The retreat was like a dream of what life could be. Rise at 9 or 10, walk up to the big house for coffee. (Tim and I worked and slept in the caretaker's house about a 1/8 mile away from the big main house, where the rest of the group stayed.) Maybe somebody would be in the kitchen making a pie, and we'd chat a bit, wake up, then back to the caretaker's house to work for a couple hours. Lunch around 1, informal, but usually a group would end up eating together at a big table outside. After lunch, a long work session until dinner at 8 or 9.
We all ate dinner together in a big, low-ceilinged dining room with heavy beams and a wrought iron chandelier with candles. (The house was built in the mid-1800s and expanded in the 1920s. It was huge but unassuming, a little rundown, and very comfy.) We ate like kings. Each artist was responsible for preparing one meal, so of course everyone was showing off, making our most impressive, delicious dishes. After dinner, a couple hours of wine-fueled, free-wheeling conversation about art and politics around the table. Then Tim and I made our way back through the pitch black night to the caretakers house for a little marijuana and 2 or 3 more hours of work until we were so tired we couldn't keep our eyes open and we wandered off to bed.
We re-wrote the show pretty much top to bottom. We kept all the original songs and most of the text, but re-arranged everything and wrote three completely new songs, along with new verses and other changes to the existing songs. We did an unbelievable amount of work in such a short time -- really only five full working days. It's always a surprise and a miracle to me -- though it shouldn't be -- how quickly the work gets done when there are no other pressures, no distractions, none of the daily discomforts that derail the process.
The weather was perfect: 70s and low 80s during the day, sunny and breezy, 50s at night. We must have been at a fairly high elevation for it to be so cool and lovely, but the views of the mountains made it seem like we were low. There was no internet access, or I would have looked that up. I also had no cell phone access. It was a little eerie to be so cut off for a week, but I was glad for it.
I got back late Saturday night, and yesterday I attended an orientation event for students "older than 25." It started at noon, and I left my house in plenty of time, but I couldn't find it. I walked around for an hour, getting more and more lost -- for some reason I always get completely turned around on campus -- and finally called J at home and asked him to look up the location. It turned out to be in the basement of the building I had gone to in the first place. Since it was Sunday, none of the usual offices were open, places where I could have gone for information. I was almost in tears, it was so hot and I'd been walking around for an hour in the blazing sun, in bad walking shoes. I was so overheated I felt sick and almost panicky.
The orientation session was great. It was a diverse group, mostly much younger than I. Even people in their thirties look like teenagers to me, so I felt like an old man even among the older students. There was a talk on how to study effectively, which was enlightening, and a session on staying sane. (U.T. offers free individual and group therapy!)