I recently read a blog by a writer, a kindred spirit, on a DIY Retreat. Do it yourself. She mentions solitude. How it can suck you into a place so deep you blink when you come back, face to face with a real person. The point when one goes away for a month is generally to focus uninterrupted into a deeper level of creativity. A time to reflect and walk or run and write or art. To swim and dream and grieve. To feel. To find yourself flowing in the current of a project from your heart, or simply free yourself from the day to day routine, to allow access to the deeper parts of language. To beginnings and prompts and pay attention.
I think back to my own DIY Art Retreat. The joy of waking each day into one of my own making. It felt simple. Though I had no income I did not worry. My work before me. My focus. My abundance on the table. It was there and rising like homemade bread. The beauty of being present in each moment. In the stitch and the idea. In the walk on the beach. In the reflection of the cypress. Sometimes the phone call from a friend felt intrusive as I made my way back to the surface to engage in that voice to voice world. Emerging from deeper and further and far.
Since I’ve returned I write a poem entitled “Missing January” as the world runs forward and I scramble to catch up. Already March. Spring is coming. Daylight has sprung forward. Rain in the forecast. Lovely all and despite the 7 inches of snow on Friday the ground outside my window is already bare. Warmed by the sun. The snow melt deeply inhaled by the shallow roots of the high desert.
But it is the significance of solitude. How easy to slip into that place devoid of interaction with others. Face to face. During my retreat there were times I asked myself did I speak to another person today, out loud, or only respond to the thoughts inside my head? I asked myself this nearly everyday for 30 days — though there were interactions. In passing with my respectful host or the cashier at the grocery store or an exchange at the Farmer’s Market. A nod to a person on the path and once a real conversation with a woman at a florist setting out pots of pansies. She had moved from Michigan and warned me against the road south to Apalachicola and the high crime in St. Pete. Though I went anyway and loved them both.
Interaction can be dangerous. The fear and opinions of others can sway or change your mood entirely. Take you out and away and far, or it can circle back to self-reflection. That is what I’m learning. About myself. The importance to socialize or engage with people; friends or strangers or within a community, is to spring yourself into the battle zone. Often there is reward. I am learning who I am through my ability, or lack of, this face to face blink in the sunlight interaction with other people. It can be painful, tight-in-the-chest want to control anxiety, or equally delightful. An indicator to the better path. The most true. The joy of easy friendship and mutual admiration and connection. And to the discomfort of standing up, taking charge, saying no or redirecting and breaking the pattern that leads to nowhere new. The guilt and letting go and acceptance.
A friend of mine wrote this line: the birds are still enthusiastic in spring. I hear them now this sunny morning. Monday. The opportunities are mine for the taking if only I value myself. Enough. Know my heart and honor my true nature: art, writing, photography, walking, wine and travel. Quietude and ocean and family and friendship. The occasional roasted chicken. The possibility of direction becomes obvious. Trusting that it will. And always imagination. To color outside the lines and take the path less traveled by — if that be yours. Go now.
Brenda lives in a small casita in Santa Fe, NM where she continues to work on her Primitive Seamstress series. Watch for her work in the upcoming miniatures show at Metallo Gallery in Madrid. Dates TBA.