I still have much to tell you about our holiday in Ottawa, but first I need to write about another adventure while the experience is still fresh in my mind. This last weekend I didn’t write here because I was off on my own adventure. And Cameron had his own adventure. That’s right, in separate places. Cameron stayed at home with Carly, then Chris, who both took excellent and loving care of my little love while I was away. I’m told he cried for all of a minute and a half, and I returned to excited hand-gesture filled stories.
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the very first Mama Renew Retreat. Sixteen women, all of us mothers, all of us wishing to explore aspects of our lives; not just as mothers, but as people with our own lives, thoughts, feelings, desires, goals, pasts, interests, challenges.
Here, I would like to say that I need to be very careful. Each woman’s experience was her own story to tell, not mine. I’ll not disclose names, despite it feeling wrong to not honour each new friend, and I will refrain from any specific comments about what others shared or said. It was a safe place, where you could say what you wished, and not have it blabbed about to friends, family, or random strangers on the internet.
Many of us began our retreat at Porpoise Bay, kayaking. For some of us it was a return to something we once did – for me, it felt somewhat like having coffee with an old friend. For some, it was a new experience. We headed up the inlet, assisted by the stiff wind and the tide’s current. With a little shift forward and a lean, brief moments of surfing were possible. At other times, even just the blade of a paddle could catch the wind for a bit. Once around a point and into a bay, we could raft up and relax a bit, watching sunstars on the rocks below us, and large white jellyfish pulse and float past. The trip back was more challenging, and here was where things got interesting. Some found it difficult, some found it fun, and one amazing woman just powered through the waves and wind leaving us all in her wake.
The retreat itself was held at Rolling Earth, at Robert’s Creek. It was such a still, tranquil, and isolated spot, perfect for us. The large, sunny patch of lawn was surrounded in towering trees, and a creek bubbled and rushed past. There’s a garden that provides the vegetables for meals, and chickens happily clucking away while they provided the eggs. Oh, and the food! That deserves a post of its own, to be honest. Our hostess chopped and sautéed and simmered the most incredible meals ever served at a retreat I am sure. Nearly all of the food was locally sourced, and she made catering to the various nutritional needs of our group look easy.
Everyone there brought something unique – their own perspective and experiences – but common themes were evident. Deep down we all struggle with very similar issues and thoughts. There were plenty of tears, but an equal or greater dose of laughter and humour.
The kayaking experience surfaced frequently in discussions as women drew parallels between the struggles they overcame there and the less concrete struggles in their lives.
It amazed me how often someone would say something significant for them, that helps them to cope or that they just realized for themselves, and someone else would be helped. A shift in perspective, a mantra, an explanation – everyone was sharing and helping, everyone was learning from the experiences of others. I am thankful for the words of everyone there, as at some point each and every woman there said something I found significant and helpful.
Imagery to me stood out in the weekend as well. The mind has an amazing ability to present ideas we may not be quite yet ready to accept or understand, despite ourselves. My breath was taken away by some of the powerful images some of the women presented in their discussions, and then again as they worked it through. I had my own to deal with. And I think I figured out the meaning of a particular sunwarmed, ocean smoothed stone gift that my mind gave to me. It took a while, and talking it out didn’t do it. I had to sit alone for a bit on a rock, with the creek rushing around me to drown out the distractions within and without, to think. Dammit, sometimes I wish my brain would just tell me what it’s thinking.
What else did we do, besides talk, laugh, cry, eat, and spend some time alone?
We sat and thought, cozy and snuggled under blankets, in a place candle-lit to a magical feeling. We danced. We soaked in a hot tub, its mist curling under a heart-stoppingly beautiful starry sky. We slept, uninterrupted by children’s cries or demands. I don’t even think that anyone snored. We woke to do yoga. Did I mention that we ate fabulous food? Food with flowers in it? I swear I’ll never serve cheese again without flowers.
I left there with many new friends, who I hope I don’t lose touch with now that I’ve found them. I left with a bit more peace than I arrived with. I left tired and a little heart-drained, but with more energy than I had before. Long before I was home, I wanted Cameron’s arms around my neck, I wanted to see his whole face smile, I wanted to tell him I love him.