March Retreat with Judith, Part One

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I spent this last long weekend (Friday through Monday) at Point Bonita YMCA doing an intense three days of classes with Judith MacKenzie McCuin. In writing about the class and the weekend I decided to break it up into two parts. This first part is about the location, the environment for the retreat. The second part will be about what I worked on and photos of the stuff we did.

The retreat is held at the YMCA hostel at Point Bonita, in the Marin Headlands right on the Northern side of the Golden Gate. The scenery is lovely, and we had lots of time each day to walk around and look at things while recovering from very hard work.

Point Bonita compound

The hostel is in the old barracks, a sort of dismal Cold War kind of series of buildings with weird bunkers overlooking them. It's all open to the public, so random day visitors were coming in and out of the area the whole time (we were warned not to leave valuables or even remotely tempting things in the dorms; thieves seem to leave the spinning wheels and expensive fiber alone, thank goodness.)

That photo above is looking from the classrooms (the building on the very left) towards the dining hall (the two large windows ahead) and the dormitories (men's the furthest away at the far side of the parking lot, women's on the right side of the driveway). If you continued in the direction I was facing here you'd walk up a path on the side of the hill, up the road, and out to the lighthouse.

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The hillsides were very pretty in a late-winter coastal desert kind of way. Plus, ominous bunkers.

Bunker over the classrooms

There was a little bunker over the classrooms.

Bunker over the dormitory

The big bunker was just up the hill beyond the compound, and we often saw people standing on it and walking around. Not in this photo, of course, because this was taken as I stood in the parking lot at 7am. Day visitors are a lot scarcer at that hour.

Kitchen garden

The camp has a decent kitchen that serves healthy, local, organic food when possible, some of it grown in their own garden (here artfully protected from the large local deer population). There's no soda available, but this was not really a soda crowd. The classroom also had a refrigerator for our use.

My bunk

The rest of the facilities are pretty spartan. This is my bunk: I slept up top (because I like top bunks) and used the bottom as a place to lay out clothes and so forth to make it easier to get dressed and undressed in the dark. Not because there were no lights, but because the room was a large one with six bunks, and half the occupants were early-to-bedders, while I was one of the night owl crowd. The facility comes with plastic-covered mattresses, you bring your own sheets and pillow. That worked fine for me, though I did have to buy my first set of twin sheets in many decades.

Heather and her loom

Part of the reason we had such a large room (there were several smaller ones) was that my fiber buddy Heather brought her brand new (as in, arrived the night before from Schacht) loom and needed to have room to assemble it. The rest of this week is the weaving portion of the retreat, which I am skipping (since I really don't weave that way).

As a note to my future self (I'm going to another retreat here in August), the important things to bring that are not obvious are:
- a set of flannel, twin-sized sheets (not extra-long) -- the flannel because it is always always always cold there, and also because it muffles the crinkling of the mattress
- a pillow, because none are provided
- a comforter or sleeping bag, because it is cooooold
- flip-flops for the shower, because the facility is spartan and the floor is icy cold (I brought flip-flops, but they were designed for somebody with no arches whatsoever, so I need to buy a different pair)
- another sheet, not flannel, for under the spinning wheel, because the classroom is carpeted and fiber gets everywhere
- a nighttime reading light of some sort, for reading in bed and for getting around at night
- tea I like, because the stuff they have there was caffeinated and/or not the kind I like
- some bready snack, because the food was very low on the breadlike objects, and I have a hard time thinking clearly if deprived of carbs. All food has to be kept in one's car or the classroom fridge, because of the critters, but I can handle that

For the spinning portion of the retreat, this is where we spent our days:

Classroom Panorama

In a large circle around the classroom. You can click on that and see the biiiig version. There were a lot of people with Lendrum wheels there, as you can see.

During lunch on Sunday, Heather and I walked out to the lighthouse to see the scene. I was last there more then ten years ago, and because of the intermittent nature of its hours, Heather hadn't been there at all.

Lichen on the rocks

This combination of earthy grey-brown with red is one of my favourites. You walk down a trail for a bit, then get to a large rock with a tunnel carved through it. This was at the entrance to the tunnel. When the lighthouse is closed, they shut the door on the tunnel.


On the other side the path winds around the rock, then you come out on the rocky point. At the very end is a bridge, and then the lighthouse.

Looking over the bridge

The bridge is in very poor shape, so only two people are allowed over at a time. You wait in line until the staff (with walkie-talkies) gives you the go-ahead to cross.

Waves below

The view at the lighthouse, especially on nice clear days right after a storm system has moved through, is spectacular.

View to San Francisco

For me, the icon of San Francisco will always be the Sutro Tower. We see it poking up from the fog from the beach in Alameda. To me it is far more iconic of the city than the Trans-America pyramid or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tomorrow, the substance of the retreat.


Great photos! It sure was an intense and fun retreat. Now... to assimilate it all and practice, practice, practice! :-)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ayse published on March 17, 2010 12:15 PM.

Orchids Everywhere was the previous entry in this blog.

March Retreat with Judith, Part Two is the next entry in this blog.

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