Over on my other blog, Bush Notes, I have been posting more photos from the bush at Lancefield, but this beauty doesn't belong there because I saw it in Hong Kong. It was almost as big as my hand and obligingly sat still long enough for me to photograph it. On this particular day, I was in Stanley on my own, wandering around and enjoying some quiet hours.
At this time of the year, the desire for silence and solitude is almost overwhelming for me, especially after such a busy year. I planned three days alone - reading, walking, sleeping, daydreaming, meditating. No writing unless I felt like it. No work. No appointments, not even social ones. Except for a trip to Borders first thing where I bought a wonderful book (more on this in a moment). By 2pm yesterday afternoon, I was fully into my little retreat, relaxed and contemplating a massage at my local Chinese massage place. Then my daughter arrived unexpectedly, with her usual dramas going on, and my retreat disappeared.
However, today I am back on it again, daughter dispatched to the outside world, while I take the phone off the hook and retrieve my reading books, preparing to settle down into the silence again. The book I am reading is called A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel, and I was immediately taken into it when I read about the art of flânerie - strolling. "The flâneur is an observer who wanders the streets of a great city on a mission to notice with childlike enjoyment the smallest events and the obscurist sights he encounters." He calls flânerie "delicious, dreamy strolling" but he also calls it ambling, which is what I love to do in Hong Kong.
In fact, as a writer, I love to do it in any place that intrigues me. I am planning a personal three-week writer's retreat in France next year, and I intend to spend as much time as possible on strolling/ambling and simply being there. Writing will no doubt happen, but I am beginning to feel that a retreat needs to have a different purpose. I am used to having time off work and cramming in as much writing as possible before deadlines descend. This is not a writing retreat. This is a writing frenzy. A retreat restores the imagination, silences the everyday babble in the brain and allows ideas and dreams to emerge.
I haven't yet formulated any goals for 2008. But if you're a writer and feeling out of touch with your writing, maybe you can put a retreat on your list of goals. It may mean you rent a hotel room on the coast for a weekend, or borrow someone's house in the bush. It may mean you send the family away and you stay home with the phone off the hook. The key to a retreat is solitude, and allowing yourself to indulge in it. I'm planning for my next one already.