by Promise Welkin Partner

As the QuEST Fellows prepare to end their year in the program, they gathered at the Brown family property on Bainbridge Island for their closing retreat July 21-23. They were joined and supported by Promise, the Program Director; Paul and Joel, members of the QuEST Support Committee and of University Friends Meeting; and Promise’s husband Avery. Josie the dog was a favorite companion, curling up in the middle of our circles and gifting each of us her soft comforting snuffles. Looking east over the Puget Sound, we balanced personal time for rest and renewal, programmed activities to promote self and group reflection, and spontaneous games and conversation. Fellows explored the tidepools, collected shells and skipped stones, wrote postcards to friends, and had a campfire by the beach. Harry Potter trivia made an appearance.

Gabi helped us discover and share our voices in new ways by leading several writing exercises. With her guidance we created microstories about the end of the world and made lists of instructions about small and significant activities. The Fellows also wrote letters welcoming the person in the incoming QuEST cohort who will live in their room next year. A favorite part of the weekend was “listen to what the self wants to do;” for several hours after lunch on Saturday, we had permission to take care of ourselves just as we needed to, taking personal quiet time to nap, write, draw, read, or walk.

This poem was an anchor for our time together:

William Stafford

Tomorrow will have an island. Before night
I always find it. Then on to the next island.
These places hidden in the day separate
and come forward if you beckon.
But you have to know they are there before they exist.

Some time there will be a tomorrow without any island.
So far, I haven’t let that happen, but after
I’m gone others may become faithless and careless.
Before them will tumble the wide unbroken sea,
and without any hope they will stare at the horizon.

So to you, Friend, I confide my secret:
to be a discoverer you hold close whatever
you find, and after a while you decide
what it is. Then, secure in where you have been,
you turn to the open sea and let go.

We discussed its themes of trust and uncertainty, and we also left them open to the silence, to grace. We upheld one another in all the questions of life, giving gratitude for this year and for whatever is to come.