We left Friday evening from campus to a location only about half an hour away… but we live in this part of the state where anything past 15 mins from the university is practically all farm and nowheresville, which, at times is a great thing, as it means it’s relatively easy to escape.
We had rented out an A-frame house in the Brethren Woods, tucked away in the trees that were just passing peak color, maybe a bit more so (much of the vibrant leaves had just fallen, lining the ground with the most vibrant carpet of crunch I think I have ever walked upon).
But I digress.
When we got there, we unpacked briefly and then got to fixing dinner, some super large pizzas to be cooked in the oven and eaten as we did some ice-breaking games. The first one we did was actually hilarious– consisting of a slip of paper for everyone with 5 “W” questions [who, what, when, where, why), you’re supposed to come up with a question for each of those [about anything] and then those papers get shuffled and redistributed, and then people have to answer the questions any way they like. Once that’s done, the papers are re-shuffled and redistributed, this time to be read aloud, but here’s where it gets interesting– one person reads their “who” question, and the person next to them answers it with the answer from their paper, proceeding to ask the next question and get answers from the next person that are completely unrelated to anything. A lot of great moments in that game, and honestly a really good way to beat cabin fever!
We continued playing games while our priest left to go get coffee [someone had forgotten to pack the coffee! *faints*] and practically played ourselves to sleep.
We had a wood stove that was such a great heater, with additional floor heaters in the sections of the house to keep the sleeping areas warm.
The next morning, I awoke with a start–when I opened my eyes, I was faced with a daddy long-legs— I screamed for half a second and woke some people that weren’t awake yet (I had already kinda been woken up by the smell of bacon, but still. It was traumatic).
A hearty breakfast was followed by a bible study session, where we discussed the meaning of servanthood and all that it entails in the scripture and in secular works/opinions etc. That was followed by this really nice ice breaking activity where we just wrote anonymous notes of kindness to each other [it sounds super sappy, but I can assure you it was anything but.]
We then had a couple of hours of free time, which most of us used for homework and whatnot, some of us [yours truly] for procrastination and a fraction of homework, as well as some actual work, with some crafting thrown in:
After that, we embarked on a hike — the goal was to hike to the “crack” houses, where our priest told us semi-seriously that she suspected there were people just living hermit lives and making meth or something in the woods…. something about making their money in broken down shacks that have smoke appearing at the chimneys or something…
Well, we never got to find out because as soon as we got deeper into the hike, we stumbled across these chains wrapped up around trees that prevented us from trespassing towards said “crack houses”. Oh well.
We continued our hike to the more open areas of the site, and stumbled upon a “gaga-ball” corral and tried our hand at the game around dusk. It was very engaging and a bit challenging but honestly, overall, a great game to play.
We had dinner later, and then embarked on a later night hike– this time to the open field where we could see a blanket of stars. It was gorgeous. We also found a covered wagon where we sat and talked and took some pretty interesting pictures.
We ended the night with steaming hot beverages and a small prayer service, similar to our weekly Compline. We played the W’s game again and then found ourselves extremely exhausted soon after.
The next morning we woke up early and packed up, ate breakfast, and prepped for a short Sunday morning service. There’s just something about being in the woods, waking up in a wooden house to the smell of home made breakfast, with awesome people, growing closer with aforementioned awesome people, and then worshiping in the same space, knowing that just outside the front door is this gorgeous scenery, this blessed creation that we got to stay in for a little while.
The service was followed by group pics, and then we shipped out.
It was a completely abnormal weekend, a true retreat from responsibilities [lol] and a wonderful social treat.
During our time there I could not help but think on Henry David Thoreau:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
So often it’s easy to get caught up in the busy schedules, rushing from class to class, seeing people as a formality, scurrying to and from with our headphones in and noses down… This retreat helped me foster some creativity, take a break from all the goings on on campus, and, engage in some meaningful, thoughtful discussion not only about faith, theology, and “god stuff,” but about life in general. Sometimes the retreats are just the thing we need to put things back into perspective when they’ve fallen off the wagon….