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QUINTESSENCE

Retreat

If ever I should wish for a retreat, whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.
- Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

As a corollary of the recent musings on intention, focus, and inspiration of recent weeks, I'd like to address the importance of, as Virginia Woolf famously put it - "A room of one's own." Space we can call our own. Devoid of any purpose beyond dedication to thought, to creativity. The poet Mary Oliver built herself a cabin of rough timber in her beloved woods, the painter Jackson Pollock emptied a barn behind his cottage to which he retired day after day contemplating his canvas. The coffee shop belongs to none, or the anonymity of one. Yes, entire books have been devoted to artists and writer's huts, islands, desks, lofts, libraries. We seem to instinctively recognize that the creation of art is a mysterious, and quite possibly, fundamentally sacred process. The artist's space, room or studio, may stand as an invitation to fill the interior void with vivid imaginings: a naked place for the experimental, a safe space for the difficult and inscrutable preliminary constructions, a protected space for the focus and uninterrupted work itself. A space for inspiration and angst; private witness to the artistic process, in success as well as failure.

I happen to feel that all of us, artistically engaged or not, deserve, in fact require, a place of our own. A private, intimate, personal retreat from the global grid (and the eWorld), in which we make friends again with our unique inner hopes and ambitions, our creative energies, our inmost dream of a life well-lived. Do you have such a place? If yes, what icons of your life have you placed within? Shells from distant beaches, paintings that invite you to puzzle shape and color, favorite books or music, a copy of a long ago print? A catcher's mitt, a broken bell? These are the things that inspire us. Georgia O'Keefe laid animal skulls and wind-scraped rocks on her window sills, stark shapes that brought her subject, nature, into her working studio. I have black and white photography that fools with the shapes of objects in imaginative ways, a playful glass zebra, a basket of fossils and bones that remind me of both durability and impermanence.

Spend time in your space today, even if you claim just a corner by the cookbooks or the work table by the tool chest. Remind yourself of your deeper resources...that spring within that flows without bidding, full and pure and worthy. Retreat into your namelessness, your spirit, the part of you that meets life on a different plane. And there, let what comes up in your heart and mind find an expression somewhere in your day. The importance of personal retreat is space and permission to imagine; it is also the element of recharge. Pull back to re-engage. Take time apart to then rejoin, with passion, the whirlwind of life. Find something you love and place that object in a space that speaks to you. Listen to the story.
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