What the frig? If I want to retreat virtually, I will do so in Fallout 76. What I REALLY need is an actual retreat where I can go without my phone or an internet connection, and to have enough time there that I can afford to spend at least three days procrastinating before I get so bored I start writing again.
And, for the first time, I almost started applying for that sort of thing this year.
Sadly, just before all this end-of-the-world stuff went down, I had been discussing with Ms. Ninja that I’ve always done the responsible thing and taken the needs of my family over my needs as an artist. Which is why I don’t spend semesters away teaching at cool schools or head off to do residencies for weeks or months at a time or even really do more than the occasional week away during publication for a new book. I wanted to be there for the kids, and also, to not miss out on anything important for my own sake and peace of mind.
But our thought was that, now with the eldest child having moved out and the next three are either gearing up for university or a teenagehood spent on a skateboard, it’s probably fine if I decide to take some time away. I’ll miss them more than they’ll miss me, but at least I’ll get some shit done. This freed me up to start looking into these possibilities right before things shut down.
Who am I kidding? I would have probably hated it. Forced confinement with other artists at a residency? Shudder. Finding constructive things to say about unfixable guy-in-your-MFA poems? Shudder. A remote cabin in the woods around which there is surely a some dark secrets and … is that someone standing out in the thunderstorm with their head down and hair dripping over their face as they rhythmically tap a long chef’s knife loosely against their leg? Double shudder.
Truth is, I’m probably best off here at the dining table. Never leaving home again.
Yesterday, MacDowell, a prestigious artists’ residency in New Hampshire—who has suspended their regular fellowship program due to the coronavirus pandemic—announced a “pilot program” for a virtual version of its famous retreat.
It will certainly look a lot different than usual, considering that the artists will be participating from their own homes—but MacDowell executive director Philip Himberg hopes to at least recreate the sense of community that MacDowell offers along with its solitude. Those famous group dinners and picnic baskets will even be involved—sent to the participants’ homes.