Where to start, where to start……
[Warning – this is gonna be a long one]
I arrived at Novotel Twin Waters Resort in Queensland. Had to do a lap of honour because all the parks at the foyer entry were full. So I walk over from the guest parking section. Not quite the glamorous movie start style entry I was hoping for. I go to check into my room and get treated like someone important at the check in desk. Oh, I could get used to this. I drive around to the carpark for my wing. Didn’t even have to do a u-turn and I didn’t get lost. Bonus! I realize my bags are heavier than I thought they were as I lug them the not very far distance to my room. Over the course of the weekend – I will discover I actually packed very light. One girl had a furniture moving trolley stacked high with plastic boxes. When I express how impressed I am, she replies “Oh yeah, I’ve done this before”. Bless her, I think she was onto something.
I open the door to my room and discover super crisp sheets on the bed, nice deep bath, big TV, cute patio. Oh, yes indeed, I could get used to this. I unpack and get set up. Spend 20 minutes working out how all the lights work – don’t laugh, it was more complicated than you would expect. Then…. the waiting. Finally, it’s time to walk over for the Art Trunk. For my very first taste of Art Is You.
I walk in the door and spot someone I know. Big smiles and hugs. Then I see another. More smiles and hugs. Then I see someone I did a class with once about 4 years ago. More smiles and hugs and so good to see you. Then I get a tap on the shoulder. It is Michael DeMeng. As in, THE Michael DeMeng. I did a class with him 5 years ago. Without even thinking, I give him a huge smile and ‘hi’ and throw my arms around him in a big hug. I get to talk to him about his art and I buy one of his pieces. Yes, I now own an original DeMeng. I even got to talk to him all by myself for about 1/2 an hour. He showed me his sextant (sounds dirty but it wasn’t). He’d been junking and wanted to show me his latest find. It was beautiful. My grandfather served in the navy in WWII and I am on a pirate phase at the moment, so loved that was the junk he showed me. I took it as a good sign for the weekend.
I saw Sallianne – one of the organizers. I went up and said Hi and instantly got chatting. What a sweetheart. Then I spoke with Kecia Frazee Deveney and bought some of her artwork too. Wishing I had been smart enough to remember there was an ATM in the foyer and bought one of her bigger pieces. I didn’t realize Andrea Matus DeMeng and Seth Apter were showing their work in another room, so missed out on that. Damn it!
Next thing I know, I’m having dinner in the bar with a whole bunch of awesome girls who are all super friendly and just as giddily excited as I am. I get the feeling this weekend is gonna be epically awesome if the first two hours are anything to go by.
A group of girls walk back to my wing, dropping each of us off along the way as we get to our rooms, our voices floating over the lagoon as we chat easily. I feel contentedly welcome. I snuggle into the bed, a queen bed all to myself. And…… I am wide awake. Feels weird without a cat on the bed or a husband filling up one side. And all I can think about is how long I’ve waited for this weekend to arrive, what class I’m doing tomorrow, how awesome everyone seems already and thinking of what has already happened on the first night. Manage to sleep for 2 hours before I’m awake again. More thinking before I manage to drop off to sleep again to get a total of 6 hours sleep. It appears I’m functioning on adrenaline when I wake up, so I don’t feel tired. I meet up with some of the girls I met the night before for breakfast. They are even more awesome than they were last night. Haven’t done any art yet and I’m already having the time of my life.
We all meet in the sunken lounge room and have our “heart starter” session. I imagined star jumps and whooping it up to get our “heart started”. Instead, it’s an intimate discussion with the other girls about art. The word tribe is so over used, but I feel like I am with ‘my people’ as we talk.
At the end of the first day, I end up at the bar again for dinner. More stories, more connections, more laughter until I had tears running down my face and had a mini asthma attack. Around this time, I realize I haven’t brought my asthma puffer. Pfft, suck down some water to quell the coughing and keep on going baby.
Wander off to bed not too late and snuggle into bed. Think I should be making notes from my class but decide it will keep me awake. So I close my eyes and drift off to sleep pretty quickly. 2 hours later, I am awake again. My legs and butt are hurting from leaning over my artwork all day. I toss and turn and try to go back to sleep. I contemplate writing my notes again but worry it will keep me awake. I contemplate having a bubble bath at 2am but worry it will either keep me awake or that I will fall asleep and drown in there. I finally get back to sleep about 3am. I wake up early so I can pack for checkout. This time I’m running on about 5 1/2 hours sleep. I’m usually an 8 hours of sleep girl, so I am feeling it today. Nothing a Coke won’t fix though. As I get to the foyer for our last “heart starter” session, I notice other girls have the same idea.
At lunch , I go up to Sallianne to thank her for organizing this weekend and bringing it to Queensland. I get about 3 words out before I burst into tears. So much for keeping it classy. She jumps out of her seat and pull me aside so I don’t shame myself out in front of everybody, gives me multiple hugs and back rubs and says “I know” alot. Told you she’s a sweetheart. Guessing she’s seen this before, but I felt like a bit of a boofhead. But I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t such an emotional person. I usually cry at these damn things.
Before I know it, my second class is done and the weekend is over already. I feel this wave wash over me. The realization it’s ending. I see girls taking last minute photos and promising to stay in touch, saying their goodbyes to the teachers and organizers and slowly packing up. It was like we were holding onto the weekend by our fingertips, not wanting to let it go. And then, as dusk fell….. the silence. As some wandered back to their room for one last night of luxury and others walked back to their cars scattered throughout the resort for the long drive home …. silence. No encouraging words and laughter that had bathed us for the whole weekend. No arty sisters by our sides cheering us on. Just silence. Deafening silence.
As I pulled out of the resort to head for home, I wanted to keep the silence so I didn’t turn my music on. I feel so many things at once as I kick my car into gear and head for the highway. Excited to see my hubby and fur babies. Deliciously exhausted. Creatively full to overflowing. Loved, truly loved by girls who had been strangers just days before. And a little devastated it was over.
Yes, the classes and the teachers were so amazingly awesome (more on that in my next post). But the weekend was so much more than that. And much of that was because of the organizers and the other amazing girls (and one guy) who were there to share it with me.
Everyone made sacrifices to come play for the weekend. I left a sick husband behind with assurances he’d be okay. I met a girl who drove 2 days just to get there. I met people who were fighting through medical conditions determined to make it through class. I met a girl who is a full time carer who had a doozy of a time arranging replacement care but somehow made it. This weekend must have felt like a cleansing of the soul for her. Like a drink from a replenishing fountain. I met a girl who had a difficult anniversary happen over the course of the weekend. The girl sitting on the other side of her said – well, you are here, surrounded by love. How awesomely sweet was that? That pretty much says everything.
And that is how the whole weekend was. You often hear the negatives about us girls. That we can be bitchy and clique-y. But there was none of that on the weekend. Not once was there even a hint of it. It didn’t matter who you knew when you got there. Everyone welcomed you like you were a long lost friend. One girl told the story of chatting to someone and another girl came up to them and asked how long they’d been friends. Her reply??? We’ve only just met! Oh yes, that was the kind of weekend it was.
There was encouraging words as we worked through our projects from both the teachers and our fellow students. There was sharing of supplies. Conversations about art supplies and favourite artists and how each of us approach creativity. There was courage boosting and friendships that felt truer than true forged.
I’ve never been to a workshop or retreat like this. It is one of the most beautiful creative experiences of my life and I will be forever grateful.
Can we do it again, next weekend??
(Part 2 and 3 coming soon….)