By Deb Gombert
I’ve included two pictures to start this post off. The picture from last year shows a group of children age 3 to 13 who have all joined together in a Very Important Quest of some sort. I wanted to share it because every year at the retreat I love the way the children play together in one group, the older and younger children joining each other in flashlight tag or other games created in the moment. This year was no different: the children created a community that mirrored the sense of community I feel at the retreat.
The other picture is a picture from this year. Carl is high up in a tree. He is alone, reading a book, enjoying a new sense of physical accomplishment in that he can climb higher than he could last year, and enjoying the near perfect weather. At the retreat this year I too found some time to be alone. I meditated, wrote in my journal and practiced accordion. Unlike Carl I was not personally aware of any new physical accomplishments since last year, but I was aware of other ways in which I have grown since last year. And as Carl did, I also enjoyed the weather – not by climbing trees, but by walking among them in the forest around the retreat center.
Last year we almost did not go to the retreat. Carl told me “Mom! We HAVE to go. It is the best weekend of the year!” I suggested going for part of the weekend and I was told that we needed to be there for the whole weekend; that sleeping with everyone else in the same building, joining everyone for meals, and being there for the bonfire were all a critical part of the experience.
So this year, despite having a huge deadline at work immediately following the retreat, I knew that we HAD to go for the whole weekend. I’m glad I listened to my son – he was right. Living and eating with everyone helps create that comforting sense of community. And the meals were excellent this year. Carl appreciated the hot dogs and mac & cheese served at various meals; I enjoyed the salmon, and the spinach curry. I didn’t attend the bonfire, although Carl reported that the s’mores were excellent. Instead I played music with Paul, Jesse, and Nan while Drake called dances. There was a small group of dancers this year, but it was still tremendous fun.
I know that many people enjoy workshops and deep learning experiences at the retreat. In past years I have too. This year I enjoyed being with congregation members who I usually only have a short conversation with over dinner, and others who I don’t know as well.
Carl noted that he could climb higher in the trees. I noted that Carl was no longer in the group of children for whom child-care was needed. Carl was in the “middle group” of kids, and some former members of that “middle group” were absent this year due to High School obligations, or were in attendance but no longer lured by flashlight tag. The retreat has become a measuring stick for me.
I came home feeling tired from spending so much time outside and from not sleeping in my own bed for 2 nights, but feeling full of love. The weekend, if not the best weekend of the year, is certainly one of the best. It is a rare opportunity to be unplugged and outside, to have some time for quiet introspection, and most importantly, to have time in community.
Carl is already planning for next year’s retreat. I hope that you are too!!