field trip: Pink Lemonade at Menucha

sunset from Menucha Conference Center (April 8, 2016)

In early April, I spent a weekend at the Menucha Conference Center up in the Gorge for a retreat hosted by the Pink Lemonade Project. The facilitators were kind, funny, and empathetic; the food was healthy, tasty, and ever-plentiful (I was apparently unused to eating three regular meals and not having to cook or do dishes), my fellow breast cancer survivors were inspiring, beautiful humans; and the retreat felt restful and healing, though packed with activity and talk.

Menucha, an old homestead-turned-summer estate in Corbett, Oregon, built by the Julius Meier family (of Meier & Frank fame), who hosted U.S. Presidents Hoover and FDR around the time that Meir was Oregon Governor, is now owned and operated by the First Presbyterian Church of Portland as a retreat and conference center for nonprofit organizations. 

white blossoms at Menucha

We had quiet, private rooms with lovely hillside views in the Creevey Complex. Pink Lemonade staff left each of us a thoughtful gift basket full of assorted pink treats and a tiny potted dahlia, as well as scheduling relaxing Saturday afternoon massages. Although it was too early in the season for the swimming pool, I walked the labyrinth path and along a shady forested trail during breaks.

lilacs at Menucha

bleeding hearts, Columbia Gorge

In addition to watching stunning Columbia River sunsets, I spotted turkey vultures riding canyon updrafts, discovered an old, discarded glass Listerine bottle made by Lambert Pharmacal in the bushes near an old fence gate (that I left with Menucha's director), and inhaled antique lilacs. (For fun, some quick Googling will reveal a ton of blatantly manipulative vintage Listerine ads, stating things like, "He's not going to call!" Advertising tricks have since gotten subtler.)

rusty vintage metal & wire gate on Menucha grounds

hazy Columbia Gorge (April 2016)

turkey vulture, Columbia Gorge

During one meal, a bird thumped into the window of the glassed-in dining patio. When we got up to check on it, the fluffy little chickadee was already dead, a random event, tragic for the bird and its bird network, despite the brilliant sun setting in the west and people in other groups chatting unaware over their desserts—a metaphor to carry home, along with my pink dahlia.

sunset at Menucha (April 9, 2016)

(Thank you, Pink Lemonade, OHSU, and Menucha!)

Tip: If you haven't time or resources for a weekend retreat somewhere like Menucha, the Labyrinth Society's Labyrinth Locator can help you find a free walkable labyrinth near you, either solo or with friends or family. Skipping churches, I could, for example, check out the labyrinths at Marylhurst Heights Park in West Linn, the Happy Valley City Hall, the Sunnyside Kaiser Hospital, Legacy Meridian Park in Tualatin, or the Min Zidell Healing Garden at the Natural College of Natural Medicine in downtown Portland.

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