The rain is dripping off the metal roof. The sound of drops sliding into puddles reverberates through the room. The tap, tap, tap of rain on the window behind me soothes my soul. Everything about this gray day pushes me inward, toward the quiet, reflective world I love best.
This weekend, I’m enjoying time away. I’m tucked into a rustic lodge, down the winding road from my everyday life. The women around me are friendly, excited to be here, and totally enthralled in their pastime. I’m at a Crop. A gathering of women who have paid to come away to scrapbook. They gather to ignite their creativity and memorialize their memories and moments with colored paper and embellishments. Several of them have told me they are at least six years behind.
Their work is mesmerizing, intimidating, and a bit overwhelming. I’ve joined them, as their speaker for the weekend. It’s such a joy to be around people who are who so happily creative. They are given over to their work. They have overtaken a room with colorful supplies, three-foot-tall boxes with pull out drawers, stacks of paper in a rainbow of colors, raisers to add additional space, and a dizzying array of embellishments. I’ve been introduced to a Cricket. It is a wonder, a small laser cutter to shape beautiful fonts, cut perfect shapes, and provide anything your imagination can devise. I’ve heard of these but never seen one in action.
I am alternately, tucked away in a corner or drifting from table to table listening and learning. The women are open, eager to talk about their work. They are building archival quality scrapbooks, creative and colorful cards, and friendships forged by weekends away together around this pastime they love.
My appreciation is tinged with a touch of inadequacy. Many of them have captured their whole lives in this medium. They have trained their families to bring the bits and pieces of their lives home to be included in the pages of these books. Concert tickets, school trips, and family adventures are captured in their pages. My children have a file folder, a couple of albums of snapshots, and a completed baby book (1st child), an unfinished baby book (2nd child), or a bag with a hospital bracelet, the pink and blue hat, and an array of greeting cards welcoming her to the world (3rd child). My kids will have to make do with the pieces I’ve collected and my journals to piece together the moments of our lives. I wish them well.
For today, I am excited to spend some time in the midst of this chaotic joy. I’ll pour another cup of tea and read a bit, write a bit, and just sit and think. When I get bored with my own thoughts, I’ll head back into the fray. Ladies have invited me to come and learn, to make a card and play with their toys.
As I have thought about this retreat over the past few weeks and considered the encouragement I would bring, I’ve realized that scrapbooking is not too different from my favorite past time. I love to capture the moments and events in my life as well. I do it by painting pictures with words. My journals fill plastic bins in the basement, boxes in my office, and sit in a teetering pile on the stand next to my comfy chair. These notebooks contain the pieces of both my inner life as well as the details of my days, weeks, and years.
These are the containers into which I pour out the contents of my heart. I lay it out in a heap and then pull out strands untangling thoughts, feelings, and memories. I make sense of my life here. Without the discipline of words on paper, I am not sure I would have made it through the winding road of my life. This is the place where I am able to build a space between what happens in my life and what I will do about it. The place where I am able to pause and decide rather than react to the everyday traumas and mundane miracles.
It’s a lot like scrapbooking. Here I decide where I will focus my attention and wrap a story around the events I cannot change. My journal does not stop life from happening, but it is the place I decide what story I will tell myself about the events of my life. It’s where I frame and reframe my life smoothing out the rough edges and focusing my eye on the beauty and life.
This weekend I am learning, making new friends, and thinking about what I love in a new way.