In a few hours I will be heading off to begin the first leg of a journey—one that will take me to Our Lady of the Pines, a retreat center in Ohio. This lovely place will be home for me for four days as I attend Refine the Retreat. Last year when I attended, I hoped and prayed for an opportunity to return. And so I do. I’m headed into the pines for the second time as a retreat attendee.
I’ve been waiting for months for this opportunity to gather with 40 or so other artists, many of whom are writers. My hope is to carve out time for fellowship, rest, restoration, regeneration, and for filling back up the well of creativity by listening closely to God’s whispers and to seeking inspiration within the walls of this sacred place—as well as among the winding paths of the prayer labyrinths.
The retreat falls during the quieter more contemplative season of Lent. I’m grateful for what feels like perfect timing for carved out time and space, space set aside for sacred reflection. My hope is to seek respite and rest, paired with creative discussions on faith and art to equip me to come back to this space to offer refinement and renewal reflected in my own work with words.
It might just be the tortoise in me. That preference to move slowly—to process slowly, to act and re-act at the pace of sub-normal. January appears to be trying her best to leave me in the dust. She is plowing ahead and building up steam, finding steam in the gray matter she makes her hallmark. Her trademark color of sky and air. Moving forward with the confidence of a triathlete on steroids. While I haven’t chosen my 2019 leather day-planner calendar thing yet. (Decision fatigue has followed me into the new year.) She delights in clean slates and fresh starts and new beginnings which she parades in front of me like a braggadocios half marathoner with a proclamation sticker adhered boldly and proudly on her mini-van bumper.
And. yet for all of this January this and January that — I have grown to love her. And for the first time in my nearly 60 years I am begging her to stay, to linger here awhile.
I find her enthusiasm contagious. Let’s go she says, into the fog of the unknown. Let’s run, she says, it’s all downhill from here. Let’s start again, she promises, she flirts, she calls me to the land of new mercies.
And then she leaves.
She disappears into the month that ends with a thump on the 28th day. She leaves me alone just as I believe I may have found my stride. She disappears into the fog of snow and ice, a thaw and even a hint of spring. It’s as if she finds the whole month a game of hide and seek. Of go and stop.
But she is my muse. I find her inspiring and a companion on the days that darken in a snap. I find her filled with promise that is usually attributed to springtime.
But whether or not I am ready to say goodbye, like many things I have grown to love, slowly, over time, on the back end of the curve — I must say goodbye to January in a matter of days.
Yet I will fold her promises of new beginnings, press them into my flesh. I will hold her contagious enthusiasm for the blank page which says “what if,” written in January’s magic disappearing ink.
And I will say, not “goodbye” but “see you soon.”
Because though I have not allowed her to be the pace setter she has tried to be, I have learned to make my way. Like a January storm that muffles the world, she has both quieted me and energized me. She has brought me the gift of a new day again and again.
And she has mercifully shown me that the way to go is forward, always, into the fog of uncertainty. Into the haze of gray waiting for the clouds to pass. Into the day after and the day after that—with a January hopefulness that is nestled into the crunchy crust of frozen ground and muted skies.
Because just as I will not say goodbye to January, January will not speak goodbye to me. And we will silently go into the month that says, 28 days is enough for anyone who learns to love a day well. ++++++++++++++
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