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.