Finding Home: Collected Stories from Salt Spring Island Circles of Women. Circles of Women Press, 2018.
Edited by Wendy Judith Cutler
Produced by members of long-standing circles of women writers, this collection of our stories is about how each of us came to live on Salt Spring Island. The collection celebrates a diversity of voices and experiences of women from the ages of 19 through 79. This collection is away to share our writings and our lives with one another and with our community. We offer them with gratitude for the lives that we are living at this precious moment on this precious island.
Stories by: Aly Coy | Andrea Palframan | Christine Clair-Rein | Corrie Hope Furst | Diana Morris | Ellie Langford Parks | Emma-Louise Elsey | Jane Phillips | Joan Ayles | Linda Hilyer | Lisa Dahling | Melanie Gregory-Worsell | Penny Berton | Premilla Pillay | Simone Fidelman | Wendy Judith Cutler | Yarrow Sheehan
Available locally at: Salt Spring Books, Treasures of the Heart and The Mercantile.
Wendy’s Introduction: Our Circles of Intimacy
“Yesterday afternoon, the women’s writing community that I have helped create met for an amazing gathering in which we shared some of the stories we have written about how each of us came to live on Salt Spring Island. It is quite thrilling and heartwarming to be sharing our lives and coming together to write ‘alone and together’ throughout this time. I feel so grateful to be part of this community of women who write together and feel that I am doing the work that I am supposed to be doing, which is soulful, heart-connected engagement and living my feminism through community-building and feminist practice.”
Bringing women together to write their lives is my passion and, for me, a necessity. I have been writing my life since starting a journal when I was nineteen, inspired by reading the diaries of Anais Nin and the memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir. The tumultuous 1970s transformed my life, as I was radically guided by the “personal is political” and entered into a lifetime of radical politics, feminism, writing, teaching and activism.
Since arriving on this magical Salt Spring Island, the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish First Nations, I have been able to manifest my intention to create a sacred space for women to feel safe, supported and nourished, encouraged to express their creativity and to form connections with other women. These circles give me a sense of intimacy that I so crave.
The intimacy that is generated within these circles is profound and moving. Coming together regularly — being in one another’s presence — creates the potential for authentic sharing, dialogue and vulnerability that is so necessary to individual and collective growth. I find that something magical occurs as women are drawn to these circles.
The invitation to join other women to write, read aloud, share (always with choice) and witness their writings inspires ever-deepening connections and a sense of community through sharing our words, our hearts and our lives. It always feels like a gift, offering these circles and the workshops that synchronistically feed into the circles, enticing women to write about and from their lives. I am always inspired and enriched whenever we come together.
To further ensure the continuity of our connections, I have created monthly women’s writing circles, composed of women who have taken a previous workshop. One of these circles has met for a decade and another for close to eight years. Our ages range from nineteen to seventy-nine. Some of us write regularly and have been published. One of us is prepared to launch her completed memoir into the world. Others of us write more sporadically, spurred on and inspired by our monthly gatherings. We celebrate our unique experiences, ethnicities and countries of our births, among them, in addition to Canada, are: Australia, Great Britain, India, The Netherlands, South Africa and the United States.
We gather together in each other’s living rooms, bringing treats to share, our journals, a pen (or laptop) and a previous invisible collection of stories. During the next three hours, we alternate between writing, reading aloud what we’ve written and sharing. We allow our writings and our creative selves to come forth. It is a process of deep listening, vulnerability and active trust-building.
Sometimes we pull a tarot or other divinatory cards to stir the creative embers. Other times we hear passages from recent or long ago memoirists, essayists or novelists (mostly always women) to inspire our own inner rumblings. Then, the room grows quiet and we write and write. Through the ritual of sitting and quietly writing together (and alone), the stories within us take flight, drawn from the well of our unconscious minds, to be birthed on the living page.
Our writings reveal the ephemera of our lives and the varied paths towards finding ourselves on this island. We are activists, actors, artists, bakers, business owners, counsellors, dancers, educators, electricians, ferry workers, filmmakers, gardeners, graphic designers, herbalists, jewelry designers, journalists, life coaches, massage therapists, musicians, organizers, photographers, set directors, singers, teachers, mothers, grandmothers, partnered and singled, amongst other identities. Two of us have passed away and we miss them terribly.
This collection of our stories about how each of us came to live on Salt Spring Island flowed organically (with a little direction from myself) from gatherings during the winter and summer solstices. Binding stories together is a symbolic and powerful recognition — of our lived experiences, our achievements as writers, alone, and our power as circles of women, together. We are creating this collection mostly for ourselves, as a way to continue to share our writings and our lives with one another. If you find yourself reading these stories, please know that we offer them with gratitude for the lives that we are living at this precious moment on this precious island of ours. I am honoured to be part of these sacred, sensitive, trusting, courageous, wise and wondrous circles of women.
Photo from Book Launch at Salt Spring Island Public Library on September 26, 2018