Now in its sixth year of meeting, my spirituality group tries to retreat annually for renewal and replenishment . This past weekend in the Northern Neck area along the Potomac, 13 members managed to attend portions of the four day event. With a theme of “food for the journey”, the weekend was a feast for body, mind and spirit. The idea germinated when Ginny proposed bidding on weekend getaway during a silent auction. With the winning bid and after checking calendars, we started planning in earnest. The first part of “room and board” was settled, but we needed a system for programs and meals.
Kris was the glue that held us and the event together. Who would pickup the house key? Who is responsible for meals and scheduled for prep and cleanup? Who is carpooling? What is our daily agenda? How much solitude and how much fellowship? Who is responsible for liturgies and prayer? When you sign up for a retreat at a center, there is a system in place for bed assignment, food and program. We had to think about the Martha and Mary balance, so people would be fed holistically. Someone had to organize, especially to ensure enough, but not a wasteful excess of food.
Programs included vision boards and blessings beads; prayer flags and soul collage cards; writing a letter to your younger self–activities designed to challenge and help express creativity. Morning meditation on the dock facing the rising sun and yoga was bookended by campfires and sitting around chatting. A DVD viewing about eco-theologian, Thomas Berry, initiated a session about our group’s purpose and inspired brainstorming about expectations, meeting format and support for each other. “If this is who we say we are, how do we live that out?”
While the group has a maiden and a male, otherwise we are “women of a certain age.” The idea of cronehood, recognizing that a woman’s life generally falls into three stages—maiden, mother, crone, was introduced around the fire under the full moon. The age of maiden is a time of wonder and awakening, as the future unfolds in mystery and glory. It is a time of possibility. The age of mother is a time of nurturance; bringing forth new ideas, new relationships, new careers, and new life. It is a time of giving and doing. The age of crone is a time of ripening; when a woman enters into fullness of being; a time to claim power and wisdom and ponder life’s messages and meaning. Crone has derogatory connotations but is related to the word crown and represents that a woman has passed through fire and emerged as a wise woman—confident and capable. She claims her power to be who she was meant to be: truth-teller, leader, nurturer or whatever. If we want society to value the wisdom of our years, we must first acknowledge and value it within ourselves. With no set age nor designated convening authority, this is a matter of choice. When a woman is ready; she can embrace her sagehood and be empowered and transformed.
A retreat is an opportunity to step away from the routine; to gain perspective and grow. It requires stretching one’s comfort zone to accommodate surprises and uncertainty. However, the end result is worth it. Friendships strengthened; individuals nourished and perhaps “poked”; and the group better for having wrestled with purpose and practicalities. Same time, next year?