Maine Retreat

Wrapped in the warmth of a wonderfully soft, fleece blanket, steaming mug of green tea in hand, I settled on the deck and watched. Watched Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches at the feeder just feet from me. Watched two loons swimming a ways across the lake. Watched the morning light transform the distant mountains from misty outlines to purple splendor to the full glory of fall colors.

So began my days last week while on retreat in a cabin on Wilson Lake in central Maine. This wasn’t my typical solitary retreat, as I went with a close friend, but it also included time for private reflection, personal evaluation, and contemplation. How could one not become quiet and thoughtful before such a magnificent display of God’s creation?
My friend Sarah and I took a week away as a writers’ retreat, and write we did (and cook, and eat, and hike, and sit on the dock star-gazing, and canoe on the lake, etc). Every day we did one or more ten minute writing exercises, which we then shared and discussed. Those conversations led to discussions of our writing styles, subjects, and goals, and to mutual encouragement as we enjoyed each others’ strengths in writing. Sarah made some long term plans and got a good start on her next writing project. I worked on various writings, including some memoir-type selections and a short article about how crating can be a stress-reducing haven for a dog, with my old dog Bilbo as an example. That article is posted on the My Smart Puppy blog.
As I always do on retreat, I spent much of my time in silence, sometimes reading, sometimes journaling– either in my private journal or my artist’s sketchbook/journal, and sometimes just quietly observing nature and musing. As I started this retreat, a friend, Cindy Steffen of the Prairie Pond Woods blog that I follow, emailed me some questions that she had recently used when she led a retreat, and I pondered and wrote on these questions throughout the week (the questions, with some modifications, come from the book The Questions of Jesus, by John Dear):
  • What are you thinking in your heart? (a clearing of the mind exercise)
  • What are you looking for? (passions? desires?)
  • What do you want me (Jesus) to do for you?
  • Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? (dealing with integrity)
  • Will you lay down your life for me (Jesus)? (what does that mean, etc?)
  • What is your name? (playing with God’s proclivity to rename and Jesus’ to nickname)
As all retreats come to an close, this one did too, but, as usual, I have come home with an inner peace and quiet that has me listening more than speaking and that holds me calm and steady in the midst of the storm raging outside.

Lake Wilson Sunset (plein air watercolor)
Artist’s journal pages (click to see larger image) 

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