What happens in a writing workshop/retreat? Never having been to one before it was a complete mystery, anticipated though still a mystery. I did not want to investigate, Google or ask others as to what happened there and what you learned in the process.
Unlike medical conferences I knew that a writing workshop was going to be unique and entirely dependent on the recipients mood, understanding, background and experiences.
Each one of us can be exposed to exactly the same environment at the same time and yet come out with an entirely unique outlook. Why is that? Allah states in the Quran that “we give you life, cause you to die and then raise you up by the sequences listed in the thumbprints of your hand” i.e. our DNA is unique, no two are alike and thus neither are our responses.
I arrive in Scotland in the most circuitous way, which underlines the fact that you cannot get to Inverness and the remote outskirt of Forres unless you have a purpose and are determined. I was both.
After changing two planes, flying across the Atlantic, spending 6 hours in Central London praying at the Central London Mosque, walking down to High street and having English breakfast for lunch, walking back lugging my single suitcase, across this lovely part of town meeting many other women in hijab, I felt not too out of place and yet out of place with the black piece of luggage trailing me. After an unusually long wait the red bus going to Victoria station came, it was going to take me to the station for less than four pounds as opposed to twenty. The eyes of the bus driver said, “ I have seen everything including you”
I sat next to a half Italian, half Austrian woman my age who was also on her way to Gatwick via Victoria to the 90th birthday of her father in Rome, we exchanged notes on being a grandmother and before I knew it we were in Victoria. Finding the Gatwick express train was a breeze. I got on, and as it slowly waddled out of the station, I wondered why it was called express.
In the outskirts of London I felt that the skirts of London were being lifted and the dirty unwashed undersides were being exposed. The row houses that look so elegant in pictures were actually grimy and dilapidated. Each chimney has at least four to six stacks. Did that mean that one little house had six fireplaces? The walls of businesses, factories and houses were rolled in ugly graffiti. I thought it would end, as we would reach the countryside, it did not, the graffiti continued along with the crumbling walls.
Gatwick came too soon and I felt I was entering a prison, stark walls, going through the security which scans my retinal without my permission, an airline that allows 20 lbs. less than the US airlines, and I find myself in the Gatwick phenomenon or a captive audience to gross commercialism when I realize that I have left both my books in my suitcase.
Somewhere between London and Scotland the mood and air of the atmosphere changes. Scotland clears the air, the freshness seeps through the invisible cracks of the plane, the airhostess in her immaculate red uniform and big hair is a throw back to the sixties, she walks over to me and asks me if I would like a drink, tea or coffee, I opt for tea and she says “that will be two pounds ten” I recovered quickly before she poured and said “thank you I will pass” with a smile.
The next thing I feel is the bump of landing and the sun setting over the beautiful fields of Scotland, I step out into the crisp evening air, I look around and I feel I am in Gods country.