Sara Jean

Sara Jean

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The Adventures of SJ & Cricket: Soapstone Retreat

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic -- the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we're alone.” 

 Charles de Lint

Chapter Two: Nehalem Soapstone Retreat

Three years ago, when I embarked on my first solo journey through Oregon, my only passenger was a paperback book by Cheryl Strayed. The pages withered and torn. Creased and highlighted at my favorite parts. “Wild” was written about Cheryl’s life. A life undoubtedly parallel to mine. Her trek across the PCT inspired my adventurous soul to hit the road. To what I hoped would be redemption.

Every trip I take that finds me in the Columbia River Gorge results in my stopping at the Bridge of the Gods. This bridge is where Cheryl finished her journey. It is where she later got married and it is where I come to cry. Sometimes the tears are full of grief, of anger. Sometimes they are full of pride, of resilience. That bridge, Cheryl’s story….they’ve saved me. And they’ve resulted in some pretty invigorating adventures.

Dr. Nicole Apelian, like Cheryl Strayed, is wild. And I stumbled across this survivalist while watching “Alone” over the holidays. She intrigued me. Isolated in the wilderness with nothing but ten items and some camera equipment. Vying to become the last one standing while surrounded by a family of bears, harsh weather and an abundance of salmon. When her time ended on the show I had to look her up. Her positivity, her whimsy, her fearlessness. Who was this woman?

I stumbled upon her website to find that she conducted courses on surviving in the wild. The location of those educational gatherings was a place called the Soapstone Woodland River Retreat. With no availability my heart sunk a bit...until I started researching the venue. Soapstone was nestled on 22 acres along Soapstone Creek in a beautiful, moss-covered forest. It drew me in and as I read further, I understood why.

This architecturally intricate space, with a “writer’s cube” situated 40 feet above the main floor and an annex attached with floor to ceiling windows looking out into the woodlands, is where my favorite author spent time writing chapters of my favorite book. Yes, Cheryl Strayed found inspiration here while writing “Wild.”

I wrote Nicole (must I note my excitement to discover she actually owned the property) to explain what I needed the cabin for. To celebrate my one year sobriety milestone. And to start writing the book I’d promised myself I’d begin penning once I hit said milestone.

She responded with overwhelming love.

“I’m honored you chose Soapstone,” she wrote. “Or chose YOU.”

I believe the latter.

“What if I forgave myself? ...What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? ...What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

..How wild it was, to let it be.”

~Cheryl Strayed, Wild

This Airbnb listing can be found HERE

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