Far from Kenosha, at Door County, Wisconsin: by Dipika Mukherjee




2020 has been a capricious year in so many ways, for all of us. I have continued to teach, hectoring students to keep writing, to find some catharsis in words, but I find myself derailed whenever I try to cultivate any sense of normalcy.

Living in the United States at this particular point of time feels so dystopian that I have no words for the parallel universe of my fiction. So when I received a residency from Write On, at Door County, Wisconsin to work on my novel-in-progress, I grabbed the opportunity to travel somewhere, anywhere.

 


For two weeks, I am the lone writer  in nearly 39 acres of woods, orchards, and meadows. I am a short distance away from the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Every evening offers a spectacular sunset over waters that calm the soul; there is also the occasional deer, lots of chattering birds and humming wasps and bees, and one harmless garter snake I startled during an evening walk. There are no people. 

 

This feels like paradise. An anonymous gift of property in 2013 allowed the organization to create a haven for writers, and the first writers-in-residence came in April of 2014. Since then, readings and talks have been given by the Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, New York Times best-selling humorist Michael Perry, and internationally-acclaimed writer Naomi Shihab Nye, but this residency still seems like a well-kept secret.


A typewriter-lined walkway leads to a small cabin which once belonged to the celebrated Norman Blei. His spirit -- and his writing cabin -- continue to inspire. Michael Perry wrote of his time here: But each time I flagged, I looked at the varnish on the low table before me, and I knew it had the sort of shine that only comes from a pair of elbows regularly applied, and I got back to work.



 

The news still trickles through, but without a television, I am freed from the addiction of the 24/7 breaking news cycles. There is still so much to fight for, but for now, there is some respite.


Far from Kenosha, at Door County, Wisconsin

 

Breathe in. Pine and birch

and red oak branches

stroke air, striped garter

snake startles into slither.

Queen Anne’s lace quivers

an impossible symmetry.

Coupled dragonflies soar

towards roar of water

smoothing jagged rock,

purple lake slaking ball

of fire. Butterflies circle,

in swooping swings; crinkle

of bumblebees as piano keys

tinkling air. Geese ink flight

on flaming sky. Intake breath.

Shhhh…whisper waves,

Shanti shanti, shanti.

 


May our world find the peace it needs. May you all find the inspiration to keep writing. 





Dipika Mukherjee's academic and creative work takes her to Chicago, New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur and she calls all three cities home. She is a writer and a sociolinguist.


Comments

Peter Leyland said…
Hi Dipika

What a wonderful place this sounds to be. I love the light through trees picture and the typewriters! I came across Tracy K. Smith’s work by chance and referred to her in a paper I wrote about Poetry and Song. Political poetry is hot again, she said in a NYT article. I also love KL where my daughter lived for a while and had her first baby there. Thanks for your peace messages and all the lovely nature pictures.
Thank you, Peter! Political poetry seems to be the only kind we can write on some days ... hope things change. Malaysia is a magical place too and I am sad that I have had to be away for so many months!
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Dipika,

Wow, gorgeous pics! It looks like a slice of heaven on a much embattled earth at the moment. What a great place to write, and getting away from the constant (bad) news will do your spirit good, no doubt.

Enjoy your time.

:)
eden



Thanks Eden, it was indeed a balm to my soul although I got less work done on my novel than I would have liked. The woods were lovely, dark and deep ... :)
Eden Baylee said…
I'm not surprised Dipika, sometimes the beauty of settings is distracting. It's hard to sit still and write when there is so much to see. Rainy days indoors tend to work for my writing, and 6 months out of the year, it's winter in Canada, so ... that works well too. ;)

The past 6 months have been awful with Covid, but we've had a glorious summer. It was difficult to write while outdoors enjoying my garden but so grateful for outdoor space. ;)

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