“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” Andre Gide
Today was a difficult day. I felt a little lost, unmoored and floating in an unfamiliar sea. On a day that celebrates relationships (both Father’s Day and my wedding anniversary), I was separated from home and loved ones. Hearing their voices on the phone and being unable to see or to touch them added to the disorientation, the sense of bobbing aimlessly with an infinite horizon and no land in sight.
I took a long walk – a very long walk – and felt the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face, enjoyed the shade of a great tree. I read a book that, for a while, transported me to another place, neither here nor home, and the seas began to calm. It was only then that I was able to sit down and write, differently than I have for the rest of the week, gentler (if that is a word one can apply to writing).
One draft elaborated on a childhood memory of the adults in our neighborhood thinking they had seen a UFO. One was a character’s life cycle of place, ocean leading back to ocean. Another, a love poem of sorts. And another, a new poem about “the girl” that is the closest she has come to being me. And now a long, low train whistle blows outside the window, a sound that has become familiar and soothing in this small town that is not my own.
Some might see a writing residency or retreat as a way to throw off the anchors of their everyday responsibilities and row with abandon toward the open sea. For me, this fruitful time has reminded me of how lucky I am to be rooted to people I love, how their grounding presence is what allows me to pursue my dreams, to do what nourishes me, how their bright beacons will keep me always rowing steadily toward the shore.