A little lowly Hermitage it was
Downe in a dale, hard by a forests side,
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser
A short while back I read an article in the Huffington post about the retreats of famous writers and I was thrilled to see a selection of the various nooks and cells to which people repaired for the sake of literary production. I have myself for quite some time been fascinated by the idea of leaving the world and humanity behind for a brief space of time and dedicate oneself to the task of writing, thinking and reading.
Since I am currently overdue on my MA thesis I needed to do some editing this summer. This can be very difficult to get done when there are duties to take into consideration at home, when your days are not entirely your own and when things move a bit too fast when they shouldn't move fast at all. Consequently I took two Sundays off, installed myself in my late paternal grandparents' house and brought with me food and other material I needed for the work.
I established my tryst by the window in my boyhood room and placed my books within reach, put the kettle (or rather a pan with water in it) on in the kitchen and started working. It was delightful to get back to my thesis after weeks of non-academic labour and I found an immense serenity in the task, letting the hours pass by only to break my work flow whenever tea or food was needed.
Late in the evening of the first Sunday I finished after I had edited the second and third chapters, leaving the fourth and fifth to the next day when I realised I was no longer paying proper attention to my own words. The rest of the evening was spent reading Joseph Brodsky's Rome Elegies while dabbling a bit with poetry of my own while listening to a deluge hammering down at the world outside.
The next session was this Sunday and lasted only the afternoon since the task at hand was less daunting and I had already managed to get some of it done earlier in the day. Again I found my room to be a perfect anchorite cell for this purpose, and I found the house very well situated for a writer at work since I could - when needed - step out on the verandah and stare idly at the water, smell the summer and observe my native community at a small distance.
When today's alloted load was done I retreated to my bed briefly and relaxed with the words of Pablo Neruda. I always find poetry to be a good diversion after time spent reading things demanding more focus and there is a particular joy in reading 20th century verse in a house where the 20th century still lingers in every wall and corner, and where nostalgia makes it easier to absorb the sense of longing one so often find in poets of that period.