Two weeks before we were due to lead our first ever writing retreat, we got ill. It started first as one of those tickly throats – you know the sort where you suck a lozenge, drink a cup of tea and hope it will have hightailed it by the next morning. It didn’t. It was joined by Big Brother snotty nose, running for election as the Niagara Falls of snottiness, and Little Sister cough cough cough, the frequency and timbre of which, six inches from his left ear was perfectly designed to keep your partner awake at night.
Naturally we thought Covid.
Two tests (each) later and we were wrong and it was just one of those pesky viruses our government has been threatening will come out to play in gangs this autumn and winter, seeing as how their fun was so curtailed by everyone staying inside and not talking to each other last year.
So we stayed in bed and made each other hot drinks according to whose turn it was to stagger downstairs and hit the red button on the kettle. We watched countless repeats of ‘Wanted Down Under’ and were so involved in these peoples’ lives that we had to pause the programme to go for a wee rather than miss anything vital, such as if their prospective job in Brisbane was better paid than the one they already had in Telford.
You see, we were sick.
And the date of the first ever writing retreat we were running grew ever close and, whilst we had the main meat of the content prepped and oven-ready (more so than Boris’s Brexit), we still had things to do. And my husband, who wasn’t quite so stricken as I was, crawled out of bed occasionally to print off some handouts, and then crawled exhausted back under the covers.
And the date grew closer.
And as the days inched forward, we began to feel a little bit of spring awakening in our snot- filled cells. We arose from our sick beds and ventured out for coffee marvelling at the people walking around without pockets full of hankies, and with clear shining eyes rather than the red-rimmed weeping slits we had sported over the last ten days. Bumping into friends, I had to explain that I wasn’t crying with joy or horror at meeting them, my eyes just hadn’t caught up with the rest of me.
And the day of the retreat was one day away.
And we went to church as it was Sunday and that’s what we do. And I was immediately calmed and comforted and held and restored by feeling that in this place, my sacred space, I was standing on holy ground. And I knew that I would have the strength to walk out of there and go and pack my suitcase and fret to my husband that we had remembered everything. And we would head off to take our first ever writing retreat knowing that we didn’t have to rely on our own strength but that God would come with us and bring her holy ground for us to walk on whilst we were there. (She also told us to pack some paracetamol).
So the day of the retreat arrived and we set off and our bodies said, ‘Yes! You can do this. Thank you for looking after me so well and letting me lie down and watch Wanted Down Under and drink tea and eat satsumas and chocolate. I’m up for this now!’
And our spirits said, ‘Lord, hold us and help us and be with us and every person coming to be with us, and bless us all and guide us and please let the projector work.’
And the Lord was with us and the retreat was a time of such blessedness and connection with really lovely, wonderful people who dared to be vulnerable in their writing and in their talking and in their looking, and we felt by the end as though we had journeyed together and it was indeed, sacred.
And one person said to me on the last day of the retreat, ‘We are standing here on holy ground.’
And I knew she meant that God was with us all. God was present in every word we wrote and said and in every prayer we prayed and felt. She was a bit asleep on the job when the projector wouldn’t work on the second night, but that made me get up and talk impromptu in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have done. So I think she might have meant that. (Just saying...)
And as we threw everything back into our suitcases to go home, I also realised that I felt well in every sense of the word.
So thank you to all our amazing, creative, and inspiring fellow writers on our first ever writing retreat.
We walked together on holy ground.