Sunday October 31, 2010
It’s the morning of my final day at Fowler. Chip from the Compact will be here in a few hours to pick me up (along with my belongings) and drop off the next resident.
I try to practice good shack etiquette, so I take on the following chores:
-I sweep the sand off of the floors (this is futile)
-I pump ten gallons of water and carry it back to the shack’s porch to have on reserve.
-I refill the oil in the kerosene lamps and replace the D batteries in the battery operated ones.
-I scavenge around the dunes for bark and sticks to replenish the bucket of kindling for the stove.
As I do this last task I realize how awesome it is to carry around a hatchet and actually have a use for it. Frontier life, which I suppose this type of existence is akin to, requires more resolve than the life I’m used to, but it’s so much more exciting.
It’s hard to believe that an entire week has passed. I brought four books with me for this trip and read none of them. Instead, I picked over the shack library’s offerings: David Matias’ poetry collection, “The Fifth Season,” Edmund White’s novel, “The Beautiful Room is Empty,” and when in need of some levity, the 1984 Guinness Book of World Records. Mostly I enjoyed reading the shack journals from past residents, which reminds me that I need to leave my own entry.
One thing I keep thinking about is how rare this type of situation is.
Loneliness abounds in modern life. It’s everywhere. Solitude isn’t.
Opportunities for true solitude rarely occur, and there is virtually no emphasis placed on attaining them. In my experiences at Fowler, and at C-Scape, I learned that to come to this state of being, to be content alone, with no yearning for anyone or anything else, is a distinction that is completely lost in our culture. It is a hard place to get to when there are so many avenues for immediate social connection and distraction. But to ignore this virtue, as I think our society allows and maybe even encourages us to do, is a missed opportunity to understand ourselves better. At C-Scape it took me two and a half weeks to get to the point where I stopped thinking about my life back home and what I was missing and making do without. When I finally did, and I will remember this moment always, it was a profound and overwhelming feeling, like being hit by a wave you didn’t see coming.
At that moment, things seemed clearer. I felt two emotions primarily: forgiveness and gratitude. I let go of things and I truly forgave.
It is hard to put this into words, and I don’t think I can really, but what I was left with after that long period of time in the dunes was myself. The distractions of my busy day to day life back home – the stresses of work, relationships, and family, had started to become like an insulation that blocked me from actually being able to understand myself.
Things make sense here.
The Compact describes the dune shacks as “a retreat for art and healing,” and it is just that. As I get ready to leave from here and enter back into regular life, I think of an entry written in one of the shack journals. In it, the person very aptly described how you feel after a stay in the dunes - “My edges are glowing again.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my time at the Fowler Dune Shack. In each instance of experiencing something beautiful here in the dunes (and there were many) I thought about how much I wanted to share in that with others. This blog has given me an opportunity to do that. Please check back for future posts.
**thanks to Josh Willis for the dune grass circle picture above. I forgot to take one of this phenomenon!
***If you are interested in donating to The Compact, or in applying for a shack stay yourself (AND YOU SHOULD!) please visit TheCompact.org
Fellowships are awarded to artists and writers based on merit, but additional residencies are available to the general public and awarded through random lottery.