Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pam and Margaret's Rejuvenation Retreat

Recently I blogged about how overwhelmed I had been feeling. As far back as the summer I had thought seriously about renting a cottage on a beach somewhere local and just spending the time by myself resting, reading and regrouping. This idea never did go very far because after doing a little research I learned that renting a beach cottage is expensive, even if I waited until September.

Then salvation came on Labor Day weekend when Sandy happened to mention that she and Dad had a time share week that was due to expire at the end of October and that they would not be able to use it. She then offered it to anyone who might want it. I didn't hesitate to take her up on her incredibly kind and generous offer.

And that led to what I think of as Pam and Margaret's Rejuvenation Retreat (a sort of sedate and middle-aged version of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure).

Margaret is a dear, dear friend of mine who I have known since Katie and her twin boys were in kindergarten. She also has a daughter who is the same age at Madeleine. Our kids have grown up together and our families are close. But it's not just our kids who have grown up together. Margaret and I have grown as parents, wives and women together. We joke about spending our advanced old age in the same nursing home. Anyway, I decided to invite Margaret to join me on my "retreat" since she is experiencing many of the same adjustments as she navigates her way through having her oldest children leave for college. Margaret and I have done a little traveling in the past and we like the same things - books, art, museums, history (wild and crazy, I know). It seemed like the perfect fit. I would get my time away from life to regroup AND I would be able to do it with a friend who "gets" it.

Sandy helped me find and book a room at Vacation Villages in Hancock, MA in the Berkshire Mountains.

This was the perfect destination since I have been wanting to go to the Berkshires for years but never managed to get there. The main draw for me was the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.

I love Norman Rockwell and the museum did not disappoint. We got to see many of Rockwell's oil paintings, including one of my favorites - Freedom from Want - and ALL of his Saturday Evening Post covers. It was fabulous.

Freedom from Want

Image from Google

We also got to tour his studio, which was moved onto the site of the museum after his death.

After touring the museum we explored the tiny town of Stockbridge and had lunch at the famous Red Lion Inn.

Of course, I found the Stockbridge Library!

Overall the town itself was disappointing - not much there beside the Inn. But it was cool to see the site immortalized in Rockwell's famous painting - Main St, Stockbridge.

Main St., Stockbridge (detail)
Image from Google

Before leaving for our Retreat, I did a little research and found out that aside from Stockbridge and the Norman Rockwell Museum, there are quite a few other interesting things to see and do in the Berkshires. Margaret and I took a tour of Edith Wharton's Lenox, MA estate - The Mount.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I knew little or nothing about Wharton and what I learned on the tour intrigued me enough that I borrowed a Young Adult biography of her from the library and read it when I got home. Edith was a fascinating woman who led a rich and interesting life. If you are at all interested, the book is The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton by Wooldridge. The visit has also inspired me to add at least one of her books to my tbr list. I think I'll start with The Age of Innocence, for which she won the Pulitzer (the first woman to be awarded that prize).

On a second trip into Lenox on a rainy day, we discovered the Lenox public library (big surprise, right?).

Unlike the Stockbridge Library, the Lenox library was open and Margaret and I decided to look around. It was unbelievably beautiful inside and I could just picture myself spending hours and hours sitting in this room reading. *sigh*

Wharton is not the only famous author to call the Berkshires home. Herman Melville also lived there at Arrowhead in Pittsfield, MA.

It was at Arrowhead that he wrote Moby Dick. We did try to visit Arrowhead, but when we arrived the door was answered by a tiny old lady who said that the museum was closed and the next tour would be the following day at 2:00 pm. Margaret and I decided to take a few pictures and forgo the tour, since the house itself was not all that impressive and looked slightly neglected. We did learn that Melville and Henry James would often visit and have long conversations in this barn that sits behind the house.

Margaret has a strong interest in yoga and meditation and she wanted to pay a visit to Kripalu, a yoga retreat in Lenox. Kripalu is situated on a hill and the setting is appropriately serene and idyllic.

When we went into the main building to explore, we were both surprised to find that the atmosphere inside was not particularly silent, hushed or reverent. There were lots of women milling around in yoga gear talking and laughing. There was also a large white board posted on the wall that showed each day's yoga offerings in addition to classes specific to the various workshops being offered that week. Margaret knows two women who have spent time at Kripalu. One comes every year for a weekend retreat, all by herself. The other has come once for a week long retreat. I must admit it was intriguing to me. I have taken a handful of yoga classes in the past, but have never become an aficionado. I am, however, interested in exploring this as a potential source of exercise. Who knows, maybe a Kripalu retreat is in my future.

On the advice of another friend and Williams alumna, Margaret and I visited Williamstown, MA and the picturesque Williams College campus. Both the town and the college are the epitome of old New England. Margaret and I had a wonderful time exploring the tiny town of Williamstown and touring the campus itself. I couldn't stop taking pictures. Each time I turned around there was yet another gorgeous view.

Margaret could only be away from home until Thursday, but since we had the time share for a full week, I decided to stay on and enjoy some solititude. I simply didn't feel ready to step back into my life after spending several days sightseeing and exploring. I felt as though I really could benefit from time to just "be". To think and reflect. I actually thought it would be good for me to stay until I felt bored and lonely. It didn't take long. On Thursday, I drove to the top of Mount Greylock in Lanesborough, MA. It was a 8.5 mile drive on a twisting road with gorgeous views and nary another car in sight. It was a wonderful opportunity to focus on my feelings and evaluate them.

When I arrived at the top, I sat on a stone wall overlooking the valley below and just let the natural splendor wash over me. It was a very emotional experience. As I sat there I let all the pent up emotions bubble to the surface without trying to control or contain them. I sat there a long time. And when I left, I felt better. I really did. It was weird. I've never experienced anything like that before.

I spent the rest of that day in the room reading, relaxing and thinking. And the next day, I knew I was ready to go home and step back into my life. I guess sometimes we just need the world to stop so that we can catch our breaths and evaluate our emotional responses. At times, that is easier done when we can remove ourselves from the demands of everyday life. I know that I benefited greatly from Pam and Margaret's Rejuvenation Retreat. I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity. And I am grateful to Sandy and Dad for affording me it to me and to Geoff and Madeleine for encouraging me to take it and to stay until I felt completely ready to come home. I am so lucky.


LindyLouMac said...

What a perfect post to enjoy on a grey Sunday afternoon, my favourite photo has to be the Lennox library interior. I would want to spend hours there.

Katherine said...

What an absolutely picturesque place! Glad that you got some time to relax and just "be." I think we all need that sometimes.

Jen said...

This sounds like such a great idea! I've never really had an interest in visiting Western MA, other than to check out the ski resorts in the Berkshires, but now, I think an autumn trip is in order due to your beautiful pictures. It sounds like a nice, relaxing getaway not too far from home.

thanks for sharing. :)

Gail said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful week! I'd love to do something like that someday....

Terra said...

WOW, I do think that was a much needed trip and I am glad you took it. It looked quiet and peaceful and Christmas Card worthy to say the least.

BONNIE K said...

This sounds like a wonderful getaway. I love Norman Rockwell and would have loved to have seen that museum.

Anita said...

I love get-a-ways alone or with a friend or small group of friends. The pictures you've shared are just wonderful, oh how I miss the change of seasons and all those lovely colors. I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed your time and were ready to go home when the end was approaching. I loved the look of the library. Maybe someday I can come and rejuvenate.

Karen Peterson said...

The only time I've ever done anything similar was when I took a long weekend to the Central Californian coast to stay at my grandmother's empty (but furnished) house. It was exactly what I needed.

But after hearing about your time in the Berkshires, well, I think it's high time I get back east and enjoy some more of the beauty our country has to offer.

Anonymous said...

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Star Forbis said...

What a great trip! I too love Norman Rockwell Paintings & Saturday Evening Post covers. I even just recently googled them in fact to use for some upcoming Blog posts. I guess Great minds really do think alike! :)

Anonymous said...

I can see how the scenery around you could make that an emotional experience - beautiful pictures (and passages between pictures)... sounds cool.


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