I purposely did not take my camera last weekend to The Cabin (It's my usual January escape with special friends). While there were many beautiful things to photograph, I also wanted to be in the moment and really experience everything instead of just observing it through my camera lens. Sometimes having that glass between me and other people makes it too easy for me to retreat to my introverted ways. So I lived the weekend instead of documenting it. But I do want to remember. Writing has the effect on me of helping things implant more fully into the recesses of my mind so I can call them up later. So, to that end, here is a bit of a mental photo album of a special weekend, just for me:
I love the drive up there. We physically go from the congested environs of the Capital of the Free World to an isolated ridge between the Brush and Sugar Valleys of Central PA. I imagine most of you have never heard of them. All the better. They are wooded and, in January, generally snow-covered. Mentally, we go gradually north from the worries of daily life to a small cabin sanctuary. My mind unwinds as the road winds past the mighty Susquehanna to the hills. It is in all ways an escape from the many "big cities" of my life.
I want to remember meeting Beth for the first time, this precious friend of my precious friend whom I've heard about for years. I want to remember her lovely smile and sparkling eyes and her open and friendly hugs all around for people she'd never met except by email. It felt like she'd always been with us.
In my mind's eye, I can still see snow falling on hemlocks, tiny flakes floating down so silently and slowly that time seems to stop as I pressed my forehead against the cold window, amazed as ever at this simple pleasure. I was reminded that I never want to grow up so much that I'm not thrilled by moments like this.
I loved that one day was so unstructured that it went by in a dream-from waking up without an alarm in front of a warm, glowing stove to an afternoon in pjs surrounded by kindred spirits (also in pjs) variously knitting, crocheting, sketching, napping, reading, chatting, snacking and the like. It is just so nice sometimes to have no agenda, no required outcomes. Especially when you can do that with friends.
I want to remember the hasty dash across the icy deck to the hot tub. If you've never sat perfectly warm in a hot tub under a crystal-cold night sky, watching the visible warmth of the water rise up to meet the snowflakes, I highly recommend it. It is especially nice when the warmth of the company perfectly complements the temperature of the water. I'm pretty sure we solved most of the world's troubles that night.
I never, ever want to forget visiting our friend Fannie, an Old Order Amish woman who makes and sells the most beautiful quilts. We visit her every year to see what she's made in the months between the harvest and the planting. There will be more if there hasn't been a wedding or a new baby, and less if there has. This time as we got ready to leave her sturdy farmhouse, she invited us to stay. We knew with a shared thrill that a bridge truly had been built from her world to ours. We've wished it and seen glimpses of it over the years, but this time, it was a magic moment of realized friendship. Her darling daughter made popcorn so good we quizzed her on the seasoning she put together on the spot (sour cream and onion powder, brewers yeast, powdered chicken broth) and passed around a bowl of perfect, sweet apple slices. I never want to forget their smiles and hospitality as they urged us to sit, to eat, to share. It was wonderful. We've always loved her and shown her frank friendship and we've always known she appreciates our business, but we've never wanted to intrude on her consecrated and simple life. To be invited into it for a golden hour felt like both an exquisite honor and the most natural thing in the world. It brings tears to my eyes to think back on it. Thank you so much Fannie and Sadie. I always think of you as I finger your perfect stitches in my quilts.
I don't think I can ever forget listening to most of the group playing Apples to Apples. I sat out to try to work but instead dozed on and off as the game ebbed and flowed. It was just as much fun to listen as it was to play. At one point I awoke with a start to find the whole group staring at me and laughing out loud. I figured I was snoring or drooling or something, but it turns out that someone had used the example of me and D. snoozing away the evening as an a likely answer to what we'd all be doing in 20 years. Then we laughed together and dreamed of still gathering in our old age. How I hope it will be so.
So there you have it. Some images from The Cabin, 2011. We talked about What Matters Most all weekend long and the discussion has had an impact on me. I was reminded again today of how life brings changes. Friends come and go in our lives. Some stay close, some become precious memories. It's easier than ever to stay at least somewhat connected these days, but continually cultivating real friendship still requires effort and shared experiences. I'm especially grateful right now that I have this annual retreat (that has now spanned 17 years) as a constant in my life. As long as Linda makes it happen and I'm fortunate enough to be invited, I'll do all I can to get there. Even when I am old.