My project 1

Hulloa armchair adventurer! This is a sharing of a recent personal mini-retreat that lasted just 24 hours, almost to the minute. It wasn’t grand or fancy, and it didn’t cost and arm and a leg…and it delivered absolute clarity for me, along with gentle and wondrous magic. There isn’t a big agenda here beyond me just sharing, because I love personal retreats a lot, and maybe someone will feel inspired or curious, and hit the road to come back to themselves or be changed in a kindly crucible of their own making. On a different day, I’ll share the ‘how to’ steps, and for now, some of the big ingredients in the process will become clear as you read along.

This sharing isn’t meant to be met quickly, but if you have capacity, with a slow cup of tea and some curiosity. Perhaps there will be some medicine in it for you, or perhaps it will be something fun or amusing to read. However you meet this, I send you gentle blessings if you wish to receive them.

It all began when…

This particular retreat popped to mind in a call with a really lovely new person I’m working with. We were chatting about working together for several months to help bring The Dreaming Otter’s vision clearly into focus and into 3D. For me, it feels like we’re living in new times, and I’m welcoming a helping hand to do things in a new way. It all feels super fun and lovely, warm and wonderful. I’m excited!

Once the idea seed landed and I spoke it out loud, the retreat fairy waved her magic wand and the mystery of it all was set in motion. I find personal retreats to be really sentient, and it’s amazing to see what rich kinds of experiences arrive when I say ‘yes,’ put myself out a bit to do the thing, and then receive the big beautiful medicine that gets delivered. Unexpected every time, and wondrous!

After the ‘yes!’ came the noodling on refining the why, and the where and the when. The why felt pretty clear – I wanted to honor a profound new beginning that I’m excited and happy about, and I also wanted to meet The Dreaming Otter more deeply. She’s an amazing being, and as we discover our relationship together, there’s room for tending and listening so we can deepen in a good way.

The when became clear after a good chat with my calendar and moving a few things about, and I asked my spirit helpers for a helping hand for the where. I like poking about on air b&b, and chose a cozy spot about an hour north, far enough to be outside of my daily routine, and close enough for this mini retreat to feel simple and easeful.

Retreat magic visited before I even set out – as I booked this little space in a very large forest, I chatted back and forth with the hostess. I shared that I’d be on personal retreat, and in reply she sent a long and lovely article she’d written about all the people who had visited there over the years. With eyes full of wonder, I read about those who had come to honeymoon, the man who came to write letters (and left one) to the love of his life who had just died, the sisters who slept in the same bed, the young couples with newborns… it was amazing to read about so many rites of passage and pivotal moments in lives marked by being held sweetly out in the rolling hills, far away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and living.

It was so amazing to hear through our connection of all the wanderers who had graced this little air b&b in the woods. I could feel the lineage of good company, crossroads moments, and happy (or tender) memories waiting there for me.

Thank you, spirit of personal retreat, for offering such a perfect spot!

There’s a joy in packing for an adventure, be it a small and cozy one, or grand and momentous. I’m a geeky organizational kind of creature, and keep a living list of all the things I like having with me to feel cozy and resourced. Into my little travel suitcase went oracle decks, fairy bells, essential oils and a long-loved pelt for the altar. They were joined by the current book, toothbrush, socks, chapstick, earplugs, sleeping mask, and a host of other little dailies that are fun to have, easily forgotten, and make a sweet moment into a perfect one. Gentle foods came, too – avocados and hummus, quinoa chips and dark chocolate. Journals, pens, and directions to help me get where I was headed, as I like to travel off electronic leash. I was ready!

Piling everything into the chariot, I invoked the retreat. I often do this in a quiet or remote space, but it felt right, so I rolled with it, if you’ll pardon the pun. I like to invoke out loud, and sent up a strong prayer for the mystery to allow me to be with it, and let The Dreaming Otter and this new beginning know I was ready to listen, lean in, and deepen. I slathered up the car with reiki symbols, took a nice deep breath (you know the kind, where you’re all aquiver in anticipation), and set off.

I drove in the quiet sunny afternoon with windows down. No phone, no music, no company except a little hedgehog in a purple cape from a trip to Ashland years back, and my car guardian who always sits with me at the wheel. I drove slowly, and savored the silence…

After getting solidly lost, and driving past the unmarked road in the woods several times (the directions warned me about that, and they delivered), I finally figured it out, and wound through a long, twisty, turning road that looped and gamboled through hills and trees. Waaaaay out in the middle of nowhere, I found the little house, and with great curiosity let myself in to my sanctuary for the night.

After clearing the energy of the space in a way that works for me, I poked about in nooks and crannies for a time, getting acquainted with the space. It was sweet, with three teeny sheep sitting in a semicircle on my pillow, a Dr Seuss book sitting bedside ripe for reading, and unusual objects d’art sparsely gracing the space. From the window, I could see an enormous sea of trees and hills…green and lush and open as far as the eye could see. Quiet. Lovely.

I set about creating the little travel altar for the retreat, and it came together swiftly and sweetly. Next came a few hours of divination, listening intently to what the mystery wanted to share through the cards. It was such an interesting and auspicious reading! Messages came through that I won’t share here, but resonated deeply. The oracle was absolutely, completely spot on, and the conversation between the cards was both accurate and hopeful.

With the sun lowish in the sky, I hopped back on the road to hunt down dinner. This is all happening out in West Marin, and if you’re familiar with it, there are lots of sweet little towns to poke about in. I found just the thing, picked up a glorious salad with beets, walnuts, and apples, and drove to a spot above a reservoir I love, to nibble.

