Spending a week in a small town in the Berkshires, at a writers retreat, I find myself wondering…”retreat?”

Am I retreating from life? No. Am I retreating from life’s pain? No. Am I retreating from life’s joys? No. No. No. Am I retreating from the having to worry about overdue bills? No — my cellphone is turned on and I check my email several times daily.

So what kind of retreat is this writers  retreat? Perhaps it’s more accurately described as a refuge, a haven, a safe house. It’s a place where the rules are that there are no rules except to respect the solitude of others, to whisper, to tread softly.

And it’s a place where it’s OK to step into an empty church in this small town and sit and contemplate and pray in one’s own way of praying, to remember and cherish and wish and dream.

And it’s place where around a bend in the road blooms a field of wildly yellow wildflowers…

Where one road leads to home and another leads to Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst and I choose the road less traveled and stare up at Emily’s window and imagine her white ghostly beauty…

Where the home housing this writers retreat overflows with books including, of all things, a book of Korean love poems, including a poem called “Unforgettable:”

If you cannot forget,
Let it be unforgotten.
One day you will forget.

If you cannot forget,
Let her go unforgotten.
Some part, or all, will fade one day.

But you will answer still
“How can I forget
When this flame burns in my heart?”

There is no way to pull back or retreat, I say. A heart given fully can not be retrieved.


One thought on “Retreating

  1. i want to be at a retreat. i want to retreat. i want the kind of retreat very different from the last one i attended–back when i was an 18-year-old high school senior who listened to the priests and brothers handing us shit, and the retreat’s high dramatic moment was one of them railing against “the body of a bitch” that i guess we all dreamed of every night or he wouldn’t have gotten so amped over it. i want to be at a place where I know nobody and have nothing to do except pour my coffee and sit down for the 2 meals a day. Nothing to do but stare out the window. Maybe pull the wings off a fly now and then, but basically do nothing but retreat. I’ll take my laptop just to write on it. It doesn’t have to be Vermont or the Berkshires. It could be in somebody’s basement. Just so they have a coffee maker and deliver the meals.

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