Writing retreat

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


Here’s a little postcard from my Miami writing retreat, where I’m working on chapter two of the book, slowly but surely. I have an endless supply of notecards, a bottomless cup of tea, a quirky dog for company, and family to distract me when I’m ready to take a break. It’s a good way to work.

While looking up a reference yesterday in Diane Ackerman’s breathtaking A Natural History of the Senses, I came across a passage that stopped me in my tracks, and I wanted to share it with you.

When you consider something like death, after which (there being no news flash to the contrary) we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably doesn’t matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly. It probably doesn’t matter if, while trying to be modest and eager watchers of life’s many spectacles, we sometimes look clumsy or get dirty or ask stupid questions or reveal our ignorance or say the wrong thing or light up with wonder like the children we are. It probably doesn’t matter if a passerby sees us dipping a finger into the moist pouches of dozens of lady’s slippers to find out what bugs tend to fall into them, and thinks us a bit eccentric. Or a neighbor, fetching her mail, sees us standing in the cold with our own letters in one hand and a seismically red autumn leaf in the other, its color hitting our senses like a blow from a stun gun, as we stand with a huge grin, too paralyzed by the intricately veined gaudiness of the leaf to move.

This is the wonderfully uncool essence of joy for me: trying too hard and caring too deeply. At the end of the day, you regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.

Have a joyful, creative weekend. I hope you’re out with people you love, or getting lost in something that inspires you. Be clumsy, get dirty, grin big. What else are you here for?

Xx ingrid

August 17th, 2012


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    Discussion (7 Comments)

  1. Sherry Crowson on August 18, 2012

    This is a terrific entry! Wow! You often wake me up to things I have known, and just as often introduce me to things unknown or half forgotten! What a way to start the day!

    I send a poem a day out to friends and family, have been doing it about three years now! This morning I think I am going to borrow your entry from the paragraph about Diane Ackerman, one of my favorite writers, and your writing after it! It’s just what I would like to say today and wish I had said it. This way I can introduce everyone to your blog, which I hope they enjoy as much as I do! At least I can let them know there are other people out there who find joy in the most surprising daily things as well as the surprising uncommon things!

    Thanks again for your lovely work!


  2. Sherry Crowson on August 18, 2012

    Ack . . .well, I won’t send it unti I hear from you if it’s ok to use it and direct people to your website . . . sorry, that was rude of me! I just got excited and carried away! I won’t send it until I hear from you! Do I need to write you seperately for permission?

    Sorry again! I did not mean to infringe on your wonderful work in any way!


    1. Ingrid on August 18, 2012


      Thank you for your incredibly kind words. It’s absolutely fine for you to share with others! Thanks for visiting and sharing 🙂


  3. Nick Scott on August 18, 2012

    Thanks for this. Something I need to be reminded of about every 5 minutes.
    I’m going to share this as well if you don’t mind

    1. Ingrid on August 18, 2012

      Nick, I think we all need reminding of this – it’s so human to forget! Share away!


  4. Sherry Crowson on August 19, 2012

    Thank you so much for allowing me to share this! I am hoping many of my family and friends will sign up to be reminded of all the joyful things that fill this world!!

  5. Kathleen Wall on August 23, 2012

    At the end of June 2012, Regina Saskatchewan, where I live, experienced a sky full of rare mammatus clouds; in fact, if you go to the Wikipedia entry on mammatus clouds, you’ll see photographs from Regina. Everyone on the street had their cameras and cell phones out, trying to capture this rare and magical experience. This led me to write about joy and about the fact that in much of the current fiction I’m reading joy isn’t on anybody’s mind; when it’s alluded to, it takes place off stage, so to speak. (http://blueduets.blogspot.ca/2012/07/deadheading-roses-surprised-by-joy.html).

    Trust Diane Ackerman to remind us of joy’s importance to our well-being in her quirky, evocative prose. What becomes of a culture where joy takes a back seat to success or seriousness or acquisitiveness? Thank you for your thoughts on joy and beauty.

    There’s a link on my blog to your page; I hope you don’t mind.


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