Monday, June 14, 2010

Retreat with Owl

There are many ways to abandon routines and retreat for writing. Where ever you go, it’s a matter of finding empty space and you know how much most of us hate empty space. Fill those shopping bags, play that music, restock the dwindling pantry. Gosh, I’m hungry. I better read the New York Times. Is it time for Dancing with the Stars?

I’m telling you this after seven days alone in a lovely woodsy house facing the empty space I wanted in order to make new poems. Right now, I do not like it. It’s really empty. Yesterday was the same until the barred owl flew across the deck and into a copse of oak sheltering herself in soft green and mottled light. “I have your back,” I said to her from the screened in porch. She twirled her head and gave me a film-noir look of secret collaboration. Very brown in her barred gown. Very Bette Davis.

This is the place creativity needs, a theatre of vacancy and potential drama. It’s available to us when we get our writing selves queued up, primed and open. The critic, Peter Brook, refers to it in his book, The Empty Space. Drama happens not just on a stage, but everywhere when we are in that heightened place of expectation. One dramatic gesture can set it off. One whoosh of a wing. One glance of intrigue.

Today I wait for my barred beauty to fly back into our shared woods and invite me into her blinking consciousness. My job is not to strain after her avian nature. It’s just to fill up the blank page with lines that draw us both into perhaps a kind of nightjar of language. You know what I mean. I want to write a poem that contains the perfect balance of thought and empty space . It should be a poem big enough for you and me and the natural world to meet. I’m missing you, my friends, my loved ones, for whom I live and write. But I’m gratefully on retreat. Clouds are darkening. Now it’s raining and there’s a lot of space between the drops.