I went to the cabin and I wrote.
That’s the simplest way to explain my four day retreat to the Ben Rover cabin near Polebridge. Of course, there’s more to it than that. But stripped of conveniences and crutches of ‘modern’ living like electricity, the Internet and regular work duties and responsibilities, simple works.
Is it easy, this simplicity? Hardly.
Stripped is essentially what it is: layers pealed off, nerves exposed, vulnerability.
And, essentially, good for writing. Not easy, but good. Exhausting and exhilarating.
Certainly not easy on the hands either–who knows how long, or if ever, it’s been since I’ve written that much by hand? My hands would cramp and I must have gripped the pen a bit too hard because purple bruises bloomed beneath my fingernails. Writing with pen and paper became physical. No longer would I drift off, thoughts rushing fast and aimlessly cast on a blinking computer screen. Without the computer and keyboard, I was more careful with my thoughts, with language. The engagement of my whole body was a new experience–I was no longer filtering my words through the screen of a computer, distracted by the scores of possibilities presented when connected to the Internet. Can’t remember the name of a channel in the Les Cheneaux Islands? Well, Google’s your friend. Looking for a better word or need clarity on nautical history of the Great Lakes? Your answer is one click away, or maybe two after you chase the rabbit down the next hole, taking a brief pause to check status updates on Facebook.
Can’t let life pass you by, that’s what the Internet promises.
I went into the woods carrying bags and bags of self-doubt. Would I be able to write? Would I be able to keep the fire going (literally and metaphorically)? Would the loneliness build and I’d bury myself under the covers and weep away my retreat?
Self doubt be damned in the North Fork of the Flathead. Without the buzz of incoming text messages, the noise of the Internet, whatever baggage of uncertainty I carried dissipated. I reacquainted myself with the page. Alone with my thoughts, the only music I heard was the crack and pop of the woodstove. Clarity emerged through the darkness. I interrogated my assumptions, and devoted time to previously written work, examining it with such concentrated effort I couldn’t believe hours would pass and I was thinking and writing, writing and thinking. One night, I said aloud, much to my surprise, “I even like editing.” Who was this woman, clad in her flannel shirt flecked with bits of bark from hauling firewood from the shed into the cabin? Who was this woman who rose at 7, made too strong of coffee (didn’t think that was even possible) and opened to a blank page in her notebook and wrote through lunchtime?
While I know this to my core, but tend to forget: when we disconnect from the ‘world’, we connect with something greater. I went into the woods looking for the surly, down trodden writer who let herself interfere with her stories. There among the lined pages of a notebook, between the messy handwriting and margin notes, I found her.
No Google search needed.