Marooned

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On this day before the spring equinox, I am marooned.  I have come to the island that is my soul place, to write, circled by the sea.  This is a tidal island, reached by a causeway.  For eight hours a day, at the two high tides, the causeway is covered and the island is left to the birds and the seals.  We spend the day in what was once the lighthouse keepers’ cottage, ten writers, working together but apart on a writing retreat.  But for me, this is not only about my writing, it’s also an opportunity to bring to life the symbolism of the equinox as the wheel of the year turns once more.

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The equinox is a time of balance, when the hours of light and dark are equal.  Afterwards, the sun will prevail, the days pushing back the darkness.  Being marooned on this island is like the strandedness of winter.  Cut off from the world, in a landscape that may appear barren, longing for the tide of darkness to turn and for winter to end.  But winter is also for dreaming and introspection.  It is when what is beneath becomes clear and we realise that the tide brims with creativity.

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When I emerge from the cottage onto the drenched island, the silence simmers.  Half a dozen grey seals recline on the reef, occasionally stretching.  A parcel of oystercatchers huddle on the rocks.  Turnstones swarm languidly among the seaweed.  Black-headed gulls and sanderlings wait at the edge of the causeway, like tiny bouncers.  Only the sea is agitated, bellowing against the rocks.  There are people over on the mainland, unable to cross.  I feel protected, privileged to be at the other side of the tide.

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Just before the moment of high tide, I find a place on the rocks and let myself be scoured by wind and salt.  I have gathered two pebbles – one dark, one light, to represent each half of the year.  Balance.  I cradle them in my palms while I consider winter’s gifts: a new novel, dreamed into completion in the dark; words scribbled in turquoise ink, recapturing my joy in writing; a perfect whelk shell found on a storm-tossed beach at the start of the year, promising treasures to come.  I thank winter for its gifts and return the dark pebble to the sea.

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Winter is over.  The tide is already receding.  A flush of eider ducks crosses my vision, flying north.  I am left with the light pebble, reminding me that it is now the time for action.  The pebble is smooth, but not unblemished.  Its imperfections will remind me that no year runs smoothly and every creative process has its obstacles.  When I return home, to the world, it will sit on my altar next to the whelk shell.

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There is a sense of peace about this day.  Writing among writers with the sea at the windows.  At times it is hard, six solid hours in which to focus and knuckle down.  But it works.  I came with the intention of finishing the first revision on my novel and between walks around the island, I do it.

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As I cross the causeway, I leave winter behind.  I have been spring-cleaned by sea and wind and I am filled with the imprints of the island.  The tide has turned, unmasking spring.


Earthlines14 FrontCoverI’ve just renewed my subscription to Earthlines, an independent magazine run from rural Ireland by writers David Knowles and Sharon Blackie.  It’s a high quality, beautiful magazine that showcases inspiring writing and art about nature and our responsibilities towards it, connections to the land and its inhabitants, community and transformation.

SAMSUNG CSCIf you’d like to help this magazine survive and thrive into the future while enjoying a great read, why not consider subscribing to print or digital versions via the website http://www.earthlinesmagazine.org/

 

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80 thoughts on “Marooned

  1. Andrea – I’ve been away taking care of Tom for a long time. Your post is such a refreshing read. The writers retreat sounds wonderful but you always have a way of taking us with you to enjoy the sights and scenes of nature with you. Your talent for weaving into each blog you write the elements of your ecologocial environment is such a rare talent. I feel the mist upon my face as I sit here by Tom’s bed and watch him sleep. Thank you for taking me far away to such a beautiful place. Although I haven’t been on my blog since December, now that Tom has a few awake minutes each day, I often read a few blogs to him daily and we’ll be coming back to yours today. He’s commented on enjoying your photography before. [Hi praise from Tom]. May you have a blessed Easter weekend. Sheri

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    • Ah Sheri, it’s so good to hear from you, I have thought about you and wondered how things were for you. I’m glad to give you a little taste of another place to take you away from things for just a little while. Sending you very warm wishes and I’ll hold a place for you in my thoughts.

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  2. Andrea, I can appreciate the “forced” isolation of your writing retreat. It has been an even more noisy than usual weekend here. I dream of owning a home, far away from the rest of the world.
    Thank you, my friend, for this lovely, peaceful post, with an undertone of constant creation. Mega hugs. 🙂

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  3. What a wonderful place for a writing retreat. Glad to hear you made some progress on your novel. Such a perfect setting to spark creativity, or at the very least, motivation to move things forward.

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  4. Such beautiful writing, Andrea, and I love those last lines about being “spring-cleaned by sea and winds.” Thanks for including the wonderful photographs! What a blessing to be on such a retreat.

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  5. What a great sense of accomplishment to have finished a novel! Your homage to the equinox is beautiful and so fitting, watching the tides come and go while spring comes to balance the long winter.

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  6. Andrea, this is a divinely written post and how wonderful to be stranded on a picturesque island to mark and celebrate both the equinox and your muse. I wish you much success with your new novel “dreamed into completion in the dark.”

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  7. I love your phrase that you are “spring-cleaned”. Your words are poetry. I can imagine the tides, birds, wind and solitude of your marooned island. Blessings for your special time and place of renewal. ❤

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  8. The image of those tiny avian bouncers will stick with me! What a marvelous place and time to resettle yourself and move forward! I’m ready too.

