My problems are small. Everything is small, except for the pot of coffee I made myself when I got up to write this morning. My problems, my life, my everything; everything is small.
Last week I lay on my back on the eastern-most rock of Mallard Island and saw the whole Milky Way. I felt myself becoming smaller and smaller: all these stars making their long way to this grey rock, and me: a lone cigarette curling into itself, burning slowly out. I have never felt so neverwhere.
Mallard Island has a special way of making you feel like nothing and everything both at once. This is the fourth summer I have been to Mallard Island. It has guided me through many griefs. The first summer I was at Mallard, 2012, my close friend had just committed suicide. Though it was a writing retreat, I did little writing. I walked around the island in confusion: crying, putting my body in the water, sitting on rocks, canoeing out and canoeing back in. I listened for loons wailing. I watched the deer on faraway islands chewing the weeds. The island is small, and has no internet. No running water. No television. Mostly I sat with the terrible feeling. I swallowed it like a boulder.
This year was similar, but a different grief: the day I left for Mallard, my divorce was in the process of being finalized. When I got to the island, I wrote like crazy. I wrote a lot of poems about horses telling me how to live my life. (I have a series I’m working on called “Horses Explain Things to Me”). Many of them were funny. I think I was trying to push my emotions away from me. But at a quiet time, the island said, now, girl. And I wrote what I needed to write.
Those six days weren’t all tears and grief. The island has nurturing and restorative properties .There are over 12,000 books on the island. I was there with ten other women poets. We wrote together, learned together, swam together, cooked dinners and ate together, laughed, played, shared stories, and explored the small island.
On Mallard Island I feel like myself. More like myself than anywhere else. A better version of myself. I’m not scared of spiders. Okay. I can co-exist with them, at least. I wrote twenty poems. Not all of them are good. In one of them, I eat Taco Bell with a horse. But I wrote. A thing I hadn’t done since late February. I swam, I practiced yoga on the front dock, and I picked blueberries, and crossed paths with a snake. I woke up with the sun and I didn’t feel busy because there was nowhere else I needed to be.