A Minimalist Summer Retreat
A Summer Chair
So I begin by saying that the chair in the photograph is a white summer chair in a white summer room, and there are no trees, flowers, people, or signs of summer activity and warmth and pleasures. A solitary chair in meditative state, and very much a metaphor for the type of summer it was, in retreat from the searing weather and mostly spent working in quiet white rooms and mindfulness.
Summer break did not go quite how I thought it would–does anything?
What I wanted for a simple summer: a break, a vacation, a release into elemental sensuousness, so different from the dry rigor of everyday. What I made of it: rigor taken to the next level, 80,000 words wrangled from brain, soul, memory, heart, sadness, laughter, wistfulness. It was utterly cathartic, and allowed me to transcend so much of what was holding me back.
To transcend, according to the dictionary, is to rise up or go beyond the limits of something, to get past negative or restrictive aspects. We all have those limits and negative aspects, from the trivial and the temporary to the whims of nature, nurture, and where we happened to show up on the timeline of human history. What would have killed us a hundred years ago might not be a big deal today; likewise, what would have made us brilliant in another time might now make us irrelevant. Then there is our interior timeline, the one created by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, which in a writer can be the source of both inspiration and block. Sometimes that needs to be transcended, too.
So while I had indeed planned to do a lot of writing this summer, the limits presented by weather and other circumstances threatened to make a minimalist summer vacation even more minimal. There was nothing to do other than to take that bull by the horns; if summer vacation was not to be had, then it could be a retreat. Taking the bull by the horns is an apt phrase, particularly in the sense of the ancient sport of bull-leaping. The athlete would grab the bull’s horns, and the animal in response would fling its head back, giving the athlete the momentum to somersault–transcend–over the bull’s back.
The contrasting analogies of retreat and bull’s horns probably describes the mix of quiet and turmoil involved with rehab more than retreat, but whatever the words, there were results. The slate is clean. There are no set goals, only a sense of direction. The baggage is minimal, so it is much easier to travel light. I may not have been able to go on vacation, but, in a sense, vacation has found its way to me, and it feels like it’s set up shop.
That it’s Labor Day as I write this seems fitting, even if the labor was the mental version of Hercules’ efforts as opposed to the working-force kind. I know I’m not alone in this experience of rediscovery and renewal as part of a Minimalist journey; many others have written how a simple lifestyle made it possible by keeping distractions and demands at bay.
The chair and the inside of my head are now one: peace, stillness, an interior world clear of clutter. I am no longer owned by old words and memories. It is physical. There is sleep, there is waking. Recurring dreams are now understood, and have stopped. Sometimes things seem to be unformed, certain notions, passions, opinions, but they will come, as seen from the summer chair in the still point of the summer room.