My new drum
My new drum

I  don’t know how to drum yet. I can make noise by slapping my hand on it, but the women around me at the retreat were doing fancy rhythms and sounds. My drum and I were just getting  acquainted. My hands were sore the next day, but I learned some new things at a recent three-day retreat, not necessarily about drumming:

1.  You can go a whole weekend without a hairbrush if, and only if, your roommate shares. However, I suspect that you might be able to get along without any hair implement–only a suspicion.

2.  TV is meaningless, and you really don’t miss it. YOU DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

3.  iPhones maybe handy, but they are hard to put down.  I don’t have one, but my iPad is easy to ignore because it doesn’t fit in my pocket. As in–look up something now?–too much trouble. Wait until later and the urge will pass.

4. You can tone all the muscles in your outer body in about ten minutes, but it takes much longer to learn the routine.

Singing bowls
Singing bowls

5.  Crystal singing bowls are totally cool. They sound like liquid joy.

6.  Women I know actually eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and the gravy is made with sausage.

7. I usually adhere to rules, even imaginary ones.

Tufted titmouse
Tufted titmouse

8. Tufted titmice make beautiful noises all day long.

9. I have only a vague idea what Stations of the Cross are about, but the trail to them is beautiful. The trail  was part of an Episcopal retreat center in Florida, where I spent the weekend with 40 Unitarian Universalist women. (They rent facilities to all kinds of groups).

Path to Labyrinth
Path to Labyrinth

10.  Labryrinth is hard to spell.  Walking one in silence under five giant oaks laden with Spanish moss behind a white chapel is not particularly calming if you are worried about technology. But it helps.

Stuff I already knew, but it was reaffirmed:

1.  Women are powerful.

2. People want to tell their story, not listen to yours.  Some will listen if you have the mic and don’t ramble on.

3. The plural of ya’ll is ALL ya’ll.

4. My fellow retreaters and I “won the lottery of life,”  says Sheryl WuDuun  in her Half the Sky Ted Talk (the equipment worked.) She is so right.  Read the book she wrote with Nicholas Kristof and watch the documentary.

5. Lottery winners should share.

6. Women should help other women.

7.  It makes a difference .

8. And for the record, human trafficking sucks, big time, and it’s closer to home than you think.  Human trafficking is second only to the illicit drug trade in profitability.

9. Lucia’s letter is powerful when read by someone who lived it. In short, it tells moms not to let their daughters go off with strangers (coyotes) who promise jobs and a better life in the US.

Additional observations:

1.  Four good women can plan a fantastic retreat for women.  And have fun doing it.

2. The  Roll-up poetry game works. ( See below)

3. Breakfast is the best meal.

Spiral dance
Spiral dance

4.  A spiral dance is amazing, but you need a good leader, who tells you not to move until someone tugs your right hand.

5.  My home and bed always feels good when I get back.  I wish all women had that feeling.

Roll-up Poetry

A roll-up poems works in the following way:  Choose a topic. (Most poems are about sex and death.) We choose to write about time. The first person writes the first two lines, and then folds the paper over so the first of the two lines is hidden.  The paper is handed off to the person on their right, who reads the second line and then writes another sentence/line below it. That person folds over the previous person’s line and hands it to the person on their right–again–only their line showing.  The resulting paper will look  like the fans we used to make in elementary school.  The poem ends and the last line is written by  the person who wrote the first two lines.  We had seven women, so there were seven passes.  No peeking back was allowed.

Here’s one of the poems we created:


Time is a winged warrior.
Time flies beside me.
I’d like to slow down the flow of time.
I would hope that unlike the 3-minute egg, the time for me does not run out quickly.
Time does run out eventually–but I am not planning ahead.
It is a challenge to stay in the moment, living fully now.
My mind tricks me, pulling first here, then there, before trapping me to ruminate & fuss, while time chuckles tenderly by.
My mind races, jumps, leaps–calm quiet breath strokes my mind into peace.
Peace is my river of time.



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Retired journalist, writer, editor and teacher. Our lives were lived in the Washington DC area, but I was born in upstate New York. Love nature, birding and reading. Volunteer at Ding Darling NWR . Proud mom of two, married to a wildlife photographer.

One thought on “Retreat”

  1. I love tufted titmice! Glad you had a great retreat, Elaine! I, being from East TN, LOVE biscuits & gravy for breakfast.– Rev Allison

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