without crocodiles, snakes, and witchdoctors). From this secure place, I courageously look at other unsafe places and memories. Here I completed my work in Africa. Now I am ready to start on something new. I am exploring earliest memories of England immediately after World War II; shattered people, shattered buildings, beaches littered with tank traps and barbed wire, and the King dying of lung cancer. My first crystal clear childhood memory is of a squad of soldiers digging up an unexploded bomb from outside our house, while we children stood and watched from an unsafe distance. (What was my mother thinking?) I know that it was a hot day; I can see the deep pit and the shape of a huge bomb emerging from the earth. The soldiers had taken off their shirts and were covered in mud. Someone brought them mugs of hot tea and we all stood around waiting for them to finish. I have learned that the bomb, a high explosive bomb, fell on Roseberry Close, Morden, during a night raid in 1941. But if it had exploded when it was supposed to I would have never been born, as my mother would have been dead. What fragile threads our lives hang by!
Writing the first draft of the new book will be hard work. I will be second-guessing myself, rewriting, revising and editing. The reason I need the Mindful Writers Group. Where else could I go to sit completely still in the company of others, content to just breathe in and out and seek a serene place amidst the thoughts, memories, and fictional characters that crowd my mind? And then write undisturbed for three to four hours, no excuses, no running into the kitchen for a cup of tea, no answering of the phone, or sending of e-mails, no dog barking to be let out, not even a cat sprawled across the keyboard. I know I could work this hard at home, but the truth is that I don’t and I probably never will, and so I look forward to Wednesdays… and perhaps we could add Mondays, and Fridays, no pressure, just wondering.
(To read Eileen’s Bio, “Another Mindful Writer” see the Home Page)