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Resources for Writers

Writer’s Retreats: Anam Cara by Linda Hoffman Kimball

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Article by Linda Hoffman Kimball ©.
Posted in Resources ().

Sue Booth-Forbes writes: Twenty wonderful years have passed since I dreamed Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat into existence, and hands down, one of the best parts of being Anam Cara’s director is getting to know the writers- and artists-in residence (now over 1,000) and their work.  They have taught me and each other much about the creative process.  Their genre/medium may be similar to someone else’s, but their approach is always unique and inspirational.

As the 2lst year begins for Anam Cara, we are again offering both time for individual focused retreats as well as week-long residential workshops, led by gifted experts in their fields.  These workshops are detailed here in writing.ie.  For more information and to book, please contact Sue at anamcararetreat@gmail.com.

The essay below was written by Linda Hoffman Kimball after she returned home from her own retreat in August of this year:

A Place that Nurtures: Friend of My Soul – Anam Cara

I sat in the” Lavender Room” at Sue Booth-Forbes’s Writers and Artist’s retreat, Anam Cara, in Eyeries in 2018 – more than a decade after my last visit. Sights, scents, smells and faces from my three previous visits came back to me, haunting and nudging me to remember. They kept beckoning me – with every sunbeam through the stained glass, every breeze through the screen, every aroma from the kitchen.

Finally I sat, keyboard on my lap, and tried to describe how it felt to be welcomed by this place as though I were home at last.

I conjured the beloved and supportive priest I’d once met in the yellow parish church in town. He had the evocative name of Mossy Brick. He had blessed Anam Cara with generosity and grace, enveloping it in saintly nurture.

My friend Anne who’d come with me in 2002 – now long dead from breast cancer – laughed again, reminding me of when a man ambled past us down the country road and asked what time it was. She marveled that I could interpret his accent and said I had the gift of tongues.

I recalled being served a favorite meal ten years ago and suddenly the hearty smell of white fish chowder and homemade bread enveloped me.

The quiet hours required at the retreat allowed me to focus without distraction. I heard no grim news reports spewing from the US. I was unaware of the Rose of Tralee competition results. Being together over wholesome meals allowed each of us enough pleasant human interaction to keep us sane.

In that safe, supportive environment, I opened myself to all the place’s subtleties and nuances, hoping to capture its essence. Throughout the years, hundreds of artists, writers, poets or seekers of creativity in some form or another have stayed at Anam Cara. They had started, crafted, polished, rewritten, completed – or tossed out their efforts and started again. I became aware that each person was bolstered by the energies of those who also have slept and worked in the Lavender Room or the Coulaugh Bay Room or any of the other cozy nooks dedicated to the arts. The house absorbed those creative impulses into its mortar, into each beam.

How could I communicate that? How could I bear witness to the inspiration I saw, felt, heard, smelled, tasted during my stays at this (to me) holy place? Anam Cara’s comfort, quiet, discipline and seclusion – just a short walk to the bay and to the jewel-box town – allowed me to get more accomplished in ten days creatively than in the entire rest of the year.

I acknowledge that I can’t keep my artful energies at bay for  decades between visits to this wonderful place. I’d never get anything honed or published if I did that. But what a delight to know that there is are places like Anam Cara that offer their gifts so generously. I will be back.

Know This about Anam Cara

The house is porous,
Seeping with whispers,
with the ancient scents
Of lavender
Of white fish chowder
Of blown out candles.

Through its mossy bricks
I hear decades of parish priests
sighing benedictions,
fingers clicking their beads.

Blessings from the saints
– consoling and hopeful –
Sparkle among the dust motes,
Humming “Come, come!”

The hallways echo
With the stutter-starts of creation
– of poetry, of book, of song –
Generations of them birthed here,
midwifed into the world –
brawling and husky,
fragile and supple.

Up the stairs, I can feel bits
of effort clinging to the walls.
Abandoned prepositions,
failed phrases,
not quite right at the time
but available now
for repurposing.
Reach and they are yours.

In the chimney
The remnant vapors twine
with turf and tales told,
the wisdom and wit of ages
– warm, bright, unquenchable.

The mists outside caress the house,
Wafting lullabies and battle cries
and love songs through the walls.
Choose the one that calls to you.

Sit. Steep. Settle. Soar.

Exhale and add yourself
to the chorus, to the scent,
to the texture, to the sight.
Add your own spices to the chowder.
All is well.

(c) Linda Hoffman Kimball


Linda Hoffman Kimball is a writer, poet and visual artist who grew up near Chicago and now lives in rural Utah, USA. Some of her visual artwork is located at TomPlummerGallery.com. She is a co-founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Segullah.org, an online women’s literary blog and journal.
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