Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer 2009, WWF(a)C Retreat

It’s the first evening of our summer, 2009 retreat at St. Mary of the Woods. As the opening circle unfolds, I experience visions of color. Like the fabrics of a scrap quilt, each woman in our group of 13 brings a unique intensity and texture to the retreat circle. One woman is bright orange, another soft pink. A calico, a graphic print. Our words piece together, forming a beautiful quilt of diversity and organic harmony.

Beth has chosen a theme of change. As always, I find the topic to be both inspiring and confounding. I teeter on the thin wire – arms out for balance – deciding if I will skate across or let myself fall deeply into my truths.

I spend the next morning writing in my room. It is spacious, simply appointed, with a comfy rocking chair and a large window looking over a grassy field. After lunch, I find a quiet bench outside in what feels like my very own hobbit hole. I write until our group meets at 2 pm. I should be more precise. I write, I wander, I doodle, I daydream, I snap photos, I think about decisions that need to be made, I write some more.

Magic happens here. For example, during an evening stroll several of us encounter a security guard. “Are you the writers?” he asks. In unison we proclaim, “Yes!” That was a shining moment. Not a single voice hesitated. We are writers.

We continue our after-dinner walk to the cemetery, a sea of sisters. Their tombstones glimmer in the moonlight. Whether by night or day, St. Mary of the Woods is full of secret gardens and quiet nooks. There are chapels of iridescent shells, faces carved in stately poses, limestone covered in verdant green moss, and that cemetery of whispering stories. I find muses hiding in the boughs of trees, the robes of bronze saints, and the voices of quiet stones. I do some of my best writing here.

With no irony, St. Mary of the Woods has become sacred to me. I love it for the gorgeous grounds, the progressiveness of the nuns, the writing circle, Beth’s leadership, and the beautiful women who glow as they proclaim “We are writers!”

Stephanie, for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. The stars were aligned for a magical retreat at St. Mary of the Woods this summer. This group of women, beautifully diverse in their ethnicity, age, experience and writing came together in a way that was uplifting to the spirit. The container that Beth is so careful to create did its job of providing a sacred and safe place to share with and give support to each other.

    Every year each of us always say that our small group is the best one at the retreat, but I KNOW mine was. We shared poetry, memoir and fiction with wonderful responses and heartful support. And as always with deep sharing, tears and laughter.

    All of the retreats that I have been lucky enough to be a part of have been wonderful experiences, but this year was truly a memory making one. And the best part is that I still carry those wonderful feelings with me.

    Thank you Beth for providing a sacred, safe place for this to happen.

    Rebekah Spivey

  2. Thanks bring it all back so vividly. I also love your pictures. What a confluence of time, place, spirit and women. Thanks also Rebekah for your reflections. Dunno. It's always some kinda magic! Love, Beth

  3. I have shared so many stories of our wonderful retreat and also shared some of my writings thx so much for everyone's encouragement when asked now I too say I am awriter - love to everyone gloria