I have taken my time to digest and process an incredible experience I had last month on a magical place called Ocracoke Island off the outer banks of North Carolina. I almost hesitate to say where it is because I’d like to keep it a secret! But I won’t do that because I want to tell you about my experience.
It was sometime last winter when I first heard about the ReMe Retreat from artist Jodi Ohl. I had never been fortunate enough to take a class from her but I’d purchased some pieces of her art and adore(d) her style. In checking out details about the retreat I realized I was also acquainted with another instructor named Penny Arrowood whom I’d met in passing at the Create Retreat the previous summer in Chicago. I remembered both of these women and their friendly and engaging personalities. I was intrigued…
The ReMe Retreat is held twice a year–in May and in October. I was interested in the May session as it was the dead of winter and cold and dreary and hey–it was sooner than October. However, the May session was sold out. I decided to hold off on registering for October because I was debating whether to go to another retreat during the summer. Lo and behold one day an announcement came that there had been a cancellation for the May session of ReMe! My fingers couldn’t type an email fast enough to make my bid for the spot. By noon the next day I found out the spot was mine! Mine all mine!! Yes My Precious!
I knew the retreat was on “some island off North Carolina” as I told my family and friends. I hadn’t pointed to North Carolina on a map since grade school much less ever going there. I knew I’d have to fly there and probably rent a car but I hadn’t thought too much further in my plan to get to the retreat. Even after receiving an awesome package from the retreat hosts–Jean Skipper, Penny Arrowood, and Jodi Ohl–which contained brochures, maps, pictures, and other fine ephemera about Ocracoke Island I still didn’t comprehend that this is an ISLAND. As in —“a body of land surrounded on all sides by water”.
I purchased my airline tickets in March because I determined I’d be flying into Wilmington, North Carolina, the day before the retreat. It wasn’t until April that I figured out that taking a ferry to Ocracoke is the only way to get on the island. It is not an optional decision. Apparently, if an island is an island there is no road from the mainland which leads out to the island! This was new information to me. Hey–I grew up in the desert in Arizona so give me a break on this.
Okay–so car rental for the week, roundtrip ferry reservations, and a recommendation to stay in Beaufort, North Carolina, for a night before. Let me tell you that Jean Skipper was so amazingly helpful and patient with this landlocked city girl she deserves a medal. On her recommendation I found my way to the beautiful little town of Beaufort and spent the night in the most charming B & B called Cousin Martha’s.
Cousin Martha’s Bed and Breakfast, Beaufort, NC
The proprietors are a wonderful couple named Elmo and Martha. I stayed in the Fish Room which was colorful and comfortable and included it’s own sitting room, outdoor porch, and bathroom.
The Fish Room
After settling in and changing clothes I set off for Main Street to do a bit of exploring and to find some food. I started off at Finz
The view from Finz, Beaufort, North Carolina
which had a nice deck on the boat dock and some very tasty crabcakes. After exploring the very quiet Main Street i consulted with Siri and she advised there was a brew pub in the area.
The Backstreet Pub, Beaufort, NC
The Backstreet Pub is on Middle Road and is a small establishment where the locals hang out. Back in the 1800s it was a bakery. There is a lovely tree-covered courtyard patio in the back and the bathroom has lots of fun grafitti which I contributed to myself.
If you can’t beat em–join em–tiny grafitti
Martha and Elmo provided a tasty breakfast and fine conversation the next morning and I met MiMo for the first time. MiMo is two gorgeous fun-loving and talented women who were to be part of my adventure on Ocracoke Island.
I would also like to add that Cousin Martha’s B&B is also home to Elmo’s Fire Spices–
of course I had to have some of the seasonings and hot sauce to take home. I went with the two top selling spice blends–Satan’s Breath and Cajun Blend. When choosing a hot sauce I was immediately drawn to two of the more serious options–Horse’s Ass Hot Sauce and Queen of Farts. I decided Horses Ass was just too rude so I opted for Queen of Farts. Don’t judge.
As I drove the hour to the Cedar Island Ferry I decided I have never seen more boats or more gun shops in my life. Ever. Even collectively over all my years. It was beautiful country and an awesome drive. By this time I was starting to really embrace the adventure of my journey. I arrived at the ferry terminal with time to spare and parked my car in line to board the ferry.
