This is all of us, isn’t it?

While we’re trying to make the best of things—scribbling about gratitude in our journals, Zooming with friends, family, and co-workers—we’re fraying around the edges. We’re running a 5K that surreptitiously morphed into an Ironman Triathlon for which we have not trained. We’re tired in ways that sleep doesn’t cure—kind of emotionally wrung out. Some of us dream about arguing with crowds of people who refuse to wear masks. Or maybe that’s just me.

When we were kids, my sister got mad about a parentally-imposed restriction, packed a suitcase with Oreos, and ran away to the backyard. I recently did the same. But instead of Oreos, I packed pens. And instead of running into the backyard, I went just a little bit further.

St. Margaret’s House Ecumenical & Retreat Center is less than ten miles from my current home and is just down the road from where I grew up. I knew the home was once the residence for Episcopalian Sisters, but until last summer, I didn’t realize that the building is open to the public—available for use by anyone needing a quiet space to read, meditate, pray, or, in my case, write.

When I found myself with a couple of Fridays off, I knew exactly what I was going to do—run away to St. Margaret’s library with my pens and paper. On the first Friday, I settled into my cushioned chair and wrote a 12-page letter in about three hours. Working in this room warmed by hot-water radiators and surrounded by books, I quickly shed both my sweatshirt and my mental agitation. The housekeeper, vacuuming a faraway hallway, apologized for “the noise.” The staff are friendly, courteous, and very, very quiet, even when they’re vacuuming.

On the second Friday, I spent time updating and reworking my various to-do lists, something I’d ignored for far too long. It took a couple of hours to get things back in order but working in such a peaceful place made me feel invigorated, rather than worn down, by all there is to do on those lists. I’d regained a grip on things, at least for the time being.

Once I finished that work, I started another letter before heading out into the world—this crazy, messed up, beautiful world.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have found this sanctuary, this retreat, this second home. I hope you’re able to find your own quiet place. Running away, if only for a few hours, makes all the difference.

Peace to you, my friends.

For local folks, from St. Margaret’s director: “We know that COVID-19 is still very much active in our area, and around the world. We are open at this time and welcome you to come and find respite here.  It’s still very much necessary to wear your mask, have your temperature taken at the door, answer the all too familiar questions regarding COVID, and to keep your distance while here at the house. But please do come. There’s a special calmness here that is like none other.