Saturday, July 21, 2012

Advance, retreat, advance again

Please don't duplicate w/out permission.
I wrote recently about my deep need for white space, the time and geography that allows for creativity. I've just returned from a week of white space, time spent in the Adirondacks on retreat. While the patterns in my life that drove me to eliminate white space from my life haven't really changed, I have had a chance to spend time thinking, writing and staring out at the world without interruption.

Creativity is the residue of time wasted.
              - Albert Einstein

Prior to my week away I'd been driving myself forward, having set some substantial goals and pushing relentlessly to meet them. What I'd forgotten was that meeting goals, or even working towards them, or even simply being alive in the world, results in change. Meeting some of my goals made things happen, so I had new obligations to meet, new opportunities to seize. I filled up all of my spare time with actions, advancement, motion. I'd forgotten to be still, which is part of my work, part of anyone's work, to find stillness in the chaos so we can see who we have become and what we can offer.

One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be mere rushing on.
              - D.H. Lawrence

So I went on retreat. It was really hard, unplugging entirely and having no access to email or cell phone. At first I was pretty twitchy, but within a few days, began to relax. I stared at light-dappled water. I floated in the lake. I admired the spiders. 

I found myself in a place that encourages stillness, so I could be present with 
the water.
the loon.
the boat.
the tree.
the sky.
the ant.
the stone.

And in that stillness, while I didn't find all I might have sought, I found some measure of peace and clarity around my life, around coming actions and, finally, around white space.

There are aspects of modern life that require strategy and planning. Times when we long for maps. By remembering we are in this world to explore the uncharted, to take a step forward and another back without it meaning failure, to prepare for a long journey with many diversions, to meet allies and foes, we can plan for strategic retreat and future advances.

A dance, really, one step at a time.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Funny, I was away camping for a week as well. I feel the same way as you. And by the way, your photos are beautiful.

    1. Thank you, Cathy. It's amazing what time in the woods can do. I'm glad you got a break!

  2. "to take a step forward and another back without it meaning failure..."

    Words to the wise, Laura. Lotta people need to hear this.

    1. Me, among them. Thanks, sweetheart.

  3. Ever since your seminar at Type A, I've been craving white space. In my writing, in my life. What you describe experiencing at your retreat is beautiful. One of the great ironies of life is that we don't appreciate stillness and white space until we don't have it anymore.

    And yes, making time for it needs to be a priority. Thank you for reminding me.


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