I'm home from the retreat. Refreshed and recharged. One definition of retreat is "A period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place." This one checked all the boxes. A few days with friends in the "middle of nowhere" in the Deep South. This is the fourth year for this retreat. That means that by now friendships are strong. There were new faces this year. Young faces. And that was wonderful. And it energized us. But that core group that showed up the first year–many of us not knowing a soul–was mostly back and it was a wonderful to be together. Oh, how dear these people from around the country have become to me.
So. What do we do at a retreat? At this particular retreat?
We knit. That is why we come. There is knitting at sunrise. There is knitting late into the night. There are no classes at this gathering, but there is much learning that goes on. Having trouble with a sweater? There will be another knitter who pulls up a chair and says, "Let me help you." The knitting is the reason we are together.
We visit. Every year we become better acquainted and friendships deepen. Some conversations begin before sunrise. Over coffee. In pajamas. During the day there is lots of laughter as we talk. Other knitters stay up into the wee hours and as the gathering room empties, they linger and savor that last heart-to-heart. We change seats during the day to chat with more people. And to make sure no one is left out. That's pretty cool.
We care. Social media, for all of its issues, provides a way to stay in touch throughout the year. These knitters are there to lend support when life gets tough. Difficult diagnoses. Illnesses. Loss. Elder care. These knitters celebrate with us when the big life events are happy ones. New babies. Weddings. Recoveries. Retirements.
We share. Recipes. Good advice. Family stories. Favorite knitting patterns. Knowledge. Skill. Phone numbers. Addresses. Rides to the airport. Little gifts. Jumper cables. Book titles.
We plan. There are always conversations about where we knitters will meet next. Maybe another retreat. Maybe it's a knitting related tour. We might pencil in a lunch date as we figure out who lives not so very far away. We figure out when our vacation plans bring us near a knitting friend and plan to meet.
We say goodbye. These aren't sad goodbyes. The air is filled with, "I'm so glad I met you." And, "Are you coming to the Yarn & Sheep Festival? I'll see you there." There are even those who say, "Sure! Come stay with me. I've got plenty of room." Paula, the host of this retreat, ends each of her podcasts (she has an excellent podcast) with "Haste ye back!" That's exactly the feeling that she has created here. We all want to come back. We plan to come back.
May the path on which you wander.
Be to you a joy each day.
Haste ye back, we loo you dearly.
Haste ye back on friendship's way.
~~from a Scottish song by Robert Wilson