So tell me, are you the new shrink?
Below is an excerpt from a story I am writing as preparation practice for the National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo] challenge that begins on November first. the challenge is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in thirty days. I am seriously considering taking the challenge, so I have decided to see if I am up to the challenge by attempting the task unofficially. Today is day four for me and I have written just over 7,200 words (not yet done for the day) which tells me that I can maintain the pace needed to complete the project. Since it has been a while since my last post here, I decided to share a small portion from the last part of chapter two with you.
The protagonist is Hugh, an old Celtic name that means spirit. Enid is another Celtic name that means soul. Guy and Enid are two names which mean guide, which matches their profession as counsellors. Other characters in the book already introduced or to be introduced are Wiatt, another guide who will be a Jungian analyst, Maurice who stands in the role of male shadow and Melanie who stands in the role of female shadow. Of the three children, Helen, Cathy and Ben little can be said at this point. Yes, there is a Jungian slant to the tale. 🙂
Let me know what you think. 🙂 – Robert
* * * * *
“Hi Hugh,” greeted Guy as I carried my two bags into the retreat centre. “How was the drive?”
“The roads were shit. Why doesn’t the government fix these fricking roads?” I answered as Guy swallowed me up in his welcomed bear hug. “Nice place. Am I the last to arrive?”
“No. There are a few more yet to come. Here, I’ll show you your room.”
~ ~ ~
The room was very small but tidy and comfortable looking. A window looked out onto a small field bordered by a belt of trees. The walls were blue, a light blue, with one prairie scene hanging above the small dresser. Besides the single bed was a small writing table with a stool in front of it. Everything was white with the exception of the walls and a bedspread that was faded green in colour. It would do. I didn’t expect anything more than this. If anything, I would have predicted even more Spartan and drab.
I took out the things I thought I would use at the desk and placed them to make a pleasing scene. Since this was to be my home for five days, I wanted it to have my signature, to place my stamp on the room so that it felt less lonely. Yes, I was already feeling lonely. I arranged the new journal that Enid had given me along with a pair of fine-nibbed pens, one green and the other red, which I had bought to use with the journal. Just behind the journal, I placed Enid’s little book, The Kiss. I have to admit that as I placed the book there, I smiled.
As I emptied the few clothes I had brought into the small dresser or into the closet, I began to smell baking. I could smell apples and cinnamon, two of my favorite scents. All of a sudden I was hungry and ready for a cup of coffee. Leaving the room, I joined two others who were headed towards what I assumed was the dining room.
~ ~ ~
“Hi!” greeted a man who appeared to be about forty years old. “My name is Mike. This is Tricia. And you are?”
“Hi Tricia and Mike. I’m Hugh. Can I join you for some coffee in the dining room?” I asked in my typically friendly fashion.
“I guess this is your first time here. No coffee, no caffeine of any kind. Tea, water or juice, and not black tea.” Mike said with a laugh. “So tell me, are you the new shrink?”
“Shrink? No, why do you ask? No coffee?”
“You look like a shrink. You look like a smaller version of Guy. What’s with the goatee and sweater if you aren’t a shrink?” wondered Mike.
“Caffeine is bad for you. It’s in the rules for burnout camp.” Tricia offered with her first words. “Nice to meet you, Hugh. Mike is right, you look like a counsellor.”
“I am a counsellor. I counsel students. And you, both of you teachers?” Their nods were their response.
“Ha! I knew it!” exclaimed Mike as they entered the dining room.
A few others were already there. They were sitting alone at scattered tables in silence rather than together. The dining room was really just a cafeteria much like what one would find in any school. I joined Mike and Tricia at a table after selecting a tea bag of green tea for the small pot of hot water, and a freshly baked cinnamon-apple muffin.
~ ~ ~
As I sat in the dining room sipping on my tea and listening to Mike tell his entertaining stories, I couldn’t help but notice that his chatter was a cover up. Mike’s congeniality and humorous stories would convince most people that he was a man who was very happy with life. But, I could hear a deep pain buried beneath his words. Tricia was a different story. She wore her pain on her face. In the background, I could see both Guy and Neta taking turns welcoming new arrivals, I also saw another counsellor that worked for teacher services in the neighboring province. I assumed that this would be the new counsellor that Mike had been talking about earlier. I caught myself not listening to Mike as he told another of his stories and excused myself. I wanted to be alone for a while. The first session was to take place in about an hour and I needed some alone time. With a promise to join both Tricia and Mike for the evening meal, I went to my room and grabbed a light jacket.
Outside, the sun was emerging from behind a bank of clouds painting the remaining yellow leaves on some of the trees a brilliant gold. I saw a path headed towards the shore of the lake and decided to follow it and then follow along the shore line in search of peace and quiet. The sand along the shore was rather coarse, mixed with small stones. Small branches and leaves were scattered along the shore line which soon ended. The trail led on into the dried grass that covered the gently rolling shoreline of the lake. I could smell the typical prairie slough odour of stale water as the path continued on. The only sound I heard was that of a small “v” of geese flying overhead. As I rounded a bend along the lake, I saw another solitary person sitting on a large boulder at the shore’s edge. Rather than disturb her, I turned and began the walk back to the camp. I knew that I wasn’t the only one that would be in attendance at the retreat who would take comfort in the quiet silence of nature.
Back at the main beach, if one could give the title beach to the thin strip of coarse sand, I looked at the retreat centre and began to wonder what would be uncovered over the days to come. I knew that intense group therapy resulted in one feeling fully exposed to others, exposed and vulnerable just as one would feel if placed naked with the group. Naked, stripped away of the protective covering that we each build to feel safe. For a second I laughed – now wasn’t that part of my problem? Wanting to be naked?
~ ~ ~
“Close your eyes. As you listen to my voice, I want you to relax. I will be taking you to a place where there is only sunlight and peace.” Neta began the meditative relaxation session with the sounds of ocean waves and classical music playing lightly in the background. “As you listen to the sound of my voice counting down from ten to one, I want you to focus on your breathing and nothing else. Let the sound of my voice, and the sound of the music take you deep inside to a place that is safe and free from worries.”
“Ten. Relax the small muscles at the edges of your eyes. Feel them gently letting go as you breathe. Let your breathing massage the tension behind your eyes. Imagine that you are laying in the sunshine by the edge of a sea and that a passing breeze is massaging your forehead. Relax into the touch of that passing breeze.”
I followed along as best I could with my eyes closed. I have often used the same relaxation technique with my adult clients. As Neta continued, I found my thoughts wandering, taking me back home. What would Enid be doing now? The kids would be home from school by now. Helen and Cathy would be doing their homework as they had dance class in the evening. Ben would likely have brought one of his friends home from school. Our home was open-house for all the children in the neighbourhood once school was done for the day and on most week-ends. Enid arranged her work hours so that there was always one of us at home when school was done for the day. Since my work day matched the kids for the most part, I was the one usually there to meet the kids and make sure there were cookies or muffins to go with the never-ending stream of milk and juice that kids seemed to swallow without tasting. God, did I miss being at home. Who would read to Ben tonight?
All of a sudden I noticed the silence in the room. There was no music playing, just silence. Somehow, I had missed the rest of relaxation meditation program. I opened my eyes and saw that almost everyone else still had their eyes closed. Mike was one exception and in the far corner, near the window, the woman I had seen along the shore of the lake also sat with her eyes open. As I caught Guy’s eyes, he smiled. Enid saw me and indicated that two minutes remained before silence could be broken. I closed my eyes again and just rested and waited.