“I feel so healthy here at Hollyhock, so serene. So much of what I seek in life is at hand in this beautiful place. I need wildness – wind, and ocean, and stars at night. I need green – and it’s here, all around me: thick clutches of sword fern and salal, salmonberry and cedar, all green and wet and heavy. I need the sea, and here I’ve seen it sparkling in sunlight, and grey as the sky, and black with the nearly full moon rising over it. I need beauty too, and I find it here, not only in the wild majesty of the sea and mountains and trees, but also in the weathered wooden gate, heavy with the weight of deep pink roses. I find it in the art in the lodge, in the flower arrangements, in the presentation of the food. Beauty is celebrated here.”
I wrote this passage in my journal during a retreat at Hollyhock Learning Center a couple of years ago. I was there for a five day writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg, an experience that was amazing in and of itself. But just being at Hollyhock, being in a place that celebrates the health of the mind, body and spirit, was wonderfully restorative.
Here are some of the things that my time at Hollyhock reinforced for me:
2. Immerse yourself in nature. Seek out the green places and the wild places. Find a place from which you can watch the moon rise and actually see the stars at night.
3. Go to bed early and wake with the birds. Enjoy the solitude of the early morning. Sleep and solitude are such deep necessities for all of us.
4. Practice yoga. Hollyhock offered daily early-morning yoga classes, classes that reminded me that our bodies crave stretching, that we need balance, that a sun salutation is a fine way to begin any day.
5. Meditate. The writing workshop incorporated both seated and walking meditation practice. I had never tried walking meditation before, but it’s a practice that felt like a form of prayer, of praise, a practice that gives us permission to see with clear eyes the beauty around us.
6. Eat healthy, organic and mostly vegetarian food.
7. Write morning, noon and night, and not just for an audience, but for ourselves, in journals, where we have permission to write outside the margins, and disregard the rules of grammar, and write until our hands hurt, and our tears are cried, and we feel truly at peace.