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By Jane Cassie
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

The ocean breeze caresses my face, as I stand rooted next to the deck rail. Plying effortlessly through choppy waves, we cruise by evergreen islands that are rimmed with driftwood. The undisturbed setting is a welcoming change from the bustling city I left behind earlier in the day.

Although there are quicker ways to access the northern Gulf Island of Cortes, the three ferry crossings from Vancouver provides we with the time I need to unwind. Leaving life pressures behind, I look forward to some relaxation and regeneration at the healing retreat of Hollyhock.

For nearly forty years, from May to October, people from all walks of life have been coming to this destination for similar reasons. “Our purpose is to provide a sacred space that inspires, nourishes and heals,” the General Manager shares.

(1. Hollyhock’s Garden :photo: Darcy_Modin)

Whether attributed to the forty-eight acres of serenity or to the professional staff who also exude this holistic vision, I feel the magical vibes once inside the driftwood gates.

(2. Garden. photo: Amanda McNaughton)

My soft tundra footpath is flanked with Hollyhock’s brilliant signature blooms as well as a bounty of nature that feeds the eye, body and soul. Massive pumpkins that hide under clamouring vines will soon be puréed into heavenly soup. Delicate greens will meld with ripened tomatoes for tonight’s salad. Peppers will be chopped for grilling, flowers cut for bouquets. And whatever is left over will find its way back to this spectacular biodynamic garden.

(3.Local_mussels. photo: Darcy Modin)

A trail leads to my cozy accommodation where, from beyond private quarters, I share a bathroom, unparalleled ocean view and stimulating conversations with two other guests. There’s no need to lock doors, no safes to hide valuables, no distracting TVs, and like all other Hollyhock lodgings, our shoes are not privy to cross its threshold.

(4. Orchard Cabins. photo: Amanda McNaughton)

Other earthy abodes and conference session houses are tucked amongst tall trees that dominate the hillsides. Although I've come for a restorative weekend, others are participating in pre-registered workshops that promise to enliven, deepen and inspire.

(5. Surroundings enliven deepen and inspire: - photo Darshan_Alexander)

The scheduled choices are abundant from categories such as the arts, business, wisdom practices and issues focused on well being.

(6. Pebbled shoreline -photo: Darshan Alexander)

Although my Hollyhock experience is filled with more simplistic activities, they, too, provide long term rewards. The pebble shoreline, just steps from my door is perfect for beachcombing as well as reflecting.

(7.Yoga. photo: Darshan Alexander)

Early morning yoga sessions stretch tired muscles while infusing a deep spiritual calm. There are forest walks to connect me with nature and optional kayaking tours to explore sea life wonders. And, oh, the spa treatments!

Enshrouded by evergreens, the heavenly Bodywork haven offers sensory pleasures second to none. The woodsy charm makes its way into four blissful treatment rooms and, through large picture windows, the only neighbours are big brown-eyed deer.

(8. Massage. photo: Darshan Alexander)

I opt for two sensual delights out of the many spa-tacular choices. With Bruce at the helm of the combination massage, my gnarled muscles soon unravel, my worldly cares seem to dissipate and by the end of it all I feel as limp as a rag doll. While dissolving my pent-up tensions, he exudes genuine compassion and possesses incredible insight into my being. “Take time to be good to yourself,” he permits, “you deserve it.”

I follow his command and return the next day for more. Jocelan transports me to nirvana during a session of aromatherapy, when she chooses therapeutic oils specific to my needs. Some are designed to release tension, others help to emotionally ground me, and all come to the aid of my inner attunement.

Adjacent to this transcendental temple is a sanctuary in the truest sense of the word. Constructed totally out of materials from Hollyhock’s property, this house of meditation permeates a sacred ambience from within its hushed interiors. Although I’m not one to laze around I find myself cross-legged here a number of times during my stay.

(9. Hot Tub serenity. photo: Greg Osoba)

I also find opportunities to relax in the ocean view hot tub, and when night falls, the only illumination created is by flashlights and star-studded skies. It’s here that people mingle and share heartfelt thoughts. “This place is like being in the womb,” comments Cedron from Seattle. “Or just like a cocoon,” responds a fellow from Toronto. I reflect, too, on my new sense of tranquillity and inner peace, and look forward to sharing it with others back home.




1. Hollyhock’s_Garden -photo credit: Darcy_Modin
2. Garden -photo credit: Amanda McNaughton
3. Local_mussles - photo credit: Darcy Modin
4. Orchard_Cabins -photo credit: Amanda McNaughton
5. Surroundings_enliven_deepen_and_inspire - photo credit: Darshan_Alexander
6. Pebbled_shoreline -photo credit: Darshan Alexander
7. Yoga -photo credit: Darshan Alexander
8. Massage - photo credit: Darshan Alexander
9. Hot_Tub_serenity -photo Credit: Greg Osoba

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