Retreat Writings, 2012, Part 5

My time at the Casita is coming to an end.

What sense is left in these hands?  What do my fingers know that my mind has yet to discover? I type and words appear, or scrawl a script with my pen and there seems to be a meaning that was elusive to my tongue.  The words I write have more sense than the words I speak. The body knows things the mind does not.

I go outdoors to feel night. Through a lighted window shade, I see the silhouette of a woman adjusting her ponytail. It is almost midnight. Watching her inspires the beginnings of a poem, but I feel a little guilty watching  so I close my eyes.  I listen to frogs and crickets harmonizing. Something rustles behind the casita and it scares me. I enter the casita and lock the door quickly.


I pick up a book of meditations that I have read off and on over the years. This book has a strange effect on me, sometimes sending me into peculiar mental states with glimpses perhaps of a deeper reality we only sense in extraordinary moments. (What moment is not extraordinary?) I am hesitant to name the book. There has been controversy around it. I will only say that when I read it and meditate on its passages and teachings something opens in me and I sense the resonance of the Infinite. I have experienced fear and awe when reading deeply in this book. I will take it in small doses…I hope that these truths will permeate my life.

It is almost daybreak.

I stayed up because I could. I drank canned espresso and fruit juices with yerba mate and I am buzzing. I want to take mini-retreats when I return to “reality”—whether it is sitting alone in the dark, taking a bath, sitting on the cypress swing in the backyard—healthy actions that will replenish me. I think there is an issue for me as a woman that makes it all the more necessary for me to retreat from the world. Note to self: explore this later…

The sun is up.
I sit on the little porch and smoke my third to last cigarette. I listen to the birds sing. They are going at it like crazy, telling each other their dreams. Or they are discussing their plans for the day—a ‘team meeting’ of sorts. Where is the freshest water? Where are the trees with ripened fruit? I sit on the steps and listen to them.

If I listen long enough I will understand them.


Two poetic lines that come to me:

 “The sheets are so white against new blood.”

 “She is unbelieved.”

The Need for Solitude

I have never lived alone.

I lived with my parents until the day I was married. Except for two brief separations (perhaps a week or two) I have always lived with my husband since we were married in 1989. I am rooted in my home life and love my role as wife and mother.  I am there for my family in every way that I can be. I see myself as a caregiver, and in that role it is easy to let my wellness suffer for others.

I used to suffer from chronic insomnia and as excruciating as it was, it had its benefits. Nights were mine. I wrote furiously for years in the wee hours to better myself as a writer when I could work freely without many interruptions. Sleep has come more easily, so as a result, my awake time has been shared with other awake humans. This has left me with little alone time.

Last year, I took a short retreat to celebrate the completion of the manuscript for “Eating the Heart First,” to reflect on that and really let it sink in.  It was a wonderful, meaningful time and I was happily able to go on another brief retreat this year.

I have been posting raw and edited excerpts from the Retreat Writings from 2011 and 2012 to this page. I plan to work these into a little chapbook. 

Retreating to write has become vital.  Actually leaving my home and going somewhere to be alone purposefully to write or read is a way to recognize the importance of my own wellness and life as a poet. Living the Writing Life has helped me do something beautiful and valuable.  

Creative writing saved my life. After great losses, I have turned to it to heal. So much of the matter of my life has been channeled into art. As a result, my burden is lightened, my understanding has deepened.  I give to the work to be greater than myself— poetry-making is prayer.

Retreating to meditate, pray, create is necessary for me. My grasp of myself as woman, as wife, lover, mother, daughter, truth-seeker, artist, as well as vulnerable, flawed and mortal human has sharpened—

I know myself better, which is the point, isn’t it?

Retreat Writings, 2012, Part 4

Day 2

Something needs to be said. Something needs to be written.

Facebook eats my face. Facezombie. I have no Internet access which is great. I need to come to terms with so much. This retreat was needed by all of us. So much matters and so much does not. I keep you with me. Your scent alights on my skin. I want to go under water and make no sounds. I want to fill with water and drown a lovely death.  


My fingertips are tender from playing guitar. I like the little twinges that remind me that I am working hard again. My hand strength will come back and my skills will improve.

Patti Smith’s Banga is incredible. Her poetic power is full-on on this album. I love the entire work but I love Mosaic and Constantine’s Dream the best. It rouses something great and infinite within me. I am inspired to write a poem-song, too.


Am                                             D

The veil that kept her a secret,

Am                                             D

the veil that hid her from life, lifted

Am                                             D

and her face shone like a radiance–

Am                                                        G

She set fire to the boarded house. 


Am                                                        D

She walked through the fire unburned.

Am                                                        D

She walked through the ashes of men.

Am                                                        D

The land of her people smoldered.

Am                                        G

She became fully alive. 


D                                             Am

And all of the scars inflicted

D                                             Am

in the name of holy honor

D                                             Am

were burnished to nothing.

Em                                    Am

And no man could waylay her

Em                                    Am

into motherhood or shame.

Em                                    Am

She was free to love man or woman.

D                                            G

Free to seek her own way.    



D                                             Am

When the veil lifted

D                                             Am

her face became like the moon

D                                             Am

and lit her solitary journey.


Em                                            Am

She walked until she found water,

Em                                  Am

drowning in her own image:

D                                          G

a reflection she meant to kiss.


 © 2012 Clare L. Martin

Retreat Writings, 2012, Part 3

My Body Remembers the Music it has Made

I am so glad I brought my guitar. I brought lots of great music too. It is lovely to sit uninterrupted and listen to great music. I wish I had a piano.

Leave me alone in a room with a piano and I will pour myself out onto it. I will physically overwhelm it. I will find the melodies in aural space.

I lived a year humming to myself, and in public.  I have a head for melodies. I would like to write a song. This has been elusive to me. I used to sing all of the time, especially when I was a child at grandmother’s house.  Could I be a songwriter?  I need to build up my hand strength and dexterity.

Coming Down

I think I have finally come down. I have found a home in my skin. I am sitting alone in the dark. I know I have a friend in the world, he is sleeping alone tonight. He is thinking of me. I hear the string’s resonance. I hear the last outcries of the birds at dusk. They have found water and fruit. I am awake and aware but slipping slowly into the hush.


This love exceeds me. This love is not my own, but is offered through me. It is an energy that permeates all. I am going to silence. I am going into quiet, that solitary place. I let my worries fall away. I am very blessed with all of the opportunities that have come my way and the ones I have opened myself to.

Time to go to bed.  (8:15 pm)

Retreat Writings, 2012–Part 2


Here I am being honest. There is no one here to lie to–

Here I will give in to wants. I pour a glass of whiskey and stir in a measure of water. I drink it fast to hit my blood quicker.  This time I wanted it. Is this solitude to be wasted indulging my senses, feeding the cravings of a former-current-future addict?

I give up the binding control which has ruled me for so long. I surrender to the quiet.  There have been so many pressures.  Money, fights, disorder— I am so conflicted.  I think it is all the more reason to be here.  I can’t control them. I am a weed. I want the garden to flourish.  I keep waiting for this CD to skip in the same place my vinyl album from 1981 skips. Tattoo You.

I think it is time I take a shower. My throat smells like a cigarette.  My lungs stink. My blood is a toxic sludge of carcinogens. I quit smoking five years ago after Daddy died.  I did it in his memory and because I was concerned for my health. I have high blood pressure and I don’t need to risk my health any further.

The day I left for this retreat, I told myself I was going to buy a pack of cigarettes just for this getaway, just this once, and I plan to stick to that. When I get on the road home I am chucking them out of the window, or in a trash can, I am no litterbug. Then I am done.

I think smoking is a way of escaping/delineating from others. It is also a sign that I am misdirected on my path (I think) or maybe I am just taking a detour with potholes. Whatever it is I know I will be done with it when I return home. There is no place in my day-to-day life for smoking. I just had the Five Year Itch and I scratched it.

Do you believe me? Do I believe me?  Be careful what and who you believe.

2012 Retreat Writings, Part 1


This is becoming habit.  Unpack. Turn the music up. Take off my shoes. Have a snack, call home to let them know I am here and ok. Plug in the computer. Open a document and begin writing the thoughts that come to me. What was it I thought of last night, that sleepless night?  Truth is wordless but we try to speak it anyway. I am here to find some truth and some Truth. I am expanding into the space. This is my time and I want to rejuvenate. I feel so comfortable here. I am claiming it as a home away from home. Now is the time that I get serious about the purpose for which I came. I think I need some different music to begin.

To My Hosts,

Thank you for making the choices you did that led to this little place, and your generous hospitality.  In this moment I am happy.  In this moment I am in a sweet cozy casita enjoying aloneness.  I am listening to a test message from the national emergency system, though.  It kind of freaks me out. Can you do something about national emergencies, so we don’t have them? Oh dear, I am tired.

This is a Moment

There is a painting in here of a tree on fire.

Trees on Fire

There is a painting in here of a tree on fire. Or it is just the leaves that are aflame with seasonal color? I imagine it is fire because I taste fire in the air. There is smoke on my tongue.  Something is exploding in my skull. What do we dream when we are burning? Last night I dreamed I was playing an instrument and I could not get sound out of it. I was having technical difficulties. Maybe that was an expression of the technical difficulties I am/was having here? I cannot feel as though everything I write has to be profound or deep. Some things will be what they are.  Although later I will read meditations and then everything will take on a deeper hue and tone. This may be the first piece I edit and salvage from the writings I have done so far.

Writing to Write

I love my husband so much!! He gives and gives. That is why I wanted him here with me but at the same time I wanted the aloneness.  I want to do my thing in private. This is good work just writing to write. I am writing to write. Something good and beautiful will come from this. I am creating something lasting, perhaps. Something needs to be said. Something needs to be written.

The light is dropping into the ground. I think the light is a foot deep in the earth.

The Retreat 2.0

I went on a brief, “self-directed” retreat at a little guest house that belongs to friends. I will be posting some of the writings I produced during my short stay and new works that were inspired by fragments/thoughts discovered during the retreat. I posted some recently from 2011. These new writings have been edited.


The other day I walked into a white room and it was perfection. The wide, wooden floorboards shone. My footfall echoed in soft flip flop-claps. The air hummed coolly. White linen curtains glowed mellow light. I gasped; I felt punched because I recognized something in that clean, sharp room that we do not possess—an order, a becoming that was whole and indelible. (We live in squalor, awash in grief.) Could we be born again? Could we fit into a white, sunlit room of our own? In this room was a laughing wife, snuggling her beautiful son. Her clean-shaven husband entered their white room, kissed his family and sat beside them. There was no hardness between them. I don’t believe your promises anymore— you, who will not build me a white room. How long can I continue to sneak away to motley motels to luxuriate in aloneness, to delineate my own everything? There is someone else. There must be. There must be someone who would build me up bone by bone; fill me with a simple and clear eloquence, and renew me. Such is an interior white room. I am separating myself from myself from myself ad infinitum to find the door to the white room that eludes me and walk through it.


A green shadow flits across the wall. I grow old between breaths. The memory of you heartens me. You are the net beneath my aerial act—

As close as we are and as close as I hope we become, it was important for me to get away, to bury myself in cool sheets to stare at the ceiling–rain chattering above.  It was important for me to delineate myself; to work alone, eat alone. It was so important for me to lie awake in bed thinking of the long ago-summer in the south of France. I shyly spread my towel over the pebbles and sand and removed my top.  The old couple fished with nets in the water near me. They laughed and I lost my embarrassment. It was important for me to remember the lover I took—to remember myself young and unknowing.

There is a highway between us and through it we are connected. When you wake miles away, I wake. When a thought of me surfaces in your mind I am aware too of you. I believe in a psychic fabric that connects us all.

I wish I had brought an instrument to play in these lovely, lonely hours—a guitar, a harmonica; or even a great and grand piano, hauled miraculously on my very own back.

I will miss this place. I wish to return soon. I found peace here .

Final entry from Retreat Writings–July 2011


I tried for many years to live the writing life but I was unstable. I couldn’t focus. I was suffering blindly—not utilizing my suffering for the craft. I wanted make a mark. I had to educate and dedicate myself. I had to want it so badly that I would fight fiercely to best myself, to overcome my own feeble wit and find a true voice.  

I feel that this retreat marks a turning point for me as a woman and a writer. I could be on the verge.  I am not writing with an affect. I am not pressuring myself to produce some great piece of art. I am writing to recover, discover and grow. I am writing to understand something of my experience. I am carving my own path. I am on the Great Path, knowingly.


Retreat Writings–July 2011

Casita Azul