David Hallock Sanders: Finding "busara" at Pendle Hill
David Hallock Sanders first came to Pendle Hill when his father, Edwin Sanders, was director, and has returned many times since then. Now he's working on a novel set in Kenya and influenced by his childhood experience at the Kaimosi Quaker mission. Here, he shares his experience.
Seasons have defined my relationship with Pendle Hill – seasons of the year, and seasons of my life.
In the mid 1970s, when I was in the spring of my teenage years, my parents moved from California to Pennsylvania, where my father was director at Pendle Hill and my mother was principal at Lansdowne Friends School.
I followed a few years later, first as a full-time Pendle Hill student, then as a family member living in Upmeads and working at Lansdowne School where, as the janitor, I held the bottom of the ladder steady for my mom at the top.
During my twenties and thirties – my summer years – I lived up and down both coasts and returned to Pendle Hill throughout the seasons, whether to teach a theater workshop, attend a Zen retreat, or throw pots on the wheel.
Now I’m in the fall years of my life. My wife and I live in Philadelphia, and I have come to Pendle Hill for occasional sojourns and events. Sadly, I’ve also returned twice for my parents’ memorials.
This past year my visits increased to monthly sojourns of a few days each to work on a novel that I have begun writing. It’s called "Busara Road" and it takes place at a Quaker mission in Kenya shortly after independence. Although purely fiction, it is influenced by my own childhood. Back in the 1960s, as a boy of nine and ten, I lived at the Kaimosi Quaker Mission in western Kenya where my parents were training teachers for Kenya’s new education system.
I had not been back to Africa in nearly half a century, but that changed last December when I traveled to Kenya for a month to meet with writers in Nairobi and to return to Kaimosi for the first time since I was a boy. Now I’m back in the United States. and I’ve scheduled a new round of sojourns at Pendle Hill for 2012 to reflect on that trip and complete a draft of the novel.
These sojourns are wonderful opportunities to step out of the busy-ness of my daily life into the serene, supportive environment of Pendle Hill. They are also hard-working writing sessions. I check in to my room in Chace or Main House, pull out my laptop and some bags of dried fruit and nuts, and work day and night, barely leaving the room.
But when I do emerge – for dinner, for worship, for a walk around the grounds to clear my head and stretch my legs – it’s comforting to feel, even in this new relationship with Pendle Hill, that I am part of a community of study and contemplation.
“Busara” is the name of the dirt road that runs through my novel. It is also a Swahili word for wisdom, insight, perception, and common sense. Throughout many years and many seasons, Pendle Hill has been a source of busara for me. It’s a place where I come to reflect, commune, and write – and I look forward to returning often throughout the remaining seasons of my life.
Interested in a personal retreat or sojourn at Pendle Hill? For more information, click here or call 610.566.4507, ext. 3 or 800.742.3150, ext. 3. Gain inspiration, support, and enhanced skills for your writing through a Summer 2012 writing retreat - leaders include award-winning children's author Becky Birtha, best-selling novelist Dan Wakefield, popular singer/songwriter/performer David LaMotte, and acclaimed storyteller Saundra Gilliard. Make this a great summer for your writing!