The wind pulled the cold temperature to single digits as the gray sky stared down at the brown patches of dirt amidst the snow. Looking out the window, I saw a few determined leaves cling to their branches as they whipped back and forth. It was the first evening of my solo retreat, and the fireplace and my candle were my best companions.
To retreat, to withdraw, to pull back. None of these come naturally for me. I prefer to advance to the next level, to introduce myself at the slightest opportunity, and to push forward toward my goals. Nevertheless, retreat I do.
I packed my softest brown wool sweater along with my intentions to be present, observe, and listen. My suitcase carried a handful of books including my journal and the meditation coloring book given to me on birthday with the as yet untouched box of 24 colored pencils.
Upon my arrival I observed my humanness before I saw much of my holiness. I noticed my annoyance at the no early check in rule despite there being rows of empty rooms. I noticed my longing while passing up the chocolate chips cookies and brownies tempting me to sin twice a day. I noticed my disappointment when the full moon in the winter sky that I’d been anticipating refused to come out from under the clouds.
As I entered the second day, my jabbering thoughts began a slow exit as my sadness stepped in. I felt the absence of my husband, John, who had been my spiritual partner for almost 20 years. As I do from time to time, I wrote him a letter, realizing that this month marks five years since he surrendered to hospice in our home with me as his care provider. Nine months and three seasons from now will be the anniversary of his death.
I seek to honor seasons. For me, winter is the time in which I buried both of my parents, and just a month ago my beloved friend, Mary, made her transition. The bitterness of the cold matched my mood, and Mary got the next letter.
More feeling. More writing. More reflecting. More sighing as I released the energy I’d been holding tight. By the third day, the heaviness in my heart began to lift. Temperatures rose and the wind died down, inviting a hike in the snow covered woods overlooking the river. Before the sun began to set, the clouds parted and the blue sky I was missing so revealed itself for just a bit.
The luxury of stepping away from our daily responsibilities is not often easily found, especially during a divorce. But dedicating even a small portion of time to go away and to go inward can have value, even if it means five minutes of morning meditation, a lunch alone with an inspirational book, or a single entry of gratitude in your bedside journal.
Retreat, reflect, and remember that even the grayest of skies eventually turns blue.