I took a little cheese retreat

I have a thing for hermitages. They’re where hermits live. Just outside of Philadelphia, there is a retreat center called Clare House with five hermitages in the woods around Aston, Pennsylvania. I went there earlier this spring to write and to spend a few quiet evenings sans gmail. I needed a g-break. I felt Twitter-sick and needed some real birds. You hear me?

I’m telling you this because you may be a writer or a person experiencing what one of my friends calls brain fatigue. Or you may be the kind of person, like me, who simply needs to go into the woods occasionally and eat cheese on a rock overlooking a streambed. It’s nice to take along a cutting board for such excursions. I just happened to have one. Along with a knife and a jar of jam. (You should see the contents of my handbags.)

From the deck of my hermitage, the air smelled a lot like Little Darling. A cheese from Wisconsin with an incredibly beautiful rind and cheery loamy smell. I brought half a wheel with me (it was a sample from Brunkow Cheese) and shared it with my blogger friend Marisa McClellan. While she worked on her second book, I took a lot of photos of bark. In the city, I don’t see enough bark, which might explain why I have grown to adore certain cheese rinds.

Natural-rinded cheeses sustain my forest dreams.


The affordable hermitages at Clare House are sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia. They offer private or guided retreats. And they have a labyrinth and an organic farm. If you go, check out the cemetery behind their motherhouse. It’s full of potential cheese names. 

For more info: 610.558.6152. 


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2 Responses to “I took a little cheese retreat”
  1. Robin says:

    Wow. I need this place. I am so behind on my book, and I believe a hermitage is in my not-so-distant future. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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