There Are Places I Remember

Write On Wednesday

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Years ago when it all began, I had just been hanging out on the fringe of finding that third part of my three fold path. I have to tell you, I never planned the path to have three distinct WAYS, but those are the best kinds of discoveries.

I consider myself an eclectic. I discovered, just this year, that I am an excavator, thanks to a very wise woman with whom I’ve just become acquainted, and have forged a wonderful friendship.

The actual place this third prong came into focus, is a beautiful, off the beaten path, camp, nestled in the Berkshires, and I can honestly say that my first ever time there was, likely, one of the most life-changing events of which I’ve had the priviledge to be a part.

It came to my consciousness in the form of a catalog. You know, if you go one place, you’re sure to have your name and address sold to another. In this case, I have to admit, I did not mind at all. I wouldn’t know that, of course, until after I spent a week there. This catalog showed up on my doorstep presenting a plethora of options.

While many sounded quite interesting, one jump off the page, and landing on my lap like a purring kitten, making itself right to home. How could I not have taken the bait?

Rowe. The sound is simple, rolls off the tongue and into the mind, calling, come and spend a week, and you will walk away a changed being. But Rowe was just the physical locale. What had jumped off the page, snuggling with its kittenish ways was Womencircles.

You must understand, I was in one of those periods of my life when I was embracing that side of myself. They were far and few between, so taking this opportunity was necessitated by the need to keep that dream alive.

It was to transpire during the last week of August in 1992. I hit the road, listening to Roy Orbison singing to me, “only the lonely,” and well, I felt a kinship with that song having been locked away in a self-imposed safe house. It was time to leave that comfy little nest where nothing much was happening on this most important front; my Earthwalk.

The drive was new territory every mile of the way. I followed the ever winding road through the Taconic Mountains, and finally crossed over into the neighboring state of Massachusetts. Leaving the Taconics behind, I found myself entering the Berkshires as I wended my way over back roads.

My mind retained a rabid curiosity about this place. I’d been to retreats, before, with few exceptions, all of them private, and dwelling in the sanctity of silence. It may have been what I hoped for, but it was certainly not what I would get. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The blacktop rose, and descended, twisted and turned, through a tunnel of trees, and I think possibly an accompanying river. I just remember the sun playing peek-a-book through the branches of the living monoliths call Oak, and Maple, and Elm, and so on. To say it felt like I was sailing into the belly of a whale would be fairly apt. It wasn’t a bad thing, but the mountains seemed to swallow travelers as we drove. When I emerged from that roller coaster road, I found the turn off which led to my eventual destination, and destiny.

You know you’ve arrived when you see a white farm house. It was Friday, and I was earlier than I needed to be, but that’s me, never known as johnny-come-lately. But how convenient that Johnny-on-the-spot works instead. Quite the magician, our Johnny.

I did have a chance to sign in, and was told the actual ‘camp’ would begin at around 5pm, but I could go and find where I’d like to bed down at night. “right up the road. You can’t miss it. Cabins are on the right.” In fact, there was a circle of cabins, spread out across a knoll, with names I can’t remember now. There were five on the knoll, with two nice sizable bath houses and which had a male and female side. Of course, this week, the women could choose to use either or.

There was a sixth cabin just before I reached the knoll, with a little walkway leading to its door. I stopped in there first. It was lined on both sides of the single room with bunk beds. I walked down the middle toward the back. The left side were stretched out like train cars, while the right siders sat perpendicular to the aisle. I found a nice bottom bunk with a window at the foot of it. I plunked my few pieces of baggage down on it, staking out my territory. This berthy bunk would serve me well during the week, becoming a lovely little tented city of solitude.

So what was a girl to do, having claimed her bed? Explore, of course! There were paths which meandered through the woods, and one which winded up to the top of a mountain behind the cabins. I chose to head for the easier trails. The roads more taken, as they stretched out across the land between the ‘Main Hall’ to the farm house, by way of a lovely orchard. I discovered that the orchard had a house, which served as staff quarters, and became a tented city as others began arriving. This orchard backed on the farm house.

There seemed to be little side tracks which led to fields, and one which I later discovered fed directly into a state preserve. During the week I’d traipse back and forth through these wooded lanes, greeting the trees and the chipmonks which  skittered across in front of my steps when I’d suddenly disturbed their foraging. Birds sang and I returned the greeting. I couldn’t remember feeling more at home than here.

I was not new to endless crisscrossing byways with a carpet of leaves underfoot. This, in some way harkened back to my earliest memories of camping, when my family went on vacation. In fact, the place most visited in my younger years was a state park through which the Appliachian Trail passed. I felt at home there, and was able to capture the wonder of those days.

