Letter from the Director, January 2021

Tending the New Year

I started the new year with high hopes and high energy. The “Tending the New Year” Goals Retreat was a rousing success with thoughtful, deep-feeling retreaters and a message of acknowledgment for the past balanced with the urge to say “yes” to our future. I had a birthday, well-celebrated, and I felt happy – actually happy – for the first time in a while. And then the world stepped in to remind me that the atmosphere we live in is still precarious.

This past weekend, a friend died. I felt the land calling and I ran to it. In sorrow, I stepped into the colors of winter – dry brown leaves, sage green moss, tan, cream, ecru, sepia, ochre, and then white at the base of tall weedy stems. It was not snow, not mushrooms, but frost flowers – Frost Flowers! – created when water freezes inside the stems of certain plants and oozes out between the cracks. It is ice. It is frost so delicate it can’t be touched without breaking. I harvested them with my eyes. They were everywhere, blooming a scattered bouquet of beauty, and dare I say it, hope. Dare I wish it – peace.

I’m building a new trail within the forested acreage of the colony. As I determine the best path, marking my thoughts with orange ribbon, I offer prayers to the stones, the trees, the sky visible between sturdy branches. I call these journeys prayer hikes. I am alone, learning the rhythms of the earth. I’ve come face to face with a coyote, interrupted 2 big rabbits nibbling under a fallen log, watched a squirrel hunch in the nook of an oak, accidentally uncovered a hibernating skink, examined (but didn’t touch!) the thick white skin of mushrooms, deciphered the foreign languages of dozens of birds, identified the warning snort of deer, followed a swath of fern moss, and sang with the chorus of a slow creek. This is when I feel at peace. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to leave.

If this year started for you as it did for me – with excitement and energy – and then swung a giant pendulum back towards despair, might I offer you peace? We have a Peace Retreat coming up the first weekend in February. It’s a planned time of quiet and renewal, solitude and serenity. You don’t have to “do” anything. You just have to “be.” (Read more about it below.) If your heart is yearning for comfort, you can cuddle up in our warm farmhouse. If the land is calling and you don’t mind a little cold, maybe you’ll find frost flowers in the woods. Maybe you’ll listen to the earth’s deep silence and hear everything you need to know. At any rate, you’re invited to share the peace of RWC as a retreater or a resident. All are welcome.