The workshop was to last a week. It was being held in a quaint country inn, located on a lake surrounded by large fir trees. Seventeen people had signed up and the instructor was ready with his first assignment.

"Today's assignment is to take a thirty minute walk around the grounds and when you return, write about what you saw, or what you felt, or what you heard. Engage your senses so you can make the rest of us sense what you experienced. Maybe you'll write about something you touched, or something you tasted.

Please don't come back and write about the scenery. NARROW YOUR FOCUS. In other words, choose a cluster of pine cones instead of an entire group of trees."

The instructor paused and turned to the window. "I see that it's snowing now and perhaps you'd rather stay on the porch. There are many things you can find to write about by remaining on the porch. Also, please sign this paper before you go and then sign in when you return. Thirty minutes outside in this weather could be a challenge to most of you so please don't venture too far. Let us know when you leave and when you return.

You have the rest of the morning and all afternoon to complete the assignment. We'll meet back here after supper and you'll read what you've written.

Remember: Narrow Your Focus.

Members of the message board are involved in a fun workshop for writers. They're given daily assignments and the workshop will last for a week. Below are their entries for Day 1.

One Winter Day

By Phyllis Ann (

I couldn't wait to get on the road to Bearsford Inn in Vermont. I had planned for this writer's workshop all year. It was the highlight. I was the seventeenth person to sign up and the last. I was anxious to meet the other sixteen writers. It was really cold, and the weather forecast was calling for snow. When I arrived, most of the folks were there except for one lady who had canceled because of the weather. The sun was shining, but the snow had begun to fall in big wet flakes. There was a long porch across the front of the Inn, and there were rocking chairs and a few small round tables for drinks, books and such. It wasn't the kind of weather for sitting and drinking or reading for that matter.

The property was beautiful, covered with fir trees and in the distance rolling hills. The instructor showed us to our rooms for the week long stay. We were all pleasantly surprised at how nice each room was. Downstairs we gathered in the large living type room with a giant fireplace which had a roaring fire going. We bundled up and went out on the porch. We all signed the paper and noted the time of our coming onto the porch. Some decided to venture out into the surrounding grounds and some decided to stay on the porch and write from there. I decided to venture out into a nearby wooded area looking for something of interest.

I hadn't been there very long when I spotted a deer. I was very still, and suddenly there were four deer. They were cautious but used to seeing humans. I just stood there in awe of their beauty in the snow. One in particular caught my eye. He was very large with a rack that any hunter would like to have. However, no hunting was allowed on the Inn grounds. So, he and his fellow deer were safe. The big buck looked at me with his soft brown eyes. He was a light tan with the standard white markings. I felt the urge to draw near, but I didn't for fear of spooking all of them. A doe stood near him which I thought probably was his mate. The other two might have been their offspring or just another couple. They were a little smaller. The big buck was definitely the leader. He pawed the snow with his front right hoof as if looking for grass to nibble on. The others were concentrating on a few green tidbits still on the trees. We stood there in silence, nature and I.

I don't know how long I stood there, but my feet were numb inside of my boots. My fingers were also numb inside of my gloves. My nose was very cold, and my lips felt chapped. I decided to back away quietly and return to the Inn. By that time, there was a good four inches of snow on the ground, and I watched the deer head into a dense thicket of trees. I turned and walked back to the Inn.

There were still several people on the porch but most had gotten cold and gone inside to the warmth of the fireplace. I signed the sheet that I had returned, and I noticed that everyone else had either never left or had returned. I went to my room and got out my portable typewriter to write an essay on what I had experienced out in nature with the deer. I could almost feel his breath on my face and sense his piercing brown eyes as he stared at me with frost forming around his nostrils. I remembered how he pawed the snow and foraged for grass under the snow. His large rack touched the snow as he nibbled, and his mouth was white with wet snow. He was, indeed, a beautiful specimen of nature.

I drew a small sketch of him on the bottom of my paper when I was finished. The Inn keeper later told me that he was a regular at the Inn, and everyone called him "Big Buck", so that is what I titled my paper. The first evening of the workshop was spent sitting around the fire reading our papers. What a great way to start the week long workshop. I couldn't wait for day number two. What would it bring?

One Winter Day

By susi (

Normally, I don't go out walking in the cold
But today, feeling feisty and rather bold
I dressed up warm, muffler 'round my face
Looking like I could withstand outer space

Out on the porch and down the steps
Wishing I were inside eating berries and crepes
I braved the elements and took off walking
All the while to myself kept talking

"Why are you doing this, you silly goose?"
"Should have stayed on the porch and called a truce."
"Remember now, Narrow your focus"
"What a bunch of hocus pocus!"

