So here it is- part ten of mine and Cheryl’s Claire Cook-Lake Austin Spa Resort trip. I know you’ve been waiting with baited breath, right? Instead of linking all of the other posts one-by-one here, I’ve put the whole story in one spot for you here. Enjoy!
Friday, June 1
Evening Workshop with Claire Cook
Before our trip, I’d stressed—I’m talking stressed to the degree where I was stomping around maniacally, slamming dresser drawers and closet doors—over my lack of a decent wardrobe. I’d fought my way through racks and racks of clothes everywhere from Lane Bryant (where everything was slightly too large) to Target (where everything was slightly too small) to Marshalls and TJ Maxx (where everything was a little disconcertingly racked and stacked, but reasonably priced).
I had to have something nice to wear for Claire Cook’s workshop the first night in Austin, and after all of that shopping, I did. Here’s the thing, though. Flying in a stuffy plane, walking through airports, exploring outdoor gardens in ninety-three degree heat, these things are sweat-inducing. Here we were at four-thirty in the afternoon and I was living my own personal version of the Academy Awards, having changed clothes twice in the span of ten hours. If I changed outfits again, then I wouldn’t have anything to wear back to Charlotte on Sunday. What to do? What to do?
I have no idea if it was my new laid back, super casual attitude or if it was the fact that Cheryl and I were now surrounded by people who felt free to wander around in robes and flip flops everywhere they went (even to eat!), but we both opted for yoga pants, t-shirts, and spa sandals. Pictures of us that might possibly happen be damned!
What the hell was I thinking?
Okay, I was thinking that I was too lazy to find the gratis laundry room to wash my clothes. I was on vacation. I didn’t want to do laundry far more than I didn’t want to have a picture taken of me in yoga pants. Potential embarrassment complete with photographic evidence or laundry during a spa vacation. That’s what they call a no-brainer.
We headed out of our room, smelling of lavender and toting bright yellow Lake Austin Spa Resort sport bottles filled with water and lemon wedges and sprigs of bright green minty goodness. We totally did this kind of thing every day of our lives. We were relaxed. We had embraced the laid back vibe of the resort. To be fair, I’m really not being completely tongue-in-cheek here. We had embraced it. Everywhere you walk on those grounds, the air you breathe is calming. It is. There are herbs planted all over the place in flower beds and box planters, and the air just smells good. It’s hard to be all uptight in a place where people always smile, wear white robes and blue flip flops, carry around sporty, bright, sunshine yellow water bottles, and breathe in air that smells like Heaven. It’s true. I have scientific proof or something like that.
The workshop was to be held in the Treehouse Lake Room. I’ve since forgotten what time it was at, and at the moment I’m far too slack to run back up two sets of stairs to fumble around in my dark bedroom where B is sleeping to retrieve my Nook where all of my trip notes are stored. Let’s just say it was around five that evening, and that Cheryl and I arrived a little early. There were two women in the room already, and they were sitting in a couple of overstuffed arm chairs in front of one of the windows. They were neither overdressed nor were they as underdressed as we were, but their state of dress wasn’t really wasn’t all that disconcerting (another clue that my hyperactive brain accepted that it was on vacation). In fact, I think I’m giving it more thought now than I did then. What did occupy my mind at that moment was trying to figure out just where to sit. Cheryl and I were on the same page. She questioningly gestured towards the rest of the room, and I pointed to a set of three chairs arranged around an ottoman on the other side of the room. We walked there, sat down, and, oh. These were super comfy. These were I want one of these in my living room comfy. Then I did the unthinkable. You see that big blue, oval ottoman? I put my feet up on it.
Now, I have no qualms about sitting my feet on the coffee table here at home—usually with a pillow underneath them. In fact, as I sit here typing this, I have my lap top on my lap and my feet resting on top of the round place mat I keep on the coffee table in order to, in theory, protect the sixteen year old table from scratches. However, due to home etiquette training (i.e. years of my father admonishing us to get our damned feet off of the damned table), I would never, never, ever put my feet on the furniture anywhere other than in my own home, and then I’d only do it when there was no one else to actually see me do it. You know, like now.
I blame the yoga pants.
We sat there in silence for a bit, taking in the environment—everything was in shades of green; there were various prints of birds done up Audubon-style on one of the walls, and out the window, we had a beautiful view of Lake Austin and the tree covered hills above it. Then more people began to arrive, including Claire and her daughter, who were dressed very, very nicely. Oops. She was so effervescent that I soon forgot my yoga pants for the most part, and when a spa robed women sat down with us and conspiratorially whispered, “Maybe I should have dressed up,” I felt infinitely better.
Once the room was mostly full, and Robbie Hudson (the Director of Programming for the spa and one of the people responsible for our trip —thank you, Robbie!) had entered, it was time to get started. I can’t remember if Claire introduced herself and her daughter and Robbie or if it was Robbie who introduced herself, then Claire and Claire’s daughter. What I do remember is that right after they were all introduced, Cheryl and I were introduced as the contest winners for the weekend. And, get this, everyone was completely gracious and kind and genuinely excited for us. It was amazing in a five minutes of fame sort of reality television celebrity way. Everyone should have at least five minutes of fame. Everyone.
Claire then dove into her talk. She spoke about what life was like for her before her books, what her degrees were in and how she went to school to be a writer, but ended up being a yoga teacher and then a teacher for young children. I don’t think she ever came out and directly said what she taught, but I got the impression that it was dance based on some other things she said. Really, if you want to know, you’d have to ask her. She occasionally wrote some pieces over the years, but she never really did what it was that she knew somewhere down deep she wanted to do.
Cheryl threw me a pointed glance.
Claire talked about drifting away from friends and about how looking back on things she thought that she was too scared to just put herself out there.
Another pointed glance.
If Cheryl’s glances had been elbows, I’d still be covered in bruises.
Claire told us about the experience of writing her first book and about her attempts to get it published. She spoke about negativity and self-doubt and how you have to power through them. She spoke about how Must Love Dogs became a movie, about getting to meet Diane Lane and John Cusack, and about her stage chair that was signed by the cast—the one she loved so much that she carried on the plane because she couldn’t bear to check it. I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t have checked it either.
I’m going to pause here to ask you a question: Have you ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Essentially, the idea behind it is that before someone can achieve self-actualization (creativity, morality, ability to problem solve, etc) other needs must be met first, the most basic of which are physiological needs like breathing and eating and sleeping and…you know. What I’m saying here is that somewhere in the middle of Claire’s story about getting past all of life’s negativity to get to the good things, I realized that I’d finished all of my lemony, minty water and I really, really, really had to pee.
So what did I do?
I sat there like a dumbass and powered through it, primarily because I didn’t want to miss what she had to say and secondarily because I didn’t want to seem rude by leaving. I have to admit that if I’d just gotten up and taken care of this problem instead of thinking things like,” God, I have to pee,” and “That view of Lake Austin isn’t so great now; is it, Mich?” then I would have missed maybe two minutes of her talk rather than every sixth word. Not to mention the fact that she probably wouldn’t have thought I was being rude at all; I’m sure she’d experienced the difficulties of, you know, over-hydration before.
Please don’t think that this means I didn’t come away from Claire’s talk with anything except a mental note not to drink an entire sports bottle full of water in a thirty-two minute time span. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. I managed to soak in how she writes before checking other blogs and Facebook and Twitter otherwise she’d be less likely to get her work done. I paid special attention to her at least two pages everyday work schedule and to her theory that writing was like exercise—you should do it every single day because one day missed becomes two to three days missed far too easily. So. Freaking. True.
Claire took questions from the group, and then she passed around slips of paper on which wrote our names and e-mail addresses. These slips were dropped in a small gift bag for an impromptu-to-us, but probably not Claire, raffle. I don’t remember what the prize was, a journal maybe, because I was too busy being magnanimous in my head, giving my “Oh, no. I’ve already gotten so much out of this weekend already. Please, draw another name,” anti-acceptance speech. I didn’t win, but my consolation prize was that I got to live a rich fantasy life.
Then it was time for pictures.
And these pictures were taken while I was wearing my yoga pants, since, you know, that’s how I roll—or at least how I was going to roll that weekend. There’s nothing like stepping out of your comfort zone by wearing comfy pants.
Pictures finished, it was time to hit the restroom, get some dinner, and move up a few steps in the Maslow hierarchy.
At least until I filled up on water again.