I’ve Run Away from Home


Raising six children and and later, taking care of my aging parents, made having a place to go that “allows for something new and promising” a distant dream.

At the age of 18, I went from my parents house to college and on to a new life with my husband and newborn son all within the span of one year. By the time I reach my 40s I was devouring books* written by women who lived in solitude or purposely sought a space and time for seclusion. 

I longed to experience what it was like to be alone, to live alone. I wanted to know the stuff I was made of, who I am aside from my life as a daughter, a wife, a mother.

I have spent the last 40+ years working to know and understand who I am. But there has always been one aspect that eluded me. 

Who am I when there is no one to turn to, no one to be responsible to or for, no one to interrupt me or answer to?

BlueMountainOn Monday, I ran away from home to find out. After looking on AirBNB to find a somewhat remote little cabin for one, I realized that I had one just down the road – The Blue Mountain Retreat where I hold my annual (sometimes semi-annual) Red Thread Retreat. This is my personal solitary Red Thread Retreat.

I’d like to tell you what I discovered, but you’ll have to wait. I’m still there. I wrote this post before I left because I made a “no internet” rule to help sever my “need to know” addiction. I am so addicted to acquiring information that I have failed to listen to my own voice, my own knowingness. With all the reading and research I do, I am pretty certain that I have some insights and AHAs that need tending to.


FragmentGirlI have a slight agenda. I will take one book, music, my sketchbook and watercolors. I plan to write but have not planned what I will write. I want to allow for whatever may rise. I have learned over the years that the best things, be it life lessons, ideas or opportunities, come all on their own. You just have to be present and open.

Do you want to run away too? How would you design your escape? Where would you go? What would you do? When will you do this? Please share in the comments. I’m open to ideas. I’m already planning to run away again.


*My Reading List

An Unknown Woman

An Unknown Woman
Drinking the Rain


Drinking the Rain: A Memoir
50 Days of Solitude


Fifty Days of Solitude


A Book of Silence


A Book of Silence
A Year by the Sea


A Year by the Sea

Journal of a Solitude


Journal of a Solitude





  1. Sounds fabulous! The introvert in me often wants to escape… My husband and I have dreamed of traveling for years, but it was not possible. We are now planning a “retreat” to Ecuador for four months. Our work is portable, so we thought we would try to work from another country.

    I’m looking for being out of my comfort zone (new language, new people) and fewer responsibilities to create time for exploration and more art. I can imagine sketching the mountains, the architecture and enjoying the local art.

    Our house is rented as of September… I guess we have to go! 🙂

  2. Ditto what Gisela said!! Wow, a simple statement that speaks volumns… Always too much information, too much to listen to, too much to work through, too much to do. Slowing down, and actually listening to what WE need, what our bodies need is something we should allow ourselves to do regularly.

  3. Dear Lesley,
    It is only ‘running away’ if you are not confronting something at home/work. But to take yourself out of all that and have time that has nothing in it but silence and your own thoughts, that is really a ‘running to’. It is incredibly necessary and too many women have lives that don’t even allow for THINKING about time on their own, much less taking it.
    Life is about balance. And having this kind of time balances the rest, I think.
    I am happy for you. It needs to be a regular part of the picture of a well-lived life.

  4. I go away with 2 friends every May or June for 3 or 4 nights to a little mountain town, Julian. We camp in separate RV’s and don’t gather until 4pm when we visit, share what we did that day and drive to town from the secluded camp to have dinner. We come back, visit a little more and then retreat to our RV’s for the night. I read, pray, study God’s word, look at red headed woodpeckers, turkeys and deer, listen to squawking Jays and sew with my featherweight. I come back renewed, refreshed and grounded. I should do that 3x a year but once is wonderful. Been doing our retreat for about 15 years. Going in 2 weeks. Taking worship music, journal, Bible, a good historical fiction, 2 story quilts and a piecing project for variety. My husband goes on one or two motorcycle rides a year with friends and I do the things listed above at home.

  5. Running away, for me, isn’t really running away FROM something as much as it is running TOWARDS something. Some folks have a really excellent grip on “tunnel vision” and use it to stay focused on what they are headed towards. I have an extremely acute grip on “peripheral vision” and I enjoy all of what life has to offer. I use to feel guilty about not having a better focus on one project at a time, until I realized that if everyone was quite focused, we would all be tripping over the dirty socks left on the floor by someone else! The most important thing I’ve learned in my 60+ years is to enjoy where you are, who you’re with! and what you are doing at this moment in time. Always looking for the positive helps one ignore the negative. And when life seems complicated, give yourself the treat of a good meal, a nap, and a stroll thru a park. Use the swing set if you come across one, it does wonders for our inner rhythms.

  6. additional thoughts
    I have become friends with an amazing group of women in the last few years. We are the ArTy TeA PaRtY. Everyone has a special talent, everyone is supportive. We “try” to get together every month or so to teach new techniques, or just to visit, and we sometimes do craft shows as a group. My meetings with them always leave me rejuvenated and energized, I feel blessed to be a part of them. Sometimes a retreat doesn’t have to be far away, sometimes it just needs to be where you are accepted for what you are, no questions asked, and let’s you leave the “nermal” world behind.

