The week of the workshop, my husband and I returned to Maryland from a trip to Florida. It was an exhausting excursion that got us home late Tuesday night. The long drive combined with an invasion of southeastern United States allergens left me tired enough to sleep for another week. I rested all day Wednesday and the first half of Thursday, hoping I’d find motivation to shower, get dressed and slug my way down to Bethesda for the first CBAW community writing workshop in Maryland. I reminded myself how much I enjoyed the writing workshop at Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, and how much I dreaded the drive home from it. Then I reminded myself how much I bugged the CBAW board to host a writing event in Maryland. Read: closer to my house. The thought of staying home and avoiding the outside world was so tempting. Guilt festered in my stomach. Guilt rose up through my chest and choked my heart and inner being; I could not miss an event that I asked for.

It was already 6:25 pm on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in bustling Bethesda, Maryland, when I arrived at the grand Strathmore Mansion. I was certain the workshop kicked off at 6:30 pm and that I’d arrive late and disrupt the Community Writing Workshop already in progress. I spent a few minutes breathing and mentally preparing myself for whatever awaited me. I hate arriving to workshops late. Imagine my surprise as I rolled my little black bag into the second floor gallery and found only three people and pizza in the room. I recognized Seema as one of the three-the other two were both women and I assumed either of them could be our honored guest Grace Cavalieri or attendees.

Grace smiled and shook my hand as Seema made introductions. In the seconds that passed between us, I felt such a positive energy from Grace that I knew I was supposed to be there. I so was happy I made it. Oh, I almost forgot that I arrived early! Doors opened at 6:30 pm but the workshop didn’t begin until 7:00 pm – more proof that time escapes me. I had ample time to select a seat and unpack my trusty composition notebook and pens, before returning my attention to Maryland’s 10th Poet Laureate, Grace Cavalieri.

Once everyone arrived and settled in, the first thing Grace wanted us to do was introduce ourselves, but this wasn’t like a cheesy remember-everybody’s-name activity. It was an ice breaker. About 15 of us sat around the U-shaped conference table and said our names aloud in a round robin fashion. No longer strangers, our “safe space” was established.

Grace told us to sit upright with both feet flat on the floor; hands resting in lap, palms facing upward, in preparation for a visualization exercise. Then she asked us to close our eyes; I groaned under my breath. The only public place I do that is my local yoga studio…but the unassuming spirit of this woman made me want to give her exercise a chance. So, honoring the little lump of discomfort in my stomach, I turned my eyes downward, softly, and followed her melodic voice. We took several long, diaphragmatic breaths; filled with light and exhaled a series of color mimicking the chakras. I honestly can’t do it justice on this page. I’ll tell you that I didn’t regret it though; I actually felt relaxed and ready to write after the last breath.

In fact, I wanted to write everything Grace said. I wanted to remember every word that flowed from her lips all of them all. The yogi in me realized I’d benefit most from being in the moment and just soaking it in.

Don’t be afraid of words.

They’re beautiful.

It’s been one lively week since Grace Cavalieri led our CBAW community workshop at the Strathmore and I think of her words every day.  I’ve told several people about my experience and decided to share the same with you. What do you write? Where do you start?

Just write. From margin to margin.

I stalled when writing about Grace;

I intended to finish

this post

just a couple of

days after the workshop.

This is less about all the steps and exercises we did with the Poet Laureate than it is my personal thank you to a woman I now know as writer, teacher and Maryland’s 10th Poet Laurete. She lives life and continues to do so vibrantly. Thanks to the power of her beautiful words written and spoken, to our community.

Just as she inspired me to do as I sat in my car today.

I felt scattered, uncertain.

My head pounded with the words refusing to escape my mouth.

I was in the middle of a really challenging day and I wrote through it. Once again, words saved the day, only they were my own words.

Dear Grace,

I assume you’ll read this; I hope you do.

I apologize for all the wonderful words I wanted to write about you that didn’t make it across this writer’s self-imposed deadline.

I was choking on my own beautiful words and they had to get out.

****I think I just experienced what it’s like to feel like a writer.