(From top: Lovely flowers on retreat grounds, retreat location entrance, charming Shea!, the ceremonial lighting of the circle candle, retreat leader Anni with Sister Barbara, who each graciously made sure our needs were met while at the center, & presenting our terrific group of talented women writers!).

I’m currently in a state of major life transition, committed to broadening my experiences, knowledge, creativity, and feeding my spiritual self. While special needs will always hold a special place/priority in my professional and personal heart (and on this blog), I’m also now boldly venturing into brand new creative territory while further exploring some old loves (like photography) that got set aside during the years I raised my son and daughter and prioritized special needs—those years when I hardly had time to breathe.

Permission granted.

In that spirit of self care and exploration, I attended last weekend’s Women Writing for a Change Up North (WWFAC) retreat in Petoskey, Michigan, also known as God’s Country. Along with five other talented women hungry for creative sustenance, I out ran daily demands, personal demons and exhaustion to gather in supportive community.

Using the sacred gift of words, we rediscovered ourselves.

Anni, Jodi, Christina, Bronwyn, Shea and I quickly built a nurturing community of expression, fueled by each other’s acceptance, love, heart and generous words about the value of our individual works. I’ve gathered with writers before; this was different. These women weren’t here looking for kudos or agents or ego gratification or to compete on some imagined writer’s stage. They came to reclaim the artist self so often lost or suffocated amid daily demands and life trauma. We needed time alone and time in supportive community and each bravely claimed that time.

We came for the quiet necessary to hear ourselves think, and embraced sitting still.

For two nights and two days, we shared simple lodging and meals seasoned with emotional stories of self esteem and weight issues, battles with addictions and health, and the unthinkable experiences of the death of loved ones, and rape. The work of these brave women was some of the finest I’ve been privileged to share. Each brought something different to the creative table.

Pieces of cloth and patterns that at first introduction seemed odd fitting, made a stunning human quilt when joined together. We dug deep, shared openly and used powerful imagery and turns of phrasing that took my breath away. I was stunned by the beauty, intelligence, insight and wisdom of the women’s words.

I even escaped briefly Saturday afternoon for a photographer’s outing that left me giddy, and with some great new photos, some of which I am sharing with you on this blog. Check out my next two blog entries for more photos from this inspiring outing and samples of the women’s writing.

I left the retreat refreshed, energized, validated, and reminded of how much I love being a creative soul—and I got five terrific new writer friends to boot. Well worth the price of admission.

Time away is priceless and restorative. Try to claim it for yourself, no matter how brief the escape.
For more information about WWFAC, visit: http://www.womenwritingupnorth.com/

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations