This is Part II of my trip to Walden Pond.
Retreat: (1) : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable (2) : a place of privacy or safety : refuge
When we talk about retreat, we almost always mean going into nature. We mean escaping from our modern lives and going somewhere we consider more primal, more basic. In giving up certain forms of stimulation (e.g. technological, city crowds, store facades), we find another kind of stimulation - and this second kind of stimulation is not so easily comparable to the first. It's just as immediate, but in a different way. It can be as overwhelming, but maybe more gently so. Perhaps it is a stimulation more resonant, more powerful, more enduring. Over time, the former becomes more grating (til we consider ourselves jaded) while the latter seems to dissipate (til we tell ourselves we're bored).
It's nice to escape now and then and not think too much about where you are going or what you are going to do, finding yourself in nature and just being curious and looking around. It's nice to find yourself in a moment where you're not concerned with lofty things or big ambitions or what's next on your to-do list, to just pick red mushrooms you find on the ground and touch the funny-looking things sticking out of tree trunks.
This Saturday in September was a remnant of summertime. It was hot and a bit muggy, and Caroline and I walked the circumference of Walden Pond. It was hot and we were dirty, and a swim in the pond was not only desired but necessary. So we peeled off our clothes, shoved them into a a crevice in between the rocks on the water's edge, and tip-toed our way in. We doggy-paddled and floated around for awhile, not really thinking about much, not really talking much either. Accidentally gulping a little bit of water here and there in between gulps of air. In the water time seems to stop. Another world, another time. Physical and emotional and mental purification. Draining and rejuvenating.
The worse part of course, is getting out of the water. I like being in the water, but I hate being wet on dry land. I feel like an exposed mermaid, with water dripping out of my hair and down my back, with my damp feet picking up dirt that will stick for hours. Sweat mixes with leftover moisture from the water, and I am reminded that this retreat is over, fleeting sweetness that becomes a memorial treasure to dig out every now and then when I feel tired and worn out.