Did I mention that part of my adventure was to drive my car onto the ferry? Yep. I had been feeling a bit of trepidation about this part because I’d never done it and also the week before a large ferry had sunk unexpectedly in another part of the world. And sunk fast. I determined I would be sitting on the top of the ferry and near the life jackets.
Before the loading of the ferry I had time to walk down to the beach and get my first glimpse of the ocean. It was the precise moment when I fully immersed into full-on vacation mode and kissed the last of my stress a fond adieu. The sand was so soft on my bare feet and the water nice and cool and the sun so warm.
I fairly floated back into my car and calmly drove my car onto the ferry and jumped out to explore the boat. It was quite impressive and clean and new (the newest boat in the ferry fleet according to the recorded message played onboard). The ride was smooth and quite comfortable.
I’m the Queen of the World!
After the 2 hour 15 minute “cruise” it was land ahoy!
Our last communique from Jean Skipper included clear directions for getting to our property from the ferry dock so it was a quick zip to the Soundfront Inn. Nestled among the trees and oh so close to the water!
The Soundfront Inn
It was love at first sight upon pulling up. I was greeted by smiles and hugs and the most wonderful homey feeling upon walking in the front door. Jodi Ohl gave me a quick tour and then ensconced me in what came to be known as “The Red Room” and later Redrum Redrum Redrum by me and my roommate Terry. Of course you have to do it in the creepy voice. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
Our first night set the tone for the entire retreat. After everyone was ensconced in their rooms we had our first parlour meeting in the front room. This room is so comfortable and has such a wonderful vibe I know it must have a colorful history. There are lots of different types of rockers and easy chairs and one “seat of pain” which is the old wooden piano stool. I made it my goal to sit in every chair while I was there so I could see a different perspective every time.
Jodi Ohl, Jean Skipper, Penny Arrowood-the hostesses with the most!
On this first night our hosts did a couple of things after the general introductions and overview of our week. They passed around index cards and we were instructed to write down one thing that people would be surprised to know about us. This became one of my favorite rituals during the retreat as every night during our parlor meeting a few of the cards would be read and we got to guess to see who we thought the card described. This was a laugh-filled, finger pointing event each night!
The second thing that was done the first parlour meeting was that our lovely hosts unveiled and introduced us to their secret weapon, Theresa Zurku, who was their helper/den mother/personality de force/hug-giver/all around fantabulous woman!
Every single day of my ReMe Retreat was awesome from start to finish. I write in my journal daily and on May 6, I wrote, “…with coffee by my side on the porch of this BEAUTIFUL beach house I can hear the waves lapping on the beach which is a hundred feet away. This is really gorgeous–Isn’t the Universe amazing to put me here?”
My favorite view…
“Hello beautiful Ocracoke morning! What a fantastic day yesterday was for me! Uh oh–bell ringing–gotta go! There was a big bell outside the back porch that could be heard no matter where you were on the property. When all of us needed to gather the bell was rung and we’d come running!
“…been painting nonstop since 9am-ish and it’s been a good experience. I decided this morning I’m re-upping for next year…I am enjoying the company of every woman here. So many walks of life are represented here. All strong and artistic and full of humor and good grace. A completely supported and nurturing place of creativity. So good for my spirit and soul. SMILING!!” “[Our hosts] here have thought of every freakin detail–I really can’t think of anything they’ve missed.”
“My experience of the day is using the outdoor shower! Completely private and AWESOME!! If I never had to take a shower inside again I’d be happy. It was that good!!”
“Having had a most wonderful special time this week it’s hard to summarize the experience…but I do know it’s all been good. Not a moment of drama or ill feelings–lots of laughs and hugs and encouragement.”
“Debbie, Laurie Beth, Debra, Brittany, Barb (Mi), Laure (Mo), Terry, Penny, Jean, Jodi, Theresa–all of them beautiful hearts and souls.”
Photo by Deborah Belica
Warm sun, warm hearts, warm soul
Can’t wait til next year!
Art Out With Your HeART Out