I had the exquisite pleasure of spending a long weekend in a tiny little cabin at Windhorse Farms, near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, this past March. I had wanted to take some time to prepare for the birth of my baby, as well as to collect myself, my thoughts, and my intentions for the future after weathering a particularly tough season in the life of our family. A self-designed solo retreat was exactly what I needed to release what had passed, and embrace what the future held.
I arrived on a warm, sunny late winter day that had begun the monumental work of melting the snowbanks which had enveloped the entire province for much of the past few months. The rest of the weekend promised to bless me with the same sunshine – the first sunshine of the year that had just a touch of heat to it, if you could still yourself long enough to feel it against your skin. A welcoming staffer helped my nine-months-pregnant self haul my weekend’s supplies into Sweetwater Cabin, a 10 x 10 foot cabin hidden within the majestic old Acadian forest.
The cabin, already warmed by the woodstove, which had been stoked in advance of my arrival, had everything I could possibly hope for in a tiny little space: a double-burner propane stove, cooking supplies and dishes, a cozy rocking chair, a table and chair, a propane lantern and a small bed with linens. I had more wood and kindling than I could possibly want, and a cooler outside to store my perishables. Most delightful were the welcoming finishing touches – a vase of twigs and leaves sitting atop the table, a wreath on the door and the tiniest little crystal on the windowsill.
This attention to detail was a theme throughout Windhorse Farms, a place designed to promote sustainable living and a legacy of living off the land. The farm features an eco-woodshop, which specializes in crafting beautiful wood products harvested with the help of a team of horses and sourced from the surrounding forest. On the grounds there are extensive gardens and greenhouses, an apiary, and chickens that supply visitors with eggs. There are dozens of kilometers of hiking trails winding through beautiful forest, a lake and many streams cross-cutting the property. Multiple cabins powered as much as possible by wood, wind and solar sources dot the landscape, along with state-of-the-art composing toilets (which really are worth checking out!). Meditation shrines and fire circles are nestled in the woods, delighting hikers as they traverse the trails. Perhaps my favourite forest find was Mother Maple, a 400 year old maple tree that stands, statuesque and awe-inspiring, in a clearing in the woods.
Though I could have stayed much longer in the peace and ear-ringing silence of the forest, even just a few days at Windhorse was magical, affirming, and soul-lifting.
Have you ever done a solo retreat? Where did you go? What was your purpose? Would you do it again?