Rhythms of retreat, reflection and ripe peaches

Peach divinity

Do you know how sweet and pungent peaches smell in late summer?  You breathe deeply the eau de peach–it’s like a fine wine–breathe deeper still–before the silver knife nicks fuzzy skin and slices deep into the essence of fruit.  You cut slices, long wedges, and before your fingers wait for milk and granola you bring sweet peach nectar to your lips and taste.

Magnificent peach!  There is nothing like it in the world.  You are in heaven.  Peach at perfect golden ripeness.  Ahhhh…exquisite joy of being alive!

Carrot children

Everything ripens in its own time.  You’re ripening, dear reader.  I’m ripening.  We’ll be ripening until the day we compost the earth, providing rich soil for peaches and sunflowers and other glories.

Nature contains rhythms, cycles.  In summer she’s scurrying wildly putting forth planting and harvesting energy.  Oh, in summer she’s such a wild one!  In autumn she relaxes, searching in her closet for bright reds and yellows and oranges to wear.  In winter, she hibernates (OK, she snows, too, ice-cold pellets, sending all good humans inside to tell stories and slumber).  In spring she’s peppering the ground with seeds, telling seed-stories, enthralling sun to shine and clouds to weep and winds to energize.

Oh she’s a changeable one, dear nature, and don’t we love her so?

Sprites in a basket

She comes forth, she retreats, she’s one thing, she’s another.  We can never truly capture her in words as she’s everything–even us!

I love cycles of turning outward, then moving inward.

Several times each year I “retreat” away from as much outward movement, nurturing and watering inner sprouts.  These times are precious gifts, delightful moments, searching hours, OK, let’s be honest, sometimes painful births.

But mostly my retreat-times are so healing.

This time I retreated for about ten days.  It often seems to require ten days to two weeks to breathe so deeply that peaches become magical creatures from the Garden of Eden.

Sometimes it takes only a week to retreat; other times a month.  You can never schedule, as Mother Nature takes no reservations at her reflection spa.


A friend fretted that she worried about me in these retreat times.

Oh no, I said.  I am never more alive, present, immersed in life.

From what do I retreat?

From patterns and habits and mind-activity and creative sharing.

From habitual movements toward the computer, toward checking email too compulsively, toward too much caffeine.  From telling too many endless stories in the mind.

When one ceases filling one’s empty moments with busy-ness, a sense of Presence opens up.  When one ceases identification with yammering thoughts and stories, it’s possible to sit on the deck and delight in chickadees and robins and whip-poor-wills for a good hour without reaching for something to cover up the moment.

Our daily bread

Of course, it’s possible to be 100% present and engaged in life without periods of retreat and reflection.  My greatest desire is to be “here-now” in as many moments as possible.

But I have discovered that times of retreat and reflection inspire, heal and renew.

Deeper peace blossoms.

Peaches ripen.

Do you carve time for regular retreat into your life?  Is it challenging or easy for you?  What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed?

Yin and yang, inward and outward…

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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86 Responses to Rhythms of retreat, reflection and ripe peaches

  1. lisaspiral says:

    I am a firm believer in retreats, although it’s not always easy to “get away”. The idea of a 10 day retreat is fascinating to me. I’m lucky when I can squeeze out 3. To be able to take the retreat that is limitless, “go until you’re done” I haven’t done since college. We definitely all need a reboot sometimes.

    • Kathy says:

      Because it’s so hard to get away, Lisa, I like doing these retreats at home. It’s more a matter of discipline or intention because you have to be firm with yourself. No, you will not drink all that caffeine. No, you will not check your email every ten minutes. You kind of have to carve out your intentions and stick with them. (And if you “fail” you go back to the drawing board and find out what secondary intention overruled and what you can learn from it.) Well, that’s what I do during these reboots.

  2. “When one ceases filling one’s empty moments with busy-ness, a sense of Presence opens up.”

    Amen siSTAR!

    • Kathy says:

      It’s so easy to fill up our days with busy-ness, Laurie. Don’t we all know it? I’m so interested in when our busy-ness is more about avoidance than engagement.

