We arrived to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference yesterday in the late afternoon. The grounds are beautiful. To get here, you have to cross a wooden bridge over a lagoon where at the end, you can turn around and gaze at the beautiful bay of water before you surrounded by trees and a range of mountains shaded in blue on the other side. All the houses and building on the grounds are on a green gently sloping hill that comes to rest at the lagoon with trees lining the backside.
It feels good to finally get to relax, let go. Yesterday I found the basketball court and a bin full of various balls nearby. Throwing baskets, oddly enough, helps me find that flowing peace, or at least encourages me along the trail! It helps unwind me, find the rhythm, a joyful movement. Seeing as how I am with nearly sixty Quaker women, you can imagine I don't have much competition for the basketball hoop.
As I've walked the grounds over the last day, I keep walking past the dock with boats tied up just asking to be taken out. Each time I go by, I think to myself, "How much trouble would I get in if I took one out for a spin?" Then at lunch, Ashley assured me we had full privledges to use the boats! Wahoo! So while scoping out the territory, I met a woman from Seattle who likes to go swimming and after checking out the swimming area which is very green if you know what I mean, I persuaded her to take out a paddle boat with me for a while. It was a great time but lets just say after five years of tap dancing, my legs are nowhere near the condition I thought they were in. I think there is some bicycling in my future.
I like how Sarah P. and Ashley planned the schedule. There is nothing we have to attend, it is all optional. I'm going to the plenaries and the home groups but the silent worship is out along with some of the singing. It feels really good to say no, to claim free time instead where I can do whatever I want without having to be anywhere in particular at all. This is actually a great growth point for me. Years ago, I would have tried to atend everything, no matter whether I liked it or not, and would have very succesfully burned myself out. Now, knowing I was already coming into this quite burnt out, I am giving myself the gift of space, of time, of a good book and hot tea. If I need a holy excuse, not that I do, I could claim I need the space for all the things I will be doing tomorrow: speaking at the plenary session, giving a workshop, and reading from "Spirit Rising" at an author's party in the evening. Some conferences have talent nights, women's theology conferences have author parties. hahaha!
I've already broken the no food in your room rule (so I hope no one at the conference is reading this) and I don't care. This is to be a restful time for me as well as for many others I hear. While doing the volunteer cordinating for this, I talked over the phone with another young woman named Erin who had heard about me through a mutual friend. Waiting for lunch, we got to actually meet and talk face-to-face a little bit and in the course of the discussion, found out we were both extroverted, had our noses pierced, she is a makeup artist and there is purple in my hair. After those revelations, we figured we will get along just fine. It felt good to meet another young woman who also feels the frustration of being in a group surrounded by introverts when we are verbal processors. Even in the Quakers, even in a group that are mostly unprogrammed Quakers, we can still find each other. It's nice to know.