Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Retreat Journey

This picture was taken years ago, in the back of my former neighbour's property. During the years I lived there it was very much a retreat for me. It was where I went when I needed to
process an event in my life, whether it was happy or sad.
In summer, it was a shady haven, with a superb canopy of trees. In winter, the ferns and the grasses showed their beauty.

And the smell! As long as I live, I won't forget the smell of the dark, fecund earth and the mouldering leaves that surrounded this pond. To this gardener, that scent is full of the promise of wonderful fertility.

It was a great spot for a retreat. But time moves on, and I moved with it. Now, in my lessons, it was time to find an inner space...a place where I could find safety and peace in an ever-increasing chaotic world. I would journey from here and seek answers to my questions. I would talk with my guides here.

I meditate under Grandfather Tree. I remember Maggie's directions, breathing deeply. I ground and centre. And then I travel to where I find the doorway. There is a fire, sending fragrant sage smoke over the area.

I bathe myself in the sage smoke, take my blue stone, and look out the doorway, through the leaves, at the paths ahead. A caressing breeze directs my eye upward, and I see Mother Goose flying above me, circling, her long neck stretched forward. Aho, I say to her, which path would you suggest I take? With a long honk, and another circle, she veers off over the West path, towards the Ocean.

I hear an odd boom behind me, and even with my mind taken up with the Ocean path, I turn to look…

I am standing beneath a fallen maple tree. Its root system offers much protection from the elements, some of them howling about me with full force. And just ahead of me is a sandy cliff, at the bottom of which, Ocean is adding her crashing cymbals to the symphony of the storm. It is a most wonderful day! It lifts my heart to the heavens.

And I notice, just to the left of me, sheltered by Maple tree roots, is a hut made of earth and grass. The rounded roof is ablaze with fall’s last concert, with coneflower, rudbeckia, coreopsis and grasses completing a riotous painting. Every flower dances to her own song in the wind, whirling and waving about with mad exuberance.

Behind the hut, I can see an herb garden. Most of the herbs have been harvested now, but there is still much evidence of parsley and rosemary, two of my plant helpers. Pink Dawn roses cling to an arbour over a path leading to the little patch of herbs, their delicate blossoms somehow withstanding the force of the wind. I smell the earth; deep and woodsy and fecund. And the smell of stirred up ocean waters—fresh and clean and briny. The scents combine with that of the wet, mossy earth after the rain squall just passing.

I walk to the entrance of the sod hut and enter. Darkness. A warm, comforting velvety darkness enfolds me. I feel protected and warm. The sounds of the storm outside are muffled, like a muted stereo. Background music. I take a deep breath, and open…really open… my eyes.

A fire in the stone fireplace ahead of me burns, at times sending sage scented smoke into the room. Shelves of books, with all my favourite authors…King, Myss, Estes, Sheehy and many more, line the fireplace wall. On the other wall sits a computer desk, with filing cabinets, a computer and more treasures I will become familiar with. I place my blue stone amongst them. Two overstuffed chairs face the fireplace. Candles burn on every available surface…and yet even with the candles and the smoky fireplace, the air smells sweet and fresh.

I enter the kitchen area. Brick ovens emit the faint scent of countless fruit pies cooked to perfection many times before. Herbs line the window shelf, and dried bundles of herbs line the ceiling. The smell of bread rising stimulates my appetite. This kitchen is all about the scents involved with food…all about the love poured into the dinners, lunches and breakfasts prepared throughout the ages. This kitchen immediately makes me feel at home.

I wander back to the fire, and sit in one of the chairs. This one is my chair, I tell myself, it fits my body perfectly. I place my feet on the ottoman in front of me, wrap my red shawl around my shoulders, and watch the flames. I feel at peace.

I wake in my chair in front of Grandfather Tree, knowing I can go back to my Retreat any time I feel a need. It is a place sacred to me, and I will take my time learning and honouring this space. It is protective…the smell of sage, the herbs in the kitchen, Maple tree…all tell me so. Nothing can hurt me here. I give thanks to the Creator for giving me this wonderful hovel…for that is what it is…a hovel with all the conveniences!

A hovel right beside the ocean, in the forest…could anyone ask for more?

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