But I walked along, eyes on the ground
Nothing inspiring to be found
And what do I see? The tip of a crocus
Here's the chance to narrow my focus

Poking its purple head thru the snow
Tiny green leaves determined to grow
Next to the driveway, close to the brick
Fighting to break through snow six inches thick

On down the driveway I pass the bird feeder
Sitting next to the bird-filled Lebanon Cedar
Scattered around were the seeds of the thistle
While Mourning Doves called with their sorrowful whistle
I narrowed my focus on so many things On barren tree branches holding abandoned swings But the cold seeping through sent me back to my door Maybe tomorrow I'll go outside for more.

One Winter Day

By Sharon (

I see small birds splashing in bird bath
Chirping the whole time that they do
Along comes Freddy Falcon and spouse
Frightened wee birds so off they flew

The Falcon pair didn't stay too long
Along came birds of a feather black
Grackles and crows and red-wing black birds
When they left the small ones came back

Oh look there's a ground squirrel taking drink
That bird bath gets so much good use
Roadrunner jumps up to see what's there
He often seems a bit obtuse

Now the birds all have gone on their way
The bird bath sits unused in yard
Tomorrow will bring them back again
Those little guys act such a card

A coyote jumped over the gate
Taking his turn for a good drink
When he is there nothing else comes by
Afraid to be eaten I think

How can all bathe in this cold weather
Why don't their feathers and feet freeze
They just splash and tweet as though it's warm
Enjoying life just as they please

One Winter Day

By Tom (

Tall stood the mighty oak, there amid the smaller trees,
so tall, so broad it stands, dwarfing most of the land.
In the top is a nest, what kind of critter resides in it,
is it a squirrel or a bird, who does live up there?

The mighty oak is their home, there high above the land,
safe and secure from below, nothing will dare scale that tree.
But will a bird of prey come by,
will it check and look inside?

A fortress in the forest wide,
where there is not glade, where there are no roads.
What kind of bird would nest up there?
No bird makes a nest like that.

Leaves and twigs, walls, floor and roof
all constructed to be warm and secure,
a place to live and raise their young,
oh how high and above the ground.

Now is winter time when trees are bare,
birds are gone.
Are those squirrels who were playing chase,
home makers that reside up there?

Where do they stash their nuts,
where do their winter sustenance they hide?
Such a large old oak, so royal and magnificent,
I too would like a royal and regal home.

One Winter Day

By Norma (

I can smell the pine of the Inn,
Hear the lap on the lake’s gentle shore,
See one spike pushing, pushing through,
Thirty minutes? I’ll need more.

This big rock I must try as a couch,
(Kind of cold, I must admit,)
But Beresford, I must take in your sights,
For a time, I must stare and sit.

I feel another rock in the palm of my hand,
How strange it seems to be moving,
I’ve crowded a poor old turtle’s space,
His patterned back full of grooving.

How graceful are the minnows when
They ripple between pads of snow,
Snow like lilies waiting to turn,
A dream of Monet - a sweet show.

I must shuffle on, gaze for quartz rocks,
Here’s one like a mini pink bluff,
It twinkles for me so I’ll save it as
A souvenir in my pocket, though rough.

Small is that little fall fallen hill,
Garnet and gold and green,
Snow nestled through jeweled colors
How quietly they speak to this scene.

The Sol I love scatters morning beams,
My walk must wind to an end.
Ever changing, ever new it will be
After a tomorrow wind.

One Winter Day

By Diana Mercedes (

After being up all night my weary limbs and faded brain just wanted to go up to my room and lie down. I could look out my window and find something to write about just as easily from a prone position. I had already tested the canopied, quilt covered fourposter and it was, to a weary traveler, a glimpse of heaven.

Could I last thirty more minutes? The porch was screened in. That was good. The bent wood uncushioned chairs were not. New England rustic, hard work and discipline, principles and sacrifice …Yankees. For someone born and raised in California, mild and pleasant, free and easy, twig furniture was something best enjoyed from a distance.

The other writers filtered out, most were strangers to one another, drawn to this writers workshop by a yearning scratch the itch that all writers have to make sense of it, express it, quantify it, put it on paper and share with others. “It’s not just me is it? This is how I see the world. I’m not alone, am I?”

I passed on the chairs. I could see better standing up leaning on the railing. The porch wrapped around the corner of the building ending in stairs halfway to the backyard; more of a veranda really. Time to focus on my topic. I pretended to study the landscape beyond the far end of the porch while I scanned the other writers.

We are all connected they say, and yet all different. How do you reconcile those two concepts? Each one of us will have a unique slant on this assignment, just as unique as the slant of our own handwriting, our DNA, our personalities.

Only a few lingered on the porch. The others ignored the teacher’s warning and fanned out, some in the direction of the lake and some down the trail that meandered through firs, snow floating down, cloaking the scene in silence.