When evening began creeping in, we all gathered at the Great Hall. This was a rather sizable mansion-like struture, though rustic, and simply stated. The dining room was at the front, where we would meet for meals, and could spend whatever time we wanted during the day, gabbing with new found friends.  It had a deck which overlooked the valley below and was always awash in campers.

This first night was a night of meeting, and greeting and eating orgy. Orientation was held for the newbies, of which I was one, and everyone got the whys and wherefores of the  conference center campus, and the specifics of our adventure which was essentially ‘walking our path.’ My experience began its reformation, from quietude and solitary contempletive days into being woven into community where I would sit starry eyed listening to the wonders of a world I’d simply glimpsed through books. I was living the dream! Or learning how to, at any rate.

The activities for the week were many, leaving me wishing I could clone myself to just be able to attend each and every one of them. But life is about choices. And choices I made. I recall thinking that story telling would be rather wonderful. So I signed on the line, and on that given day, I sat with others, was led through a meditation about something I can no longer bring back from the archives of my mind, but I know we talked about our inner journey, afterward. A very specific memory was that after that first session, I wandered into a part of the forest, and found a little meditation hut. It was like this magical little building, sitting beneath the trees, a beacon which connected me to memories from past retreats. After I finished my examination of the room, I stepped outside and sat in the sun, on a log where the rays showered down into the otherwise shaded realm. It was warm and I sat, and thought, and considered the thus far of my days here. As I sat there, my eyes found a lovely small piece of branch from a tree. It was so like a figure, with a curvacious middle, and little side arms sticking out from there, and two leg-like parts.  It was amazingly representative of a beautiful Goddess figure, made from a part of Mother Nature, herself. A gift. I slipped it into a pocket and went back to the orchard house where the storytelling class had been taking place. I had a story to tell.

To say the days slipped by too quickly is an understatement, but they were filled  with such abundance that I did truly leave, changed, and named, and with dreams of returning again. Rowe was not just a place I visited, but an experience which would shape the path I would take from that point on. I’d found something so substantial to guide me further in my inner purpose and my outer work.

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24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jabrush1213
    Jun 03, 2015 @ 20:24:39

    A great story that reminds me of a times in my life where I was finding myself. There are ways that life can take you in several different directions.

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  2. calensariel
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 00:22:01

    It just all sounds so wonderful. I would love to have been there with you. And what you said: “Rowe was not just a place I visited, but an experience which would shape the path I would take from that point on.” That is exactly what I felt about the retreat house. it changed who I was. This was a beautiful post, Fim. I’m glad I got to read about your time there. {{{Fim}}}

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    • Fimnora Westcaw
      Jun 04, 2015 @ 00:56:41

      Thank you, Calen!!! It really was life changing, but also life affirming. Q and I are going to take a trip up that way (Rowe has camps all summer, so it’s always open), this summer, so he can see where I was when we’d met online, but before we met in person. I know Womencircles is still going on, but it would be difficult to go now.

      When you wrote about your retreat house, it reminded me of Rowe, and a few of the other retreat houses I’d been to before. I know you’d have loved it!

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  3. julz
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 02:54:58

    Odd how I thought you were talking about a place in England at first – the names, the names – sounds like you had a magical journey – smile

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    • Fimnora Westcaw
      Jun 04, 2015 @ 12:06:17

      It was in New England 🙂 That might have a touch of the Old World in the naming of things. Yes, it was a very magical journey. I miss it, but life takes turns and I’ve found similar things.

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      • julz
        Jun 04, 2015 @ 14:29:58

        yes – Berkshire is an English county – tho I think we pronounce it differently!

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        • Fimnora Westcaw
          Jun 04, 2015 @ 16:11:17

          The shire part? So you’d pronounce it like LOTR Shire? while here it’s pronounced like sheer? There’s this town, also in New England that I’ve never understood why it’s pronounced Glosster, when it’s spelled Gloucester. How would that be pronounced there?

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          • julz
            Jun 04, 2015 @ 16:54:12

            oh this conversation could go on forever! quite a lot of the ‘founding fathers’ named places after the ones they had left behind -and in those days, there were lots of local words and local accents that have been lost now.

            Its impossible to do this in letters only – you need to hear the differences!

            Berkshire – is pronounced “Barksheere” in modern UK – but as far as I remember – its like Burkeshire in the US with the emphasis on the i!

            Gloucester is a town in the south west of england – and its pronounced Gloster – like you said – there are lots of ancient words in English and their spelling either goes back in time so long ago that no one knows why or what happened – OR – some nit wit decided that he would force people to say a name his way, and re-wrote the dictionary – Its a life time fascination – the kind of thing we English love to delve into – Stephen Fry is an expert at it – the intelligent comedian – he hosts a programme called QI – and its all about nuances in the English language!

