I recently spent a few days lakeside with a dear friend. We curated our own writers’ retreat, complete with meditation, yoga, and homemade vegan meals. Our conversations were about anything and everything. Stream–of–consciousness dialogues. About our dreams, our losses, our resentments, our insecurities, our relationships. We split our lives open and shared them gingerly and honestly. Down in that crevice is where my writing gets its foothold.
I settled into a cozy A-frame bunkie on the evening of my arrival. I slept lightly and at attention. Each chipmunk footfall, each pine cone and every drop of moisture from the surrounding trees hitting the steep roof resonated throughout the tiny triangle. I lay under the heavy, dark red wool blanket, pillows lining either side of my body so that I wouldn’t fly away. For in this heavenly state, anything was possible.
I was pleasantly puzzled by my peacefulness in the main cabin chaos. I sensed an appreciation, almost envy of those for whom it does not matter. It doesn’t matter that the rug is littered with leaves and pine needles. That the counter is hiding beneath coffee grounds and the clutter of deflated sunscreen tubes, half-empty water bottles, a basket of fuzzy peaches, and abandoned mugs and plates. That much repair to this old and much-loved cottage is needed and dull grey duct tape will suffice. The purity of their purpose for being there was obvious.
Taking in the view of the forest and lake from the cottage windows, my gaze was met with beautifully crafted docks and decks, new and pristine bright red Muskoka chairs and footrests, and a vegetable garden enclosure that resembled a hobby catalogue photoshoot in its perfection. At each turn of my head was a precious space to sit, rest, read, write, ponder and connect. And with a short walk through the woods, yet another writers haven. Perched on a point with screened views on all sides, and space for a desk and chair to be out of the weather and in nature—all at the same time.
The juxtaposition of the inside clutter with the outside purity brought me to a place of understanding and clarity. My immediate surroundings matter little to me as long as I feel tethered to nature. As long as I can see it, smell it, hear it. My thoughts meandered through to a deeper awareness of my newfound reverence for imperfection. In the momentary rush of judgment as I entered the main cottage that faded into the tranquility of acceptance and love. Of the interrupted sleep that only lacked the narrator for a nature show. Of my profound engagement and joy in finding space on the counter and a knife with a blade to create a meal for us.
I wanted this acceptance to last. This appreciation of What Really Matters to be indelibly etched into my being. Perhaps made into a tincture to apply daily. Three drops for my inner critic. She’s the one that measures me against others and wears me down with her chants of unworthiness, of not enough. Two drops for my critical eyes and words about others. Its character assassination by tongue and thumb. Cruel and self-serving. One drop, applied frequently for my maniacal wiping, tidying, shining, sweeping, folding, and fluffing. And then a dab behind my ears as I look in the mirror and face each day. Taking into account the new lines between my brows and around my lips. The crepy skin hanging from my upper arms so that I change from sleeveless to a T-shirt. Could it be that my ear lobes are getting longer?
Our co-created writers’ retreat taught me more about life than writing. It shed light and awareness of the futility of striving for perfection. It ushered me gently and lovingly to a place of serenity that was unfettered by the messiness of daily living. It gave me the gifts of connection, creativity, and compassion.
At least, that has been my experience.