Funny, by the end of the week I will have been allowed to enter the private world of these perfect strangers. Why is that? We all crave uniqueness and we all crave connectedness. Sounds like yin and yang to me, polar opposites, male and female, Laurel and Hardy.

I wish I could focus; brain tired; getting silly.

I went over the assignment again. “Write about what you saw, what you felt, what you heard.” What I felt. I felt tired, exhausted, I felt like letting my mind wander until the thirty minutes were up. I could sign out as instructed and go take a nap. I have the rest of the afternoon to complete the task. Blessed sleep beckoned.

“What you felt, what you saw.” OK. Pick something. I see the circular driveway of white gravel. What is the name for white gravel? I wonder. Broken bits of rock dumped and leveled over a graded space wide enough for large vans to park side by side. In the center of the circle a fountain, no a bird bath encompassed by, well, encompassed by whatever is under the snow falling heavily now. “Don’t venture too far,” the teacher had said.

The gravel drive must have been salted. How very pleasing a circular driveway is. No hard edges. No abrupt square corners, rigid, military. A circle is welcoming, feminine, warm, also easy turn around should you suddenly want to flee.

I looked at my watch. Only ten minutes elapsed. My goodness. Should I go explain to the teacher I spent the night at the airport? Try sleeping on the floor. Was I the only one affected by the storm, or is everyone else local?

I wonder if these musings will qualify? There is one way to find out. I went back to the meeting room and signed out, thinking, “If my offering doesn’t qualify, it won’t be the first time I embarrass myself.”

One Winter Day

By Cottage Lady (

Susan finally pulled in the driveway of the old Inn on Route 100 in Vermont. The scene was picture perfect postcard New England. She had her suitcase packed in the car ready to leave right after work, but the drive had been slow due to blowing and drifting snow. She was here at last and breathed a sigh of relief. The Inn was white with black shutters, and a broad verandah porch. Lights spilled out of windows and smoke curled in an almost dark sky. Light snow was falling and Susan thought it was a scene straight from a Thomas Kinkaid painting. She could see a few people out on the porch with pads and pencils in their hands and some strolling down the road, despite the cold.

Susan had been looking forward to this writing get-away she had scheduled for herself many months ago. Writing, mostly poetry, but prose as well was her escape and solace after the death of her dear husband Bill. Many years of coping with chronic illness, being a constant caregiver 24/7, as well as working full time had taken their toll on her physical and emotional health. She felt tired and frayed at the edges and hoped for some renewal at the conference.

The leader of the workshop came out to meet her and welcomed her. He had known she would be a late arrival. He introduced himself as Frank and brought her into the warmth indoors. The décor was right out of colonial New England, polished wide-board floors, white walls with cream trim, paintings of old barns and covered bridges, a staircase with gleaming lustrous banisters heading upstairs, colorful braided rugs, and cozy looking couches with throws straight out of LL Bean. Fireplaces were lit in the foyer and living room.

After showing Susan her room, Frank explained the assignment, saying there was still time to accomplish some work before dinner.

Susan dropped her suitcase, nodding approval to herself at the comfortably appointed room with its four-poster bed and colorful quilt, maple furniture consisting of a rocker, dresser, desk and chair, slightly worn but welcoming, all with a private bath, and well worth it she thought to herself. Not bothering to unpack, Susan took out only her pad and pen, bundled up in her parka, hat and gloves and hurried outside. Some of the participants had already returned to settle on the couch in front of the living room fire, with glasses of wine and cheese, fruit and crackers. She did not want to introduce herself and make small talk, so she hastened outdoors. Only one or two people were left on the porch. Susan looked around and decided to slide around the side of the house into the back yard. Snowflakes could be seen softly falling from the light of the downstairs windows. The back yard was quiet and dark, bordered with dormant flowering bushes and pine trees beyond. Susan walked away from the house and was struck by the fact that the world became only black and white with barely perceptible shades of gray. Though she was cold and her fingers starting to become numb, she perched on a back yard bench and wrote a poem she called Monochrome that she felt would be acceptable to read to the group and yet not reveal too much about herself or her history.

One Winter Day

By Guest ()

As I walked along this path
A hairless worm I did see
Making his way up a limb
On this old oak tree

I watched and wondered
If he felt the cold on his bare little skin
He looked ever so lonely
And was so very, very thin

Would the cold do him in
As he slithered up that tree
Making his way towards home
Wherever that might be

Much like the life I live when I
Would wander from room to room
Not being able to remember
Where'd I put that blasted broom

Surely I'm not becoming senile
Will that worm become senile too
Will arthritis gripe his boneless spine
For then, his options will be few

Watching him crawl up the limb
He's hoping to reach his mate
Faster his little body went
Cause this little guy's got a date!

Year's End 2009 (several authors)

Winter Slide Show

The Day After

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