First the fog, then the beautiful sunshine sparkles on the lake. I was at Luther Park, a rustic church camp near Danbury, Wisconsin, for yet another silent retreat. (I’ve enjoyed a few over past years.) I had a wonderful view of the outdoors in my little camp type room as I sat at the desk positioned in front of the window. Also, in the room were two sets of bunk beds and an additional single bed. I didn’t have to share the room last weekend, but during camp times this tiny space can sleep 5 people!
I don’t know how many acres Luther Park encompasses, but there are several different trails to walk through the woods and two different lakes that provide wonderful scenery to enjoy. Benches scattered throughout the property provide welcoming places to sit and ponder or pray. The weather this past weekend was cool, but sunny – very fall like and lovely.
Some may find the silence of this type of retreat deafening; introvert that I am, I love it. The peaceful calm of nature renews my spirit. It didn’t hurt that I really had no responsibilities while I was there other than respecting nature, the camp buildings, the staff and the people who were enjoying this respite with me. Our meals were all prepared for us. Though maybe not as healthy as my food choices at home, I thoroughly enjoyed eating some of the foods I grew up eating – jello, pudding, fruit cocktail and whipped cream salad, iceberg lettuce, huge white dinner rolls. (Obviously, that wasn’t all we ate, but those are the choices I found amusing.) I would guess this is standard fare for the young campers that spend part of their summer there. I just felt grateful for the kitchen staff that worked hard to keep us sated. I didn’t have to plan or prepare the meals and that was a gift!
There is a wonderful, large outdoor labyrinth on the grounds of Luther Park – actually, newly added this year. I’ve never really “gotten in” to labyrinths, but the setting in the woods for this one is so beautiful, that I felt compelled to give it a try and walk it. The first evening our group actually walked it (in silence, of course) in the dark with the only light coming from the 24 votive candles we had scattered about the circuits earlier in the day and lit just before walking, along with a few flashlights. I admit it still took me awhile to feel anything special about the walk, especially since it was a group walk. As I settled down, however, I did find some inspiration and perhaps, had a new aha moment. If you are familiar with labyrinths you know that unlike a maze where you often can get lost and feel frustrated that you can’t find your way – a puzzle, if you will – you cannot lose your way in a labyrinth. The path eventually brings you to the center, and when followed, back out again. It occurred to me, quite simply, that my higher power (Spirit or God for me) will always show me the way; I will never be lost in life, if I follow the path. I do, however, have to sometimes be patient (not one of my strong suits). I concluded the patience bit as I noticed some of the labyrinth paths are longer and thus I needed more time to walk them – signifying to me those times in life when my options are not as obvious; the shorter paths signifying those times in my life when answers come quickly – my way is immediately evident. Either way, ultimately, if I trust in Spirit, my path is made clear and I find my way.
I walked the labyrinth again the next day, alone this time. I went into the path with the thought, “Okay, Spirit, what do you want to say to me today.” Pretty much came to the same realization as the night before – very reassuring.
I spent the rest of the weekend walking the trails, gazing at nature, journaling, coloring mandelas, reading scripture from the Bible, and pondering life. I slept in a sleeping bag on one of the bunks in my room and enjoyed two very restful nights.
When I spend time not speaking to anyone, and not connected to technology, TV or radio, as I did this past weekend, my senses are heightened. I hear more of nature’s sounds – the sound of the wind moving the tree branches, the chirping of the birds, twigs snapping and leaves rustling as I walk through the woods. My food tastes better as I take the time to enjoy each texture and aroma. Slowing down like this allows me to really see things more clearly – not only mentally, but physically. I am more apt to notice the way the breeze makes the leaves on the trees wiggle, or the way the sunshine creates sparkles on the water as if there are thousands of diamonds shimmering in the light.
Ah, silence – very calming!
Though I knew I would write a blog post about my retreat weekend, I wasn’t bright enough to think to take any pictures of the lovely setting; so, these pictures off the internet, though not of where I was, are a good representation of the scenery I experienced.
I’d love to hear how you renew your Spirit, leave me your comments below.