“Holbox” means black hole, and I came here to feel again. During the first group circle, the theme of the retreat was explained: exploration through the five elements – water, earth, wind, fire and void. I began without much expectation, just held on to a willingness to show up for whatever might meet me on the page. What arrived was a startling alignment with the chosen energetic space.
We all come here through water: womb to world/ ocean to island, and so that’s where we started. Monday was the day for water and I passed through a personal rain storm that kept me curled up in child’s pose long past the end of yoga on the beach. By the end of the first writing exercise, I understood that there was a tidal wave sloshing around inside of me that needed to smash through; there were walls I was ready to have broken down. This is what I wrote:
"I feel like a slow-moving insistent wave, pushing past and over and through anything that rises up in front of me. It isn’t a greedy wave or a selfish one. It feels like a gentle force but it isn’t asking. I’ve given it permission to be here, to start and to keep going until its met the end, whether that’s a limit of space or time or resource. And wherever that end is, it’s okay.
I live on a beach but rarely go out to it. I seem to always choose to be near water; near but not in. I move from one island to another. I take the kayak out but only push hands and paddle through the surface then splash ashore and go back inside where I can watch the waves again.
If water frightens me, it’s because I don’t want to get swallowed up or overtaken. But yet when I’ve reached my own limit, it’s the all-encompassing nature of water that I want to surrender to. I want to be crushed and absorbed, washed around and away until all trace of me, and whatever made me want to go into the water, is gone.
All day here I feel the strange water of being sweeping over and through what I think of as me. It seems to be washing away the buzz and the grind, the push and the edges. And what’s left behind is something fragile and mute that’s beautiful, perfect that way, like an empty bird’s nest or a shell.
This isn’t a numbing or a stupor or an absence. It’s an enormous wave and the unfamiliar space of surrender. I can rest here in this place that has nothing to do with whatever normal life was, but has the same stars shining overhead, as if I’m at home, dreaming."
Kristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned, GALA, Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit, Maudlin House, Cease, Cows; Crack the Spine, Eckleburg, Referential, Bluestockings, NAILED, Knee-Jerk, Minerva Rising, Mondegreen, Prick of the Spindle, Crab Fat, Wilderness House, Poydras Review and Diversity Rules. Her short story, Cold Comfort, placed in Honorable Mention in The Women's National Book Association's annual writing contest.