Jacqueline Suskin is a poet and educator who has been teaching workshops, writing books, and creating spontaneous poetry around the world since 2009. She has composed over forty thousand improvisational poems with her ongoing writing project, Poem Store. Suskin is the author of seven books, including The Edge of The Continent Volume 1-3 (Rare Bird Books, 2018-2020), Help in the Dark Season (Write Bloody, 2019) and Every Day is a Poem (Sounds True, 2020). Her work has been featured in various publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She currently lives in Northern California, where she leads a retreat program as the Artist in Residence at Folklife Farm.
Withdraw from the world so you can remember the world.
Seek respite, silence, and the clarity that only aloneness can offer.
Go find a sacred space where your experience of selfhood can expand without touching another’s, even for just twenty-four hours. What happens in this simple refuge, what unfurls in response to this haven, what does your sanctuary expose?
It is my spirit and my spirit only that commands me to retreat. I follow the lead of my feeling, my muse, and the seasons. I work to find a room of my own. I choose the desert, I choose the forest, I choose the closed door in my apartment and there is my desk, my valued time, my personal space for prayer. When I am in the dedicated circumstance of a retreat, my day is a schedule that hinges on creation. Here, I can understand my ideal and waking early I drink tea while watching the sunrise, I kneel before my altar, I write and read and write and read, I stretch, walk, dance and freely wander in and out of my thoughts, the meditative void, the didactic landscape. No one interrupts my process.
In order to revive myself, to reestablish my purpose, to remember the entire planet and my place in it, I have to pause the rush of the everyday. I have to go away. There is a cabin by the creek, no internet. There is a ranch in the desert, no neighbors. There is a farmhouse with a high roofed room that overlooks a wild valley. Seated at my desk, at the foot of the madrone, leaning against the giant spruce, in the sand under the Joshua Tree, naked in the creek, I am not concerned with an outcome or a finished product. I become the sponge, the gong, the channel, the thirsty roots of the willow all red and willing. I become the unspoken parts of life, the voice that only finds its outlet in quietude. I sleep and write down my dreams. I wake at four in the morning and fill the pages of my journal with mystery, not solved, but explored with enthusiasm.
Where can you go to be alone? Who can help you get there? What solitude can you carve from your full agenda? It can cost nothing. It can be quick. It can be a collaboration.
Someone can help you establish this safe place of solitude. Who can hold space for your deep dive? Who has a room they can spare for your time of discovery? Who can protect the entrance to your cave while you stare into the fire for hours on end? How can you break from the rhythm of daily life that swallows you in its relentless waves? Retreat. Cultivate a harbor. Delight in designing your place of peace. This is not about the often-unattainable perfection of the middle of nowhere. This is not about the most privileged position or luxurious option. This is about the choice of pausing, the quality of time slowed down with intention, the decision to value rest and trust an ancient method of renewal.
Imagery by photographer Sarah Meyer. (IG: @sarahmeyerphotography).