So. Two posts about the fall Taproot Gathering. That’s enough, right?
Not nearly – at least, not for me. I’ve been searching for a way to express how far I’ve come in the past year – a year’s space that’s bookended in my mind by my first Squam and this most recent one. I remember crying on Camille’s shoulder in the fall of 2012 that, in all my rush to feel safe in adulthood, I had forgotten how to be human, how to really be alive. I remember so clearly feeling incapable of speaking openly with other women that first year, like a baby learning how to walk and falling down again and again.
And now only twelve months have gone by, and in the weeks leading up to the Taproot Gathering, there I was, sewing handbound books and crocheting bracelets and making earl grey marshmallows to give away. I felt full to the brim and so powerful, standing in my new ability to provide for other people in a way that had nothing to do with the paychecks I earn. And I saw my old full-time job in a new, more forgiving light, too, as I prepared to travel. When I look at what I did in the near decade I spent in IT, I feel a lot of pride at all the love I gave away – that I was able to not just resolve my clients’ problems with their computers and servers, but comfort them about problems they experienced in their careers and in their home lives. To me, it was always about much more than just technology, and I think that was why the last year I spent in management broke my heart. You have to cultivate a certain level of detachment once you rise up the ranks; that’s not me now, and I don’t know that I would ever want it to be. I want to be fully connected to other people, even when it hurts me, even when it takes from me, even when there’s a price to pay for it. But it was such a gift, as I geared up for the retreat, to have that giving space freed up within myself – to choose to bring love to my cabinmates and to the women I drove out from the airport, not because they were asking and I felt called to respond, but because I freely chose to give some of my energy to them. To be well enough to simply be of use to others is a beautiful thing, the greatest and most profound experience, and something I haven’t had access to in a very long time.
And what lovely women I met – though it’s hardly surprising to meet wonderful folks at a Squam retreat, I felt like my own openness and availability this time allowed me to connect more deeply and more easily than in previous sessions. Beautiful Dixie and Erica, who I drove out from the airport. I’ve loved being able to drive new attendees into Squam these last two sessions; I think of it as doing my part to bring new women into the fold, and each time as we leave I remember how utterly freaked I was my first year, with my delayed flight and way-more-expensive-than-planned shuttle, and I try to do what I can to make the transition into retreat more gentle for them. These two were so brave and open in sharing their lives with me and I really treasure the time I got to spend with each of them.
And then there were the amazing women in my cabin, from those who expressed such beautiful gratitude for the things I did to those who did for me. My roommate Cori and cabinmate Jenn, who kindly taught me everything they had learned in their crochet class and even supplied me with the tools and yarn I needed? Such wonderfulness. Every time I wear my shawl I’ll think of their kindness in passing their knowledge along. As much as I love classroom instruction, I think I love the informal cross-pollination of knowledge that happens when we gather together even more, and this session was such a shining example of that.
If I had to pick my favorite moment, though, it would be a moment on the dock. On Saturday Julia Shipley conducted a very short and casual lesson in our cabin; the instructions were to find an isolated place outside and really take in what our senses had to tell us about where we were – sights, sounds, smells – and record it via sketches and words. I lay on our dock on my stomach and listened and drew what I heard and saw. Deeply immersed, at first I didn’t notice the voices calling out to me as groups of women walked past my dock – and then I heard Erica from two docks over, calling my name and waving at me and smiling. I recorded these sounds too, waving at each group in turn and explaining that I was in the middle of a writing exercise and would catch up later.
I was cleaning out my bags today from my latest trip and found the paper from that day. Covered in hearts calling my name.