The Unexpected Visitor

The Unexpected Visitor

Gwynn Scheltema

Saturday, April 18 was the third Saturday of the month and the usual day for the breakfast meeting of my Northumberland County writers’ group “Spirit of the Hills”. Each month we meet in person at a local inn to check in on what everyone is doing and listen to a guest speaker. We usually go around the table and everyone has a minute or so to talk about what they are working on, share writing news and events and anything else writing related that might be of interest to the members. After that we have a guest speaker or a discussion. The whole thing lasts about two hours.

This month we tried on a new format—we met on ZOOM.

And I have to give a big shout out to our organizers, Kim, Felicity and Katie who made some interesting choices on the flow and content of the meeting so that it was long enough, but not too long, easily participated in without being a free-for-all and most of all for sending us away with inspiration to keep on writing.

The Guest House

Because April is poetry month, they chose that as a theme for the meeting.

Kim started us off with a reading of Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House”. This was such a good choice, not only because Rumi is much loved by so many, but because this particular poem, even though written in the 13th century, was able to speak to what we are experiencing as creators right now. For many of us, the muse is not showing up as she usually does. This poem reminded us to welcome whatever she brings.


In our regular meetings, we would then have proceeded with our round-the-table check-in with everyone. Instead, earlier in the week, Felicity emailed those planning to attend asking them to email their usual personal “minute update” to her by the Wednesday before the meeting. She then compiled the responses into a document and emailed it to the group prior to the meeting.

I found this a great idea, because I find ZOOM meetings require more concentration than meeting in person, and so the meeting wasn’t as long as our usual in-person meeting and I have a copy of what’s going on among my friends and colleagues to read at my leisure.

Rumi’s poem in action

Next, Kim called on each of us in turn to read something we had worked on recently (max 4 minutes). We were all prepared, as the Zoom invitation had told us what the plan was.

It was interesting to see Rumi’s poem in action—the muse welcomed no matter what she brought. Several members read pieces in response to the pandemic (prose and poetry); others read pieces as far removed from the pandemic as possible. Some, it was clear, had managed to soldier on with existing projects despite it all.

In their introductions, readers commented on how these strange times had affected them creatively, and again, like the guests at the Guest House, some had found unexpected visits of creativity.

Keep the visitors inspired

Finally, Katie closed the meeting with some comments and resources to check out to keep the visitors to the Guest House inspired. I have shared some of them below for your inspiration too.

Brava Ladies! A job well done.

A poem a day (or week)

  • Poetry Present: If you haven’t signed up to receive or be a part of this delightful project from Cobourg’s own phenomenal poet laureate, Jessica Outram, now’s the time! Residents and friends of Cobourg and the surrounding area are encouraged to send in their own poetry, to be distributed to a growing number of subscribers, one poem a week from a different poet.
  • Poetry Foundation
  • Academy of American Poets’
  • Poetry 180 Project for schools of then-poet laureate of the U.S., Billy Collins:

Other Resources

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6 thoughts on “The Unexpected Visitor

  1. Interesting. So there is no single muse, but a surprising variety of influences. Gwynn’s poetry is certainly evident of that, although there is usually the warmth of friendship invoved. However, without giving anything away, many years ago Gwynn wrote a poem about her situation at the time. It was so distraught and disturbing that it still haunts me today.

  2. I love the idea of applying Rumi’s poem to our writing! I always think of it more in terms of psychology and all those different parts of ourselves and our personalities. And thank you for the links as well. I’d like to offer this particular link from the League of Canadian Poets – particularly useful in this time of pandemic pandemonium:
    Poetry and Healing. It’s a program for the month of April — there’s a poem by a Canadian poet, and then a short supportive meditation and a poetry prompt. About ten minutes in total. AND it’s a fundraiser for SickKids hospital, although you do not have to donate to particpate in this.

    1. Thanks Sue. That’s the magic of Rumi: every time I read him there’s another way of looking at life. Thanks too for the link.

  3. Thanks for this, Gwynn. I enjoy using Zoom and hope that more people will become familiar with it and feel happy using it.. Though not the same as meeting in person, I think we all enjoyed seeing and hearing from our friends and colleagues. And it was inspiring to listen to the great variety of writing that our members had written in the past couple of months,

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