When I first came to this place, surrounded by mountains, I met the jolliest man I'd ever encountered, with the most twinkly eyes I had ever seen. He had a green thumb and his garden looked like paradise to me. He could finish my sentences before I even uttered a word. My soul recognized his right away, with a deep knowing; like a gentle, acknowledging nod saying "I know you." This man, this place, were a part of me though I didn't know it yet.
My world seemed a confusing conundrum at that point, more like a chaotic mess, but here I felt the subtly of calm peace at my grasp like an invisible flutter against my cheek. I didn't stay long here, but when I went back to my box-size apartment with a view of endless concrete, this place stayed with me. Stayed with me like a deep, quiet dream in my subconscious, so beautiful it was hard to believe it existed. Then, in that concrete world, pieces of my life broke apart, while my control felt frantic. With seemingly no direction (but truly more than I'd ever had), I returned to this place, thanks to the warm words of a twinkly eyed man.
I planned to stay a few days. Just long enough to devise a new plan and set forth in my aimless wanderings again. But something made me stay. Made me pause. Something held me firmly in this place, next to this man. Something solid and quiet and powerful took hold.
At first I felt broken, tired, and noisy and I chattered until my mind was quiet. Eventually the ceaseless buzzing of my previous life finally stopped, as I slowly cut the cords of all the drama still clinging. I let the steady rain, of the lush Oregon foothills, wash everything away. All the jumbled pieces began to fall into place, as the tension lifted and my body relaxed. I sat on the edge of the small handbuilt pond and watched the reflections ripple on the surface of the water. Felt myself empty out in a big exhale. I felt myself open up. I had space to be. I could finally breathe and hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath for so long. I let the peace of these mountains envelop me and this man wrap his arms around me. I let a cocoon of healing surround me in it's light and an inner quiet washed over me. I savored my soul's retreat.
This place started to change me, shape me. In time my roots sunk into the earth. My feet learned the paths. My eyes memorized the mountain lines and my hands the feel of the trees. The sound of the river became a constant and soothing companion. My senses came alive, just like my joy. I settled into this place like a hammock on a summer day. Where I had never quite fit in before, I just felt right here, with this man. The longer I stayed, the less I wanted to leave, even for a brief time. For this place was where I truly wanted to be.
When a baby was born and my soul once again did the familiar nod, my feeling of belonging deepened. He had twinkly eyes just like his father and wanted to spend every waking moment in the garden or woods. And as I watched them both together, my smile grew.
When I first came to this place, I was a stranger to myself. In time, what my retreat has given me is a renewed connection with myself. And when I see my reflection in that still pond, it is no longer a stranger's face, but a familiar one with a friendly smile.
The gifts in my life came in a way I never would have expected. Since coming here, there's been as much tearing down as building and I've come to find there is such a satisfaction in both.
With my feet rooted here, with our family surrounding me, I've never felt a deeper sense of belonging. I've never felt more at home than here in this place, with our family. I belong here. And each day, as I walk these paths, feeling the earth under my feet, my heart says thank you. For this place. For our family. For my soul's retreat. And for all the surprises in life that are yet to come. Thank you.