Walk: Mindful Body, Sacramento Street
Distance: 2 miles and teach yoga class
One of my writing friends who has been a resident artist there was the first to make me aware of The Mesa Refuge, a writers' retreat in Point Reyes Station an hour north of San Francisco. When I had a place out there I would hear occasionally about the Refuge, but it was a quiet place not seeking attention, and I respected that so never attempted to locate it. Then last week one of my yoga students, who is an author and - turns out - has spent several residencies at The Refuge, invited me to a late afternoon gathering to raise money for a new roof. So, finally, I had the opportunity to go there on a perfect, sunny, relatively windless day.
It is a lovely place, so serene I'm not sure writers do much actual writing there. I suspect something more important than productivity is elicited in this environment. Deep contemplation, renewal, inspiration, profound connections - these types of things. In some ways you can write almost anywhere, but the inspiration that can accompany prolonged, protected solitude in natural beauty is really to live in a state of grace. And then to take it with you back to your place of writing.
From the website:
Mesa Refuge History
The Mesa Refuge was created in 1997 by Working Assets co-founder Peter Barnes, who acquired and donated the property to the Tides Foundation. Since then it has provided shelter and inspiration to over 500 established and emerging writers, including Michael Pollan, Terry Tempest Williams, George Lakoff, Frances Moore Lappé, Natalie Goldberg, Jerry Mander, Lewis Hyde, Rebecca Solnit, Van Jones and many others. Books about ecology, democracy, justice and hope have been birthed here.
A note from Peter Barnes:
I started the Mesa Refuge because, as a young writer, I came to appreciate two things:
(1) the need of writers for uninterrupted time to think as well as write, and
(2) the particular magic of the Point Reyes area, with its wild and human-shaped beauty.
I wrote my first book while living on a ranch near Point Reyes in 1969. Later, I spent time at retreats in upstate New York, Bozeman, Montana, and Bellagio, Italy. Each of these experiences confirmed for me what the poet, Mary Oliver, has so beautifully said:
"No one has yet made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen. Still, there are indications. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge."
Today, these words adorn a wall at the Mesa Refuge. And I have seen time and again how true they are — how two or four weeks of ‘writing at the edge’ can be transformational for emerging writers, and rejuvenating for established ones.