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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Spirit Animal? Me?

     I spent last week on Tybee Island, Georgia, attending Rosemary Daniell’s annual Zona Rosa writing retreat for women. Since I met Rosemary in 1997, and became a part of her ongoing workshop for women writers that meets once a month at her house in Savannah, I have attended several Tybee retreats. I've always come away renewed in my writing spirit, and this year was no different.
     For a week, eight writers shared the nine bedroom “Happy House” Rosemary has rented for a number of years now. There were two other writers who joined us later in the week, and there were those who attended the sessions just in the daytime. Ages ranged between 33 and 70-something. Rosemary invited special guests, published authors who came to share their work and listen to ours.
     The wonder of the retreat is always in its students. Excellent writers all and ranging in experience from “just beginning” to published, we come together to share our experiences in writing and feed from the energy of our collective consciousness. The environment is conducive to creativity, with mornings devoted to writing and afternoons spent in session, reading from our works and receiving feedback and encouragement from Rosemary and the group.
     On Sunday, the day devoted to settling in and exploring, my precious granddaughter, Addie, came and spent a couple of hours with me. While others were out and about, we stayed at Happy House and were, well, happy. 
     I’ve had a memoir trapped inside me for several years, begging to be written. I wrote the first draft of the prologue before going to Tybee, and Rosemary read it to the group for me for me. Feedback was positive, and I felt empowered to start Chapter One. And, two days later, I did just that while sitting on the deck off my room. I don’t know what I expected to feel when I began the project in ernest, shedding all my excuses and rationalizations about not having done so sooner, so I was surprised at the sensation of freedom and that came over me. I felt ready. And I got excited. I haven’t been excited about much since Parrish died, and the feeling is heady and sweet. 
     That was the first time I saw the spider.
     Some of my readers may remember when, in August of 2011, I accidentally set myself on fire trying to incinerate a spider with a fireplace lighter. We know how that turned out, and it wasn’t the spider who suffered. On that muggy morning on Tybee, I looked up to see a huge spider web spun between a fan palm and the wooden fence. Right in the middle of the silky strands that glimmered in the sunlight was a creature that looked a great deal like my nemesis, all eight legs stretched to their limit. As the days passed, I watched as the web got bigger and more intricate. 
     Never having given much thought to what spiders might symbolize or that I might have a spiritual connection to them (or any other non-human being in the world), after a brief exchange with my fellow writers who knew of such things, I decided to do some research. 
     I offer this, copied and pasted unabashedly from Wikipedia:  “Totemism is a belief in which each human is thought to have a spiritual connection or a kinship with another physical being, such as an animal or plant, often called a "spirit-being" or "totem." The totem is thought to interact with a given kin group or an individual and to serve as their emblem or symbol.”
     Taking something from each of the several articles I read about the symbolism of spiders, I put together as simple a synopsis as I could. So, here goes: 
     In many cultures, the spider is a symbol of creativity, a spinner of delicate and intricate webs—engineering marvels of nature. It is often seen as the powerful female spirit, the giver of life. If the spider is your spirit animal, it may try to bring your attention to your own individuality and ingenuity. You may have an affinity for acts of creation and the ability to build your own fine patterns that are delicate yet strong. 
     Did I tell you I love to knit, that I knit lace?
     The appearance of a spider may serve as a reminder that you and you alone are responsible for what you build around you. It may also appear to remind you not to abandon your creative gifts and goals. 
     Did I tell you about my recent dream in which two spiders, the size of the back of my hand, were attached to my right hand, one atop the other? There was a sensation of suction but no pain, and I gently pried up their hairy legs and they walked away?
     The following day, another, smaller spider had begun spinning her web on the chair next to where I sat writing in my journal.
     Two spiders, and I made no move to harm either of them.
     When we checked out of the house on Saturday morning, July 11, I went with two of my long-time writing compatriots to The Breakfast Club for a final meal together. When I got in my car to leave, there was a spider, about the size of a thumbtack, sitting on the steering wheel. I gently nudged it toward the window with my parking receipt and saw it safely out the window before I turned over the engine and drove home. When I stepped into my bathroom to wash my hands and face, yes, there was a small spider sitting on the rim of the sink, just looking at me.
     Since I got home, I've been writing my ass off.

© 2015 cj Schlottman


Jenny Bonds said...

You write so effortlessly. Such enjoyment is what I feel when I read it. I feel your joy at sharing and mine in reading. You are truly gifted Claudia.

Sally Ziph said...

Love this, Claudia!
xo Sally

Claudia Schlottman said...

Great praise, indeed - from you, Jenny. I love my craft and want to share it. 🐬