This week I'm on retreat at Aldermarsh, a retreat center on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I've been coming here for 8 years. I calculated that this is my 15th retreat here. It is a beautiful place, both the interior spaces and the environs. And the owner is very particular about what kind of events and retreats occur here. She is sensitive to creative and spiritual energies, and that's good news for us as over the last 20 years, this place has become a repository of calm and intuition, imagination and self-expression.
In the first years I came here, the retreats were led by Christina Baldwin, a great writing teacher. The food was catered by the amazing Chef Patti and in addition to succulent meals, there were wonderful desserts. What's more, there were always bountiful chocolates in circle. When I started organizing the retreats, we kept the sweets tradition going, vying with each other for the most delectable gourmet chocolate bars for circle. We began cooking our own meals but bought desserts, especially my favorite caramel banana pie, from Chef Patti.
Now much has changed. Chef Patti went back to school and stopped catering. And I gave up sugar. Since I organize the retreat, I ask that those wanting sweet snacks to keep them to themselves. Occasionally a sorbet will show up in summer but people are respectful. Everyone who comes is a friend and they respect my struggle and my commitment.
But yesterday, in Lind's drugstore where I went to buy index cards for work on the timeframe of my novel, I went by the huge display of gourmet chocolate bars: at least 40 kinds, several of them favorites. And I felt a deep longing. Not for the chocolate itself. If I were going to indulge, it would be caramel banana pie. But for the heedlessness with which I used to eat. Never worrying about the weight or the sugar or the fat, except perhaps in some deeply hidden part of me. Just eating what I wanted whenever I wanted it. I miss that heedlessness sometimes.