I always look forward to SnowFlower’s fall retreat. I find it a bit daunting to write about it because I enjoy all of it: The setting in the Driftless Area of SW Wisconsin, meeting old and new friends along the path, Jack’s stirring Dharma talks, Saturday morning’s walking meditation to Rock Ledge Cliff overlooking the wooded hillsides of Governor Dodge State Park, Rajan Pradhan and his team’s vegetarian creations—and singing thanks to them after Sunday’s lunch, Paul’s tea ceremony, group sharing, and, of course, lazy time. All of it comes together into a heartfelt experience for me every year.

Two things set this retreat apart from others. The first is Jack’s Dharma talks. His understanding of the Dharma inspires me to delve deeper into it, and his proud Midwestern roots resonate with mine. Three themes seem interwoven in his talks: his deep understanding of Zen and its origins, his practice of Engaged Buddhism in Chicago and beyond, and his Upper Midwestern roots stemming from four-generations of Chicago firefighters as well as his appreciation for what makes our regional Sangha unique.

The other thing that touches me deeply on our annual retreat at Bethel Horizon is the landscape—and being intimately connected with nature. The sounds of nature beckon me with sandhill cranes calling in the distance, Canada geese singing their goose music overhead, and barred owls hooting “Who cooks for you?” during Saturday night’s star-gazing walk. The rolling hills, fall asters, crimson leaves, and gray cliffs all seem to invite me to leave my cares behind and behold the beauty around me.

Many thanks to all those whose hard work have made this retreat possible for the past 24 years.