For the last two years I’ve taken one week in summer to go to Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands of Canada. Ordinarily I travel solo with my dog Cassie….but this annual experience is dedicated to myself, for healing and restoration. It’s so glorious, there’s no way I can adequately express what occurs during this special time. (But you can tell I’m going to try!)
Maybe it’s the island’s high concentration of amethyst beneath the ground’s surface, glowing under our feet as we walk through fields of lavender? Maybe it’s the gelato dotted with rich Chevre and spiced caramel, churned one bucket at a time by the hands of a local woman. Could be the twice-daily yoga that brings women to their mats and to their knees; honoring and healing themselves, the generations that came before, and all that are to come.
I can’t leave out the Tree. Steadfast, dependable, calling to us at naptime. Soft blankets beneath her leafy curtain, the Tree offers a wide swath of shade, a kind ear to listen, and a space under the sun and stars confirming we’re right where we’re meant to be in the universe.
The food itself is miraculous. Fresh carrots braised in olive oil, or covered in pesto made from their own greens. (You may think “Carrots? Just Carrots?” believe me, even the carrots are out of this world. We couldn’t stop talking about them.) Squash blossoms enveloped in creamy risotto, Parmesan, and seasoned with love. Blueberries baked into heavenly dough each morning, and in the evenings, always a surprise sweetness. Maybe chocolate, maybe berries, definitely just what was needed. Nearly all the ingredients are gathered from the farm’s seasonally changing garden, right outside the door of the lively kitchen, where Chef Heidi and Amrie’s hands, hearts and smiles infuse the food before it nourishes our bellies and our souls. And the figs. Did I mention the figs? I’m not ashamed to say I’m involved in a serious love affair with this fruit.
All these elements of the retreats- including the great amount of free time that is purposely factored in, reminding us to love ourselves in the quiet moments – are like squares in a recovery quilt. Many parts stitched together, producing an experiential gift as unique, lovely and precious as the women sharing in it. Women that have taken a deep breath, looked fear in the face, and boarded planes, cars, vans, bikes and a ferry to show up.
And oh, do we show up.
We show up as our divine selves; this is the secret ingredient. We may be timid at first, unsure what to expect or if we’ll stay past the first night. Comparing or judging, some of us think our backgrounds make us too different, our bodies don’t fit in this space quite right. “I don’t even like Yoga – what am I doing here?” Others are returning and feel celebratory, greeting old friends and looking forward to new. Most of us have packed our pain, heartache and loss in our luggage with our yoga pants and flip-flops. Sometimes we can articulate what this means on the first night, as we gather in a circle and introduce ourselves. Others have just had a persistent insight that life’s been off-kilter. Many of us feel toxic, angry, lost or broken. Whatever the reason, we all filled out an application, paid a deposit, and followed through with the reservation. That’s all we need in common on Day 1. By Day 5, we’ve discovered the familiar threads that hold us together as sisters.
That first night, most women are strangers, ensuring they sit with just enough space between them on the couches to be polite. By the last night, those spaces are near invisible. Stiffness has softened, trembling limbs calmed. Heads rest on shoulders, arms are linked, legs draped over each other’s knees. Stories intertwine.
Sounds of crinkling tissues are heard, but the laughter is louder. Hearts have announced their clear intentions. By the last night, we may be a bit homesick, but we’ve also encountered a new sense of safety. Some of us are anxious about going home – afraid of the truth we’ve uncovered – what we’ve decided must change in our lives. The island calibrates our inner compass based on our intrinsic values, sets a path, and we are compelled to follow. Maps and plans be damned, our feet are set in motion. “Will the power of She Recovers come home with me? Will I be left to face this alone?” (No, dear one. I learned this myself. The magic connections continue.)
Many of us feel lighter…where’s the heavy luggage we carried to our rooms the first day? Where are the shards of shattered heart that pressed into our chest with every breath? So much of the burden we brought with us, we’ve been able to let go. The cracks in our hearts have been sealed with sacred glue. Golden glue. Like Kinstukuroi pottery, we’re more beautiful having been broken. We see it mirrored in each other’s faces. Radiant. Glowing.
I can’t say how it all happens. There are essential oils and massage. Music, like ancient medicine, reverberates off of crystal bowls and handpans. There’s on-the-spot counseling, hugging, sharing, and swimming. Yoga gently guides us to stretch and heal from our hips; to explore boundaries, release what’s not serving us and strengthen what does. Sometimes, the yoga simply guides us to the best nap we’ve ever had.
I’ve shared over a thousand words with you….but the words can’t do it justice.
If you could taste it you would understand part of the charm….maybe if you came to my home to try the fresh made salt I brought back from the island or the truffle cheese served with thyme and onion jam. A taste would be better than words. The photos I took, trying hard to capture the magic moments, offers clues, but even then, they’re only worth those thousand words.
Listen. Is your heart whispering? Where is this tree, those figs, and those women?
Some of the magic is native to the island. But it’s fueled and ignited by the She Recovers Tribe. Where we go, the magic flourishes. Every year we join together on Salt Spring Island and in Mexico. Our newest sanctuary for retreat is Kripalu, in Massachusetts (I’ve already heard many sighs of “I’ve always wanted to go there!” so I know it will be a blessed union). And of course, we have a grand (secret) presence online. If you’re lucky, (and there’s so many members I bet most of you are), there’s one of us living close to you. I hear rumors that even meeting for coffee with a She Recovers Warrior is a sacred experience of it’s own. When I was first introduced to sobriety and personal growth, I didn’t know that women-specific recovery existed. I didn’t know how necessary it was. And now….well you read this, so you know how I feel. There are so many ways to connect with these amazing women; I hope you give yourself the opportunity – you deserve it. And we’d love for you to join! Your unique qualities, perspective, and flavor of life and love are needed just as much by the rest of the group.
If you would like to check out She Recovers Secret Facebook Group, please send me a message or email me Tiffany@recoverandrise.com
You can find information for all of She Recovers retreats, conferences, coaching and more at www.sherecovers.co