Thursday, November 17, 2011


I did manage to get out and take quite a few photos during my stay at the ermitage, despite feeling a bit under the weather (much better now, thanks). I'd like to do a couple of posts to share with you my experience of doing a silent retreat.

First off, the place itself. L'Ermitage de Warden is situated in a very beautiful area in Québec called Les Cantons de l'Est (the Eastern Townships). It's about an hour's drive from downtown Montréal. A retired couple turned their 19-acre country property into a getaway for harried city-dwellers and peace-seekers.

ermitage warden_178


Their land has six very cozy and clean cabins, each outfitted with a woodstove, a single bed, a rocking chair and a small table.


There is no electricity or running water in the cabins. Meals and washrooms are accessible in a common building. The owners prepare lovely, mostly vegetarian food which is available on a self-serve basis in the common kitchen.

The property is crisscrossed with beautiful paths through mixed forest, open clearings, ponds and along the Yamaska river.

ermitage warden_169


view from hammock_214


Benches, swings and hammocks dot the landscape, allowing retreaters to sit and take in the sights, sounds, smells.

Because I wasn't feeling 100%, I spend a lot of time in my little cabin, which was a really healing place. I brought a few comforts from home to make my space more cozy.

my resting place_199

From a window I could spy on the sweet birds that came to snack at my bird-feeder.

wb nuthatch_188
White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

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Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis

Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus

My refuge was the perfect place to stop "doing" and just reeeeest. I let myself get hypnotized by the dancing light of my constant companions—the fire in my woodstove, and the flames of my candles.


I didn't have any major revelations or insights, but I did notice a few interesting things:
- It's very sweet to do nothing once in a while, especially if you crave solitude like I do.
- I loved spending the great majority of 3 days in complete silence. I went with a friend, and we did have some difficulty not speaking when we ran into each other. I must admit we exchanges a few brief, hushed exchanges, but generally just smiled at each other. We are social creatures at heart.
- I very quickly fell into my hardwired circadian rhythm: wake when it's light, sleep when it's dark, eat when I'm hungry.
- That said, I was always extremely curious about what time it was, and had to resist the temptation to look at the time on my tucked-away cell phone.
- Not doing made the days pass by more slowly, in a good way. I could really savour my time off, and was rarely bored.
- Being in complete silence, I could really hear the noisiness of my mind. I noticed that I constantly have music playing in my head. It sometimes got on my nerves, especially if I had the same "record" on for too long. Right now I have Karkwa playing in my head. It's always there, but I never realized it before.
- I loved living more simply. It made me re-evalutate all the stuff I have, buy, do... These things fill up my life in ways that can sometimes be overwhelming. Obviously, living such an idyllic, quiet, and ultimately lazy existence is not doable or even desirable in my real life, but I can make more space, clear the way for more peace and quiet.

Next time, I want to show you some of the woodland treasures I caught with my camera.

view from hammock_215

Hope you find a little peace and quiet in your day today.




Wow, that looks so, so idyllic! what an amazing little place.



I have to smile at your cabin since it looks alot like our fishing cabin just down the path where I ski and walk the dog.
I should rent it out!



It's truly wonderful that you were able to take the time for this silent retreat ... and not only take the time but really TAKE the time. We should all take a cue from your experience. We don't have enough joyful silence in our lives. Did you knit much while you were there?



What an amazing place to spend time and space- lovely! Good on you for taking that time : )



That place sounds amazing! Silence, oh, heavenly silence!!!!! Bring it on.



I do agree with Greer- heavenly silence. Typing this in a quiet house with everyone else asleep but I can hear the boiler and even that niggles my tired brain. I am so glad you had such a lovely time and are sharing it with us all. I am looking forward to your next post. Karen X



Just reading your post was soothing. I would love to find a silent retreat, stow away my cell phone, and just exist for awhile. Sounds lovely. Thank you for the peaceful inspirations.



i love what you wrote, your photos, and the "silence" in your thoughts.

you are so lucky to have gone to this place

Margie Oomen


i wish that place wasn't so far away from here



sigh ...thank you for sharing



Cet endroit a l'air d'etre idéal pour se resourcer. Merci de partager ce calme et j'espère que vous aller mieux.



That sounds like a perfect way to spend a November weekend.
p.s. Simon was quite impressed with your birds' identifications. (he's a novice birdwatcher)



what an amazing place indeed
I love what you noticed about you
glad to read you're doing better now



it's so wonderful that you went with a girlfriend and could experience it together yet somewhat separate in your silence ~ i love that you cheated a bit and indulged with each other, i would have done the same.., it reminds me of how much i truly enjoy the few friends i can be in silence with... and boy can we talk up a storm too!



We actually coined a phrase in our house - "the tune thing" - for the music running through the head. I have it (and come to find out not everyone does, but there are others that definitely do). I have actually worked on it for years. I even quit listening to music completely for a long time.. It's something that really made me ask the question... if I am choosing not to think it, or actively do it, then what is?? I found it an interesting question worth asking, and examining.

Silent retreats are an amazing experience. It's really fun to hear what stood out for you.



You are such a great natural photographer- it looks so effortless- seeing the things in the first place and then capturing them.Love.