Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Retreated to Ocracoke and it Was Awesome!

Hey everyone! If you have followed me for a while you know that I usually have to have an extraordinary reason to inspire me to post to this blog. This time I have something really exciting to tell you about, so grab a cocktail and prepare for a long post.

Sunset from the Swan Quarter ferry.
First, for a long time I've been reading and hearing about Art Retreats like Art is…You, Art and Soul, and CREATE Mixed Media Retreats. I’m friends with someone who regularly teaches at these events and she says they have become huge corporations and money making events. Now, Webster’s defines “retreat” as “a place of privacy or safety: refuge” and “a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study or instruction”. There doesn’t seem to be anything “retreatish” about these artist gatherings, just hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people in a large venue cranking out the art classes. 

I don't know what these are, but they look seafaring and cool.
Second, you know I’m an introverted hermit, right? I have a peaceful, quiet, stress-free life in a beautiful place, I don’t travel much and I don’t do well in crowds. The last time I went anywhere far away from home  was to the PMC Conference in Cincinnati back in 2012. I don’t take vacations. I like the saying “Instead of looking forward to your next vacation, how about creating a life you don’t want to get away from?” I've done that. Therefore, art retreats like the ones described above are not something that would interest me in any way at all.

View of Pamlico Sound from our front porch.
Hang on. I'm getting to the point soon.

 A couple of months ago a friend told me about a small Art Retreat called ReMe Retreat that was happening in October on Ocracoke Island,a small spit of land that's part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After researching it I decided to push myself and sign up to do this because it’s completely different from anything I’d normally do, in a unique location that I've always loved and, most importantly, a small group.  Well, I’m so glad I did because it was AWESOME! I’m going to try and put my experience into words here, but it will be difficult to convey just how AWESOME it was. (I hope I don’t have to use the word AWESOME too many times!)

One night the power went out on the whole island.
“ReMe" comes from the slogan “Rest – Relax – Renew” and is the brain child of the three instructors and hostesses, Jodi Ohl, Penny Arrowood and Jean Skipper. We also had a Den Mother, Debbie Keen, who kept us fed and the house running smoothly. (Debbie is a lampwork glass artist when she's not taking care of ReMe'ers) The 8 students from all parts of the country made up our small group of 12.  I’ll let you peruse other web sites (follow the links) to see about the accomodations for the week (an historic Inn on Pamlico Sound) and to read about the classes with Jodi, Penny and Jean. And you can read all about Ocracoke Island (a place lost in time and the location of Blackbeard's demise) here.

Sunrise photo by Penny Arrowood

The AWESOMENESS that I want to tell you about is that this truly is a retreat, away from the distractions of life (no phone, TV or wi-fi). Every evening we took our cocktail of the day, walked the short distance to our private beach on the banks of Pamlico Sound and watched the sun go down as the fishing boats returned home. Every day we were treated with delicious home made meals and snacks, getting to know each other activities and gift exchanges. The hostesses did their best to immerse us in Island life as we visited with a 6th-generation “O’cocker” to learn about what it was like to grow up in such a remote place. The head of the Ocracoke Preservation Society came to speak with us one evening and told us some of the Island’s history and ghost stories about the house were staying in. One evening we were treated to drinks and snacks at Books to be Red, a local bookstore/art gallery. We visited the remote beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and collected tidbits to be incorporated in our art work. 

Another view from our beach.
I rode down with Den Mother Debbie, so I arrived earlier than the other students, and I got to witness how they transform the place ahead of time. All the beds are made up, towels set out, bathrooms stocked, classroom set up and artist sales and supply areas arranged. Laundry services were available during the week, if needed. We were pampered from start to finish, from unloading and loading our cars for us, to a daily newsletter that told us of the happenings for the next day, to being presented with a goody bag upon departure filled with nibbles and drinks for the trip home.  Every.Little. Detail. was thought of and carried out. 

Ocracoke Light, courtesy of
And the art classes couldn't have been better. We made books with Penny, paintings with Jodi and jewelry with Jean. Each artist/instructor provided all the supplies we would need for each project. They were well thought out and each student went home with something finished. We had two women there who had never done anything artsy before and even they were happy with their results, which says a lot about the instructors!

My funky little lighthouse.
My abstract painting. (Sorry, for the life of me I can't get this one rotated properly.)

My "Long, Tall Book of Days" with a wrap-around cover.
The best part is that we bonded. I was a little (well, more than a little) worried about spending so much time with so many people (12 people is a LOT to me!) but every personality was embraced. I did become somewhat overwhelmed towards the end of the week and it was no problem to borrow a car and go off by myself for a few hours  By the end of our time together we had all shared some of our deepest secrets and there was so much laughter my face hurt. There were a few tears, too, but no judgments.

Seagull following the ferry. Photo by Lynn Ovenden.
I guess what I'm trying to convey is that ReMe was more than art classes, more than a vacation on a fabulous island, more than a retreat. I came away with some new knowledge and 11 new friendships that I hope will last a long time. I'm so glad I pushed myself to do this! 

Seafood boil dinner on the last night. The shrimp were swimming in the ocean that morning.
There will be 3 more ReMe Retreats on Ocracoke in 2015, so go to the website and sign up before all of the limited spaces are gone. You'll have no regrets. It's AWESOME!!

More Ocracoke Photos:


An "Ocracat". One of the feral cats that everyone feeds.

The Sound Front Inn

Beach ephemera.

Della Gaskill, 6th generation O'coker and champion fig cake baker.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Part of the National Park Service.