My love affair with lavender goes way back.
Before I knew it as a plant that had the ability to transform the way I felt simply by crushing the dried buds in the palm of my hand and lifting the soothing sachet to my nose, it was the color I painted the trim in my office of the first real job I ever had. Perhaps, intuitively, I knew that I needed more of what lavender had to offer in my life—tranquility, calmness, and the skill of letting go.
At that time, I didn’t know that love and life would deposit me in a place where lavender grew freely in the small garden behind my house, and people baked muffins, and scones, and made ice cream from its beautiful blue-purple buds. I certainly didn’t imagine that whole farms existed for the singular purpose of sharing all the wellness lavender has to offer.
So, it’s no surprise that a day long Spring Renewal Retreat at Keys Creek Lavender Farm, just south of Temecula, would be on my bucket list. It’s actually been sitting there unchecked for a few years, calling my name whenever lavender season rolls around. But each time Lisa Hampton of Mindful Fitness (a wellness friend from years back) announces the date of her mindfulness retreat, it seems like my life has some other commitment it feels is more important.
Not this year though.
I finally saw my chance when my son’s hockey season ended serendipitously with the arrival of my birthday. Under the guise of a birthday gift, I felt less guilty about rolling up my yoga mat along with a big floppy sun hat, and waving goodbye to the mommy track for a day.
I headed out the door anxious and behind schedule as usual, but looking forward to infusing my life with a few hours of lavender bliss.
It was clear from the moment I turned east off the smooth pavement of I-15, that the theme of “mindfulness” was no joke. The road immediately narrowed and began to wind sharply through unfamiliar territory. Giant Beavertail Cacti poked their flat spiky tails out into the road, making it tricky to navigate when sharing the space with another car heading in the opposite direction. Any ability to drive on auto-pilot, like I do chauffeuring my kids up and down California’s major thruways, was gone. I realized quickly that eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, and focus on the breath were all going to be required in unison to arrive at my final destination alive.
My mindfulness retreat was already in full swing and there wasn’t even a sprig of lavender in sight.
When I finally turned on to Keys Creek Road and began to rumble past cows lazily enjoying patches of shade under sprawling oak trees, I remembered Lisa’s printed directions included an invitation for traveling the last rugged mile of the journey: “Slow down, take your time, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.”
Breathe in. Breathe out. I braked gently and carried on. I was starting to get the hang of this mindfulness thing.
Stepping out of my car into the parking lot of the farm, I was greeted warmly by another excited retreat participant toting a yoga mat under her arm. It was just one of many friendly new connections I would make before the day was out. I later learned that a number of women chose to come solo like me, and that meeting like-minded wellness seekers would be no problem.
With refreshing cups of lavender scented water in our hands, we gathered in a large inviting circle for introductions, over looking rows of lavender still yet to bloom. It didn’t matter that peak season was a full month away. Even at its “worst,” lavender provides a breathtaking vista.
Lisa introduced herself along with the owner of the farm, Alicia Wolff. Alicia shared how she came to own the property. It was one of those stories that lets you know the Universe has your back. She described how she stumbled upon this diamond in the rough in 2008 and fell immediately in love, only to find out that it was already in escrow. When she returned from a trip a few months later however, the farm was back on the market. She snapped it up and closed the deal in thirty days. How’s that for a lesson in letting go to get what you want!
From there we headed into the program for the day. Though the afternoon offered a full schedule of activities, it moved at a leisurely pace in keeping with the theme of mindfulness. We took a tour of the farm with one of Alicia’s assistants, Rilee, who had a youthful exuberance for all things lavender. She gathered us on the porch of the store where we sampled a wide variety of oils and products made from the organic lavender they grow each year. We continued on our walk steeped in a sweet smelling cloud of lavender mist.
The garden path wound around to our next activity, the labyrinth walk. I’ve seen many labyrinths in my day, but never an entrance to a labyrinth quite like this one. A horseshoe shaped canopy of fuchsia colored flowers framed the entrance, and became a busy photo op for everyone in the group—-even me, who has a distain for photos of myself in touristy poses. Lisa offered a few gentle suggestions for walking the path mindfully and we set off slowly into the center, perhaps the most fragrant group of pilgrims on the planet.
Once back at our original meeting spot, we were offered a light snack of fresh fruit and delicate cookies, along with a bit of free time to relax and explore on our own. I chose to repeat, almost verbatim, the day’s previous activities. I took a leisurely walk through the garden and visited the store—-only this time I spent lots of money (mindfully, of course). After all, how could I return home without an adequate supply of my new wellness mascot? I even walked the labyrinth again before finally sitting down to relax with my feet soaking happily in the saltwater pool.
Meditation and yoga were next—-a dangerous combination after such a lovely day ambling about in the warm afternoon sun. After 45 minutes of gentle postures, during which Lisa guided us to move at our own pace and listen to what our bodies needed (mine needed a nap), she invited us to choose a stretch or pose on our own so that she could gauge our energy level. I guess I wasn’t the only one in need of a siesta, because her next set of cues sank us down into the most relaxing Savasana I can remember. When I woke up, I was being offered a warm lavender scented towel to lift me the rest of the way out of relaxation bliss. It was these little choreographed moments that made the day particularly memorable.
As the sun set behind the hills, we gathered for dinner around a long linen draped table overlooking the valley. A nice selection of wines along with spinach frittata, and warm organic cauliflower soup, were just enough to punctuate this wonderful day of mindful wellness. We took our time. We laughed and shared bits and pieces of our lives with each other, and jumped up and down from the table snapping photos of the gold tipped lavender fields basking in the setting sun.
You don’t end a day like this without chocolate . . . and Lisa’s decadent homemade brownies, drizzled with Keys Creek Lavender Carmel Sauce, provided the almost perfect finale. Why “almost?” Because the store where the carmel sauce could be purchased was now closed for business. All I could think was, “How could you do this to us—-give us a taste heaven and then not allow us to buy in?”
Attachment . . . after a full day of practicing mindfulness, I recognized it immediately. Perhaps it was just another one of Lisa’s perfectly choreographed moments, put in place to remind us that life is best lived in the moment and with heartfelt gratitude for the truly special things that come along, like new friends and lavender carmel sauce.
I’ll have to let go for now, but the memory of that sauce is enough to put another one of Lisa’s mindfulness retreats at the lavender farm back on the top of my bucket list.
Feel good. Be well. Meg
Wellness Prompt: Do you have a bucket list of experiences like my trip to the lavender farm? What’s holding you back from venturing out? Time? Money? Giving yourself permission to escape for the day? Brainstorm a simple checklist of actions you can take to bring your trip to fruition. Why not start ticking them off today? 10 minute write . . . Go!
P.S. You’re in luck! If this sounds like fun to you, Lisa is hosting another retreat on April, 25th. Click here to learn the details. I just might see you there!