What I Learned During a Week Away

1) How to turn my cell phone off. Really. It is a new phone and I didn’t know how to power off. Mildly panicked that it would ring during an early session of the retreat I participated in last week, I quickly Googled “how do I turn this thing off?” and was rewarded with many tips and tricks. Among them, “hold the sleep button for three seconds to power off”, and remarkably,  it shut down.

2) Expect and accept no closure.

3) Maple syrup from Vermont on oatmeal is sublime.

4) There is healing in story.

5) There is healing in silence.


6) Running a family household is not unlike running a small nonprofit organization.

Last week, I traveled to a farm in rural Vermont to join about 15 other people involved in environmental and social justice work from around the country to explore issues of identity, mentoring, local food systems, and spoon carving.

Yes, spoon carving. On day # 2, a patient member of the farm staff handed me a block of wood and a sharp knife after briefly introducing the skill, and I set to work, all the while thinking how my husband would be so amused by this effort. He is gifted at carpentry, construction, and thinking through and carrying out tangible skills-based projects. I, however, am not, nor have I been trained in any of the above. It is all I can do to sew a button on a shirt. So the exercise of carving a spoon was, for me, alternatively frustrating, illuminating, addictive, and just plain fun. I love my spoon, and I carried it home protectively in my carry on bag on the plane home. No one I live with was particularly impressed with my spoon. But to me, it represents so much more than a modified piece of birch tree.

A few thoughts I scribbled down in my journal include:

Day #1: Today I experienced heat, chill, a thunderstorm, and a rainbow within about an hour on the farm.

Day #2: During awareness practice in the morning, a vision of a heart-centered kaleidescope, pulsing, lovely, arrived clearly in my mind’s eye. That has never happened before.

Later, same day: One of my fellow participants has to leave suddenly because her father is dying of cancer. I ask Liz to meet him whenever and wherever his spirit leaves his body. When someone dies, especially the young and the unexpected, I tend to invoke my sister’s spiritual blessing. I imagine her as a greeter of angels.

Day #3: This morning I said hello to a butterfly. I swear she seemed to be looking at me.

Later, same day: I am listening to amazing and heartbreaking truths this week. At the opening circle, I told my story, which is really Liz’s story. I strive to make my story my own.

Day #4: A little while ago, some guy winked at me during morning silence.  I felt about ten years old and adorable.

Later, same day: We brought two beautiful boys into the world. They are a gift, a blessing, a joy. Parenting is HARD. Being here by myself is a gift. Real alone time. Awareness practice. Amazing healthy locally sourced food. Coffee. Lots of time outdoors. No drinking. A week of near solitude and yet also real comraderie with people who were strangers to me just days ago.

Day #4, evening:

Birds of Paradise. Full of meaning loss and life. They stand tall and green.

Day #6: I am not sure there is anything better than oatmeal with maple syrup. As the week begins to get a bit closer to the end,  my thoughts turn more to my family and our home. There’s been a lot of talk this week about caring for and being connected to the Earth. This is a rather new idea for me. I do the sort of Earth Day stuff that most people do, recycle and buy organic (mostly) and reuse and garden. But I’ve never felt a huge connection to the land except when I run on trails, and this is something I wish to explore.

Day #7: I took a shower at dawn, but my feet are no longer clean. After hiking up to the mountain yurt, I am warm, quite warm. I have a relationship with paper. As my son learns to write his name, I am thrilled with excitement at the stories that will fill his future. A touch of worry bothered me as I watched him recently write the letters in the correct order, but right to left instead of left to right. I let it go. He’s four years old and the whole world stands before, beneath and beyond him. I feel awake. I feel amazing. I scamper down the hill.

Later, same day: I have become more deeply aware of the unique and intense experiences that shape people’s lives, including my own. I am more aware the hurt and injustice that some of us, not all, experience and the consequences caused by those hurts. I am grateful for each of the people I joined in Vermont. And I need to find out where the bees live in Portland.


9 thoughts on “What I Learned During a Week Away

  1. boe bvshpolawa glasschild says:

    Lovely Sara-
    The rainbows you experienced were radiating from within your heart…your moments were as real as you gave them permission to be…you claimed your piece of the puzzle…fly high and dance upon the winds of change always….
    the boeman

  2. Sara, this brought a lump to my throat, stirred a craving for maple syrup, evoked a picture of my spoon-become-nonspoon (which made me laugh … again), reminded me again of the utter preciousness and privilege of the stories shared and the bravery of every single person I met at Knoll Farm …. and made me miss you majorbigtime …. Thank you for taking the time to write this and share it …

    I know you’ll find the bees …


  3. Jesse says:

    Beautiful! Thanks sara!

  4. Charity says:


    -Funny, -beautiful, -connected!

    Might see you soon in Oakland this NOV for CFSC?????

    Asante sana!

  5. […] was asked to turn my cell phone off (and you can read about that particular challenge here) and introduced to a small group of other travelers from around the […]

  6. […] was asked to turn my cell phone off (and you can read about that particular challenge here) and introduced to a small group of other travelers from around the […]

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