  7. I was gifted with a wonderful retreat this winter.
    We had 18 inches of snow overnight in Feb and I missed 2 days at work, then had the weekend, and then the following Monday, already scheduled off. My home is my retreat, just me and my husband these days. Retired, he has his own many interests and his workshop in the garage. We met for “how ya doin” chats, but basically I was alone and worked non-stop on art, rather then just one catch up day on the weekends. I came back to my job refreshed with a totally new attitude. Away vacations are nice but I can’t bring all my toys! I am looking forward to my next 24-7 retreat, when I retire later this year.

  8. Because I live in a beautiful and somewhat remote area my biggest wish is not to run away but to be home alone. I do get that sometimes and often think of that time as my biggest “vacation” time. When my sons were younger my husband was their Boy Scout leader and every summer they would go to camp for one whole week. I always looked forward to that time for myself. In Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gifts From the Sea” she talks about how important it is for a woman to have an alone time. I’m sure this is one of the many books you read. A good idea that is often in my head. Enjoy your time alone Lesley, and I look forward to hearing your discoveries!

  9. What a wonderful thing to do for yourself. I am a full-time student and as the end of every semester draws near I find myself listing all of the things I’m going to get to do. I always assume I’ll dive head first into my art and read all the books that have been stacking up and walk through all the woods I’ve been missing….what I’ve learned is that I cannot plan what I will actually do once I am free to fill my own time. One semester I read and read and read and never felt the itch to pick up a pen or a paintbrush. So, I’m glad you’ve brought a variety of things for yourself. Who knows? Once you’re there maybe you’ll just want to curl up in bed and give yourself the rest you probably lack from taking so much care of others. I hope you get what you need out of your escape. 🙂

  10. Leslie
    Does this ever resonate with me. I am impatient – not with people but with process. I want to learn – just for information sake and then move on to learn more. I am a giver – so I get involved with family, people and projects. I am a doer. But I long for peace, to know who I am, to get away. I have health issues… I am my own worst enemy.
    I even have a place that is free to get away to. Our cottage with all the amenities but no internet access and just a rotary phone.
    I read the Artist’s way but I am too impatient for that. I am a lousy journaler. Adult kids in and out of home, abundance of friends, aging parents all wonderful things but do take time.
    Maybe I don’t do the alone thing because I don’t really want to reflect and figure myself out.
    I hope your time away is fruitful and peaceful.
    Let us know how a busy, social, caregiving person does on a self retreat.
    Maybe I will just have to book myself a week at the cottage. Well maybe next year ’cause this year seems to be booked! lol

  11. Timaree says:

    I’d love to take go-away classes but can’t right now and that is me time but not solitude time. My favorite place is home. Just me and the dogs. For me it’s about setting my own schedule without worrying about what my husband wants. I don’t need a special place to go. It would be so hard to pack all my “stuff” anyhow.

    Hope you find what you need and that you thoroughly enjoy yourself AND find a way to put that solitude into your daily life when you get back home.

  12. Patricia says:

    I have lived alone now for 11 years so I guess I dont have to run away, though I would like the financial ability to travel whenever the urge hits me. A few nights or weeks at different places. I love living alone and the sacred solitude blesses me so I can bless others. Wishing you a wonderful time!

  13. I am going to Mexico to a little retreat in Ek Balam.
    It’s right beside an amazing slowly-being-discovered archaelogical ruin.
    I’m going to take a journal and a limited palette of water color pencils. I may write something wonderful and have an epiphany. I may not. I’m pretty sure my life is going to change. And for the better.

    I used to wish very hard for alone time. Now I am alone all the time. So n
    Now I’m wishing for a great partner and a new circle of enlightened artsy fartsy friends. (Be careful how hard you wish!)

    Susan B.

  14. Louise Coxon says:

    Your words resonate strongly for me. For so many years I was committed to providing for the needs of family, then a period of single life, followed by an unexpected and truly loving second marriage. But for all that, I still need my own space and time to dwell on creativity. The opportunity to attend university and achieve an Honors degree majoring in textiles has been solely due to the encouragement and support of my husband, who recognizes that creativity can often depend upon the need to separate oneself from the demands and distractions of everyday life. My recent experience with life threatening illness has accentuated the need to make every moment count, and at the same time has provided the incentive to get back to dreaming up and expressing new ideas.

  15. My favorite place to run away to is my own home and more specifically my studio with no one home but me. I choose not to answer the door, the phone, or email, if it doesn’t serve me at the time. I eat when I want and what I want. The car stays parked in the garage. The mail stays in the mailbox. I’m surrounded by all the things I love. I play my music or a book on audible and sew and create to my heart’s content into the middle of the night, if I choose. I love my space alone better than any other space.

  16. Since I’m single with no children and my parents don’t really need me, I’m alone all the time. Even so I occasionally want to run away. Mostly just to get out of the city and into the mountains or to the ocean. I hope you have a marvelous time!