  3. what a very poetic post – and yes, I too love retreats–you just need to be alone or away from the everyday for just a little while to “taste the peach” for the wonderful thing it is
    my retreat is when I visit my sister in Ottawa (at least eight hours away from where I live)–she pampers me and I really have to do nothing but be a pretend “lady who lunches” and reads and only worries what the next meal will be, and I get to see my nieces and it is so wonderful–so yes, this post brings me good memories–I will be going on my retreat in September
    I love language–and you used it so musically in this post – thank you

  4. This is lovely, and so true. We all need to give ourselves time for reflection and healing. Just to be. Thank you for putting the process so beautifully into words.

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, just wanting to pass along some of the good retreat energy. We all need to be gentle with ourselves and provide our deepest beings what we need. Thank you…

  5. I understand this need completely–deeply. I suppose I retreat from similar things, but mostly I retreat from people–not because I don’t need them or love them, but because I need to be alone with myself. Great explanation of a pattern I know well.

    • Kathy says:

      Kathy, that is an interesting thought–that we may need or choose to retreat from different things. Living here in the woods, I don’t often feel a need to retreat from people. It’s more like a retreat from patterns and sharing and creating and to be in a more word-less less-habitual space. It is such a gift we can give ourselves–to be alone with ourselves. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Dawn says:

    Beautiful post in image and words

  7. Elisa's Spot says:

    Personally, the word retreat often equates running away. Wherever I go, there I am. There are soooo many things to notice, even when noticing nature that sometimes I can feel spun. At such times, it can be first and escape, to scale back and conciously attend and notice very limited things. It can also be grace, and shift my understanding that I have been on overload, and that if I am not attending how many things I am noticing in my mind, I can harm myself. The peaches reference had me smiling. Always when thinking of my Grandma, I recall sitting on the porch with large enamel bowls working on peaches for canning and pies. I can notice sooo small as to only get one grainy note of scent and sit still in it until I do not notice time at all. At these times I can shake me gently awake, like leaves shaking off the dew and slowly stretch back out to encompass all of the other noticings, that never really went anywhere at all.

    • Kathy says:

      Elisa, I don’t like the word “retreat” either. A better word to describe my time might be “engagement”, but that’s hard to communicate to people. It feels like the opposite of running away. More like moving toward. You could use the word “notice” but wanted to delineate a different kind of noticing. A carved space where one notices beyond limiting things. What word would you use to describe this space that does not equate with running away? P.S. Smiling at the image of your grandma and the large enamel bowls…

      • Kathy says:

        P.S. Do you think Mother Nature is running away when she retreats from summer? Or is she just expressing another part of herself? …just pondering…

  8. Susan D. says:

    Oh, such delightful images! I’m smiling ear to ear, and I giggled at the Carrot Children. Thank you for this delectable offering today 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Dear Susan D, now don’t you be eating any of the Carrot Children! tee hee…I think they invite it with their crisp orange offerings from the garden soil. Glad you enjoyed, dear friend.

  9. jeffstroud says:

    You are speaking of you time, time to reflect, to to listen, time to just Be!

    I was observing people on the train home the other night, and my thoughts was, people are never alone with their thoughts, are not aware of their surroundings, always texting, chatting on their phones… how do they know who they are?

    Beautiful prose, very thoughtful and reflective. Like the seasons we each have our multi self, like the facets of a jewel, like the seasons.

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, yes, I know what you mean about how technology can trap us as we’re always caught up in communicating, sharing, texting, chatting. That is exactly why a retreat can put us in touch with the soles of our feet, the smell of the garden, a long hug with a friend. So glad you understand and enjoy the multiplicity of our ever-changing selves, like the seasons.

  10. So well written and engaging. Retreating from busyness helps the brain sort out the meaningfulness of “what is”.

    • Kathy says:

      Exactly, Linda! Yes…that is what it does. We can get so inundated with busyness. And that can confuse us so much. Glad the “what is” stays present with us, no matter how far we seem to stray from it.

  11. whatevertheyaint says:

    Those peaches look so darn yummy! Or maybe that’s because I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Love the last picture too:-)

  12. john says:

    We have gone on retreat to L’Anse. Sometimes just different is retreat, not sure yet if a “we retreat” can be as restorative though. So many roads I want to walk. I used to find great respite in taking care of my property, now someone else is doing that (and it hasn’t been done as agreed). Can changing one set of issues for another be retreat? Will be in touch. Patient is doing well beyond expectations.

    • Kathy says:

      John, you make a very good point that a retreat is not always peaceful. It can bring its own set of issues, which can be painful. Yet I think changing surroundings is restorative, no matter how we do it. We find out what issues travel with us–and what we can put down. Hope to see you during your retreat. And so happy to hear about your patient’s recovery.

  13. Heather says:

    I love your description of Mama Nature and all her changing cloaks. Even when she’s showing one season, you never know when she’ll show you signs of another.
    I don’t often enforce retreats on myself. I try to just allow things to ebb and flow so that I don’t get stuck in any one place. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I bet you’ll understand anyway. Glad you are able to enjoy your other engagements in your offtimes 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I DO understand, Heather. And after meeting you in person, that makes sense. You feel like a much more “even” person than myself, more steady. I’ll bet you wild creativity doesn’t drive you from your bed. Going with the ebb and flow is ideal. Oh how I understand. (And yes–retreat often means engagement for me, but that’s hard to express to others. You can’t say: I’m leaving the computer to be more engaged in different ways. Can there be a better word than “retreat”?)

      • Heather says:

        Sometimes my planning for food creativity and guest entertainment/preparations drives me from my bed. In those times I try to focus on the night sounds and live *now* instead of in-the-future-when-they-get-here, but it doesn’t always work. Perhaps “re-focus” better suits my style than “retreat.”

        • Kathy says:

          I like that word very fine, Heather. Re-focus. Perhaps next time I might say, “leaving you all for a little while to re-focus.” That sounds like exactly what happens. Migwetch. (That’s what the Anishinabe say for thank you.)

          • Kathy says:

            Of course it may not be possible to REMEMBER the word re-focus by tomorrow, let alone in a few months. Could you remind me periodically about our new word?

  14. Carol says:

    After reading this post, I realized that I do indeed retreat quite often. My retreat usually takes me to my front deck, to a world inhabited only by the sound of the breeze and the chirping birds, where I will sit and soak it up, iPad possibly on table next to me, unopened, resting in silence while I renew my spirit in that hour or so of quiet. And – my mouth is now longing for the taste of fresh peaches!

    • Kathy says:

      Your retreats sound lovely, Carol. There is nothing better than being aware of the sounds and sights of nature, of renewing the spirit. Get yourself a couple of peaches, now. Let me know if they’re juicy-sweet and good.

  15. Munira says:

    Why are your posts so timely?! Hubby just traded in my old phone for an android and I busily downloaded all kinds of stuff on it, so now I’m glued to my phone 😐 This sucks.
    But today, dear Kathy, I will have you know, I retreated. I gardened to my hearts content. I was in the moment. I smiled happily at the plants and my calloused hands. I even smiled at my finger that got scratched by a thorn.
    And I left my phone in the house for two whole hours!!!
    Next goal: a whole day…..

    • Kathy says:

      Dear Munira, I LOVE that these posts are timely for YOU. I am delighted about your gardening. I am staring at your finger scratched by a thorn, even though you are half the globe away. I love it that we can turn away from what distracts us and be truly present. I know you can do a whole day.

  16. susan says:

    Hi Kathy,
    I usually have my retreat here at the lake but this year I’ve been busy with P-ball and golf. I have some time, quiet time, here. More than at “home”. I’ll be here until Sept. 9th, btw. Next summer I intend to be here for months. If it doesn’t work out this summer, there is always next. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      SuZen, your words fill me with calm. I have been a bit jittery about perhaps not making it down to your world. Glad to know how long you’ll be there. And thank you for providing a space of “next year” if “this year” doesn’t work out.

  17. Brenda Hardie says:

    Dear Kathy, your words are washing over me and soaking deep within my very soul. What a lovely, magical picture you have painted with your words! I love your description of Mother Nature.
    Retreats are so healing, whether we experience a new mindfulness or painful rebirths. I try to incorporate a sense of retreat whenever I feel overwhelmed with anxiety or worry. Usually it is a sign that I have lost focus, so the re-focusing feels right for me. I also think of it as an opening or a softening of the heart. You know how we have to work the soil in our gardens before we can sow the seeds. Kind of like that…we are working the soil of our inner souls. Making ourselves pliable to receive new seeds and nurture growth.
    You have such a beautiful way with words Kathy…I have read this post 3 times already! And your pictures speak just as eloquently ♥ Thank you!

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, YOUR words have filled me with joy! You share with such loveliness and spirit from yourself. I do appreciate your understanding and realization about the re-focusing which sometimes need. How happy that you’ve made me that you paused and read three times, allowing the words and pictures to sink it. As the local Ojibway (Anishinabe) would say: Megwetch. thank you.

  18. Those peaches are very distracting from your words… I keep goint back to them because they look soooo good! I’d make you a peach cobbler, but the problem with that is, by the time I’d get to your house I’ll have eaten it all myself ! 😉

  19. DAwn says:

    Yum…local peaches? Love them…and all the rest! Glad you enjoyed your retreat. Glad you’re back!

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, it was the most magnificent retreat. (I think.) Please help yourself to a peach. Unfortunately these aren’t local–because there are very few peaches in the Upper Peninsula, god help us all.

  20. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    Kathy, there are folks earning millions with writing skills that pale in comparison to yours. I like the ‘reflection’ shot a lot. And I’m craving a peach.

    • Kathy says:

      Sid, have I told you lately how much I appreciate you? I will read that sentence six more times, lol. Please help yourself to a peach, and give one to your daughters, too.

  21. bearyweather says:

    Yum! Those peaches are wonderful … I would love to reach in and grab one 😉

    About retreats … the line that caught my attention was “From habitual movements” … retreating from life’s routines is what I usually need. I have two lives … my school life where everything is routine and lived by bells and deadlines .. and then there is my summer life. In summer, too much freedom quickly turns into new routines which quickly turn into non-school habits. I guess maybe my two lives are retreats for each other …

    • Kathy says:

      Bearyweather, I can see how your summer vacations can be retreats from your school-worlds, and how your school-worlds can be retreats from your summer vacations. Thank goodness you have both. They probably keep you balanced…

  22. dearrosie says:

    ((sigh))) I feel as if I’ve been on a retreat. Such a joy to see your pictures and read your words about retreats after my horribly busy day at work. Thank you Kathy.

    I’m impressed that you can do your retreat wherever you are. I can’t do a proper retreat at home. I need to get away from it all.

    • Kathy says:

      Rosie, I am still thinking of your retreat, your pilgrimage. It is so VERY hard to do a retreat at home, unless you prime yourself sufficiently. Sometimes I fail with the priming. This time it worked. It’s possible to do one at home…you just have to set the perimeters and stick with them. Deep relaxation to you…

  23. sonali says:

    Aah! Mouth is watering by reading your description about the peaches. They look delicious and yummmm 😀 I too am retreating from the habits & patterns & also weirdos 😉 I am off on vacations to a new city, at my brothers. Definitely having a good family time.

    • Kathy says:

      Dear Ms. Sonali, do you have peaches in India? I know you have many other delicious and delectable fruits. I am glad you are on vacation, retreating from habits and patterns. I hope your brothers treat you as the treasured sister that you are. (hmmmm…not sure if MY brothers treat me as a “treasured sister” all the time…)

  24. Reggie says:

    Oooh, yummm, those peaches are making me long for summer… we’re in the depths of winter at the moment, have even had SNOW in South Africa, though nowhere near where I live, and there’s torrential rain at the moment….. brrrr…

    Oh and that little girl’s flip-flops are CUTE! I’d like a pair of those, please. 😉

    • Kathy says:

      No! Not snow, Reggie! You can’t be telling the South African truth! But rain, yes, I believe rain… Do you like flip flops? Can you walk in them? I like the way flip flops look, but can’t walk in them. The Big Toe and the Second Toe fight. They feel uncomfortable and have flip flop war. Kiah loves flip flops. I think it’s a generational thing, unless you convince me otherwise.

      • Reggie says:

        Dear Kathy – I am going to send you some pictures of recent snowfalls in South Africa! 🙂

        I always wore flip-flops (or slip-slops) growing up – until I discovered ‘velskoens’, which are leather shoes, usually made from kudu or springbok leather. They’re lightweight, resilient, comfy, and easy to slip-into-and-out-of – and they kind of mould themselves to your feet. They’re not the most elegant or stylish shoe, but they’re great for walking in the veld or on the beach or in the desert.

        I’ve gone back to flip-flops a while ago, though, because I discovered these wonderful strappy flip-flops sold by Cape Union Mart (Hi-Tech Sandals, I think): they have straps that go in a v-shape around your big toe, and they strap across your ankle too, for extra support – I always found the ‘common-or-garden-variety’ flip-flop tended to … er … flip and flop about too much! 😉

        • Kathy says:

          Who knew there was much to think about with flip flops?? Thank you. Some day I may be a convert.

          • Colleen says:

            Kathy, if you ever move to California there is a high degree of possibility that you will, sooner or later, become a convert 🙂

            I’ve been so enjoying catching up. The conversation that happens here in the comment section is pretty amazing in itself. There’s magic in your words, my lady 🙂

  25. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, Kathy. I can almost taste and smell those wonderful peaches. Your images and words go together so beautifully. I was just thinking this morning, as I walked in the fog, that my early morning walks have become an everyday retreat. I almost always come back to the house feeling renewed and aware and grateful. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, dear Robin, I can see how your walks would be mini-retreats each day. Thank goodness for renewal in this life where confusion and not-knowing can seem like enemies.

  26. Marianne says:

    I agree with Robin. Your description of the peaches made my mouth water. Maybe you could write fruit adverts/commercials…I’ll bet you’d sell truck loads.

    As for retreats, I try to carve out periods each day for mini-retreats. It doesn’t always work out and I’m still practicing.

    Btw, do you think you will repeat Michael Brown’s program, Practicing the Presence some time in future?

    • Kathy says:

      Marianne, I like that idea of daily mini-retreats. I often do the same, carving time for meditation and silence, as well as slicing peaches. 🙂 So interesting that you asked about the Presence book. Just thought about it yesterday, pondering. I may design my own Presence practice with affirmations and practices which personally apply. Have you thought about doing the program again?

      • Marianne says:

        Yes, I’ve been thinking about doing the program again and hopefully this time I’ll complete it. It would be great to have a buddy doing the practice as well. Let me know when you will start your practice and I’ll do the same. It may hold me accountable and it would be fun with company. Let me know what you think. 🙂

  27. sybil says:

    I’ve got the kettle on. Come over for tea.

  28. Lovely words and yummy photos! Your retreat sounds wonderful. It’s been some time since I was able to willingly put down the computer and stop feeling guilty for not reading blog posts because real-life busy-ness has interfered. I must learn how to retreat from habits and just ‘be’. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I love your honesty, withershins. I love retreating. Suddenly wanting to do it again…but it’s probably too soon. Habits are hard from which to retreat.

  29. Kathy, I love how your words blend in beautifully with your pictures. I love this idea of retreats, taking time for oneself, trying to get away from a kind of routine, although no day is exactly the same. My own retreat is almost a daily one. Nature and the woods where I walk are a haven of peace, reflection, silence but for the “natural” sounds. Whatever happens to me, I feel regenerated after a conscious walk in the forest. And of course feeling thankful.
    Thanks to you too, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Glad you are another one who appreciates the rhythms of retreat and re-engagement. I like how you suggest that this can be a daily rhythm, too. Every day we can choose to let go of our busy doing-oriented minds and simply “be”. Thank you.

  30. I guess I pretty much never “retreat” but your beautiful photo of peaches made me think of something that happened while I was shopping yesterday. The peaches have been so so sweet and abundant this year and I’d been eating bushels of them. So when I saw them yesterday I thought, “I’ve had so many, Maybe I won’t buy them this week,” and I carted away down the aisle. Only moments later I had a thought, “I wonder how long the peaches will still be around?” But I didn’t go back and buy any. Life seems fleeting sometimes and retreats can be bittersweet sometimes.

  31. flandrumhill says:

    I’m staring at a basket full of peaches as I type. Well, almost full. I love them with cream. They’re as sweet as those little sprites in a basket.

    I retreat to the woods or the seashore on a regular basis. It’s where I feel most comfortable just being me.

  32. Stacy Lyn says:

    I retreat, too, sometimes. Especially when it rains. ❤

  33. Barb says:

    Wow – perfect last photo as illustration, Kathy. I never worry about you retreating because I do so myself. It’s necessary for fruition and bountiful harvests – too many distractions nowadays.

    • Kathy says:

      I know that you enjoy periodic retreat as well, Barb. I noticed that when you retreated last time you reassured your readers that you were alright. Perhaps I shall do that next time as well.

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