Sometimes I think my heart’s all cartography, that I am a map of all the places I’ve been and loved. There’s such immortality and immediacy in a map, such preservation of the current moment, and some days when I look inside myself those place-moments are all of me. Some part of me will always be up in the balcony at the Paramount Theatre in Austin; some part of me will always be standing on a dock lakeside at Squam. And some part of me will always be in the water at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland with my husband, my hands on his shoulders, my legs floating out behind us. In Iceland over a year ago, that first time, standing on the threshold of all the changes that would follow. Changes that, in just under a month, will culminate with the birth of our first child.
And just like that, part of me will always be waking up in a crisp white bed in an old manor house in Somerset, at Red Fox Retreats, surrounded by a community of women so beautifully brave that it just brought me to my knees with awe. Before I went to Red Fox I remember being so hungry for words, words, words about what the experience would be like. And yet now that I’m home, I’m finding that the experience was one of those strange wordless moments in time, even for someone like me who practically bleeds the alphabet.
So what can I tell you? That everyone was open-hearted in a way that surpassed everything I expected. That Sas, Susannah and Meghan gave us everything, left absolutely nothing on the table, guided and led us in a way that took my breath away. That we talked, that we were vulnerable with each other, that we danced outside barefoot in the rain under the moon late one night. That we walked up the Tor in Glastonbury together; that my body felt safe and protected, capable and whole. That we bore witness for each other. That we all came to heal, and that we took to it like the holy work healing ought to be. And for me, that I felt close to my son again; that I felt once again like I might be on the cusp of making the right choices for us; that I was respected and upheld by the other women in the circle in a way that was both sacred and matter-of-fact. It’s tough to articulate how much I needed it and impossible to express how grateful I am.
We didn’t have photography classes at Red Fox, so oddly enough, I found that one of the most significant smaller moments for me was reaching a reconnection with my cameras. I’ve noticed this year that when I’m feeling creatively stuck, photography is the first thing I disconnect with completely – it’s like a canary in a coal mine warning me when my batteries are on empty. Wandering the grounds and exploring Glastonbury with my mind’s eye on my camera’s lens felt like a homecoming; it was one of the gentlest readjustments I made during our time retreating and yet it had such a healing impact on me.
And Glastonbury itself – well, I hope I get a chance to go back one of these years. One of the best herbalist shops I’ve ever been in, the chance to wander through the quiet ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in the late afternoon sun, and a delicious meal in one of the most fabulous pubs my time in the UK has ever taken me into. Although next time I think I’ll skip the mushroom hot cocoa in favor of something a little less healthy.
Walking around the grounds, that last night, I felt this sense in my bones: that we are here once, that we’ll never be here again in this way. That this moment is untwinnable. Usually I rail against that sense that time is passing, that the moment can’t be held transfixed, but for once, at Red Fox, I was able to just watch the sunset, feel the moment passing on, and grieve, but with gratitude. And if that’s not really everything there is to say about the experience – well, then I don’t know what is.