Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What I Did on My Retreat Journey

A week ago, I was getting ready to head off to my retreat:  the Create in Me retreat that I've attended each year since 2002 (gulp!  is it really 2014 already?  And almost May?  double gulp!).  Every year, I return refreshed and renewed.  This year is no different.

Let me record some of the highlights while they're fresh in my mind.  Perhaps later, I'll post pictures or a post that goes more in depth about one aspect or two. 

--This year, I travelled alone.  My spouse sings with the Broward Chorale, and they had their big concert with the Broward Symphony on Saturday.  It made sense for him to stay behind to enjoy his mountain top experience of a different kind.

--I listened to a book on CD, which I don't usually do.  My friend recommended The Emperor of All Maladies, which she'd enjoyed on a recent car trip of her own.  So, I hopped over to the public library and checked it out--how I love the public library.

--I listened to the book when there was no good program on the area NPR station.  I really enjoyed the book, which is about the history of looking for a cure for cancer.  It felt very relevant, what with all the people I know who are dealing with this disease.  It was fascinating from a science point of view too, and in many ways, it read as a medical thriller, which I enjoyed too. 

--I didn't quite finish it, but after at least 10 hours of listening, I'm done.  I've found I can't skim or skip chapters when I'm listening, the way I could have when reading.  Reading the book on paper would have been faster, but I'd have likely never gotten around to it.

--I also read on paper Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction.  I was reading about the ways that the systems of a planet can go terribly wrong, while listening to a book about the way a body's system can go terribly wrong.  You'd think it might have depressed me, but instead, it filled me with appreciation for things that go right.

--I saw friends along the way, along with the retreat friends that I see once or twice a year.  Very nourishing.

--When I first got to camp, I felt the itching and closing throat that made me worried about allergies.  So, I went to the huge Wal-Mart across the street from camp and bought all sorts of supplies. 

--I bought yarn and big hooks.  I crocheted a prayer shawl for my high school friend who's struggling with esophageal cancer.

--This year, for the first time, we weren't the only people at camp.  A counselor had returned to have her wedding in the chapel.  All day on Saturday, I saw young people in their dress-up clothes, adjusting a tie here, a strap there.  I battled a rising sense of panic that once I went to weddings, and now I'll be going to funerals.

--I did stretching every morning, a modified yoga class--wonderful.  I must stretch more at my desk.

--I taught people to do hand piecing and quilting--neat!  I led a haiku session which was filled with surprises--surprises in just a few syllables.

--We had a great Bible study, less Bible and more theological musing about recent findings about the universe and what those astronomy lessons mean for our theological thoughts on creation and redemption.  I will be writing more about this on my theology blog, but for here, let me just say how progressive it was, how intellectual, what a great demonstration of how faith and intellect can inform each other and enrich each other.

--The professor who led our Bible study is an amateur astronomer who takes pictures of galaxies and all sorts of stellar beauty.  The Bible study had such wonderful slides.  It was an interesting counterpoint to my apocalyptic reading.

--In some ways, the vastness of the universe is a comfort.  Even if we wipe out most life on our planet, our planet will likely recover, although we may not recognize the new life forms.  And even if we didn't, there are other planets.

--Of course, if the universe is expanding, as most astronomers now believe, the end picture is as bleak and apocalyptic as the books I've been reading suggest about the smaller canvases of planet and body and cell.  Eventually, the universe uses up all the hydrogen and other building blocks of stars, which leads to a cold, dark universe.

--But I was at a retreat at a church camp, so of course, there was an Easter message of resurrection and hope as part of the Bible study.

--The professor who led our Bible study brought his telescope.  I saw Jupiter, my first planetary love!  It looked both larger and smaller than I expected.

--I was successful throwing not one but two pots.  I've worked on the wheel before, but never had a pot to show for it.  I still can't balance the lump of clay, but one of my potter friends did it for me.  I had a great time with the clay, pulling up, holding it in my hands, stretching out just enough but not too much--marvelously calming and centering.

--As always, I'm coming away with lots of ideas and with the renewed sense of purpose to finish writing projects and actually send them out into the world.

As with my periodic visits to Mepkin Abbey, my time at Lutheridge is marvelously restorative.  I must remember this, when I feel the urge to be lazy and stay at home.

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