Drawn Together: Women’s Retreat on the Olympic Peninsula

August 13, 2016

Near the Lower Elwha River, Olympic Peninsula

Near the Lower Elwha River, Olympic Peninsula

Big-leaf maple

Big-leaf maple

I just returned from five days at the Nature Bridge conference center in Olympic National Park near Lake Crescent where I joined 12 other women on retreat.  As check-in was at 3:00 p.m. on Monday and I left after breakfast on Friday, we had just three full days there — not really long enough for me to completely relax and rejuvenate — but still a true vacation from my city life.

The definition of a retreat is “an act of moving back or withdrawing,” especially from what is difficult, dangerous or disagreeable.  Or it can be a withdrawal for contemplation and meditation.  I found my experience at Nature Bridge way too stimulating for that.  There were all these interesting and wise women to meet and be friendly with.  The immediate surroundings offered walking trails and swimming.  Every day a few of the group took off on day trips to the ocean beaches, longer hiking trails on the other side of the lake, or other destinations on the peninsula.  The choices!

The Nature Bridge campus.  All 13 of us stayed in a larger, multi-room cabin rather than one of these cute cottages.

The Nature Bridge campus. All 13 of us stayed in a larger, multi-room cabin rather than one of these cute cottages.

The main dining room was called the Rosemary Inn.  (I felt at home.)

The main dining room was called the Rosemary Inn. (I felt at home.)


“The time for it is always with us though we say I do not have that kind of time.  The kind of time I have is not for this but for that.  I wish I had that kind of time.  But if you had that kind of time — would you do it?  Would you give it a try?”
— Lynda Barry, What It Is

This retreat was a chance for me to have the time for “it,” and I decided that my “it” would be devoting myself to painting.  It was hard to stay focused on the goal with so many appealing alternatives.  The lovely thing about these days was that all meals were provided and I did not have to spend one minute thinking about the state of my cupboards, meal planning, or cooking.  We met as a group at breakfast and dinner, but other than that, our time was completely self-directed.

And although I did manage to make a painting each of the five days, I found I did not create as many as I had expected.  The free days were a gift, but somehow the hours disappeared far too quickly.  For me, this was a revealing taste of what life might be like in retirement.  I think I will have to develop a rhythm and structure to my days — with a regular few hours sitting down with my paints — in order to settle my mind and feel some sense of growth and satisfaction.  I never did find this kind of rhythm at Nature Bridge.

Moments in Time trail through old growth forest

Moments in Time trail through old growth forest



The first afternoon I walked the “Moments in Time” loop trail through a stand of old growth forest.  And I made my first painting there.  This Western Red Cedar was completely burned out at the bottom, but still managed to live, with green on its upper branches.


Watercolor sketch of Western Red Cedar

Watercolor sketch of Western Red Cedar

I am still transitioning back to city life, but I will share more of my Nature Bridge experience in the next few days.  Stay tuned!



6 Responses to “Drawn Together: Women’s Retreat on the Olympic Peninsula”

  1. Bobbi Krebs-McMullen Says:

    I made it a point to seek out your blog when I returned home from Crescent Lake, and I’m so glad I did. Your reflections on the retreat, thoughtful photos, and beautiful water colors are inspiring. It was so nice to meet you, I look forward to following your blog. Hopefully, our paths will cross again. – Bobbi

  2. This looks like a really nice place for a retreat.

  3. Elisa Says:

    I consider that the childlike wonder and ‘darting’ if you will, from thing to thing is a huge gift and a freeing from the need to organize and to control. I know, before we have shared with each other that you like control and structure, and organizing. For me that just kills my creative self and all enjoyment. What I call organizing, can be expectations, which then just leaves me always losing a thing, and the experience becomes only how I perceive it, instead of what it is. Sometimes too, I structure, so that I do not have to feel the spaces in between. I tend to run from skating on the unknown. Currently I am skating in my spiritual practice. I asked however I am not too sure I am really into pilgrimage or acceptance of the new, even if it is an answer to a prayer. I tell me that I want predictable and stable. Always looking for the perfect this or that, I am.

    Really enjoyed these, sharings about your trip, thank you!

  4. Mary Says:

    What a wonderful experience in such a beautiful place. I am wondering how you found out about the retreat. Was it an invitation-only event or something that anyone can register for and participate in?

    • Rosemary Says:

      This was a group put together by women who were already acquainted, some long-time friends. So I asked to be added if they needed extra people to fill out the quota. I think Nature Bridge asks for groups of 12 or more, and some of the prior year’s participants could not come this year. So luckily there was room for me. You can go onto the Nature Bridge website to find out more about staying at their conference facilities, and the cost, etc.

  5. […] Drawn Together: Women’s Retreat on the Olympic Peninsula, August 13, 2016 […]

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