June 20, 2016
by:  Jane Bishop Halteman

What does a restorative getaway look like for you?  How do you find renewal from routine?  Where do you seek respite from your ordinary schedule or practice?  How do you make space to live into a new season of life?

At 40, three Goshen College friends and I made a getaway trip to San Antonio.  We did Chicago at 60 and at least two more getaway excursions between 60 and last week, when we went to Columbiana, OH, to prepare to embrace 70.  One of us already has celebrated that birthday; for three of us, it continues to loom.

Our home base at Das Dutch Village Inn, located not far from Youngstown, gave us access to nearby farm-to-table meals, beautiful gardens, the exquisitely remodeled oldest brick building in Ohio, and back-to-our-roots roadside markets, where we picked up home baked goods and seasonal fruits and produce to take home with us on the final day. 

In the midst of full-fledged fun and fellowship, we sandwiched in time to catch up with each other by listening well, exchanging gifts, relaxing with Zentangle and collage projects, visiting specialty shops for trip mementoes or stocking stuffers, having a dish of Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream (with exotic flavors like salty caramel truffle).  Because Orlando happened the day before our trip, instead of isolating ourselves from the pain and wall-to-wall coverage, we absorbed a bit of night-time TV in an effort to help shoulder some of the hurt so many were thrown into unexpectedly that week.

We took in Mill Creek Park Fellows Riverside Gardens’ beautiful plantings and many-splendored gift shop on our first full day away, and, following a delicious lunch of locally sourced ingredients, we retired to a shady spot by a water feature to try our hands at Zentangle.  The one of us experienced in Zentangle patiently tutored the other three.   

Described in a 2014 Psychology Today article as “creative aimlessness,” Zentangle is compared by author Cathy Malchiodi to meditative walking.  “If we stay focused on the future, we lose the joy of our steps in the here and now.  The same is true of the process of tangling.  If we get caught up in judgment and deliberation, we are not in the here and now.  But if we simply enjoy the creative process, we can enjoy every single moment of it and that is ultimately what any creative expression offers us.  Zentangle teaches us not to rush and to take good care of ourselves in the present moment—after all, the present moment is all there is.” 

On our second trip to the gardens (gratefully received by all, but necessitated because one of us left behind purchases from the day before), we planted ourselves at a table in the beautiful garden library to select from a calendar stash photos descriptive of our present status in life or something for which we might continue to hope.

The following evening we created our collages in a comfortable lounge area outside our second floor suite, following a daytime outing to the restored Courthouse Inn and Restaurant in nearby Lisbon.  Now designated the oldest brick building in Ohio, this location may have been visited by Lewis and Clark, who started their expedition on the nearby Ohio River four years after the inn was constructed in 1802.  Learn more about this beautifully restored spot in this video, where Salem, OH, native and jewelry designer Renee Lewis discusses her vision for the project. 

According to salemnews.net, Lewis spent more than a decade painstakingly restoring the three-story Hamilton Building. “Over the past 212 years it has been a hotel, dry goods store, drug store, and law offices for various attorneys. Lewis took on the project initially to preserve the historic structure as a tribute to her mother, hoping it would inspire other property owners in Lisbon to do likewise.”

Our collages revealed that, while we have come to know ourselves well at our stage of life, we continue to long to be true to ourselves, and to find what may still be waiting to be birthed in us.

Safely home again after this four-day retreat from business-as-usual, the time together left us pondering what might come next as we step into our 70s.  What a synchronicity, then, to be offered this quote Saturday night as the opening thought in a meeting hosted by Biff and Margie with some KRMCers, Catholic Worker friends, and a few others with whom we’ve been journeying this year:   

“Entering our later decades calls us to look more deeply and more truthfully than we perhaps ever have at what we are doing with these lives of ours.  We are face to face with our last chance to experience our lives more fully and more freely, to experience life so much more able to love and give and forgive.  Many of us have lived much of our lives as a dress rehearsal, without the sharp mindfulness of opening night.  How kind and wise it would be to live these last years in presence, authenticity, and radically simple sanity.  If we have any desire to ripen into spiritual maturity—into the abiding experience of the sacred, of all that lies beyond this small self—now is the time.” 

Kathleen Dowling Singh wrote those words in The Grace in Aging.  They seem relevant to me, particularly in light of last week’s trip.  Whatever your age, how are you making now the time?