The Clearing is situated on the Niagara Escarpment, a limestone cliff that rises out of Lake Michiganís Green Bay and defines the western edge of Door County.
The Clearing comes with a vision and view.
Amy C. Laundrie
Where else could you be escorted into a retreat center by a pileated woodpecker who takes you past birch, maple and cedars toward a friendly lodge with a stunning view of the shimmery waters of Green Bay? Where else but Door County's The Clearing.
As soon as I entered The Clearing's 128 acres, I breathed easier. The Clearing is named for the school's purpose, to clear away the mind in order to find renewal and enlightenment. I witnessed the miraculous. As the week progressed, guests gladly abandoned cell phones, the internet and TV shows to spend time in the natural world.
The Clearing is the vision of Danish–born naturalist and landscape architect, Jens Jensen, who established it in 1935 when he was 75 years old. He was also influential in designing numerous parks and neighborhood playgrounds in Chicago, Racine, Lake Geneva, Madison, Dubuque and Springfield, Ill.
Made from native stone and wood, The Clearing's buildings include the Jens Jensen visitor center, the main lodge, schoolhouse, workshop and housing. Visitors revel in hidden spaces such as a star– gazing mound where viewers comfortably lay back for a spectacular view, a labyrinth, and even a dance ring.
Classes ranging in length from one day to week–long and offer instruction in arts, fine crafts, humanities, and natural sciences. Imagine quilting, making fine furniture, journal or memoir writing, bird watching, glass fusing, photography, weaving, wood carving, hiking, rug hooking, yoga, or participating in a class called "Touch the Earth; Love the Earth."
I was one of the 11 students lucky enough to attend Marion Moran's environmental class last year. Night walks, stargazing, discussions, readings and field trips comprised the week. The highlight was an evening stroll on a remote beach where, under a full moon, Moran read inspirational quotes. We then sang, lit sparklers, and pranced about on the beach like joyous children.
Guests can stay in cottages for single or double occupancy or in the large dorm which accommodates five. When the cook rings the bell, people head to the lodge to enjoy the conversation of like–minded people and the cuisine worthy of any five–star restaurant. Beautifully presented, served family style, guests feast on such dishes as huge French toast slices stuffed with cream cheese and cherries, buttery white fish, or the superb butternut squash enchiladas. Favorite treats included chewy chocolate–oat–chip cookies and perfectly ripe strawberries dipped in creamy chocolate.
As an added adventure, I signed up to stay in The Cliffhouse, a rustic shelter tucked into the limestone rocks. Without running water or a toilet, and with a tiny unseen roommate who squeaked, it took some courage on my part. The bat or mouse stopped its squeaking once it knew it wasn't going to scare me off, and together we welcomed the night.
Thunder and wind serenaded us. Lightning lit up the rocky shore of the waters of Green Bay far below. I lit candles, made a fire in the fireplace, and threw sprigs of cedar on the flames to enjoy their crackle and aroma.
Inspired, I wrote until sleep overtook me and then arose before 4 a.m. to write until breakfast. It was during a conversation with director Michael Schneider later that day that I learned Jens Jensen had built The Cliffhouse for himself so he could have a private place to write.
My stay over, I slowly drove away. I paused before pulling onto the paved road, Jens Jensen's words echoing in the woods. "A mighty oak, a motherly elm, a poetic birch, a friendly maple all speak to man's finer senses and help awaken him to his noble heritage."
Thank you, Jens Jensen, for creating a place that heightened my sense of responsibility to the natural world and a connection to all living things.
For more information, call (920) 854–4088 or visit theclearing.org. Please note that since this is a retreat center, visitors are asked to view the facilities on the weekends from May through October.
Amy C. Laundrie is the published author of seven books, numerous articles and newspaper columns. Her "Slice of Life" columns contain insights on family, aging and more. Some are humorous confessions or attempts to interpret life's mysteries. Laundrie also has been an educator in the Wisconsin Dells School District for over 30 years. To learn more about her writings visit her author page at laundrie.com or her Amazon author page at http://amzn.to/16pfX7k.