Monday, April 4, 2016

Retreat Recap

I had planned to write yesterday morning--the Internet connectivity at Lutheridge was fairly good in the early morning.  But as Saturday moved to Sunday, intense winds moved in, power lines came down, and we finished our Create in Me retreat in half light--and no Internet connection.

And then off I went, down the mountain, across 4 states, back to a very different coast than the one where I spent the first part of the week.

Today will not be an exhaustive recap.  That would be a very long post--but let me write a summing up of sorts.

Some background:  back in October, I saw that Kathleen Norris would be Mepkin Abbey during the first part of the week where Create in Me would end the week.  I could go to both!  And it would be during a down time of my online teaching, between quarters at one place I work.  In short, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

I talked to a variety of friends along the way, some of whom I hadn't seen face to face in 2 years.  I made arrangements for visits.  Some of them changed their schedules so that they could see me.

Fast forward to the Friday before the Saturday that I was to leave. I had already packed, because it was Good Friday, and I'd be away that night at Good Friday service with duties before and afterward.  I checked my e-mail mid-afternoon to discover that because Kathleen Norris was too sick to travel, the retreat was cancelled.  We were welcome to come and do a private retreat.

I deliberated.  I had been feeling a bit of anxiety about being away that long.  I thought about cancelling the first part of the week.  But I was packed, and I thought of all the friends who would be disappointed.

In the end, I threw a few more books in the car and went ahead with the plan.  And it worked well.  Those of us who came to the retreat made our own sort of retreat.  I'm sure it was different than what Kathleen Norris would have offered, but it was great.  We met to write in a big group in the morning, and we gathered in the evening to read our work.  I haven't been part of a larger workshop environment in a very long time. 

We took walks together and worshiped together and speaking for myself, it was a wonderful time, and I'm very glad I went.  I was impressed with how we came together to design a retreat on such short notice.  We were able to quickly make decisions and thus to design a retreat that was not what we expected, but met some needs.

And then, on Thursday, I left to head to the mountains for my second retreat, the Create in Me retreat that I have gone to every year, except for last year when my family took its great Hawaii vacation.

It took some time to transition from a contemplative retreat at a monastery to the more raucous gathering that is Create in Me.  And oddly, my single room at Lutheridge was much more monastic than the gorgeous retreat center at Mepkin Abbey, which is luxurious and spa-like. 

But eventually, I was able to make the adjustment.   I've been to enough retreats that these periods of strange homesickness and longing for people who aren't there still surprise me.  Now I know to just sit with the sadness until it passes.

I was able to get a seat in a workshop on spiritual journaling on Friday morning--it was full, but I asked to be included, and it worked out.  I was able to use expensive markers, which showed me that they'd be nice, but that the markers that I have are probably just fine.  On Saturday morning, I went to a session on creative dreaming, which was a directed collaging--I hadn't had luck on Friday, but I made a great creation on Saturday.  Did I have better magazines?  Was it being in a group?

Here's the one I did on Saturday:

And the one I think of as the rough draft:

The themes are there in both pieces, aren't they?  And it doesn't take a highly trained psychologist to see what's there.

Along the way of my week, I celebrated the Eucharist four times and had many other worship experiences.  I had lots of opportunities to connect and reconnect with people, and I'm happy to say that I made the most of them.  I had time to be with myself, which was good too.  I finished Middlemarch, which moved me in different ways than when I first read it in grad school.  I read Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words, an interesting meditation on language and reading and writing.  And the varying foliage was wonderful.  In some spots, I was just in time for the azaleas and dogwoods, which I miss.  Yes, I live in a place with hibiscus, bougainvillea, and orchids, but I miss the flowering plants that aren't here too.

This post is getting long, so let me close.  I'm sure I'll dive in more deeply to some of these topics in the coming weeks.

And now, the laundry.  I have the mud of a several centuries old cemtary all over one outfit. And lots of paint and other craft supplies on one sweater. And crumbs from countless wonderful meals. I hope I don't wash away all the inspiration I've had this past week.

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