This past weekend was the third more-or-less annual retreat for the Circle of Christian Authors, a critique group founded in north Texas, to which I have belonged for seventeen years. Past retreats, in 2007 and 2008, have been held in the spring at Camp Arrowhead, where Cheryl and her parents own some cottages. This year we held it in my neck of the woods, south central Texas.
Cheryl, Mary, Maureen, and Nancy drove from Denton in Maureen’s vehicle, McVan, with help from Mrs. Peabody, Maureen’s GPS. They came first to our house, where they became the first-ever signers of a guest book I recently purchased for our home. They saw the house they’d previously seen only in graph-paper sketches, met the cats they’d read about in my blog, and saw my kitchen writing desk with the plaque they’d given me as a going-away present. Then we all drove to a resort at Canyon Lake where Greg’s father has time-shares.
Our retreats are loosely structured, which suits us all fine. Each attendee is responsible for cooking one meal. We plan the meals ahead of time and clear them with each other to make sure we end up with a good balance and don’t serve anything that anyone’s allergic or sensitive to. We write for long stretches—on the balcony, at the dining table, in bed, on the sofa. Periodically, usually in the evenings, we get together to read aloud our work and critique. Long stretches of companionable silence are balanced by long stretches of visiting.
Cheryl worked on early chapters of her annual missions book for her church denomination’s publishing house. Nancy did some buffing on her devotional book for women. Maureen wrote two devotionals, the inspiration for the second having come to her in the whirlpool tub. Mary’s delightful Valentine’s Day short story, read in its entirety, had us all shrieking with laughter. I read aloud the first thirty pages of a suspense story, tentatively titled Survival. During the critique sessions, Maureen worked on her crocheting.
The weather for our retreat weekend was perfect—clear skies, cool mornings, warmish afternoons. We saw a lot of deer. Cheryl, Nancy, and I went for a walk and took pictures, and Cheryl and I discovered that we have many mutual friends that we didn’t know we had. How many friends might we find we have in common with other friends, if only we knew to ask the people if they know each other?
Another important discovery on this trip is that Nancy has an excellent sense of direction. She was given the navigator’s seat in McVan for journeys too short to employ Mrs. Peabody.
Most CCA members are big tea drinkers, so Maureen brought along the electric kettle that the group purchased cooperatively about a year ago. She filled it in the mornings, and once the water was heated she put the kettle on the “keep warm” setting, allowing us to make fresh cups of tea whenever we wanted. The condo had six mugs for the five of us, so we kept our mugs throughout the day and washed them at night. To tell them apart, we each chose a different color of floss from Maureen’s crocheting stash and tied the strands to our handles. We had chai for an afternoon treat, made from a concentrate Maureen brought. Nancy put some Hershey’s kisses in a goblet and encouraged us to take them as dietary supplements.
The last day, as we cleaned the unit, I decided to take the colored floss off our mug handles as keepsakes. Later, at home, Anna joined them in a five-stranded braid, which she finished off with a silver heart button from my button bag. The braid is not long enough for a bracelet, but it makes a great bookmark.
After checking out of the unit, we drove to the nearby town of Gruene and ate at The Grist Mill. I have eaten at this charming restaurant about five times in my life, and I love it. This was the first visit for my fellow retreaters, and they loved it too. It was quickly decided that a trip to The Grist Mill should become a traditional part of the south Texas CCA retreat. Perhaps we will have semiannual retreats—Camp Arrowhead in the spring, Canyon Lake in the fall.
This retreat, like the previous two, was one of the highlights of my year, eagerly anticipated beforehand and fondly remembered afterwards. It was truly a time of refreshment, with friends who love God, love their husbands and children, love each other, love words and books and stories.
Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shock of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.