It was a dark and stormy night…..

Tuesday, September 8, 2010, New Moon night.

It was a dark and stormy night at the campground. Winds blew the rain sideways as it whistled through the valley. Two camping groups took down their tents and left the campground. Two tents that remained unattended bobbed about in the wind like helium balloons tethered to the ground by one stake. A golden retriever huddled behind the front wheel on the downwind side of the truck awaited the arrival of two bike riders who would not be returning until after the storm.

In less than an hour, the wind and rain stopped. The bike riders returned to give comfort to their pet and to re-attach their tents to the earth. As blue patches of sky soon appeared over the treetops in the west, three news helicopters flew overhead at low altitude; a hint that something ominous had occurred nearby. The park ranger who came by later to check on the camp ground indicated he had heard on his radio that a tornado had touched down a few miles east of the park.

September 12, 2010, Sunday morning,

By contrast, the remainder of the retreat gave clear skies, sunshine, and cool nights, making for ideal hiking weather and nighttime campfires.

Taking this annual retreat alone has been a way to reconnect with nature and to the body and soul. It has been an annual time of taking stock of my lifestyle. And it is the annual time of re-visioning what I intend for the focus of my life in the following year – what is to be made more central, and what will allowed to be more peripheral.

A retreat journal I have been keeping for the past five years is always kept in a Ziploc bag to protect it from changing weather conditions. Using it only for this retreat time gives me an opportunity to review the past year; looking over last year’s comments, reflecting on changes that I had made commitments to change, and noting how some things in life seem to take longer to shift.

Six days of retreat allows one to catch one’s breath, like taking a breather upon reaching a plateau in a day of hiking, stopping to take a cool drink and downing some nourishment. More than any other quality, it is Gratitude which overwhelms me at such times. The moments are brief and transcendent, whether sitting on a rock along the river, looking out on all directions from the top of an 80 foot fire tower.

 It is these moments of reconnection to the Great Divine Mystery that makes this retreat an annual time of personal and spiritual renewal.

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