withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable" kind of retreat than the "withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study" kind... to me, my retreats were a way to escape - from what... wasn't revealed to me yet.
Once my campsite was erected, and dinner was cooked, and our bellies were full... I would get to work at starting a fire. Depending on the materials I had available, and the dryness of the wood, it would either catch immediately - springing forth in a hot blaze, greedily consuming whatever kindling and materials I fed it... The flames would snap happily on the dry kindling, and I would stretch out and gaze at the starlit night. Before I knew it, the fire that had burst forward with such enthusiasm a few minutes earlier would be out as quickly as if someone had flipped a switch. It had burned itself out.
During the times we were socked in with rain, my campwood would be soaking wet. My efforts only caused the flames to smoulder, languish, sputter and falter ... protesting the wet materials I had because of the soaking rain, and I would have to get creative and strip the bark of birch logs, twist newspaper into tight "sticks", and collect the driest pine needles I could find underneath my tarp. However, I did discover, the longer it took me to build a fire, once it caught and gained strength, it would burn longer. The slow, tedious efforts ensured more care from me - forcing me to build a good base, a sturdy foundation with twigs and sticks, and fan it with air so it could breathe and grow. The result was a roaring fire, with hot, long lasting coals that were often hot enough to catch again and provide heat the next morning.
The flames danced, tempting the darkness like a seductress by leaping back and forth, flickering, flirting and then shying away until I would poke the logs around with my fire-poker and it would jump up again. Finally, convinced the fire was there to stay, Destiny and I would curl up on the camp chairs. The glow of the flames cast enough luminance to make Destiny's eyes glow green, and make the white pages of my journal visible enough to read. On the white pages, I wrote words that I was ready to let go of in my life - "Fear", "Anger", "Anguish"..... and ripped the paper from the book, and gently place the papers onto the flickering flames. It almost seemed like some words gave the fire hesitation, sucking the energy out of the flames... the paper gave the fire pause, creating a black shadow the size of the page where there was once aglow, then suddenly, the flame would burst through the page, the word melting out of sight.... and ashes remained. I repeated this process with angry letters I have written, habits I wanted broken, sorrows I had experienced. Anything I wanted the smoke to carry up to God and he could do with what He may would find it's fate in the flames of my campfire.
For years that was my practice.... and at the end of the weekend I would go back home to "reality" feeling refreshed and renewed, having purged and watched the flames lick up all my negativity and hurt. I always thought I was leaving all of that behind - I had watched my troubles go up in smoke, and I could leave this place unburdened, ready to go home and pick up where I had left off before my escape.
Last year on my birthday, I did not make the trek to the woods per normal. I was too sick, and didn't have the extra money to make the trip. Saddened, yet grateful that I was on the mend both physically and emotionally, I sat on my couch, lit some candles, and Lexi curled up beside me. In the ambient light of the candles, I pulled out my journals and instead of ripping out pages, I read. I read about a girl turned woman who has grown personally, professionally and spiritually. I read about a self-educated girl, who soaked in every opportunity to learn, grow - hungrily consuming every book, lesson and teaching. I read about a woman who chose her partners carefully, yet still experienced heartbreak and sorrow. I read about new passions breathing air onto the burning embers, and her flames jumping up and dancing again. I read about a woman who leaped forward in her life professionally all ablaze with ambition... only to be dampened quickly. As I turned the pages, I mourned, I laughed, I cried. I read the list of goals from the years before..... some goals have been accomplished.... some need to have new life breathed into them.... some stirred my spirit and got me longing for them again. I closed the leather journal, wrapped the leather string around the steel button, and looked at Lexi who was curled up, contentedly sleeping in the glow of the candles.... and I said to her "I AM the fire that was built in the rain.... "
Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now... Paradise is building your fire in the rain.