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            • Fimnora Westcaw
              Jun 04, 2015 @ 17:37:28

              I can’t really say how others say Berkshire, but I’ve always said it as you noted above, at least on the latter part. I do say the first part of the word Burk, as you noted. It might be from my mother’s pronunciation. I’ve always known Gloucester, again, to be pronounced as you’ve noted. Not sure how others do. But you’re right, there is a world of difference in how people say things even within this country. Perfect example:
              I’ve was born and raised in NYC and there is a neighborhood there call SoHo which stands for South of Houston. Now, I’ve always pronounced it House-ton with the emphasis on HOUSE. Mr. Quantum, a Texan, pronounce it Hewston which they attribute to Sam Houston the historical figure. It is how they pronounce the city Houston in Texas. So there are so many different ways to say something.

              I LOVE Stephen Fry! We met him through Kingdom, the television show. Really loved him and have watched other programs he’s been in.

              It’s also interesting to see what words are used which we have never heard of here, and likewise, what words we have here, that many living in the UK have not heard.

              A friend of mine write fan fiction, and she uses what she calls, a “Brit Picker” to make sure that when she describes something that is typically British, that she’s using the correct phrases.

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  4. kim
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 04:00:02

    I loved reading this. I have never been to any kind of retreat, but I’m hopeful that I can bring some aspects of that kind of experience to everyday life. Reconnecting with the natural world, our inner creative selves and building meaningful relationships with each other… I hope we can all find ways to bring more of these into our lives, this blogging helps, I think. Thank you for the inspiration. x

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    • Fimnora Westcaw
      Jun 04, 2015 @ 12:16:04

      Thank you, Kim! While there is nothing which compares to the weeks spent there, in community, I’ve discovered – as you said, right here in Blogging – those of Like Mind, and in sharing our own journeys we give others thoughts and ideas about things we can do right in our own back yards, but also in dialog here, sharing the wonders of our own paths with one another.

      The most difficult part was reintegrating my time away with the everyday work-a-day world when I returned. I think I was walking on sunshine for a week and then it began to recede into the background as reality stepped in.

      The time away, makes a difference. Before Womencircles, and my times at Rowe, I used to go on private retreats – silent retreats – which carried it’s own ‘time out of time’ element. I’ve since, also, found some groups here online which I can learn about the things I did then, through the generosity of those who share their daily world here.

      It occurs to me that it might be the same as taking off for whatever holidays we’re given off (Thanksgiving, New Years Day, and the many other times the outside world ‘closes down’ in observance of certain days). Then I have the time – did when I was working – to decide what I want to do with that time given to us.

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      • kim
        Jun 04, 2015 @ 13:33:35

        Yes, I imagine it must have been difficult coming back down to everyday life. I also find it hard to balance between the things I truly want to do and those that I merely ‘have’ to do. Celebration holidays are often busier than work days for me, but I’m learning to take time out. It’s a work in progress for sure.

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  5. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 08:40:19

    May I ask where Rowe is? There is one in NM. Probably not what you are talking about.

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    • Fimnora Westcaw
      Jun 04, 2015 @ 12:27:02

      Yes, of course! It’s in Massachusetts. Here is the website.

      http://rowecenter.org/pages.php?name=About Rowe

      It makes me smile just seeing it.
      In the first couple of years after I married, I continued to go to the camp, but it was 1600 miles away, and I don’t fly, so while Amtrak was how I managed the trip, it was rather expensive, and I eventually stopped going. Now back here, I just never had the time because I was taking care of my parents.

      Q and I are looking forward to visiting this summer just so he can see it. 🙂

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      • Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature
        Jun 04, 2015 @ 17:52:56

        Ah, Mass. I knew it had to be too big a coincedence (although it is a pretty small world these days). There is a Rowe, New Mexico near me, and it is certainly beautiful enough to have a retreat center. I just wondered. Nice that you are going this summer.There are places I remember. Some have gone and some have changed.

        Date: Thu, 4 Jun 2015 16:27:05 +0000 To: mmaulsby@hotmail.com

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  6. Faraday's Candle
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 12:37:59

    Life takes wonderful unexpected turns and you find yourself working with what you have which can change your life for the better or worse. Going back would be worth the effort. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Fimnora Westcaw
      Jun 04, 2015 @ 13:16:42

      Very true… and I always seek to take a positive attitude with some of those unexpected turns which throw me off. Everyday offers a time of learning. I always hope to see it that way. I’m looking forward to walking those memory lanes.

      It’s always a joy to see you here. Thank you for your words!

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  7. lightwalker1
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 23:56:49

    It is wonderful how life takes a turn here or there and the changes that occur. I am happy your heart was open to the opportunities presented then and now. In love and light Cheryle

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