“ . . . discover once again what it means to be a person . . . To offer persons seeking a renewal of spirit, the sacred atmosphere of this quiet retreat . . . To find in this sanctuary of the Rockies a new rhythm of life- the rhythm that nature herself enjoins us to rediscover and restore to our own being.”
– Warren Rempel, musings on the reasons for founding Shadowcliff
There has always been a need for places that provide connection. From churches to festivals to favorite campsites, we gather with friends and family in various places in a shared rhythm. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. We are drawn to these spaces to connect with one another, seeking common occurrence and a familiar frame of reference. In these spaces we remember ourselves, defined by those around us and the deep, unspoken tie of a shared experience.
When times are good, these places and the people within them highlight our joys. They help us celebrate and share in the happiness. Sometimes these places are the very embodiment of good times, and that is the reason we join in them. It is important to find community when times are good; it codifies that the good does exist and deepens the experience. Almost more important is what’s hidden within the lines of how we treat each other when times are good: the basis for how we must hold each other when times are trying. That is the quiet strength of community.
At Shadowcliff, community and a sense of place have always been at our core. From the hundreds of international volunteers who loving brought the physical spaces of Shadowcliff to life and continue to maintain them, to the thousands of guests who have stayed within those ardently built walls, to the amazing staff who have shared in the “divine madness,” each step of the way has been fueled by the desire to provide a place to retreat and connect without judgement.
We have one most cherished belief at Shadowcliff: when people are given time and space to connect with their own thoughts, each other, and nature, the world can be a better place. We do not seek to change worldviews, only to supply a space for reflection and dialogue where that is often the natural outcome. Places like this are hard to find. While we can generally find places that surround us with the familiar, it is harder to find places of solace where we then become open to the views and thoughts of others. And it is only when we can hear each other that we can stand united.
Look around you. Times are trying. No matter your political or religious views, anxiety and anger abound. It is now that we must shine a light on the most important aspects of community and hold each other with love, even when we do not understand one another. It is now that seeking out and supporting places of peace, places that encourage dialogue, places like Shadowcliff, becomes an act of solidarity.
Perhaps Edward Abbey put it best in this reflective passage, written about a moment in time he came face to face with a mountain lion (emphasis added by me, because):
“I haven’t seen a mountain lion since that evening, but the experience remains shining in my memory. I want my children to have the opportunity for that kind of experience. I want my friends to have it. I even want our enemies to have it- they need it most. And someday, possibly, one of our children’s children will discover how to get close enough to that mountain lion to share paws with it, to embrace and caress it, maybe even teach it something, and to learn what the lion has to teach us.”
– The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West, page 238
May the peace and reflection you find at Shadowcliff fill your hearts in the days to come,
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