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  9. So enjoyed this. I’ve never been on a retreat or any of the Arvon thingies. Not convinced about them at all, although I do fancy being in Ted Hughes’ old house rather a lot. Took myself off once to an isolated cottage in NW Scotland for a spot of ‘let’s finish this novel kind of writing’, but I just wandered about and fell in a bog. Glorious 🙂

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    • There is a kind of pressure about these things where you feel you should do something and not waste the time there – at Arvon I hardly wrote at all and the benefits came afterwards. I think my island retreat might have been less satisfying if I didn’t have anything to work on – there’s no real input from the facilitator, you just write and if you come without any ideas it could be quite frustrating. Well after hitting me in the guts today with your poem you’ve given me a great laugh to get over it, but I hope your bog diving wasn’t too traumatic 🙂

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      • I think there’s a story waiting to happen in the bog exploit. I’d just bought my first mobile and I was wandering about in the dark looking for a signal to call someone I shouldn’t 🙂

        Re retreats, I think I’ll just continue to procrastinate and learn from your experiences. I’m lazy, and there’s a limit to how many haiku I can write as a substitute for longer stuff.

        PS. I did get a short story off to Mslexia which was quite miraculous really.

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      • Well if you were trying to ring someone you shouldn’t I guess the bog was a message then! Good luck with the Mslexia story, is it the short story comp? I’ve entered too, it’s one of my big writing ambitions to get a story published in Mslexia, but no luck so far 🙂

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  10. Such a perfect setting for inspirational thought and creativity. I could taste the salt tang of the wind and feel its scouring of my skin when reading about your island. I’m so looking forward to your novel, as you have such a wonderful way with words.
    Ah, turquoise ink! I’d forgotten all about it until you mentioned it. You called to mind something from my teens — the bottle of Quink ink in that colour (and me persuading my mother that I didn’t want sensible dark blue or black, that it had to be turquoise or nothing). And the drawing up of the ink into my Parker pen, by lifting that silver clip/lever on the side of the pen. Do you remember what that silver bit was called? I’ve forgotten.

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  11. Ooooooo this piece of writing is spectacular . No wonder , the influence of such dramatic surroundings must help the cepreative juices flow . I live on the west coast of Wales so I am lucky enough to have similar opportunities …no time to talk I’m off to the beach with pencil and paper .
    I will consider that magazine thank you for bringing it to my attention .
    Cherryx

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  12. Hey, Andrea. It’s great to see you’re progressing so nicely on the novel’s first draft. I’m intrigued by the idea of being physically ‘cut off’ from land or from other people. I’ve only been on a boat (of significant size; dolphin-watching on the Atlantic coast) once in my lifetime, and have never felt that true isolation. I love the photograph–so forlorn (to me!) of people on the far shore. I grew up (mostly) in the mountains, so the isolation was of a different type [or I feel that it is] than water-lovers experience, although I lived for about 4 years on the coast as well, in later life. I’m afraid I feel panicky when cut off completely from people and activities. Even here at my home, I’ll ambulate a bit, watch the birds and cars from the window, listen to the diesel symphony of the road right out front, get up and do chores, get up and do exercise or feed the ducks, etc. In other words, when I should probably be writing. Then again, lethargy and entropy (and apathy!) are things I can’t live with in myself, as a ‘type A’ personality (I think my moon is also in Cancer, but I’m an Aquarian). It’s odd; I’m shy but I’m gregarious. I’m a misanthrope but a very hopeful and idealistic one (mostly, still). As always, your posts ignite in me so much to consider . . . thank you! I’ve never been on a writing retreat, and only to a writing ‘club’ about 2-3 times as an adult. Yet another thing to ponder. Creativity full steam ahead, Andrea—have a fantastic week/end!

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    • Thanks Leigh. I’m quite happy to be cut off for a while and I think I’d love the isolation of the mountains as well as the sea. I’m a type A too, but I try not to let that infect my writing life too much and I’m much more relaxed than I used to be!

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  13. Beautiful pictures. I haven’t been able to get to the ocean yet this year. Too tied down with other things, but seeing your photos and reading your captivating post reminds me that the beach always does wonders for me mentally and spiritually. Maybe this weekend. 🙂

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  14. What a great place to go and to commune with nature. That feeling of being alone with your thoughts must have been wonderful, I’m proper hyped after reading this!

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  15. What a terrific place to be marooned. I love it. Congrats on getting all that writing done too. Love all the imagery you captured in words here. I felt like I was right beside you with the light stone weighing in your palm.

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  16. What a brilliant way to spend a day ~ to be in a sense at the mercy and at peace with the tides and Mother Nature. It would offer a perfect sanctuary for anyone wanted to be absorbed in life, and for a writer I could imagine how wonderful it must have felt, your photos and words do a pretty fine job of doing so. Wishing you a great week ahead and the relaxation and energy such a retreat can bring. Cheers.

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  17. When you speak of sequestering yourself to write, I am envious in the friendliest way. I wonder what it would be like to have time to do nothing but write. Tell me–is it Heaven or torturous sometimes?

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  18. Sounds like an ideal setting to inspire all of the beautiful progress you’ve made, Andrea. This post reminded me a lot of our recent trip to San Juan Island. We were lucky to get sunshine both days we were there, but I imagine the scenes would have been much moodier otherwise.

    Winter is over indeed! Great time to write with a fresh perspective.

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  19. No better place for inspiration! It is why I love Saltee Islands and go there every year. Isolated from the world, in a good company – what else to wish for.
    I am certain I have read this post, because I remember the story about the tide and the picture of two seals 🙂 Must have lost internet connection or something. Well, definitely lost some memory 😉

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  20. Andrea, I think being out by the water is so refreshing and agree with you that it helps to refresh the spirit… It can encourage our creativity and help ease our minds… I enjoyed feeling that sensation again as I read your post today ♥

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  21. Andrea there is something unsettling about being cut off from the world on high tide. But once you let go and just soak up the peace and serenity, you find it is a gift. This place looks like a writer’s haven. I don’t know why but when I visit the sea, stories come. Love the photo’s especially the seals. Thanks for sharing the end to your winter. Hoping the writing continues as you move through the warmer months.

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