Writers Workshop

When God Keeps Surprising


I am back in Kodiak now. Summer is gone. The writing workshop is over. And just when I think nothing new could happen in this yearly cycle—from one Alaskan island to another, that has now spun me around for 42 years——God does it again. Astonishment. Surprise. Goodness hailing down like rain from a cloudless sky. Maybe I am a hopeless slow learner, but I am still dropped low, left gaping at these moments when we lived, moved and felt our being joined to God and one another.

But—-this is too many words.Here is what this last week looked, sounded, and tasted like:


And here are Marilyn’s words for this week. (The brilliant Marilyn Chandler MacEntyre was my guest writer for the week)

Harvester Island Writers’ Workshop, 2019

with many thanks to Leslie and Duncan


I had no idea, when I said yes,

how wide open the door would swing,

how many would come bearing gifts—

local lore, woolen socks, timely reminders

of ways to use a Q, new uses for quinoa,

large cameras for crowds, a sharp eye

for whale fins, long-legged rain gear

and chocolate covered almonds.


I had no idea what pleasure a banya

might provide on a chilly afternoon

or what chilly might mean in this

northwest outback.  In Sacramento

it’s 102 today.  70 is sweater weather.


I thought I knew what I might offer;

I’ve done this many times before, I thought.

I had handouts, and plenty of prompts.


But one sure and certain sign of the Spirit

is surprise.  Conversation re-creates and all

our preparations are reconfigured.  We leave

our devices at the door, our shoes, our hygienic

excesses, and walk into a bright circle of grace.


We learn again, from one another, how a word

can take root in the body and grow into story

or song.  We have seen salmon dying now,

and puffins making their flapping way

up the steep hill of wind, and curious gulls,

and watched quizzical otters from a deck full

of well-wrapped watchers, balanced between

words and silence, awed and unsettled and expectant,

already imagining how to keep these moments alive

long enough to transplant them into poems.


I had some idea of what could happen

when two or three were gathered, permitted to laugh,

invited to play.  God’s own breath moves among us,

diffuse and subtle, filling hospitable silences,

preparing us each, in ways we barely suspect,

for what comes next.

——-Marilyn Chandler MacEntyre

HIWW 2019 Robyn in kayak through arch.png