Wandering poets, December Shack Simple in the southern Loess Hills.
Poets, Philosophers, Artists, Wildlings:
The discipline of “shack simple” was practiced by some of the Beat poets of the late fifties and early sixties; the term was coined by Gary Snyder. Jack Kerouac, Lew Welch, Snyder and writers of the San Francisco Renaissance believed in the importance of spending time in a rustic and simple cabin in order to pursue the “serious exuberance” of experimental writing. Time in nature, time in silence. Can you dig it?
In the beat of shack simple we read Annie Dillard and Olav Hauge further emanating the lyricism that some might say began with Basho, some might say Thoreau; every walk a pilgrimage and every pond summer and winter the glass eyeball of the cosmos and let us not forget Mary Oliver and Bernd Heinrich. But more than reading we walk and write, draw, meditate. Nothing more is needed than quiet attention then nature rushes in. Wear good boots.
Winter is lent to shack simple and last Sunday was simple. Deep snow, deep silence, fox tracks, turkey tracks, milky sky sliced by crows and jays, eagle in a tree. Deer on the path ahead. Chelsea’s sweet potatoes, Shaun made soup. Robert stayed for 3 days. Feet to the fire the cabin gets a little smoky when the fire gets low; one more log, then one more. We hope Billie brings ginger snaps this Sunday.
Just a taste, just a day but just enough to learn simple silence with or without a shack it all adds up, writing poems ourselves being written, slowly spinning the earth under our feet. Frosty our breath goes before us with sun on our backs and shadows we follow. Perhaps a versicle slides off a wet branch, droplets thrown from a spinning faerie or sprite, colors of a passing bird to find our faces.
— Jack Phillips
Shack Simple fire, last Sunday. All photos by Robert Smith.
Shack Simple with The Naturalist School in Iowa’s southern Loess Hills, winter session 2019. Applications now being accepted. Contact Jack at email@example.com .