This is not where I expected to spend the afternoon. Sitting at a rough old wooden desk, I look out the window on on a field of grasses and wildflowers, all competing for space. In a clearing is a fire ring, with tree stumps for seats. Old metal porcelain coffee pots and ceramic mugs hang on nails from a post. A garden of rusted worn-out typewriters adorns the edge of the clearing. Inside, the sun streams in across the floor, and I hear little critters somewhere within the walls. Apart from that, silence. I am in author Norbert Blei's chicken coop.
A few hours ago I'd never heard of Norbert Blei. Randomly scanning the tourist booklet in our motel room in Door County, a photo of this iconic shed caught my eye and I read its story on the adjoining page. Considered to be Door County's best known writer, Blei spent over 40 years writing in this converted chicken coop. Following his death a few years ago, his family donated the Coop to the Write On, Door County center for writers.
I believe things happen for a reason. The Coop is available for anyone to use, as long as it does not conflict with other needs. A quick phone call informs me that the current writer in residence is away for the afternoon. We just happen to be staying in Egg Harbor, only 4 miles away by bicycle. And I have no other plans. I was meant to spend some time here.
My visit is nearly derailed when I step out the door into the pouring rain. The promised afternoon storm had materialized as I was preparing to go. Unwilling to give up, I pedal through the last remnants of a shower which turns to sunshine as I cruise the tree-lined shores of the peninsula.
The Coop is bigger than I expected. Despite its worn wood floors and some wet stains on the walls, it has a modern feel with its slanted ceiling. Spartan in its furnishings, with what I assume are a sampling of Blei's knickknacks and bits of art tacked to the door and windows, it bears little resemblance to the picture of this space in his day. Surfaces piled high with books and magazines, walls cluttered with pictures, and one of the beaten up typewriters on a desk, only a small amount of space remains for Blei himself. It is clear evidence of his journalism background, in addition to being a former teacher.
I myself prefer the modern version of this space. I find it tranquil, and it's emptiness allows my ideas to expand. I am a novice writer, in the presence of a seasoned and prolific author. It gives me time to think about my writing. It validates my interest in writing. My need to write.
I love the idea that this is here for anyone. No credentials are needed. I didn't even have to plan my visit in advance. All I had to do was ask and come.
I must learn more about this Norbert Blei. More than the quick web search and scan of his obituary I did before coming. And I find Write On, Door County very appealing. Their support for writers of all levels is welcoming and encouraging.
Sitting in a writer's retreat is the last thing I expected to do on this bike trip. But that's the beauty of cycling. Plans are fluid and I am more open to spontaneous opportunities. Like this one. After 27 days and 1,100 miles, why not? Thank you, Mr. Blei and Write On, Door County for the invitation.