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My word for this year is GROW, and that means doing some things I thought were beyond me. I did one of them last week: my first writing retreat.

I’ve always wanted to go on a writing retreat, but until now it never worked out. Sometimes money was the problem, sometimes health, sometimes family circumstances… sometimes all three.

Mostly I’ve been resigned to this; I have bad retreat karma, and that’s that. But when I heard that Kindling Words was holding a retreat here in the UK in March 2012, I desperately wanted to go, especially since some very dear friends were going to be there, friends I rarely get to see.

I just didn’t see how I could make it work.

Last fall, when we were supposed to sign up, I was going through a lupus flare. These happen sometimes, and I just grit my teeth and get through them, but this one was bad enough that my doctors decided it was time to try a new treatment… and the treatment just wasn’t working.

But then, in mid-February, I finally started to see some results. It’s not a cure (those are really, really rare with lupus), but the pain finally started to recede.

Unfortunately, the improvement had come too late for the retreat. Or so I thought. But then out of the blue, lovely Alison James of Kindling Words wrote again, just before the retreat began, urging me to come just for the weekend if I could; she said they would find space for me. I pieced together the travel arrangements and snagged the very last room in the hotel. My generous husband offered to cover for me at home and helped me pack. And suddenly I was on a train to the Lake District, headed for the misty hills of Derwentwater:

As you can see, the weather was blustery – perfect for curling up with a manuscript, or for a writerly chat over tea and scones. But we had sunny hours, too:

The lovely jeannineatkins, taking a post-breakfast perambulation with me

The view from the hotel window

My three days there were filled with laughter, hugs, and book talk. I wrote. I meditated. I spooned up sticky toffee pudding. I got soaked to the skin on a soppy lake cruise. I stayed up for late night heart-to-hearts.

The food was incredible, the company even better. An enchanted weekend, right down to the fairy butter sculpture:

Really, truly, she’s made of butter.

Look at those wings!

To be honest, the trip was at the limit of what’s possible for me at the moment, and I’m still in recovery mode back here at home. But as I told a friend the other day, I know the exhaustion will fade – and the memories of that weekend will be with me forever.