Operation Local Mom Retreat

October 27th, 2021


Operation Mom Retreat is going well. 

Every bunch of months, I am committed to spending a few nights alone in a very chill place. Mostly this is about getting a lot of sleep, but also, there’s the peace and quiet. I am here now, in the Putney yurt of my dreams that is my chosen local retreat location. 

My friend Joe texts me early in the morning to tell me his radishes are popping and I should come grab some.

“I’m on a retreat,” I inform him. 

He texts back, “Don’t shoot until you can see the white of their eyes.”

It’s important to have friends who think differently.

Back to the peaceful kind of retreat. The yurt — and calling it that makes it sounds rustic, but it is not. It’s like glamping, although, honestly, I could live here all the time. There is a hot outdoor shower under the moonlight, a fine-smelling outhouse with an impeccably chosen lighting fixture, the most comfortable sleigh bed of all time and creation, and a pristine little Fisher wood stove.


It’s this last item that I approach with trepidation on this visit. The last time I was here, in June, it was too hot for a fire, so the Fisher sat unobtrusively and quite decoratively on its own, a nice flat surface on which to put my tea cup down. This time, however, it’s October, and chilly at night.

When I arrived, my thoughtful hosts had laid the fire so that all I had to do was strike a match. Despite my utter ineptitude at all things mechanical, I can in fact manage to strike a match. But afraid that it would be my one and only fire, or that I would somehow mess it up and burn the place down, I stalled on lighting the fire until the second night, when the temperature dipped down into the high thirties. 

That first fire was so warm and toasty. It went out overnight, of course, and the next morning, I was faced with building my own fire for the first time. I took a deep breath, put my big girl pants on, and had some coffee. Had some more coffee. Then dove in. 

And did it.


When I was in college I had a car that would die every time it rained. The battery was faulty, and it was constantly having to be jump-started. I decided I was going to learn to jump-start my own car so I didn’t have to rely on someone else to rescue me. I had a whole plan for how brave I was going to be about it, although car batteries (and engines in general) absolutely terrify me. But when faced with the open hood of that old car, I panicked. I absolutely was not going to touch that thing. And to this day, I have never jump-started a car. I’ll be honest, if I can get away with not pumping my own gas, ideal. 

When I lived alone in Mill Valley a decade ago, my water heater pilot blew out in a storm. My landlord wasn’t around, so I called Leslie. Leslie was my stand-in wife at the time. She came over, crawled behind the cottage with a headlamp on, and lit the pilot for me.

Leslie has also built countless fires for me, as has my husband, Jon. But Leslie is not here in this yurt, and neither is Jon. And despite the fact that I grew up in a house heated primarily by a wood stove, and that I am fifty and live in the country, I have never done this. How is this possible? I don’t even know the answer to that question, but I have always been a good delegator and also a total chicken shit. 

So I lit a fire in this yurt. And I felt pretty great about it. Small victories.


On the other hand, that’s not quite the end of the story. When I woke up at 530 am on Sunday morning, it was dark and cold, and I had to pee. The fire had gone out, so when I got back inside, I was shivering even under the down comforter, and I decided to light another fire “really quickly” and crawl back into bed.

Unfortunately, I tried to close the stove door before the fire was amenable to oxygen deprivation, and in protest, it blew sooty smoke through the air vent. That smoke immediately set off the smoke detector in the yurt, and that’s how I ended up standing on the edge of the bed, frantically trying to quiet the shrieking beep before it awoke my hosts across the property. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure what I was more anxious about in that moment — burning down the yurt or disappointing myself. (Lying, it was definitely burning down the yurt. That was a terrifying thought.)

Eventually, with the yurt door open to the cold early morning air, the device stopped beeping, the smoke cleared out, and I was finally able to ease the door to the stove closed so I could get back in bed. 

Later that morning, I overslept and was ten minutes late to the virtual workshop I had signed up for. 

All in all, the retreat was a success. I never had to shoot, and I learned something new. 

Share Button

Leave a Reply