I’ve been lucky to attend lots of retreats.

There was a silent, five-day Vipassana meditation retreat back home in Ontario a couple of decades ago, and the memorable Sage Hill Writing Experience in 2014, where I spent two weeks working with an amazing group of women and poet Jan Zwicky.

At that one, apart from the ticks which kept me off the grass and out of the woods (but also gave me a couple of poems, including Ticks in Following Sea), I immersed into my WIP for two weeks, and that time made all the difference in developing a manuscript that had been on-and-off in my writing life for nearly a decade by then.

Then there all the retreats I’ve created for myself: the bed-and-breakfast near Bracebridge, Ontario, where I spent a few days eating-writing-sleeping-walking-writing in order to finish a draft of Swarm; the log cabin in Tellico Plains, Tennessee where J. fly-fished all day while I worked on a novel until we celebrated New Year’s Eve with hickory smoked ribs and a Storage Wars marathon; the borrowed cabin where I wrote; the house-sits where I’ve written.

Suffice to say, I love retreats. I love their power; I love how much you can gain over just a couple days of immersion in your own personal work – whether that’s writing, meditating, thinking, being (because, let’s admit it: rest is under-rated).

Without every day distractions to consider – doing housework, dealing with kids (or, in my case, the dog and cat), figuring out what’s for supper – it’s possible to settle into your own self, to stop and listen to who you really are, and this quiet can do wonders for creative work and for the simple ‘work’ of being human and understanding what we really want from this one life we’re living.

And then there’s the community.

At Sage Hill, we had a mascot owl who hooted outside our windows every evening and could be seen at dawn, sitting on a nearby shed, watching the world. She seemed like a bit of magic, like a messenger. Afterwards, one of the women did a print of an owl and sent it to everyone, and Laurie D. Graham summed up our connection quite excellently on her blog, “Together, we came to numerous important conclusions.”

At Wild Writers in the Boreal, every November, which I co-lead with writer Donna Besel at Falcon Trails Resort, we have a legendary Saturday night singalong after our open stage which seems to traditionally relocate to someone’s hot-tub until the wee hours.

At Nourishing Roots Retreats first event (a single day spent at a nearby monastery doing yoga and writing and eating a yummy lunch we didn’t have to make ourselves), one of the participants summed up our quick connection: “Thanks to Lauren and Kerry for a safe space with a new group of writers. And, yes, we are all writers!”

At our upcoming weekend retreat at the Sandy-Salteaux Spiritual Centre, we’ll be spending our evenings around the fire before relaxing with bedtime yoga to help with another all-important aspect of retreating: rest!

Connections are made and friendships are born on these retreats. Wisdom is shared. I’ve seen it in person, on my Facebook feed, and in the familiar faces that return each year.

I’ve seen epiphanies happen and creativity get deeply nourished, and more than this: I’ve experienced it myself. As I said: lucky, so lucky!

Have you been on retreat? Spill!

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