I watched fishermen casting lines in the setting sun, down amongst the reeds. I watched mist purl out over the water, with golden sun glinting over the ripples. There were many deep sighs of contentment to just be in the silence, eating good food, and watching light leave the sky. Quiet. Lovely.

That’s when things got interesting, and the retreat really started working on me…

I got gloriously lost driving back. I know and love West Marin, and have driven those empty roads in the triple digits. I can pop back and forth with great ease. And yet, as I drove along with wind on my face and silence and great sweeping swaths of oaks and redwoods, fading dappled light, and miles and miles of no humans at all…I began to wonder where familiar landmarks where.

There is a primal joy for me in driving in desolate places. I lived once on the road for a year, nomading about from town to town, letting miles roll away under my feet. I love – and I mean LOVE – driving for hours without seeing another human. It’s quiet, contemplative, easy, and a profound relief for me not to feel the energetic presence of others as acutely as I do. Given one thing to have that I cannot live without, I’ll choose energetic quiet before you can even finish asking the question. So these long drives out in the middle of everywhere are deeply, deeply nutritive for my soul.

There was so much beauty. I rolled by caramel cows and huge floofy chickens in yards. Enormous bulls and dainty horses. Old dilapidated barns, egg farms. Dank redwood forests and oak trees gently embracing each other over the road. And the quiet. The lovely, glorious, encompassing, vibrant, thrumming, perfect, blessed quiet.

After an hour or so, driving along with a mona lisa smile on my face, I had to admit that something had gone sideways (or, just right) and I was beautifully, brilliantly lost. No GPS, no familiar landmarks, the last light of the sun leaching from the sky, soft mists rolling in, darkness falling. With windows still down in the silence, I could smell that extraordinary aroma of nighttime trees breathing. Such peace.

I had forgotten how much I love this. It’s been a minute, in the pandemic, since I got some road under my paws, and got away from the humans in such a way. I forgot how wild and free I feel when I’m all alone in a forest on a winding road, and my spirit was ululuating with deep, wild joy. I felt alive, happy, and the moments were rich and sweet.

West Marin is only so big, and I figured I’d pop out somewhere or other, and eventually did. I had made my way waaaaaay more north than I thought, and cheerfully turned around in the near-dark. Fast forward to making it back to the little air b&b safely, and being met by a symphony of frogs in the darkness. It all came out just fine, and the joy and wonder of it was in how much fun it was to be lost for a while, not knowing what would reveal itself next, and being taken by the rich deep beauty of it all.

That’s how it’s felt, in the first year of tending The Dreaming Otter, after two decades of running another small business before her. It often felt like being lost on a winding road in the liminal space between day and night, not knowing my way forward or home.

And the gift of personal retreat reminded me that there’s magnificent, thunderous, lovely, unexpected poetry in the ride.

I fell asleep smiling, heart full.

I’d wake up the next day to spend time in remembrance and contemplation, sitting with the spirit of The Dreaming Otter so she could whisper her sweet dreams in my ears. Each piece – the drive out, building the altar, the hours of divination, the little meal at water’s edge, getting gloriously lost in the woods at dusk, the remembrance, the journeying – they were all little puzzle pieces that landed with grace.

I needed and cherished them all.

Fast forward a bit more, and I was back on the (now more familiar, laughter) winding redwood road. I happened on a tiny little stand on the side of the road with a handmade chalk sign that read ‘tea & tie-dye.’ It wasn’t fancy, or polished. It was homespun and obviously tended with charm and love and care. I pulled over, hopped out, and with no one around, took it all in for a while.

One could donate what felt right for tea, brewed and left with care for travelers daily. There were little cups, and a weather-stained book left out in the elements and a battered sharpie if one wished to leave a lovenote. As I searched for and found an empty page, I glanced at someone’s note of thanks for this little redwood roadside tree stand, for making their family trip better. Tie dyes hung here and there, with suggestions for donation hugged by question marks. There was such kindness and trust there, offering whatever was needed for each visitor in such a sweet way…

An unexpected gift for travelers on the road.

I loved that little tea & tie dye stand. I loved how it wasn’t sleek or slick or fast. How there was nothing digital or fancy, just a little offering from the heart on a little road in the woods. It was slow, and modest, and it was completely itself. Humble and wonderful.

Oh, Dreaming Otter and personal retreat magic, thank you. I’m listening.

Driving back towards home, where I’d stop off for a breakfast bowl with kiwis, bananas and berries that would knock my blood sugar off completely off and send me staggering like windblown fluff through a completion labyrinth high up on a hill, I had a moment of total clarity about The Dreaming Otter, and why I had come.

All the pieces came together, everything she’d been quietly and gently showing me.  I felt in my very bones that The Dreaming Otter is here to help those brave enough to come here planetside with dream seeds – sacred seeds of personal purpose, tickle, genius, and artistry – to wake up from the long slumbering trance our funny world can cast that forgets us of why we came here. I could feel the Dreaming Otter’s deep and gentle medicine, and her absolute commitment to help folks Slow Down so the dream seeds and the magic can find each of us again, so we can do what we came to.

It was crystal clear then. It is now, too.

That’s the gift of personal retreat. I offer up my time, resources, and open heart, and the divine answers me back with exactly what I need. I didn’t know I needed the poetry of getting lost, or of tea & tie dye. Or any of the hundreds of other little poetries that unfolded, some shared with you here, and some kept quiet and close, so I could open myself to this grand new adventure that is becoming.

But the magic of personal retreat knew it for me.

With gratitude to personal retreats and to you for reading,
Anna