Funny how the purple walls work in this room. I begin penning this post in a charming room of the Globe Hotel in Sierraville, CA. Sierraville is a sweet dot of an old western town about 25 miles northwest of Truckee in the lower Sierras where Highways 89 and 49 intersect.
Green pastures dotted with seemingly happy cattle surround the town as foothills and pines rise in the distance.
It’s been years since I’ve been up in these parts. Now that I’ve returned, I realize how much I’ve missed the feel of this air and the scent of these pines. Luckily my friend Cynthia was available to skip town with me for a few days over the July 4th holiday to “take the waters” at nearby Sierra Hot Springs.
For various reasons, we both craved this retreat. Speaking for myself, I needed out of the city and into nature. I had made no plans for the 4th, nor had I any desire to partake of traditional celebrations that involved fireworks and over-stimulation.
I wanted peace, rest, natural beauty.
And so did Cynthia.
Over the course of three days, we immersed ourselves in warm, cold, and hot spring mineral (sulfuric) waters, surrounded by Sierra foothills, big sky, and a few like-minded souls.
A perfect recipe for retreat.
A quick Google search reveals “retreat” as a noun defined as “an act of moving back, pulling back, or withdrawing.” “A place you can go to be alone, to get away from it all.” As a verb, “To withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power after a defeat.”
For me, on this occasion, all three definitions applied.
Even the third one, in some strange way I can’t quite explain.
We are living in martian times where battles of all kinds are waged recklessly and relentlessly. The centrifuge of social media, political chaos, and everyone’s personal stressors throws us off center into fatigue and negativity, a jarring dynamic that can lead to feelings of disconnection, loneliness, and fear.
It is precisely in this setting that the act of retreat is a noble and vital undertaking.
Retreat begins with an intention – as the definitions attest – to pull back, to withdraw, to get away from it all.
And, I will add, in order to find one’s center; to be made whole again.
How are we made whole over and over again to resume and bear our responsibilities, pursue our desires and dreams, and meet our challenges fresh and strengthened?
Retreat takes many forms.
It can be a walk on a beach, a hike in the woods, sitting in a cafe drinking a cappuccino. It can be retiring to a peaceful room of your home for an hour or being holed up in a cabin on a lake for a spell.
The point is to step away from distraction and be with oneself (and perhaps one’s thoughts) in peace and some degree of solitude in order to rest, reflect, and replenish.
If retreat has been a missing ingredient in your life, I gently suggest you add it to the mix.