Shedding my skin. That is the best way for me to describe my experience at Pele’s Fire: Write to the Core. I was held by the land and the community in such a deep way that the intentions I had set for going to the retreat resulted in deep personal transformations occurring at my own core. Because of this, I am not only more connected to my writing, but I am more deeply connected to myself, to people in my life—which ultimately makes me a better writer. I feel like I’ve been cracked open, and I am truly listening to and interacting with my work in a way I never would have had I not attended Pele’s Fire.
I will remember Pele’s Fire as a magical and transformative week in my writing life: The warmth of the sun on my skin, the soothing evening rain outside screened bamboo, the luscious morning pineapple, the inspiring circle of words and uplift shared in airy open spaces, all converged to touch my inner spirit. Upon my return to New York City, the “lava” within was unleashed, and I wrote nonstop to complete my MFA’s creative thesis in a week.
Upon the completion of Pele’s Fire writer’s retreat on the Island of Hawaii, our group hiked to Kaimu beach in Kalapana, the youngest beach in the Hawaiian Islands where I found a small cave where I could sit and look out upon the beach, the crashing surf, and the other writers who were frolicking happily in the surf. From my perch at the edge of the cave, I smelled the salty fresh air, felt the cool misty water that was softly dripping from its roof, and wrote this poem.
Kahua O Mali’o: Pele was an Immigrant
by Catherine Becker
The mouth of a cave
the pounding surf
lava and cinder
stone and blood
through the ‘a’ā
Nourishing life in all its permeations
frond and nut
husk and flesh
It makes no differentiation
It just rains.
Kahua O Mali’o-foundation, to set down and develop a homestead, place of happiness, comfort poetic meaning-coolness, fragrance, rain
Kaimū refers the area in Puna district on the Island of Hawaii where there was once a small town and black sand surfing beach that was destroyed by lava in 1990. It is now used to refer to a new beach in the same area where what has been lost is being restored by locals and vistors through the planting of sprouted coconuts.
a’a-small root, rootlet, vein, artery, nerve, tendon, muscle, womb, offspring, to send greetings of love
‘a’ā-to burn, blaze, glow, fire, stony lava, Sirius (one of the brightest stars in the heavens)
Wai-Water other than sea water, juice, sap, honey, pattern, to flow, fluid. To retain, place, leave, remain. Interr. Pronoun. Who, whom, whose, what?
Ola-Life, health, well-being, living, livelihood, means of support, salvation, alive, living, recovered, healed, survive, thrive
Ua-Rain, to become
I arrived at Pele’s Fire with the first full draft of a manuscript in much need of tightening. I entered the space unsure of where to begin–completely overwhelmed by the hundreds of pages, thousands of words. I began each morning sitting on the bluffs watching sea turtles–a meditation of fire and water. I took the energy of the blue green black translucent sea into the workshops where the flow of the waves, and the gentle surface and dive of the turtle calmed the unsettled voices telling me my work was all wrong. After, much beautiful, direct, honest, and loving feedback I was able to sacrifice a bit of my blood to the altar of my work in an entirely new way. This came through as much needed cuts, focusing of the material, and deepening of imagery. Now the manuscript sings the song of lava rock, sea, Pele, lava tubes, coconut beaches, and most of all–the fierce love of three Master Teachers. It was an honor to sit in circle with their years of experience and passion for the craft of writing.
I went to Pele’s Fire with a manuscript that needed shaping. Through a multi-layered approach – workshops on structure, form, language, mapping, and generation– coupled with NIA classes that allowed me to integrate what I was learning into my body/mind/spirit, I came away from the experience with a greater idea of what I was writing and the threads of deeper themes I would follow in my work. Our group was a lively bunch of intellectual, heart-felt, spirited writers who inspired me every step of the way. Being in Hawaii was the icing on the cake—and Hawaii’s magic became part of our experience there. I would highly recommend Pele’s Fire to anyone who wants to deepen his or her understanding of his or her own work and set on fire by the creativity of others!
I’ve been accompanied by such a glow of gratitude for the gift of this week — the place and time and program and feedback and support — impossible to name all you gave us (even that great little flashlight — so symbolic of all the other gifts — no need to scrabble up rocky paths in the dark!)
Kept noting, from the flashlight on, constant other gifts of attention and caring that blew me away. I’ve never felt so cared for, anywhere! (Including the hand reached out to steady me across the lava field.) If this all sounds over-the-top, please know it barely scratches the surface of all I’d like to thank you for — and congratulate you on.
What a success, by every measure — the warmth and connectedness of the whole group, by the end — wow. I’d love to come again and will plan on it!
This retreat was unbelievable. Beyond my expectations. From the other writers there to the three leaders, to Kalani, to the different activities we did, to the dancing. It was perfect. I would definitely do it again and recommend it to my friends!
Mahalo nui for being you, for the gifts you share, and for inspiring me to write and to live fully.
Thank you so much again! The week was everything I had hoped for. The way the jungle broke down all the shoulds, musts and scheduling rigor that usually comes with organized retreats – and the way the teachers went with it, made it happen while also following what unfolded. The papayas. One-on-one feedback. Meals together. The sea. Time alone to write.
I wanted this retreat to be about getting me to write, celebrating what had been done once I arrived, fueling the next step, and reconnecting with a writing community. Funny, because that is exactly what happened – all in a lovely organic way that did not require me ‘making it happen’. Simply being me in the the week as planned made it happen.
To me, this is an incredible success.
Pele’s Fire cradles you in everything you ever wanted as a writer; fabulous food, workshops that renew your passion, invested instructors, kindred writers, amazing conversations, movement that allows you to be present in your body, and Hawai’i. Pele’s Fire healed me in ways I didn’t know I needed healing and pushed my writing in ways I didn’t know I needed to be pushed.
THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO BE A PART OF SOMETHING SO LIFE CHANGING!