Retreat

“You have no events scheduled today.”

When I see that in my Inbox, I feel as though I have been handed a gift. And I have—a gift of time, time to disengage, unwind, rest, play, or read. To walk with Ramble, to sit with Acadia purring on my lap and a cup of tea in my hand, to sketch and write. When that gift is combined with solitude and silence, I begin to find and draw forth the quieter parts of myself, the parts that slip into the background when I live with noise and the busyness of daily life and my inner compulsion to keep constantly connected with the world via the email, texts, and phone calls (thankfully I am only occasionally on social media these days, so that is less of a factor than it used to be).

I’ve set aside a few days as a retreat. While I won’t have complete solitude, much of my time will be alone, and I will see that welcome message in my Inbox each morning, if I look at my email at all. The first day of a retreat is more of a puttering day for me, as I gradually disengage from my usual responsibilities. Even though my calendar may tell me I am unscheduled, my mind takes a bit longer to let go. That’s why I try to set aside three or more days of retreat once or twice a year. So today I puttered around the house and in my garden, my mind gradually slowing down and moving into a more relaxed state.

Tomorrow I expect to be more and less focused. Less focused on “shoulds” and more focused on trees and birds and spring flowers and what they reveal about myself or about God. By day three I am usually more “in the moment” and in a more relaxed attitude of prayer and contemplation than I typically am, better able to let go of the “This is a retreat; I want to make the most of it,” frame of mind and instead just walk through the day appreciating the life I have, in a more natural connection with the quieter parts of who I am and in communion with God.

I generally find that for the first few days of an extended retreat I am withdrawing from people, cherishing the respite I feel from being over-connected and over-committed. After that I begin to look outward again, as my inner being has become rested and refreshed, and I find myself looking forward to connecting. But I’m not there yet, so now, I will step away from my computer and into the peace of my retreat.

I wrote this piece two days ago on the first day of my retreat. Below are my sketches from Days 1 & 2. And now I will once again step away from my computer and return to the refreshing rest of retreat.

Musings after spending several hours sketching an oak tree

 

A to Z April Blogging R

Sketching as Prayer Spring Retreat– May 21-24, 2019

I’m excited that I’ll be leading my “Sketching as Prayer” retreat at Holy Cross Monastery again this spring. I first held this retreat last October, and had a wonderful time with the participants who had a variety of artistic experience from beginner to very accomplished artist and who brought a broad spectrum of spiritual perspectives. I think we were all enriched by hearing one another’s thoughts and by sharing ideas and enthusiasm. I am hoping we can have a similar variety of perspectives, beliefs, and experience this spring.

Lodging is in comfortable rooms that were formerly monks’ cells, and all meals are included (the monastery has a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who prepares delicious meals). Holy Cross Monastery overlooks the Hudson River and has beautiful grounds with paths to wander through the field and woods bordering the river, as well as many comfortable places inside and out to sit and relax. See the link below or email me (melissafischerartist@gmail.com) for more information.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Seeing heaven here on earth and recognizing God’s presence, whether in the wildness of a burning bush or in the subtle budding of a shrub in spring, requires slowing down, stepping aside from our busyness, and becoming receptive for what we haven’t yet perceived. Sketching can be a pathway to seeing, to noticing the ways God is speaking through creation, and to becoming aware of his presence in the world around us. And in the process we are drawn into prayer, either with words or in silent communion with God, and into worship of the Master Artist.

In this retreat we will open our sketchbooks, eyes, and hearts to God’s presence in his creation. We will cover the basics of sketching and some basic watercolor techniques to capture the essence of a subject, whether person, animal, or landscape. In the process we will look with eyes of faith into the world to see God’s touch all around us, as we enter into prayer through the pages of our sketchbooks.

Sketching as Prayer Information and Registration