On the hike back to my car I paused every so often for a full minute of stillness to look, listen and feel at the natural happenings around me. In some places I had a broad view of the river or of conifers growing along a ridge. In other places I zeroed in on the natural minutia of a rotting log on the forest floor or the tepid water at the base of a beaver dam. In each place I found delight, curiosity, calm, and a sort of companionship.
Where each experience of Renewal intersects with the others is in the intention we set to disrupt the straight-line sensibility that our front-country lives so often demand of us. We do not retreat to find solutions to the (legitimate) urgencies that pepper our days. We retreat to renew our sense of capacity and connectivity, so that we may return with the strength that our work in the world deserves.
As we approach the end of one season and the beginning of the next; in this liminal place where the heat of summer days start to tease us with an occasional cool breeze in the evening; as the creative urgency of yesterday ebbs and our audacious ambitions for tomorrow flow; I thought it might be worth dipping into the archives to share a mediation that I shared last autumn, from a Beauty Walk with a group of MECA students in Fore River Sanctuary in Portland.
The recipe for renewal is simple. For instance, last weekend renewal was comprised of one river, two canoes, three nights, four humans (one canine), five poems, six or seven mosquitoes, and a generous dash of inspiration.
Don’t get me wrong, wilderness experience is not easy. Indeed often even the approach to wild places consists of hefty obstacles that cross a whole spectrum of categories (more on those another time). But profound encounters with natural places, elements, and habitants are at their profoundest when they take the simplest possible forms. Floating on a river. Propelled by a paddle. Breath. Laughter. Picnics. Some scratches in a journal. An eagle’s perch. A loon’s call.
The therapist and I talked about the upcoming canoeing and backpacking retreats that I’ll be guiding. I described to her the slow and intentional pace of a Renewal in the Wilderness trip. I told her how we make space for solitude and reflection as well as community and inspiration. I told her how our trips are surely adventures, but more saturated in serenity than they are soaked with adrenaline. She sighed and said how beautiful it would be to join a Renewal trip, especially as a relief and ballast in her line of work as a therapist. She just wasn’t sure that she could afford the trip. Then I got to say my favorite thing that I get to say: "We’ve got you covered!"