Like all journeys in life, the road to Pendle Hill had twists and turns. I had never facilitated a weekend writing retreat before. I had attended retreats, but running one myself, which meant keeping to a schedule, making sure the writing time was balanced with instruction, insight and accomplishment, was a first.
We met Friday night in Waysmeet House, having driven to Pendle Hill in a rainstorm and bumper-to-bumper traffic. One of the writers had called to say a family emergency meant she would have to cancel; another woman was unable to break away and come to Pendle Hill until Saturday morning.
But once inside my worry disappeared. Seven of us gathered in a circle, lit the candle in a room with fireplace, paintings and books and began our weekend. We read excerpts from memoirs we loved and had touched us. We set our intentions for the weekend, centered on writing from life - the name of our retreat. We began the work of getting it on paper, shutting out the world, leaving the "to-do" list behind and learning to be in the moment, quiet and still.
Our read-around Saturday night was more than some had anticipated. The solitude and beauty of this Pennsylvania Quaker residential retreat, abloom in lush springtime flowers, had worked its magic. The rain was gone and the sun came out. Some had tackled the defining moments of their lives and begun writing about it for the first time.
I believe happiness comes with a commitment not to let others derail you from what you know you need to do to find meaning and joy. Healthy self-love that your story is important and unique is crucial. So is the courage to let the words lead you where they must.
As we closed out our retreat on Sunday afternoon, we gathered in front of Waysmeet for farewells. "I came to this with the fear of not being accepted," Ellen said. "I leave with acceptance and listening, heartfelt ears."
Much of life's success comes when you believe you have skill and talent; that you are worthy. But without encouragement from others, or just one person who says, "You can do this," that confidence can't happen. I thank Beth who gave me the confidence to facilitate our weekend.
"I leave so much richer . . .," Diane wrote.
I, too, leave richer because of the women who gave of themselves and trusted. I feel I have taken with me the memories of and for a lifetime. In many ways, all roads lead to Pendle Hill.