Alone and this time at the beach. A six day sabbatical, an unplugged tour of the unconscious. Well I did bring my dog and my needlepoint and this laptop. Ha. But that’s all, I swear. No television or telephone. Just me, my little dog, the ocean and my lonely thinking. Thinking lonely is the only way to go and I try to do it for a week every three months if I can. It clears out cobwebs and encourages new, shoots of green spring when you cut the dead away. And you definitely can not cut out the dead except by yourself with tools from your own toolbox.
This fall retreat brought a surprise. Opening the mailbox, I found a poetry journal from the University of Pembroke. We closed our US mail account five years ago so it should not have been there. However, when I opened the box today, there it lay. A gift from my old friend Shelby Stephenson. My first admirer. He published my poetry years ago and keeps me on the mailing list. Poetry from Pembroke. Lovely. The first several entries remind me of the changing and ever evolving life of the South. As they were meant to remind. Blue hornets and haze, migrant workers illegal, living under a house because they have no where else to go and a little girl’s memories of that week amid her parent’s conflict ridden life. Lovely lines of prose and poetry immersed and swimming under the title,The South.
The fall retreat is fluid and often is dictated by how much stimulation I desire and how much withdrawal I crave. So this year I’m allowing books and reading. And this year I am cleaning out my studio, better known as the left hand corner of the garage. Purchasing new canvas and paints to see what comes out of this pruning. About time. I believe I have been using the same paints since 2001. I hate to waste paint. Often I glom it on in big hunks and wait until it dries before painting over it again. Oh, no, that’s not wasting. Throwing away dried out tubes is wasting, especially if it’s only because you don’t like the color. The spiders and webs have taken a liking to my painting corner and I am restoring order. It’s way too filthy for me to go out there and smush around some heavy gel and then let it dry so I can paint over it and later write a poem on top. And if it’s too dirty for me, no one else could stand it for sure.
The poem that was published in the University of Pembroke journal won first prize. I thought then that I was on my way to finding a publisher for my musings. That was probably thirteen years ago. Still waiting. Ha. Here is the poem that they chose. It is about my love for Robeson County and the Lumber River. My father in his later years would call the Park Ranger when we came to town and take us on a canoe trip. This led to later trips in kayaks. Not even the hanging water moccasins and copperheads could deter us. Oddly I like them. They belong there more than I do. Here is
Paddle around river
flow that never ends
Continue into favored oceans
Silt bands rise from underneath
under and over
Winding knees of cropped cypress
hanging moss and copperheads
drift into and on my Lumber River.
Never ending gyration cycle of rowing
into twist and out into twist and out
Evolve into the black water swamp that calls
Into twist and out
Reach inward flow
Egress become anew.
Washed river banks
Searching for their way
through the trees.
Julia W. Burns, MD 10/26/07