Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

MAY 02, 2017

Wonderwell: www.wonderwellrefuge.org

The name of this beautiful place comes, we are told, from an ancient well that never runs dry. That seems an appropriate metaphor for the marvel of the retreat center. As I drove in yesterday, not having been here since early October, I immediately felt comforted and comfortable. As others arrived, I could see the same magic happening. For those women who are here for the first time, it takes a bit longer, but it happens.

This time, we are 14. Until last week, it was a tentative 17. One woman's brother became ill, and another could not move some medical appointments. Jane had to cancel over the weekend as she is just not feeling well enough to make the trip. One woman is arriving later this morning; she had bad news from scans last week, and had to stay in Boston yesterday to meet with a new doctor and hear about the treatment plan. We will hold her especially when she arrives.

So, what is it that happens here? I have been present enough to have seen seasons and change. I recall being here once in a blizzard. We were delighted that we didn't need to leave the house at all that day, and stayed by the large fireplaces. I have been here when the sun blazed, and we sat on the wide back porch, looking at the mountains, with cold drinks and books. I have been here, like today, several times in the mist and the rain, when everything feels a bit cloistered--in a positive way. We are always welcomed by the staff; I count on a very big hug from Donna when I arrive. They are omnipresent and absent/respectful simultaneously, giving us space yet being right there for any little need.

We have talked and laughed and eaten well. When I came down this morning, only Maryann was already at the long table with coffee. Over the next half hour, others joined us, in various outfits of pajamas or sweats or casual clothes--but never shoes, always socks or slippers. We breakfasted (feasted) on asparagus-goat cheese quiches and warm apple crisp and eggs and yogurts and fruit. Now I am sitting in a quiet room overlooking the misty mountains, sipping tea, and listening to the laughter from the next room. Sage, will will bring us gentle yoga and meditation soon, is setting up in the gorgeous community room.

This space, this almost sacred space, is filled with spirits, haunted with music of ghosts (with thanks to a book recommended by Patricia for that phrase). The first time we were here, at the final lunch, we were joined by Lama Samten who was then the head teacher. She thanked us for coming and said that each visitor leaves a piece of her soul here, so the house is enriched by each presence. I feel it. I am, we are, surrounded by Melissa and Holly and Susie and Carol and Amy and Judith and Michelle and Peg and Wendy and Tracey and Suzanne and Roz and so many others. We are grateful, and we are blessed.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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