Last week I was away on a tutored writing retreat, at Moniack Mhor, run by Arvon. I had never been on such a thing before and it was a wonderful experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to retreat from the responsibilities of running a home, I found myself retreating from all sorts of other things. The time away made me much more aware of all the time and energy-sapping activities I do while I am at home. I retreated from the internet (there was none available); ceased posting on Facebook, stopped tweeting, didn't post any photographs here on my website (or on any other websites) nor did I update my blog. I could Google nothing, Like nothing, pin no images on Pinterest. I answered no emails, sent only a handful of text messages (to say I had arrived safely) and spoke to no-one on the phone.
I didn't read a newspaper the whole time I was away, nor watch the television (there was none there to distract us), nor even listen to the radio. Funnily enough, it was the latter I started to miss first. But not the news, or the spoken word programmes which I listen to regularly at home; I suddenly craved hearing some music. We finally managed to persuade the CD player to work and so that was soon assuaged.
I didn't go to the shops for five days; didn't drive a car, cross a street or see any traffic lights. For 90% of the time, I didn't have to cook, or clear up, or wash up. Or do any washing or hanging out of clothes, or ironing (not that I do that much of the latter, if the truth be told).
Instead, I wrote, I read, I listened. I talked and walked; I looked, watched, noticed, listened some more and thought. I laughed a lot. I thought a great deal, in a space inside my head which I had almost forgotten existed. And it all felt in balance. Somehow I had retreated from all the mindless things and found all the mindful ones; having the opportunity to do so was a golden one and I believe that I made the most of it. Now the trick is to continue to carve out that balanced time within the days and months ahead.
This post has also been published on the "My Arvon Week" blog page of the Arvon website.
I am inspired to buy some pots of herbs from the garden centre we visit (mainly for a cup of tea) on the way home. They will be planted in pots this time - previous attempts in the border near the back door have been thwarted by the dog's trampling of the area. And now I must transplant my tomato seedlings from their seed tray into pots, so that they may flourish and hopefully provide some tomatoes one day. That's what gardening is all about, I think. Hope.