Monday, April 13, 2009

A Writer's Retreat

by Julia Buckley

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

So said Thoreau in his book Walden, and last year I sent this same quote to Bill Cameron when he went to on his own woodsy retreat to do some intensive writing.

Now, because it is our spring break and for once our whole family finds itself together, we are taking a couple of days in the woods, as well. Our budget is about $10.75, so we won't be able to do much more than pay for gas and sit around looking at trees, but the NOTION of being somewhere else, somewhere beautiful and different, is sometimes all it takes to feel refreshed. These photos come from a different visit to a different forest, in days of yore, but I think they still get the point across. :)

Soon I shall be able to post photos from our new hideaway, where I hope to do some writing on my latest book. However, there will be children who want to take walks and find gross things in the dirt, and naturally that must take precedence.
Perhaps, though, the act of investigating the physical world will help to stimulate my cerebral world; I have found in the past that the best ideas came to me when I was relaxed and not inundated with workday stresses. But quitting my job to relax and write is a long way off--after all, I just spent my $10.75. :)

What's your favorite retreat?


Sheila Connolly said...

Thoreau was a charlatan and a poseur. His retreat to the woods was maybe a mile from Concord center, a thriving intellectual community. If he got bored or hungry he could walk to Ralph Waldo Emerson's house for dinner (which he did often), shared with Louisa May Alcott from down the road.

Or maybe he was just a canny promoter, because we're still talking about him, aren't we?

In any case, enjoy younr country escape. Me, I want to go back to Ireland. They like writers there.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

To put the case for Thoreau, I'd forgotten how magnificent the prose of that famous passage was. And give him credit for going to jail over a matter of conscience. My retreat is my own very small house in the country, where I can look over the top of the computer at the flower garden and the birds who visit the feeders. The challenge is letting go all my city tasks and obligations for long enough to get there.

Julia Buckley said...

Ireland seems like the ultimate retreat, Sheila--green and hilly. As for Thoreau, he certainly is controversial lately; I've heard more than a few debates about him and his motives.

But I'm with Liz--this is some inspirational writing.

I seem to have woken up with a cold on the very day we are to leave for our trip--doesn't it always happen? And I haven't been sick for about a year.

Julia Buckley said...

PS--Liz, your country house always sounds wonderful when you describe it. When will you go there next?

Susan D said...

My favourite retreat is here...

Julia Buckley said...

That looks idyllic, Susan! What a view. Do you live there year round?

Sandra Parshall said...

I'm somewhat like Thoreau -- I'd love to live in the woods, isolated from the world, but within convenient traveling distance of everything civilization offers.

I have plenty of birds and other wild animals (deer, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, possums) in my own yard, and now my big garden is coming to life again. I'd rather be out there than here at the computer.

Dorte H said...

I admit I recognize the lines not from reading Thoreau´s works, but from watching the film Dead Poets´ Society.
My favourite retreat is our cottage near the North Sea. Not in the woods but next to dunes, the beach and the sea. And extremely quiet most of the year.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Julia, we were going to go this weekend, but French houseguests arrived to change our plans--a reprieve for my husband, who's a city boy through and through.

Julia Buckley said...

Sandra, your yard sounds fantastic! Is it a distraction from writing?

Dorte, how wonderful! The North Sea--to me this sounds like a location one reads about in a book.

Liz, that's a shame--but it sounds fun to have French houseguests.

We have arrived at our rental and it is just gorgeous--on a bluff, with two little stories so that the boys can have their own "apartment" and we have ours. Wait until you see the giant outdoor staircase they wanted me to climb--sad to say, I didn't make it, and now my legs feel like noodles.

Susan D said...

No Julia, I live in Toronto. The cottage is about 2.5 hours northeast, on a lake, with no phone or TV or internet. Other distractions, however, like enjoying the dock and the water and the loons.

Dorte, your North Sea retreat sounds heavenly.