I’m sitting on the porch of hundred-year-old officers’ quarters looking out over grass and trees and, in the distance, Crockett Lake and the salt water of Admiralty Bay. Two juvenile deer graze watchfully a few yards away, while red-breasted robins twitter in the cedars, and a couple of daffodils loll their yellow heads in the breeze. Though sunbeams stream through the dark clouds intermittently, it’s cold and wet and the sky is moody.
I’m on holiday with friends in one of my favorite places, and it’s the first time in ages that I’ve had the mental and emotional space to attempt writing anything other than seminary papers and Sunday sermons. I must admit, it’s proving difficult. Perhaps I’m even more out of practice than I thought. Perhaps my creative energy is depleted. Perhaps I’m numb to the sadness of processing more than 10 years of memories and experiences that have formed me deeply. How do I write about, let alone say goodbye to, something that has shaped me so profoundly?
On a Monday October night, in 2010, I went to my first writing group meeting at the Shoreline Shari’s Diner. My daughter was only six months old, and while motherhood had expanded my world beyond measure in so many ways, my life had also contracted considerably. As I drove away from our North Seattle condo next to the 7-11, I remember so clearly feeling a sense of exhilaration that I was doing something that had nothing to do with diapers and breastfeeding and sleeplessness. I felt, perhaps for the first time, like the heroine of my own story.
Those Monday nights started as a creative outlet, became a place of growth and confidence and experimentation, and ended up being one of the most formative experiences of my life. The women in the group provided more than writing critique and accountability—they became my friends, confidantes, prayer warriors, and cheerleaders. When I felt called to go to seminary and become a pastor, they affirmed me, and even as several of us have moved away from Seattle, they will always be friends I can count on. But the consequences of our little writing group didn’t stop there.
When we decided to start Kindred Magazine, we had been meeting together for years already, and we wanted to create something beautiful together as an offering to the world. We started producing monthly themed editions, mostly of our own personal essays, but eventually we started inviting new writers to contribute. We never earned a penny because of it, and neither did our contributors, but we crafted something beautiful in collaboration with artists, musicians, poets, and writers all over the world.
E. Lynn Heinisch, who contributed to this issue, wrote about what Kindred meant to her. She talks about how the invitation to write and her first published piece for Kindred were the catalyst for her identity as a writer. I met her at a campground in the Olympics, and as we sat around that campfire talking about life and writing, I had no idea how that meeting would affect her.
Sometimes we are graced with knowing how we’ve impacted someone, but more often we will never know. As a Christian, I believe that all good things, each moment of love and grace, echo into eternity. I have faith that Kindred has had ripple effects in the world that I won’t hear about until heaven, and that helps temper the sadness of letting go.
Thank you to our little core group of Kindreds, and thank you to our contributors for selflessly sharing your gifts with us and the world. Thank you for the privilege of stewarding your stories and songs and poems and artwork.
Farewell for now.
RACHEL WOMELSDUFF GOUGH channels all of her creative energy into writing sermons, shepherding her flock, and fostering shalom in the community as Co-Lead Pastor of Monroe Covenant Church in Monroe, WA. Someday she will get around to writing a murder mystery series set in a small town featuring a sassy clergywoman amateur sleuth.