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Ladies Only


We were deep in the woods. A place so thick with large trees, so covered with green moss, that people from flatter, less foliaged places might feel claustrophobic and uneasy.  There is no connection to the outside world and when the generator turns off at night, you had better be in bed, or at least know where your flashlight is.

This past weekend I attended my first “women’s retreat” after being repeatedly invited by a friend for more years than I can remember. And at last, I had no reason to say “no.” (Thanks, Juel, for your persistence.)

It was a glorious time. The camp itself, the buildings, the location (in the Coast Range near Lincoln City) is enchanting. I try to imagine what it looks like to folks not from around here. Green moss clinging, crawling and hanging from every tree limb and bush. Sitka spruce so wide and tall you can’t fit them into a tiny box of a camera. But this place, Drift Creek Camp, is where I attended summer camp as a child in the 1970s. And as an adult I’ve come here with my church for “family camp” many times over the past twenty years. I know it well.

But this was the first time I came to camp when it was all women and all about women. We ate, we laughed, we danced, we sang, maybe cried or prayed. We shared concerns and stories at meals around small round tables, or sat silently reading by the giant stone fireplace. We hiked trails in the forest alone or in groups.

We created art out of paper in the craft room or sat in front of jigsaw puzzles looking for just the right piece. No computer, no dishes, no cooking, no job, kids, or husbands. There was opportunity to pay for massage by the minute, or retreat to a “quiet” room with a comfy rocker and desk. There were a few services we could attend—or not attend (where we thought about women of the Bible who had gotten bad raps)—as well as other “interest sections”: a book discussion, journaling tips, group exercise. It was all low key. You were free to do as much or as little as you wanted.

On the road home one of the riders in my carpool suggested a favorite thing of hers from the weekend was “the sweet potato fries.” I think my favorite was the laughter. There was a lot of opportunity to laugh–and I liked that. Who doesn’t feel great after some good out-loud laughing?

Another unexpected highlight for me was the second night, after lights out. I shared a room with three other women and as we lay there in the dark, we continued talking for a while. It reminded me of when I was a child and my two sisters and I shared a room, often talking too late into the night to our parents’ consternation. Or of my family now, when the kids were younger and when we camped, sharing one family tent, those old conversations from the sleeping bags filling up the dark. It was very sweet. “Goodnight John-Boy. Goodnight Mary-Ellen.”

Being an introvert, I signed up for this retreat with my feet dragging—sort of the way I sign up to do anything—but it was good. I’m ready for next year!

(Although there’s no guarantee my feet won’t be dragging again by then. :))

S. Smith is the author of the awesome middle grade series, Seed Savers. Visit her Pinterestand Facebook pages. Sign up for the newsletter!


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