By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to California Coast Music Camp, a week-long retreat that is pretty much my idea of heaven.
Well, except for the bathrooms and the mosquitoes. In heaven there will be no mosquitoes, and there will be luxurious, private bathrooms with clean, heated floors and extra-large showers. And plush, cushy bath mats. And whirlpool tubs. And maybe saunas too. And fluffy robes.
But I digress.
While I’m at camp, I won’t be making art for my ArtSpark newsletter (though never fear – if you’re a subscriber, I’ve scheduled an ArtSpark for every weekday that I’m gone). I will still, however, be playing in the Creative Sandbox; I’ll just be using sound instead of color and line as my playthings.
An essential gift
Retreats like this, in which you can leave the world behind and immerse yourself in your creative thing, are an incredible gift.
In fact, I’ve discovered over the years that, rather than a (in this case, rather non-luxurious) luxury, they are actually essential to my well-being as a creative.
Joy Agcongay writes about retreating over at Adventures of Joy, where she sings the praises of what I’d refer to as “micro-retreats”:
…taking time to tend to the important details that support me.
Napping with a kitty nearby.
Reading a book.
Journaling. Arting. Writing…
Yes, yes and yes!
My time in the Creative Sandbox is that kind of retreating.
And (as Joy also recommends) I also say yes to more “formal” retreats.
To disconnect from the online world for awhile. Communing in 3-D with other human beings. Sharing ourselves and our gifts. Learning from each other. Trying new things. Reveling in being a beginner. Or an intermediate. Or wherever you are on the path.
It’s not always what you think it is
An interesting thing I’ve discovered about retreats like this is that people (including myself) go for the music (or art, in the case of my art retreats) but come back for the people.
Human beings are social creatures (even us introverts), and the true magic that happens at music camp isn’t just the glorious sounds that seduce our ears. At CCMC (and my other annual summer camp, Jazz Camp West), music is the heart that pumps the blood, but the community – the family – that develops around it is the body.
If we were stuck together on an island for a year, if we had to deal with day-to-day survival and politics, we’d probably get horribly sick of each other. But one week in the woods feels like utopia.
And it’s not always what you expect
It’s utopia especially if you can surrender to the experience.
Last year I took on a partially-subsidized position at camp, and found myself just as stressed out as I was at home. So much for my “vacation”!
I was in resistance and resentful (foreshadowing: watch for a video on resentment on Wednesday), and until I surrendered to my camp experience being what it was, I couldn’t enjoy it.
One of my greatest gifts from that year was the realization that camp is for ME, and that it’s worth the extra money to not have to work a job that stresses me out.
On the other hand, although I’d planned to take a songwriting class, I ended up taking a ‘ukulele class instead, and embarked on my love affair with my ‘ukulele.
“Discovering” the ‘ukulele was my other great gift from that year.
One year, much to my surprise, though I hadn’t played my viola in decades, I took a fiddle class the entire week at camp, and even took some private lessons after I got home. Magical.
I’ve learned to mark up the brochure, but not to make any plans. Let the experience evolve as it will.
This year? Well, I confess I’d love to come home with a brand-new song, and I’m eyeing the songwriting class. But I’m making no plans, saddling myself with no expectations other than to enjoy and recharge.
I’ll give you a debrief when I get home.
PS – What’s your favorite retreat? What would your ideal creative retreat be like?