I've been back for over a week now, and I'm still struggling to put into words my experience at Squam Art Workshops. Why, I don't know, but the words have been alluding me - sliping away before becoming fully formed.
In the simplest of words, and the most convenient definitions SAW was -
5 Days spent on a beautiful lake
In a cozy cabin tucked in along the shoreline.
Taking creative classes
But Squam was so much more than any of that.
Before I left for SAW I was desperately needing a break. I needed some time away from work, friends and family to try to get myself back together again. While I haven't felt as lost as I was feeling at my lowest points, I haven't truly felt like myself in a long time either. I knew after last year's trip to Disney that I needed something else this year. I needed a trip that wasn't going to require months of planning, hours and hours of stressful training, and once I was there wasn't in a spot filled with thousands of happy families that end up reminding me of how alone I feel most of the time. I needed a trip for me - a trip filled with things I love and that fill me with happiness. A trip that would be somewhat selfishly perhaps, all about me. I found out about SAW while researching different possiblities and something about it spoke to me. The photos, the trip reports, the class descriptions I read all called out to me that this was where I needed to be this year.
I decided to start my trip a bit early so two days before SAW began I headed up to NH and spent two nights in a tiny green light filed cottage on the shore of Paugus Bay.
It was quite possilbly two of the most relaxing days I've ever had. I was intent on staying unplugged for my entire vacation, so I never turned on the television in my room. I spent my nights reading on the porch watching the boats and getting caught up on a couple of books I'd been ignoring for too long.
During the day, I did whatever the mood urged me to do, and all the things that no one else seems to want to when I vacation with them. One day I went antique shopping spending hours poking into dark corners and inside of things searching for treasures. I ate my first meal alone in a sit-down restaurant, and once I sat down to eat I found it wasn't nearly as scary to eat alone as it was to walk through the door in the first place.
The next day I had planned on doing some shopping, but the morning came and any desire to shop was gone. On a whim I instead drove an hour north to Franconia Notch to enjoy walking through one of my favorite spots - The Flume.
Before heading back to my cottage I decided to face another fear of mine and ride the tram up to the top of Cannon Mountain, where I was rewarded with an amazing view.
Those two solo days may have been the best decision I ever made. I arrived at Squam feeling free of so many thoughts and worries that had been bogging me down. I felt at peace with myself and closer to the me that's been in hiding recently. I was really ready for the next part of my trip.
I had volunteered to be a Squam Angel and help out welcoming people to camp, so I had arrived early and was warmly welcomed by Elizabeth and the other volunteers. Now some may think it's a bit odd to be welcoming people to a place your new at too, but inside of me is always lurking the young 18 year old girl who arrived at college and felt horribly out of place and friendless years ago. I never want anyone to ever feel like I did back then and always try to help out with welcoming when I can. It's such a small thing really, but a welcome smile can make such a difference to someone who's nervous themselves. The nice thing about having helped out welcoming people was that everywhere I went around camp for the rest of the week, I now met up with friendly, familiar faces. I never really felt like a newbie after that.
When the majority of the other campers had arrived, I finally went to cart the rest of my stuff to my new aptly name home away from home, Nirvana, and to meet my cabin mates.
I was a bit nervous about walking into a cabin filled with strangers, but there was no need. I'm pretty convinced that Elizabeth has a bit of a magic touch, because as soon as I carried my knitting bag out onto the porch to join the others I felt instantly comfortable. There were 13 of us in Nirvana and everyone was completely wonderful.
For all that I had read about how wonderful the classes at SAW were, I wasn't expecting that the real magic of Squam was found right in the cabin.
Magic was found in the afternoons and the nights spent hanging out with cabinmates on the porch and in front of the fire (some nights were pretty cold) knitting, spinning, laughing and sharing delicious home brewed beer and shared wine.
Magic was also was found watching more daring cabinmates take a plunge into the lake, and folding fat quarters around the fireplace while learning about fabric designing, sweater designing, and book publishing. Our cabin was always littered with odd balls of yarn, knitting needles and our class projects draped over the furniture and on the tables. A true creative nirvana.
The classes were all wonderful (and I promise a second post about them later), but for me what will remain with me most from my days at Squam will be the exquisite unspoiled setting and the amazing creative women I shared it my time there with.
9 of the fantastic group of Nirvana women. Photo courtesy of one of my fantastic cabin mates Laura-Lynn.
It was hard to break the spell and leave such an amazing setting on Sunday morning. I felt drained in the best of ways and more satisfied than I have in ages.
Re-entry to the "real world" has been a bit tougher than I would have expected, and I've been feeling the magic drain away from me. I came back to work to face my yearly review which on the one hand was great since they couldn't be happier with my performance, but discouraging because they flat out refuse to let me grow beyond the position that quite frankly, trained monkeys could do.
I need more, and after a week at Squam spent with people who make their livings and surround their lives with creativity I know my current path will never be enough. I may not have control over all the things that bring sadness to my life - children and love are a bit out of my control, but I can change my job. I can make changes to fill my life with more creativity. I can find a path more enriching than the one I'm on now.