Potluck Picnics for the Soul
By Marsha McGregor
There’s no denying our deep, collective nostalgia for the things we took for granted pre-pandemic. Movies. Concerts. Crowded stadiums. Spontaneous hugs. Grocery shopping without masks.
But clearly, we are adapting. We’re making our way through, even when it gets terrifying and sad and unfathomably outrageous.
Let me take you on one short excursion to the land of my own nostalgia. I travel there for more than sentimental purpose.
For nearly 30 years, the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) held our summer conferences at Skidmore College. A big, grassy oval in the center of campus, shaded by venerable old trees, was the campus centerpiece, and situated around it were the academic buildings where our workshops took place. At any given time of day, you could find in that verdant space the equivalent of pop-up picnics for the soul. Snacks and blankets were nice but not necessary. Little pods of animated women shared stories. Pairs of women with their heads bent together read their words to each other. You’d see women in solitude, leaning against one of those enormous trees, writing in a notebook or simply gazing softly into space. There was a lot of napping going on, sometimes straight-up snoring. It was a beautiful thing.
It’s no exaggeration to say lives were changed there, sometimes profoundly. We carried the magic of that week home, and it sustained us when the demands of ordinary life resumed. We left each summer with a growing understanding we had something to say. We were honing the tools that would help us say it, and in a way that would be heard.
Thanks to some amazing leadership, IWWG conferences have recaptured that spirit and energy. It breaks our hearts to miss out on the in-person experience we have come to love. But we are adapters. For now, we shall have our pop-up picnics using the technology we sometimes hate to give us the essence of something we love.
Someday, we will be sitting—physically sitting—in some lovely grassy spot, writing, sharing, reading and snoring. Until then, let’s think of our online gatherings as potluck picnics for the soul. Everybody brings something to share. Nobody walks away hungry.
Marsha McGregor‘s literary nonfiction has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, BrainChild, Zone 3, Fourth Genre, Literary Mama and four anthologies. Since 2008 she has been a contributing columnist for Cleveland Magazine, a 45-year-old publication with 282,000 monthly readers. She attended her first Guild workshop in 1998. In 2019 she was an IWWG summer conference instructor for the seventh time. To read some of her work, see www.marshamcgregor.com.