I have cycles, and sometimes those cycles require crawling into my den and hibernating. Sometimes I feel like a bear sleeping away the winter, and sometimes I feel like I'm hidden in my cocoon turning into a butterfly. Hibernating lets me rest and heal from my last burst of interaction with the world.
I’ve been on some employer-enforced retreats too, but it’s hardly an actual “retreat” when you take all of your coworkers and bosses with you. We shivered in cold cabins and bonded over flip charts while trying to make left-brained people understand the point of brainstorming without footnotes. Really, couldn’t we all bond much more effectively over dinner and drinks in a warm restaurant? I’m not quite sure why upper management guys seem to think climbing on ropes suspended on telephone poles is a good idea.
For all that, I’ve enjoyed work retreats. I’m a good camper and enjoy helping the camping-impaired survive campfire songs and toasted marshmallows. I like this kind of thing so much that I managed a retreat center for a year when I told my then-husband to getmethehelloutofIndianaand BACK TO OHIO any way possible. I made bouquets of flowers for the cabins, brushed away the spiders and chipmunk nests, and had some wine by the campfire – then retreated to my house with central heating. Good times. It was kind of like Girl Scout camp for adults, and I got to live in 130 acres of pristine woods overlooking the Grand River, one of two rivers designated “wild” and “scenic” in Ohio. (The other river with that designation is the Chagrin, where I spent my childhood.)
This retreat center is a rich man’s folly/tax write off. He is blind, so if you look closely in the photos, there are posts strung with rope along all the paths. This was a help to him, but also for the groups of blind kids who came out to catch their first fish. Blind kids fishing isn’t exactly a safe activity, but we all survived the flying fish hooks. My lifeguard skills came in handy for the double pools too, because a lot of those kids didn’t know much about swimming. I wanted to wrap some of those kids in bubble wrap during their visits. When guest-free, I liked to float around on my back in those pools at night and listen to the owls hooting in the surrounding woods. Blissed out.
The bell tower bonged every 15 minutes and chimed out every hour. I hated 12 o’clock. Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bonggggggggg… (Ironically, I currently live by Catholic seminary's bell tower.) The owner said he had his first wife’s skeleton in the basement of the tower, but I checked and it's a plastic skeleton. What's real is the 1500’s executioner’s sword mounted on the wall. You can tell it’s an executioner’s sword because it doesn’t have a point. There’s no reason for a point when you’re cutting off heads. The rest of the bell tower is a vertical art museum. I found that a bit ironic for a blind guy, but he also has a 4 foot tall jade mermaid in there which he can appreciate by touching. It’s a gorgeous sculpture, but very few people get to appreciate it since the tower is locked almost all of the time.
Managing a retreat center was actually quite a bit of work, so when I had the opportunity to move across the street to 100 acres of pristine woods without responsibilities, I jumped at the chance. That place became my actual retreat, and I came out of an artistic hibernation with a prodigious burst of paintings and a new style.
For those of you who read my last post, a big maple tree came down in my yard this week. I got out loppers, clippers, and a bow saw and dismantled the crown on my own. When my next door neighbor John Jr. came out, I offered him firewood for labor, and he came over with a chainsaw. When the tree bested his chainsaw, he recruited another neighbor with a bigger chainsaw. I heaved logs over the fence in a very messy pile while John Sr. filled me in on neighborhood gossip and the evils of government. There’s still quite a bit of tree on the ground, 15 foot long x 5 foot high, but it’s raining and I’m spending time inside with my Epsom salts. Maybe I can get some wet wood to burn in the fireplace?