Creative Nonfiction

To Retreat, or Not to Retreat?

Getting Away from Getting Away from It All

RACHEL MABE

JUNE OF 2016 FOUND ME lying on a twin-sized daybed on the third floor of an unfinished house in Marquette, Nebraska—a village of 230 whose sole purpose seemed to be the two-step monoculture of corn and soy. Flies slipped through the shoddy screens to explore every available surface. I had pointed a fan directly at myself in an attempt to abate the ninety-degree heat. The room had no real ceiling, just sheets of Styrofoam resting on wood beams, beyond which I could see the rafters in the attic, and in one corner, if I looked up at just the right angle, I could see beyond walls to the blue sky. Half the wood flooring was covered with raw squares of plywood. A hole in the floor allowed me, if I pressed my eye to the opening, to view the bed in the room below mine. At night, the light from the hallway intruded. Privacy was an impossibility. Everyone could hear me tell my boyfriend over the phone, “This place is so weird.”

This was Art Farm. I found myself there almost by accident. In the whirl of applying for jobs and fellowships for post-MFA life, I had included a handful of funded residencies, to which I applied both because I thought I was supposed to and because the idea of escaping from my mundane and hectic everyday life

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