We arrived at the cabin
on the peninsula
at Lake of the woods
the water level had dropped
3 feet since last time
The dock had to be lowered
pulled out to reach the boats
the duck boats hauled
closer to the edge of shore
It’s an Eco challenge
every time I come up here
Steve said, breathing heavy
A mystery eco-challenge, I added
because you never know
what the challenge will be
I looked over the bay
at the glistening shimmer
of the sun on the slowly rolling waves of clear and healing water
breathed in the solitude
and untethered the fraying rope
tied to the rest of the world
And I said to myself
I’ll take it.
I am participating in Poetry Friday this week being hosted by Tabatha Yeates at The opposite of indifference. Stop over to enjoy some poems or add one of your own!
I was spent.
As I usually am at the end of a school year. This one, more so.
I am a literacy coach at an elementary school for students from Prek to grade five. We have five to eight sections per grade – about 800 students. This is a large school. I am the only coach.
I have been in education for over twenty years, my first job as a first grade teacher in 1987. Education is changing. Students are changing. Society is changing. New teachers coming and others leaving. Holding on to a vision is sometimes daunting when so many changes are continuous in our profession.
My job does not end when the students leave. I continue to work through the summer, compiling data, working on curriculum, ordering materials, planning for new teachers, reading new research and keeping abreast of new literacy practices.
Added to the load of my job was the fact that I was finishing up my Masters. Because I am a perfectionist and overachiever in some areas, my final paper ended up being a book. A blessing and a curse.
I also have four wonderful children, the ages of 17, 19, 20 and 22. All of them. . . at home with my husband and I. Just when we thought the nest would be emptying, they started coming back. Sleep was something I was lacking and my edges were frayed with constant stints of worry at night. They are all normal kids who like to have a good time. I, the parent, that just prays for the angels to guide them home safely at night.
My husband, we’ll call him Sporty, was in full force with fishing, golfing and running down to the hunting land to farm some food for deer, fall just around the corner. His agendas after work are full. Married for 24 years, I’ve accepted that this is who he is.
My life is one that 98 percent of the world pray for. I’ve been so blessed, too blessed. Yet, it was also overfull. I had been scattered and strewn about. Pieces of me were everywhere, but not really there. I needed to get away just to figure out if I could keep going at this pace and in this path. And just to remember why I was here in the first place. I was losing meaning and purpose in all that I was doing.
July is my month of freedom.
So, the end of June when I was able to attain a small cabin for two weeks beginning July 1, I was as giddy as a school girl could be.
I had the car packed up in two hours. Sporty came with to help set up camp, but he could not stay as work was calling his name, having just had vacation time for a Canada fishing trip. I was at ease with this, as I craved aloneness. I think he had mixed feelings. I could feel this, but we didn’t talk about it. The kids planned on coming and going when they could, being only an hour away. Honestly, I was not planning for anyone. . . but myself. A strange feeling, selfish, yet a desperate attempt, like I was running away from my life, in order to save myself.
Upon arrival, I unloaded food, checked out the facilities and immediately drug my chair down to the water.
I climbed into my resting place and closed my eyes and I just lay there. The air moist, the sun embracing me with warmth and the sound of the waves lapping. This is heaven. How can heaven not be like this? All I could verbalize over an over in my mind was,
“Thank you, God. I am here now. Let me rest. Please, please, bring me peace.”
Tears were already welling up and I hadn’t been there for more that an hour. I had to hold them back as I wasn’t ready to face all that God had in store for me here just yet.
The breeze gently caressed my skin. “Yes, I know you have something to say,” I replied to it. “But, not now. . . I just beg to lay here and disappear into this landscape and forget who I am for now.”
It wouldn’t listen and I smiled just knowing there was so much here for me. I would try to be patient toward all that was unsolved in my heart, just as Rainer Maria Rilke starts out her poem, LETTER TO A POET.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
do not now seek the answer, which cannot be
given you because you would not be able
to live them. And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then
gradually, without noticing it, live along some
distant day into the answer.
I prayed to live my questions. First I needed to articulate them. In this mess of who I was at that point in time, would I even be able to figure out what my questions were?
And how do you live a question into the answer?
I would let the breeze teach me.
Today though. . . I just rest. Just rest my weary bones.
My wish for every woman is for them to have a place that they can retreat to. One where they have no responsibilities, no worries, and no fear. At this place, their mind can clear away all the clutter of their every day lives. Breathing happens. Listening happens. A reconnection with your soul to hear the whispers of what to do next. To feel the presence of the earth around you. . . and embrace it.
Without making time to ever get to this place in our mind, body and soul, we are racing through our lives mindlessly without
I am so blessed to have this place, a little primitive cabin in the remote woods by a pond in northern Minnesota. It’s not mine. It belongs to a paster friend of my husband’s and he rents it out for 35.00 dollars a day. You heard me. 35.00 dollars a day. The only cabin on the lake.
I sat there for two weeks straight. My kids came and went, all older and with jobs. My husband, on a fishing trip of his own in Canada (and work). Most of the time, it was just me.
Without the lure of the internet (there was no service), I was able to rediscover myself. I wrote over 200 pages in my notebooks. I read four books. I filled pages in my nature journal of butterflies, dragonflies and mushrooms. I made egg sandwiches just for me, and I tasted each bite and savored them. I had to bathe in the lake each day. I took leisurely walks and discovered plants and flowers that I had never seen before. Actually, they had probably been there. . . but I was not.
“In our lives today, we are racing from one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another, always yelling and running somewhere, because we are afraid life is going to be over that very afternoon,” as quoted by Ray Bradbury. We miss the meaning of why we are even here on this earth. We miss the birds singing. We miss the gentle breeze blowing across our face. We miss our child’s expression on their face that says they need us. We lose being present.
It took me four days to wind down at this cabin before “my body and mind slowed down enough for me to find a basic restfulness, before I could even begin to nibble at the edges of solitude” (Rolheiser).
Father Ron Rolheiser who writes in Our Northland Diocese, tells us we are in solitude when we fully taste the water we are drinking, feel the warmth of our blankets, and are restful enough to be content inside our own skin. It is not something that can be turned on like a water faucet. It needs a body and mind slowed down enough to be attentive to the present moment.
As mothers, as women, as human beings. . . we need this presence in our every day lives. This is when we really see, hear, taste, feel and smell our world, our lives and other souls put on this earth at the same time as ourselves.
If you have not had an opportunity to find yourself at this place of presence yet, it’s still mid July, you have time before the leaves start to turn. I realize I am a blessed soul who actually has a place to go, children who are old enough to take care of themselves and a loving husband who understands how much I need this solitude. Somehow, make your own retreat at home. You are creative. Use your gift of creativity to find that way to honor your soul and find solitude.
Then, share with us that experience.
Peace and Love,