EVERYONE NEEDS A PERSONAL RETREAT. My experiences in living, and my work as a family therapist, tell me how important it is to maintain a healthy life. A retreat is just as important to us in our life after 50, as it was in our overloaded earlier years when we were competing our education, were young mothers or establishing a career.
THE WORD RETREAT has many meanings in everyday language. Websters Dictionary defines “retreat” as a verb: to leave, quit, withdraw – words with negative connotations. Other definitions of retreat as a noun include: asylum, den, haunt, haven, hideway, privacy, refuge, sanctuary, shelter – words of more appeal and comfort. Developmental psychologists teach that our more senior years are a time of reflection and consolidation, a time of taking stock and giving back. I view this time of life as a time to set new goals and to take pleasure in the blessings of my life as it unfolds. Having a special retreat can facilitate the process of rest, reflection and well-being.
MY OWN DREAM FOR A RETREAT has always been a cabin in the mountains. I was born in West Virginia, and my husband in Kentucky, two states with beautiful mountains, so we both feel nostalgic about being in the mountains. One Fall day, 10 years ago, we found our mountain cottage on a drive into the North Carolina mountains. Our cabin is on the side of the mountain about 3400 feet elevation. The expansive view of the Black mountain range and the valley far below is visible from the screen porch, kitchen, dining room and living room. We spent limited time here until we retired from academic life to pursue new interests. We are now able to stay on extended visits.
IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER, the woods come to life with rhododendron, dogwood and other mountain flowers, and new green on thousands of trees.
In Fall, the mountains are transformed as the trees slow production of their chlorophyll and the leaves wave their many colors. We see mountain creatures and birds wander around in their natural habitat. In October, sounds of chain saws are heard in the distance as wood is cut and stockpiled for burning in the fireplace in Winter- for folks who live there all year.
In November, the scent of pine is in the air as Frazier fir, cedar and pine trees are harvested for Christmas trees and bundled in trucks for transport to the cities.The early fog shrouds the mountains as we sip coffee in the morning.
In this little house, we feel close to nature and to each other. And, I might add, more open and self-aware. Here, in our retreat, we stop, rest, create, laugh, reflect, plan – and spend time together.
PERHAPS EACH PERSON NEEDS A PERSONAL RETREAT, a place to go that is meaningful – a space of our own.
MY PROFESSOR BROTHER’S retreat is his sail boat, where he enjoys alone time to read, write and sail. He says he feels free and in touch with his surroundings and his creative self on the water.
MY BROTHER-IN-LAW’s retreat is a motor home. He and his wife take to the roasd finding a new location near a lake or the ocean to park for a spell to relax and make new friends.
MY SISTER HAS CREATED a comfortable retreat in the corner of her bedroom to read and make her to-do lists. Her chair has a soft afghan, and sets beside a small table with room for a couple of books and her journal and a floral china cup with a dainty handle for her coffee.
A COUPLE I KNOW HAVEFOUND WAYS to carve out a personal retreats for each of them – he heads to his woodworking shop and she to her sewing niche for some time alone to work and think.
A MOTHER OF THREE tells me she has an old rocking chair on the back porch she goes to when she needs to get away for a few minutes. She says even five minutes rocking with her head back and her eyes closed is a mini vacation for her.
A SENIOR CITIZEN who is a recent widow, takes a daily walk in the park. She greets other walkers, enjoys the fresh air and the changing seasons.
A BUSY ARCHITECT says he takes a drive alone in the car in the rural countryside for about 30 minutes to clear his head, after a busy day.
MY DEAR CHINESE FRIEND has created a meditation room in her house – the room is empty except for a yoga mat, candles, flowers, Buddha statue and music.
A RETIRED NEIGHBOR says that her time alone in her garden pulling weeds and touching plants helps her “sort things out.”
I ASKED SEVERAL FOLKS, In an unscientific survey, about their choices of a place to get away and what it did for them. The common thread in their experiences was that each individual had found a way to “lose themselves” for a time – an intermission, so to speak, before re-joining their lives, refreshed. Their retreats enabled them to recharge, find the resolve to manage a difficult situation, problem-solve, forgive, brainstorm, meditate, create, rest, develop and action plan, set goals, get in touch with their optimism, appreciate their life’s blessings – and find their joy for life deep inside.
WHAT IS YOUR RETREAT? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
Sue Marquis Bishop 2013