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On Retreat

Posted 5/18/2016

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  How I cherish these days. Once again, I am at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge : http://www.wonderwellrefuge.org/ with a group of very special women who are all living with advanced cancer. About half have been here with me before, while the others are here for the first time.

  If you clicked on the link to look at Wonderwell, you know what a beautiful spot in the White Mountains this is. What the picture can't show is the incredible warmth and generosity and love that radiate from everyone on staff here and even from the walls of this beautiful house. I walk in, and I feel the peaceful spirit wash over me.

  We began with lunch yesterday, women arriving alone or in pairs after the two hour drive from Boston. Two came together from the Cape so their journey was longer. That first lunch is always a bit awkward as we settle in and begin to know one another--rather like a party where you know some, but not all, of the guests. I know have enough experience to tell the group that this is the awkward part, that it will only get better and better and better. After lunch, we move to the very beautiful meditation room. I think there is a picture on the website; it is enormous with windows overlooking the mountains and fireplaces (going yesterday) at both ends. We sit in a circle, on cushions on the floor or on chairs, and begin to open our hearts.

  At some point during that conversation, I literally feel the change in the air. We are friends. We are family. We are fellow pilgrims.

  There is then some free time for a walk (go to the left for a longer loop but then be prepared for the seemingly aggressive dogs or to the right for a shorter dog-free stroll). There are also paths through the woods, and we were advised to apply buy spray to warn off the spring black flies and to pull up our socks to discourage ticks.

  Cocktail hour with wine and non-alcoholic beverages and delicious snacks, including everyone's favorite pigs in a blanket, comes before an equally fine vegetarian dinner. Personally, I would be happy to make dinner out of wine and hors d'oeuvres, but I appreciate the wisdom of at least adding some salad. The staff here has told me how much they enjoy listening to the laughter that comes from the dining room. Many of the retreats that are hosted here are silent ones, so this is a welcome change for those who work here.

  After dinner, Ann, a master scrapbooker, taught a Scrapbooking 101 course, including wonderful supplies she had brought, to most of us. The others retired to the mediation room to sit in front of a fireplace and drink tea and talk. And talk and talk and talk.

  A restful night was had by all, sleeping in this peaceful place under the stars.

  Until the fire alarm went off about 7 AM. I was in the shower, so reaching first for a towel and then some clothes and then heading out was a real wake up call. Fortunately, the alarm was nothing dire, turned out to be some spilling over drips in the oven (from what became a fabulous blueberry bread pudding for breakfast) .It was an adventure to gather outside in various states of sleep-wear, wrapped in blankets and await the arrival of the Volunteer Fire Department who allowed us to return inside. It was a beautiful morning, and this will become part of our retreat oral history.

  And now to meditate with the Head Teacher, Liz, and share this day at Wonderwell.

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