• stephanieraffelock

The Her Spirit Writing Retreat


Let the beauty we love, be what we do.

There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground. ~Rumi


I looked forward to the retreat for several months, sometimes with anticipatory joy and sometimes with fear. Going to the Her Spirit writing retreat was the first time I’d be traveling since March of 2019. I tried to imagine the joy of connecting with so many women in person, face to face, the energy of life instead of the buffering screen.


Then, in the midst of plotting this great adventure, my brother died. Late September into October got lost, eaten by grief and a piercing absence. I miss him every day. In my tears, I realized that the raw and the real was breaking me open. In a strange and serendipitous way, my grief was preparing me for the work I’d do at the retreat. I boarded a plane with a sliver of hope that we are all learning to adjust to a pandemic world, finding ways to be together again.


I met women from everywhere, all of them filled with the same love and anticipation that I carried with me through the doors of what felt like a temple; a holy place where women gather. This was not my first writing retreat, but it felt like it. There was a sense of not taking anything for granted. Every moment was filled with grace. Every class. Every sharing. Every story I heard, felt new. This was a birthing room for all of us to be reborn into our creativity and soul beauty.


Truth: Women hold the emotion of the world. They know that spirituality and beauty are inexorably linked, that God shows her face in the extraordinary that lives within the ordinary. So, that’s what happened. We found a place within ourselves, an entry into an examined life, revealing imagination and fresh vision. Our world is crying for the gift that has been entrusted to us.


After four days of falling in love with womanhood, with art, with creativity and emotional honesty, I felt a warm and welcome sense of belonging. Women in a writing community always bring me home to that. Art. Beauty. Writing. Connection.


I held so many hands during the retreat. Hugged. Got lost in gazes: I see you and you matter. I wrote hard truths, and listened to pain. I experienced tenderness and acceptance. The warm soup of vital living lent itself to poor sleep, as wired inspiration coursed through my veins and I dreamed the restless dreams of story creating.


After the ecstasy, the laundry, the Buddhist saying goes. That’s what awaited me --unpacking and laundry, grounding me back into my days. Kitchen prayers and folding towels; the music of the tea kettle at dawn and black tea in a chipped cup; journal writing and walking the dog. This morning I write and rearrange my office desk for the time ahead, determined to show up and do the work.


I have brushed up against the God of old women and butterflies. I have seen the sunrise of a new vision and given myself to the joy of creating one more time. And I did it with the sixty women of Her Spirit, aware that each of us was opening to our heart’s journey and pouring it out onto the page in raw and rigorous truth. We gave this sacrament to ourselves and to each other.


Today I am home, both physically and metaphorically, as the memory of Her Spirit lingers like the howl of a she wolf in the light of a full moon.


Let the beauty we love, be what we do . . .

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