I spent the summer solstice with a group of women I'd never met. Well, I'd met one of them, but we had barely crossed the threshold of acquaintance before spending a transformational weekend at the Bearnstow Retreat Center in Mt. Vernon, Maine.
Bearnstow was built as a hunting and fishing camp in the 1880s. Though it became a dance and arts center in 1946, it retains the authentic look of an old-time hunting camp. To be honest, I was dubious upon arrival that I'd be comfortable in that squeaky old cot with the mothball-infused wool blanket, the rickety buildings, hard wooden benches and chairs (not a carpet or throw pillow in sight), under the shadows of a heavily treed canopy on the shore of Parker Pond. How quickly my ambivalence turned to enchantment.
Nine women sat, unmasked, in a writer's circle, and we connected. Sometimes you meet a new person with whom you resonate. More rare is finding a communal bond as a group. We laughed, we sang, we told stories, we swam, we hiked, we wrote.
Maybe it was the fact that it was our first post-pandemic foray back into the world of community with strangers. Maybe it was the fact that we were the first group to retreat at Bearnstow after a two year hiatus. Maybe the weather, the delicious food, the brisk swims in the lake, the improvised dance performance by our hosts, the warm fireside in the evenings and early mornings. More likely it was the unique combination of kindness, creativity, and open heartedness that blossomed when these nine women sat and wrote, and listened to each other intently, supporting and celebrating each other's art and soul.
Something broke open in me - the idea of possibility, a redefining of self and future at this advancing age we've come to. I left inspired. Thanks to all of you; thanks to Bearnstow and our bright-eyed, welcoming hosts. Thank you for reminding me that there are still worlds to discover, both inside and around me.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.