Islands of Retreat

I was in the third year of college when I read William Butler Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” The poem expresses Yeats’ desire to be in a place of peace, quiet, and simplicity to pursue his art. The tone of the poem resonated in a deep place within me.

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” reminds me of Thoreau’s “Walden.” In further reading about Yeats, I discovered he was, in fact, influenced by Thoreau. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard evokes a similar experience in her description of a year spent in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley.

Relocating to another place for two or three months is appealing. Living in a small space, furnished with only the bare necessities, it is possible to relax and to enjoy the simplicity of life.

I planned last spring’s trip to San Miguel de Allende as a retreat. With no house to clean and no laundry to do for ten weeks, I could focus on writing.

For his retreat, Yeats sought an island in a lake. I lived in a studio apartment in a city. Yeats had the hum of the honey bees. I had the wail of the helote man. I didn’t plant beans. There was no place to garden. I bought fruit and vegetables at an organic farmers’ market. The neighborhood was quiet. I didn’t see or hear neighbors in the three other apartments in the building. It was as if I were alone on my own lake island.

A retreat allows one to see the world from a different vantage point. Yeats sought a retreat at Innisfree. Dillard went to Tinker Creek. I went to San Miguel. Distance facilitates perspective.

In San Miguel, I focused on writing. With writing, I get closer to understanding my life and the world around me. The more I write, the more I understand. The more I understand, the more insight I am able to incorporate into living a life of authenticity.

The insight gained from my retreat allows me to transport myself to that space whenever I want or need to be there. With a thought, I can arise and go to Innisfree, to San Miguel, or to any place of peace.

0 thoughts on “Islands of Retreat

  1. Annis Cassells

    I love the comparison between you and Yeats and Dillard, each of you finding that special place.
    This is the line that struck me today: “Yeats had the hum of the honey bees. I had the wail of the helote man.”
    Keep’em comin’. xoA

  2. Anke Hodenpijl

    My island was quite literally, Bali. I read an article on creativity which stated that creativity resides not only in the imagination, but within groups, entire cultures, and countries. My son reminded me that creativity percolates best when the person is outside his or her comfort zone. Travel really is a spiritual practice for me.

  3. Joan Raymond

    I loved reading Dillard’s and Yeats’ work. They took me to another place full of inspiring imagery.

    I also love the work of John Muir. The way he described a grasshopper or common fly or a grove of snow-laden trees always brought me to that time and place as if I was sitting with him observing and seeing though his eyes.


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