It’s taken me a while to write this post, as I’ve tried to process everything I learned and experienced at Hutchmoot a couple of weeks ago in Nashville. If you’re not familiar with The Rabbit Room, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about.
The Rabbit Room is a group blog founded by musician/writer Andrew Peterson, composed of like-minded souls who share a common interest in art, film, books, and music as expressions of the Christian faith. After three years of online fellowship, the group decided to congregate in the flesh in Nashville; hence the “hutch” of rabbit roomers holding a “moot” or meeting.
My husband and I decided to attend together, since his brother and a couple of old friends would also be there. And since the date coincided with our 16th wedding anniversary, we thought we’d spend a day at the conference, then a day hiking outdoors, celebrating our marriage.
I signed up quickly (with a little encouragement from Lanier), checking it off my to-do list back in early May, but then I began to feel guilty once I read the news that “the hutch was full” after only a few days. The conference organizers decided to limit the attendees to around 100 people, due to space limitations and to foster a more intimate fellowship. There were people from around the world writing in dismay that they’d wanted to come, but now couldn’t.
Why me? I wanted to know. Why did God open the door for me to go when others couldn’t?
As the date neared, I had major second thoughts. It was the weekend right after my son started a new high school — how could we just skip out of town during his major life transition? My other kids were in the midst of needing me to shop for new fall shoes and other last-minute supplies. Plus, we’d be missing their school orientation as well.
“Maybe we should stay home,” I told my husband at least 20 times.
“No, let’s go,” he said. “You need a break. The kids will be fine.” We’re surrounded by doting grandparents, so childcare wasn’t a problem.
So we went, with me agonizing the whole way there that I’d snagged someone else more worthy’s spot. A serious Rabbit Room contributor, instead of me, who skims posts while taking a break from washing dishes and folding clothes.
I thought maybe I could hide in the back shadows, scribbling a few notes, hoping no one would ask me any questions. There was a reading list, and I never got around to any of the books, save the few I’d read years ago. What if there’s a discussion session? I worried. I’m not in the same league with these people. I wore a black sweater and black skirt, all the better for disappearing into quiet corners.
But here came the surprise.
The Hutch was full of incredibly NICE people.
Everyone I talked to was so interesting, and some were like me, mostly lovers of great literature without any significant works of our own. I met a lady from Texas, who confessed she “blogged a little” now and then, while raising and schooling her children. I got to tell Father Thomas McKenzie how much I enjoy his One-Minute movie reviews, and how I took our kids to see three movies this summer based on his reviews.
I met both Peterson brothers: Andrew and Pete, who put this event together. Andrew kindly signed his two Wingfeather Saga books for my son, including North! Or Be Eaten, which won the Christy award back in June. That assuaged my mother-guilt, since I’d be bringing something home.
We attended sessions discussing the works of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Flannery O’Conner, and Annie Dillard. We listened to Walt Wangerin, Jr, author of The Book of the Dun Cow, give an awe-inspiring Saturday evening keynote address. The Church of the Redeemer, where the conference met, was a gorgeous building, with a sanctuary full of light streaming in through stained glass windows. Every wall displayed unique pieces of artwork. The quiet, candlelit rooms helped me feel less anxious.
I found myself having a great time! I shopped in the Rabbit Room store and picked up two handmade coffee mugs and a stack of beloved new and used books. And the food … the food was out of this world, catered by artist/chef Evie Coates, who made every dish both beautiful and tasty.
We missed a couple of the concerts, and instead of returning for more great teaching and fellowship on Sunday, we headed for the hills of Tennessee, hiking along the waterfalls of Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park. The sound of rushing water felt like God speaking to me, reminding me how awesome is His love for each of us. Even if we don’t consider ourselves worthy.
More than anything, Hutchmoot helped me have a greater definition of what it means to be a Christian Artist. Pastor Russ Ramsey shared with us a quote from Annie Dillard, who says in The Writing Life: “There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.”
I am living the Good Life now. My art may be nothing more than arranging blueberries on top of steaming oatmeal eaten by children who are dashing off to school … but for me, that’s a display of my love, and it’s what I’ve created. I can collect great works of literature and hand them to young growing minds who will outlive me, and will carry the words of these masters into the next century.
That’s what I brought home from the Hutchmoot fellowship.
If you’d like to read what others who were there have to say about it, check out the Hutchmoot Hub.