NO-Comfort Zone Week ending April 16

This week I challenged myself to drive to a Tree Reading Series Masterclass, a  poetry workshop being held about an hour away but across the provincial border to Quebec.

The Canadian War Museum, Lebreton Flats (under...

Portage Bridge Ottawa Canada (Wikipedia)

I am not sure why this caused me concern, except that it was the first time I’d go all by myself, and there are some tricky twists and turns to get into Quebec. Ottawa and Gatineau are separated by the Ottawa River. There are several bridges, each with their own challenges as one tries to find the route to Val-des-Monts.

Rural scene in Val-des-Monts, Outaouais, Quebe...

Rural Val-des-Monts, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then, once there, to offer up poems for critique not only to fellow poets, both friends and strangers, but also with the editor of one of Canada’s most prominent literary magazines. This would be John Barton of the Malahat Review. Once again, though, my concerns were quickly put to rest as we all settled in to the work at hand. Our retreat was at the marvelous Lilipad just north of Val-des-Monts, hosted graciously by Lise Rochefort and Adrian Jones. Lise and Adrian (who spent his birthday yesterday doing this: Happy Birthday, again, Adrian!) prepared the marvelous food for the group and the space for us to work. The setting too is lovely, right on the lake, where spring is just starting to share daffodils with us.

But I must say that the knowledge John Barton shared with us, and the quick and easy rapport among the poets far outshines the daffodils, bright yellow as they may have been!  Thanks to everyone for making this a great weekend for my birthday and for National Poetry Month!

Carol A. Stephen


Small Stones and Challenges outside the Comfort Zone

Carol A. Stephen

Day 29

clouds wisp and cling to the lie
of summer in today’s sky-blue
all the houses stare, disbelieving
the proof of ice on their roofs.
its clandestine testimony to winter.


I keep thinking about what my word for the year might be, and I suppose it is focus. Why? Because I often find myself on auto-pilot, easily distracted. A hundred things to think about and only time for some. The result, then, is either not doing what I really want to, surfing the ‘Net instead and going off on its peculiar tangents, or feeling tremendous guilt and anxiety over what I am not doing, and wondering what’s wrong with me.  I will need to disconnect from these distractions during my writing time. So, FOCUS.  And perhaps my “secret” word is INDULGE.  No, I don’t mean to eat too much or spend money frivolously. (Perhaps fewer writing books and more writing practice!) More, I want to recognize when it is important to indulge myself with something I would like to do. Such as enrolling in the two-day Tree Master Workshop coming up in April with John Barton. To do the things that I may not be able to do in a few more years. This is partly what my NO-Comfort Challenge to myself represents, because this, too, will require me to push myself outside my usual boundaries.

This week’s no-comfort successes came from an unexpected feeling of wanting to hibernate, isolate. Should I beg off getting together with a friend? Will the weather be a problem?  This is my first winter without going into the city every day for work. I was surprised that I was anxious about these things. So I forced myself to go anyway, simply because I had the urge to stay home.

And as I mentioned, I have signed up for a workshop in April, even though I am going on one in May down in Massachusetts. That one will be a challenge too, as I have not travelled much since 2008, when I had major, a life-threatening infection, and emergency surgery. While the surgery saved my life, it also left me with a changed plumbing system. So I worry about crossing the border with my medical supplies. And travelling so far all by myself. I was taken ill on my last trip to the U.S., and while I know the location was unrelated to my illness, it still creates anxiety to think of going.  But, if I want to travel while I am still able to, there has to be a first time. So, over the next three months I will be working on attitude for this journey.