Winter Retreat by the Ocean

View from my room

This month I was able to spend the weekend at a private winter retreat at Mercy by the Sea  in Madison, Connecticut. I did this last winter and blogged about my wonderful experience here. Along with my suitcase of clothes, I brought journals, writing workbooks, my prayer shawl knitting project, and books to read, but I tried to clear myself of any expectations so that I would be open to what might present itself. Imagine my awe when I found my room and this beautiful view of the grounds and ocean just outside my window. It was breathtaking!

After briefly walking the grounds in the long, cold shadows of late afternoon light and trying to settle into my peaceful surroundings, I enjoyed a communal meal with new friends in the dining hall. Everyone was so gracious and looked forward to the renewal and hope that a winter retreat in a special place like this can bring.

Sunrise

Waking up early Saturday morning, I got a mug of hot coffee from the dining hall and quietly made my way to the Seaside Room in the silent meditation area. I watched the sky slowly change colors and then the sun crested the horizon. It was glorious! All of my problems seemed unimportant as I witnessed the beauty of God’s creation. The ocean gently rolling over the rocks and beach as the tide comes in and the shore birds flying above the water speak to the ever flowing nature of the serenity of this place. It is as if time stood still for just a moment, letting in hope, faith, and opportunity for renewal.

Ocean sparkles

After breakfast, I went outside and watched the tide come in as I let the feeling of the ocean envelope me. I have gone through a lot of changes since the retreat one year ago. At this point in time, I am trying to figure out my life… where I’ve been, where I’m at now, and where I am going. There has been a coming to terms with things and an acceptance that I have not felt before. There has been a lot of growth, as well as a lot of questioning and discernment. There has been a renewal of faith, of spirituality, and belief in God. There has been hope, even though at times I felt like giving up. There has been a whole lot of seeking and soul searching.

Beach high tide

Sometimes the ocean is loud and pounds the shore, as it did when I walked the beach that morning, and as I was falling asleep the night before. Other times the ocean is quiet and there are barely any waves. The ocean sounds so different at high tide than at low tide. There is a crescendo of sound that builds up as the water approaches high tide and the waves come crashing in. And there is a gentle rolling feeling as low tide comes near. The sounds the ocean makes are rhythmic and calming, leaving footprints in your heart and soul. Time seems suspended in air.

Beach seagrass

Like last year, I did a lot of writing this weekend. But I did not fill as many pages with writing this year, 22 pages instead of 30 pages. It was sunny out and not snowing this year, so I was able to spend more time outdoors. It was truly wonderful to spend so much time outside in February in New England. I felt immersed in the natural world and it was very restorative. At home I try to walk by the lake several times a week even in cold weather, as long as the sun is out, and that has such a calming effect on me.

Rocky shore

It was so moving to be a part of this community that came together here for a weekend of individual prayer, reflection, and contemplation. On Sunday morning, everyone said goodbye and went back home to their own lives, hopefully bringing with them a piece of what we all shared this weekend.

Cairns

Poetry, Writing, and Finding my Voice

This poetry in my art journal came about as a lightning bolt of inspiration over the weekend. I have been reading poetry (Mary Oliver, Hafez, Rumi), and writing in my journal, and knitting a lot. But I have done very little art journaling over the past 3 months. It is not that I was blocked. Rather, I was afraid of what might come out and didn’t want to face that. My work is intuitive, comes from inside of me, and at times it can plumb the depths of my soul.

change-poetry

I went to East Hampton Writers Guild Wednesday night after a 4 month absence. I was not sure that the group was going in a direction that I wanted to follow. And I am tired all the time, especially at the end of the work day, due to some new health problems that are going to take a long time to resolve. But I was glad I went and reconnected with the group which meets at the Bevin House. I went to see my writer friend Megan there on Saturday as I had some questions about my writing and wanted to talk. Megan is the innkeeper there and she has a wonderful blog here. We shared a lot (it was great!) and I came away from our visit feeling much better about myself and my writing. I wrote 2 poems Saturday night and I created the art journal page on Sunday.

Bevin-house-LR

My son and his wife gave me a year long subscription to Storyworth last year for Mother’s Day. There were weekly email prompts in a memoir vein that they preselected for me, and there is an app that lets you edit your stories and add photos. At the end of the year your writing and photos get bound into a physical book. It was an incredible amount of work and some of the prompts were difficult to answer, but it was very rewarding to see the finished book and hold it in my hands. Some of the writing is extremely personal so I can only share it with family.

storyworth-book

After creating the poetry art journal page, I was inspired to go back to Life Documented and pick up where I left off, at week 14. Life Documented is a year long art journal prompt blog site located here, with weekly prompts and monthly themes. The theme for July was butterflies and I did my own thing.

butterflies-LD14

I had an empty space in my stairwell and I remembered that I had two art quilts that were mirror images of each other, still in a box from the move 2 years ago. So I found those and I got them hung alongside the other quilt. It makes me smile to see them when I go up and down the stairs.

quilts-in-stairwell

Published in Bella Grace Magazine

Bella Grace magazine

This is magic, like a dream come true! The summer issue of Stampington & Company Bella Grace magazine will be hitting the bookstores and news stands on June 1st and “My Pajama Day”, an article about taking a day for yourself, is in this issue. I am thrilled beyond words. Getting published in a magazine has been a dream of mine for years and now it has finally become real. How did this happen? The 3 P’s… patience, persistence, and perseverance.

Bella Grace - My Pajama Day

In my article I shared the story about my day for myself with readers and I shared my feelings that came up through the course of the day. This was not easy for me to do because I am a very private person living in this world where often too much is shared without much thought or self awareness. I firmly believe that you need to have some boundaries or circles of trust and thoughtfully choose who you share with and what you share. And you need to silence the noise in order to see inside of yourself rather than the reflection of others mirrored onto you like a shiny glass window.

Some of what I shared in the article was quite ordinary and some of my thoughts ran deep. The most important thing is that I shared the essence of who I am and what matters to me. I think of myself as an ordinary person living an ordinary life but I find magic in so many simple things and that makes me not so ordinary. And I share that with others… the smallest thing can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Be the first one to reach out, to take the first step, to say those 3 words “I love you.”

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. A disappointment or failure paves the way for something better to come into your life. A broken heart can heal and open up again to someone who truly appreciates you for who you are.

Lake sunset