There is a state park in East Haddam, Connecticut called Devil’s Hopyard featuring an incredible waterfall and rock formations. Early settlers believed that the Devil had once passed by the falls, accidentally getting his tail wet. This made him so mad, he burned holes in the stones with his hooves as he bounded away.
As a child, I always loved that story; in the idea that God or the Devil was somehow physically present in this world.
Last week, I visited the park after heavy rains to find the waterfall bursting at the seams, the raging water rushing by so fast, the mist created a dense fog making me feel as though I was standing on another planet.
Waterfalls are symbolic in many religions. In Hinduism, water generally has a special place as it is considered to have spiritual cleansing powers and is sacred. Waterfalls often relate to a great release of emotion, rejuvenation, and renewal of spirit.
Nothing is a coincidence.
I visited Devil’s Hopyard after sending my new literary fiction manuscript Raising Artemis off to my editor for a first look. I needed to get away from my desk and get out into nature.
It took me over 18 months to write a first draft of Raising Artemis, which focuses on the spiritual connection between pets and their people. It’s not a story about religion, but it is a story about the soul, and our connection to something greater than we can fully comprehend in this world. Our animals know us better than almost anyone. They see into our souls and connect to our hearts. But, what if we could see how all our pets throughout our lives interconnect to form a group of compassionate and understanding guardians who teach us how to heal, and ultimately how to love? What if we knew what our pets were trying to tell us?
Not only has it been the most challenging story I’ve ever attempted––due in large part to a fully omniscient cat narrator––but it was also emotionally draining.
Writers often say that they pour their hearts and souls into writing stories. I’ve experienced that to varying degrees over the years. This story, more than any other, forced me to tap into a place inside me so deep that it wiped me out and forced me to question my own beliefs in a way no other project ever has before.
Since sending the draft off to my editor, I felt suddenly rudderless and weary. Normally, I have multiple projects in the works, but as I glanced into my notebook to determine what to focus on next, I became overcome with a sense of fatigue and creative exhaustion. So, I did what I always do, I threw on a pair of hiking boots and went for a long walk in the woods.
Standing as close to the waterfall as I could manage, I felt the water rush by me, shaking the ground beneath me, filling the air around me with moisture and energy. I took a deep breath and tried to take in the full force of the water, and its thundering surge as if trying to fill a void deep inside my own soul.
Staring at the waterfall, was reminded to go with the flow. I was reminded to take time to recharge my own batteries, to step away from the desk to take time to express gratitude, to reconnect to the creative river inside me.
Sometimes I need to be reminded that when I’m doing nothing, I’m still doing something important. Not every moment away from my desk is unproductive or disconnected from my greater purpose.
I am not a machine. I need to be inspired to feel connected, and I need to be connected to write authentic stories.
After all, it’s not about the volume of work I produce, it’s about the quality. Good things take time. Good writers need time away from writing in order to come home to a story with the energy necessary to do it justice.
I needed that reminder. I needed to re-learn that lesson. It was no coincidence that after writing a book about spiritual connection and the soul’s journey, I needed to walk in the Devil’s Hopyard to set me straight again.