Saturday, 23 May 2015

In The Company of One ... and One Another

If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you will know that I treasure time alone.

With my odometer ticking and ready to turn over in a few weeks, it seemed like a good time to take another retreat, a quiet time alone to reflect on the past year and think ahead to the future. But when? And where? Alone at home seemed like a good idea, but then the resident sweetie would have to move out. A cabin in the woods would be nice, but kind of pricey.

As I was pondering this conundrum, I got a phone call. Would I like to go on a retreat? Up on the mountain? At a good price? A vacancy had come up at the last minute. Would I??? But of course, there was a catch: it would be a quilting retreat with eleven other women.

Retreat really is a euphemism when it comes to quilting. I checked it out in the dictionary, and none of the definitions match what I knew a quilting retreat would offer. This would not be a withdrawal or backing away from a hazardous position, nor would it be a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, or study. Rather, it would be a full-on frontal assault on a mountain of unfinished projects, which would involve packing the battle gear necessary for this assault: sewing tools, fabric, good sewing chairs and cushions, good lights, more fabric just in case, rulers, irons, ironing boards, cutting boards, and bread boards – because food was almost as important as quilting supplies. And more fabric, just in case.

how can you possibly leave home without it all?
 Silence and meditation was hardly on the menu – in fact, discussions about religion and politics were verboten; but  good food, storytelling, laughter, and the occasional light cussing to relieve frustration was encouraged and applauded.

It sounded like the exact opposite of what I was looking for, but one little phrase sweetened the pot: a room of my own. A room with a view. A room in a lodge on the mountain, far from the madding crowd. Oh, glory. I could hide out in that room all week if I wanted to, reading, writing, and enjoying my company of one. And making brief forays out into the world of women, quilting, laughter and food. Oh, yes.

Guess what? It didn’t work out that way at all. The room of my own didn’t have a comfy chair or desk. The view turned out to be a view of a bulldozed road to nowhere – the good view was in the sewing room with its enormous windows and attached  deck where you overlooked the mountains and woods; where you sipped wine and enjoyed happy hour with 11 other women, where you could hardly hear yourself think, but you sure could laugh a lot. It turned out that I wasn’t going to be enjoying the company of one; I would be enjoying the company of one another. And who knew? It was just what I needed.

I admired the work of the women who churned out gorgeous quilts composed of little tiny pieces perfectly matched at the corners; they admired the pitifully few small art pieces I was trying to hatch. I let them chatter while they worked at 7 a.m. in the morning, and they respected my inability to talk in more than one syllable grunts before I’d had my 2 cups of coffee in a quiet corner.  We took walks. We pitched in and cooked for each other. They generously shared bounty from their stash when I ran short. They shared their stories and their life situations, each so different and unique, yet the themes we discussed were so similar, and often outrageous. “If my kids could hear me now they’d be mortified,” said one woman, but we promised we wouldn’t tell. What happened on the mountain stayed on the mountain.

Sometimes, what we think we need is not what we really need. Perhaps what I needed as I looked into the future was not so much quiet reflection as reassurance that I was on the right track, that I was part of a larger community than the one named MemyselfandI. Perhaps I needed encouragement and affirmation and a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

Alone in the land of MemyselfandI or ...

In the company of others ... (my unfinished projects come together for a discussion and review)

I did get some time alone to reflect on things. On my last day there, I withdrew to the dining room when it was empty, and journalled for a while, and in that brief encounter with myself, I got a bit of a vision of something that needed doing in the next year, a glimpse of the future.

It’s the best of both worlds when a week like that happens. Thanks, ladies, it’s been a blast. See you next year, I hope. 

1 comment: