I find myself slowing down, as I finalize preparations for my retreat at the end of the week.
I think I’ve entered retreat time already.
Yesterday afternoon I headed out to the island where I used to live. After crossing the water on the small ferry, I dropped Craig and his music gear off at the cafe. Then I drove the loop around the north end of the island, pausing every so often to drink in the beauty of the place. At first I felt right at home, smiling at beloved spots and a decade’s worth of memories. But then my heart began to clench a bit, and my eyes teared up with a desperate longing for the place. So bittersweet.
On the west shore, I stopped to photograph the choppy waves and stormy clouds over Matia, Sucia, and Patos Islands, and the Canadian Gulf Islands beyond. (Remember paddling from the north shore of Orcas to Sucia, over two miles of open sea? Oh my yes I do!) I breathed in the quiet salt air. I thought about countless walks and quiet times sitting at my secret spot, listening for eagle cries, watching for herons, sinking into the soul of the place. I felt wistful, but deeply connected at the same time.
I arrived at my friend Michele’s massage studio as darkness was falling. It’s a magical cabin of rustic comfort and twinkling lights, tucked away under tall, fragrant cedars. After we chattered for a bit and got caught up, she treated me to a luscious, nurturing massage. Sheer heaven.
Later, I walked into the cafe relaxed and refreshed, smelling of sweet spicy oil. I grinned to see the tables pushed back and a number of folks boogieing to “Baby let me take ya on a Sea! Cruise!” with my guy rocking it out on guitar. An old friend grabbed me and I settled in on the bench next to her. We exchanged news by shouting into each other’s ears over the music (she raved about the new menu, especially the garlic-roasted brussels sprouts!). I slipped right back into island life as if I’d never been gone. It felt good.
I did notice that the cafe’s new owners had brought in beautiful new tables and chairs, probably a wise move. But I noticed the absence of one particular old table that was my favorite, scratches and all — the one where my dad would always sit when he ordered his fish’n chips for lunch. Gone now, replaced by something shiny and new.
The moon peeked out through the storm clouds to light up the water on the ferry ride home, and I recalled these lines from a poem by John O’Donahue:
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
Yes, my to-do list is very long, with many tasks to accomplish before I head down to another island on Wednesday afternoon, to another magical place (Aldermarsh) that has worked its way into my heart.
That . . . hush . . . is inhabiting my body.
That sense that there is no need to rush.
That retreat time.