  17. Cheryl Adams says:

    It’s so comforting to know I’m not the only one who wants to run away for a while! I’ve been feeling so guilty about it but so desperate for it too! My kids are gone and my husband has been retired for a few years but I just retired and find the togetherness a bit much! I have so many things I like to do that I don’t know which project/projects I would take! I would need to be near water and woods and not near people. They demand attention (real or perceived) and this would need to be me time!I have also read the Artists Way twice and enjoy journaling but I seem to get stuck in that process and never move out of my head to accomplish anything. Enjoy your time, Leslie and make it a habit! I was so jealous of Anne Lindebergh who would leave her family to spend time in a spare cottage by the sea! Delicious!!

  18. Good for you!! Proud of you and grateful you get the chance to do this. Can’t wait to hear all about it. Hard to imagine it will make you any wiser than you are now, but it couldn’t hurt, LOL.

  19. I would love to go on a retreat, to renew my spirit, my soul, and my creativity. I’d go to Isle Royale National Park or maybe Glacier National Park, or Denali National Park. I need the wildness and beauty of nature for my renewal.

  20. When I first started my personal retreats to Galveston every semester after finishing school, I felt a bit self indulgent. I thought I’d come back with all kinds of ideas and notes for articles but that didn’t happen so at first I felt disappointed. The I realized it wasn’t about “doing” it was about “being”, because I had been doing so much. I came to realize that the space I created and the clearing of mind chatter was just enough. I hope you are enjoying this time that you so rightly deserve.

  21. Corinne says:

    Exciting stuff!!! I think you are going to find out that you have always known how to be alone in your heart and mind. To actually physically go away by yourself will be the icing on the cake.

  22. mhl4207 says:

    I am so fortunate that I have the best of both worlds…a family all grown up and time to myself. If I went off on a retreat, I would need to take my sewing machine…and all my fabric and all my lace….when I get an idea, I impulsively have to try it out. I would have to go without the computer as I find it takes up too much of my time. Are you going to show us the quilt you put in the “Tarnish” show? I remember when you were first talking about making it.

  23. What a generous thing to do for yourself and so important. I am lucky that my studio is also my cabin in the woods, not far from home. I am there now, listening to what the birds tell me to do next. Drink it in! (And Drinking the Rain is one of my very favorite books.)

  24. Monique B. says:

    Can’t wait to read about your experience. Recently widowed, I am facing a solitude not by choice. However reading you made me realize that I could make this time a time to re-discover myself. No longer the 20 or 30 something, I like to think that I have many years ahead of me and I would like them meaningful.
    Have a nice retreat.

  25. Nola Hart says:

    Over the past 30 years of family and marriage, I have had many times of ache and longing to be alone. My family is home all the time and has been for years thanks to high school done with independent study and years of unemployment for my husband. It used to drive me nuts because I could not get into the deep exploration and freedom of my art. I spent many years waiting for alone to arrive again. It never did. Then, in the last four years, I stopped waiting. I have found a way to dive in and let the house and family’s needs happen around me. It is much better.
    Now, when I do suddenly find myself alone, I do find it takes about two weeks of wandering around, not knowing what to to or when to go to bed. I am truly lost in the adjustment, but after that is when I find me and everything is just fine. I am creating again. I really hope that your retreat is a success.

  26. You Go, Girl! I can just imagine that practically everyone on your list will relate. It’s gotten to where I tell friends who are trying to talk me into one more thing that I think privacy and time unscheduled is the ultimate luxury, and sleep is my idea of a good time these days. I’d be fine with “running away” here at home, since I theoretically live alone now, but with daily elder care, and living on the grounds of a very active historical museum, and teaching college classes in the next county, I basically swim constant circles in a fishbowl. When I lived in TX, I did make a week-long trip to Ft. Davis alone and howled at the moon with the coyotes; it was wonderful. When I lived in NM, I really wanted to do a retreat at Christ in the Desert Monastery, but that never happened. I’ve been thinking that once this latest event is over at the museum, I want to park my car elsewhere so no one knows I’m home, sleep for a week, and then see what I really want to do for a change!

  27. Kathy Johnson says:

    Oh, to go on a retreat…all by myself. It is a dream of mine. I have done a couple of short mini retreats…weekends by myself with an opportunity to explore an art exhibit. One in particular in 1999 helped me make the bit decision to go back to school. In 2000 I started taking classes at Salem College not knowing what I wanted to do, just knew I had to do it. I ended up with a degree in studio art and a minor in art history in 2005. I love to quilt and paint. I have started dying/printing my own fabric. I have taken a big leap of faith by signing up for the Red Thread Retreat! I know I won’t be along, however I will feel “alone” since I won’t know anyone else going. A few times I have thought of asking a friend or my sister-in-law, but you know what….I kinda want this for me.
    But to spend a week by myself in the mountains would be a dream come true. I am not a writer, but I would like to think I would spend time writing. I am re-reading The Artist’s Way for the 3rd time. I hate the morning pages, I do them about once/week. I love artist’s dates…to look at art, be inspired by art.
    I look forward to reading about your experience.

  28. good for you!!!! can’t wait to read what you found on your retreat.

  29. “I am so addicted to acquiring information that I have failed to listen to my own voice, my own knowingness. ”

    Wow — did that sentence knock me upside the head…