Return to Aldermarsh

aldermarsh-pathOne year ago, my retreatants and I said farewell to Aldermarsh, the beloved retreat center on Whidbey Island, Washington, where we have been gathering twice a year for the past six years. Energetically, it didn’t feel like a final goodbye, but we had been told it was. And so we grieved, held ceremony, and wrote love letters to the land.

And She came back to us.

One year later, new owners and new stewards are holding the center of Aldermarsh Retreat Center. It is thriving as a non-profit retreat center, and I have already booked 3 retreats for 2018. One of the stewards told me that she could hear and feel great peals of joy reverberating from Marsh House and the Main House during our retreat.

We have loved the land, and She loved us right back.

(I posted the following photos on Instagram each day of the retreat.)

flowers and fir
Tuesday: Grateful beyond words to be back at Aldermarsh. The land recognizes us and welcomes us home. Tomorrow we call the circle!
offerings
Tuesday: The theme of this week’s Gaian Soul Retreat is “Herbcraft: Mysteries of Cedar and Rose.” When I bent down to lay my offering of sweetgrass at the base of Grandmother Fir, I saw others had already left offerings … of cedar and rose. Of course they did. #thelandisalive
morning mist
Wednesday: Good morning, mist in the meadow. Good morning, waning moon. Hush.
arriving 1
Wednesday: The circle is gathering!
arriving 2
Wednesday: Circle is growing! Big laughs and hugs and grins as each woman arrives …
latisha-light
Thursday: A day of herb crafting with guest teacher Latisha Guthrie. Exploring the mysteries of Cedar and Rose on a plant walk.
latisha teaching
Thursday: Latisha taught us to connect with the plants in silent communion, in making bundles, cedar oil, and cedar salve.
Latisha smiling
Thursday: Making cedar salve. Full hearts.
altar
Friday: I love watching the altar grow, as every day we notice and honor all that is sacred.
sea dance
Friday: Walking the sacred waters. Yesterday we communed with woods and meadows, today we commune with the sea.
beach-noticing
Friday: Across the threshold, we enter the silence, and practice the art of noticing.
kite
Friday: Time to play with the wind spirits on the shores of Useless Bay!
rosaries
Friday: We made rosaries of rowan berries, elderberries, corn, rose hips and beads. These rosaries are ephemeral, like a sand painting. Eventually they will crumble, but our prayers will live on.
pie and salad
Saturday afternoon downtime brought chocolate pecan bourbon pie, cashew ice cream, and … salad! Some women!
serpentine path to the temple
Saturday night: We walked the serpentine path at sunset, slipping between the worlds, entering the Temple of the Green Ones. And inside: Holy. Holy. Holy.

Two of the women at this retreat came from storm-wrecked Houston. Others came with damaged-but-healing bodies or weary spirits. We know we are privileged beyond belief to step outside of time for a few days, away from the responsibilities of our everyday lives, to fill the well of our creativity and spiritual practice. We will each return to our own work, our own part in mending the web of life, whatever our part may be. We retreat to connect with nature, to make sacred art, and to share our hearts with our sisters, so that we are better able to do the hard work of healing the world.

“The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibilities for all we have been given, for all that we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue. Let us hold a giveaway for Mother Earth, spread our blankets out for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making. Imagine the books, the paintings, the poems, the clever machines, the compassionate acts, the transcendent ideas, the perfect tools. The fierce defense of all that has been given. Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world.

In return for the privilege of breath.”

— Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants


My friend Cari Ferraro wrote this beautiful post about her experience on retreat with us. I appreciate it more than I can say.

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