My suitcase is stuffed with running and yoga clothes, a swimming suit (that I hope still fits) and towel, and a blank notebook ready to be filled with meditative journal entries and side notes of “OMG I’m at the Wilder Retreat in OREGON hosted by Lauren Fleshman! What is this life?!”
By the time I publish this, I’ll be in Portland. En route to the Caldera retreat center outside of Bend. I’ll have a stupid grin plastered on my face because I’m about to spend a weekend at the with fellow runners, writers, and Lauren Fleshman fans. I’ll get writing prompts from Jennifer Louden, practice yoga with Jasyoga founder Erin Taylor; I’ll eat meals someone made for me, then sleep in a cabin and wake up in the mountains. I’ll be pseudo-running trails while carrying a 20-week old tiny human. Maybe I’ll be able to keep up with Lauren, or at least exchange a few “Ah, pregnancy, amirite?” nods as bumps push out our shirts and and slow down our feet just a little bit. Then I’ll get to practice some improv with Susanna Spies, dusting off “skills” I once honed in high school.
I’ll be at the Wilder Retreat.
Two years ago, Mike and I took a long ass road trip from Monterey, California to Wenatchee, Washington. Wenatchee is a real place—the apple capital of the world, actually. (Or maybe just the United States. Either way, a LOT of apples.) And there are vineyards. And it’s the closest town to the Gorge Amphitheater, where Brandi Carlile was opening for Dave Matthews Band during their annual Labor Day Gorge festival. I love Brandi concerts more than most things on this Earth. Mike and I both love road trips. It was a good match. (He even found a bar, that happened to be tended by a fellow Michigan fan, where he could watch the Michigan football game at 9am PST with a bloody mary in hand.)
We drove for two full days. (California is a BIG state. The exit numbers got into the 700s. That still blows my mind.) We broke it up by stopping in Ashland, Oreg. for a night. If anyone else has read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, you’ll understand. (Another fun fact: Ashland is home to a huge Shakespeare festival and community!) Our route from Ashland to the Washington state border took us through Bend, and now this long tangent makes sense.
We had only been driving for about three hours when we passed through Bend. We already had breakfast, because we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast and that’s kind of their whole schtick. We didn’t need to stop, but we had to. Have you been to Bend? You have to stop. Add that to the fun facts list.
We found a local cafe and set up shop to rest for a bit, stare at the mountains, and feel the sun shine on our car-covered skin. We walked through the downtown area, stopped in a running store to try on some kicks. We browsed postcards. We stared at the mountains some more. We wondered, Who lives here? HOW did they make that happen? Is Picky Bars hiring?!
I’ve had Bend on a pedestal ever since. I’ve experienced less than two hours in Bend, two years ago. Yet it pops into my head every now and then as a place that must be part of my life, in some way. We thought about moving there for a while (like, long-term DREAM BIG quit life and go live in Bend and figure out a new life), but that’s kind of off the table (for reasons we might get into here in another few years). But I knew something would happen in, or around, Bend that would be important to me, at some point.
The Wilder Retreat: It’s my (thing near) Bend thing.
I don’t mean to be hyperbolic about this Wilder retreat experience. I’m just really fucking excited about attending the Wilder retreat. In my head, it’s perfectly romanticized because it is a weekend full of quite a few of my favorite things.
Two years ago, for those two hours in Bend, the back of my mind was probably concerned about the work emails I needed to answer, how much longer I had to sit in the car, and how I might get in my Marine Corps Marathon training long run done while in Wenatchee. Two years ago I thought maybe, someday, I’ll have my own business. Maybe someday I’ll have enough confidence in my writing to be a freelance writer, a storyteller. Maybe someday I’ll challenge myself with something other running marathons. Maybe someday I’ll surround myself with writers who also love running and yoga and the mountains, and I’ll get to learn from them. Maybe someday I’ll stop holding myself back with little fears of big life things.
My Wilder retreat experience represents what I’ve let myself do, and believe, and work for. It’s a door that opened alongside my choice to pave my own career path. It’s an opportunity that will humble me, remind me that I am a beginner, no matter how far I’ve come. It’s an experience I’m paying for because I value experiences. It is my reminder to ask for help, seek mentorship, run to explore, practice yoga to meditate, and WRITE. Always write. Always ask the hard questions, seek the deeper truths, learn from those around me, and see what my mind has to say.
Wilder is giving me a retreat from the water I’ve barely been treading for the past few months. It’s not an escape. It’s a chance to turn off notifications, to explore rather than respond. It’s a pause from deadlines, invoices, scheduling, and podcast publishing. It’s an invitation to dig a little deeper, ask a little more of myself, and see what comes. It’s giving me just the right amount of fear, and reminding me that from those fears comes a chance to see what’s on the other side. It’s also a great way to get back to the mountains I spent two hours staring at from Bend. I can’t wait to see them again.