Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Into My Own

I was dropped off at Rensing Center like it was summer camp. My parents drove me into the woods, helped me put my stuff in my cabin, and made sure I had everything I needed before they left. I wouldn’t have a car for the next four weeks. I knew I could hitch a ride into town for the essentials, but I would spend the larger part of the coming weeks in solitude.

Unlike camp, though, I poured myself a glass of Suntory Hakushu 12-year, sat on the back porch of the Guest House, and started writing. The first line I wrote was “I am now begun.” That line has yet to be used for anything I’ve written thus far, but it was the grease in the gears that evening. I wrote a long time without editing, without reading anything. I was not concerned if it was a poem; I knew there would be seeds left along the way, and that I could sow them later. I was indeed begun.

The next morning I awoke early, made a pot of strong coffee, and pulled out all of the books I brought with me. There are situations when environment selects your reading for you. In America, one could not, or should not, be on a boat without Herman Melville or Mark Twain. One in Japan would not go on a nature walk without Basho. In this case, the cool autumn morning and the changing leaves picked the poems of Robert Frost. It must be said that one should never go into the woods without him. The first poem I read was a hopeful foreshadowing, as well as a nod to the first line I had written the night before. “Into My Own” is the first poem in Frost’s first collection A Boy’s Will. It is from the perspective of a young boy (it can be assumed to be Frost himself) who strikes out on his own and considers what those that love him would find different about him the next time they saw him. The closing couplet reads:

                        They would not find me changed from him they knew—
                        Only more sure of all I thought was true.

It is not a mistake to think that a journey into the woods, mostly alone, for four weeks would change a person. In fact, I know that there are certain parts of me that have been changed—or more precisely, put to rot—during my time here, but the focus should not be on the transformation. The most encouraging part of my time at the Rensing Center has not been the body of work I’ve produced—which is encouraging in itself and a large part of it—but the reinforcement that I was doing something right before. The weeks have galvanized this, and therein lies the change.


People may notice their own changes in me, but it’s the constant that excites me. I am happy to have put certain things behind me and to have dug into new ground, but I am pleased that those who know me best, myself included, can look at me after my time here and say, in so many words, that I am still “him they knew” just more certain of  “all I thought was true.”

Seth Amos