Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ten Years of the Create in Me Retreat

We are back from Create in Me, the creativity and spirituality retreat that we go to every year. It's not too early to plan for next year--join a great group the week-end after Easter to explore the intersections of creativity and spirituality.

Ten years ago, I went to a Wild Women retreat with my mom and sister. I found myself wanting to talk about work-life balance in terms of creative work, and found no one who was wrestling with that issue. At the end of the retreat, Pastor Mary Canniff-Kuhn mentioned the Create in Me retreat. I remember thinking, that's the one I should have gone to! And then, I realized I still could, and I did--one of the better decisions I've made.

That first year I went all by myself.  I was a little nervous, but I told myself, "Worst case scenario, I'll have extra time in the mountains.  I'll rock on a porch and read if no one is friendly."  But that year, dinner on the first day was included, and I sat at a table with two women who looked friendly.  Happily they were, and we travelled together through the retreat.  Everyone was fairly new to the retreat, since it was a newer retreat, only in its second or third year.  Everyone was friendly.  I left knowing that I would return.

This retreat has nourished me in all sorts of ways.  Obviously, it has nourished me as both an artist and a Christian.  I have lots of friends who are artists and lots of friends who are Christians, but not many who live in both camps.  It's wonderful to be in a community where I can be out of the closet about my art and my faith.

As an artist, I've discovered many new art forms.  Even if I don't come home and use them routinely, it's great to experiment and play.  My house is now full of interesting things I've made, like the wind chimes on the porch, made at one retreat, and a variety of mosaics, a technique we learned to do a different year.

It's also been great to work in art forms that have always attracted me, and to see what it's really like.  I always thought I would like to have a loom of my own, until I worked on one.  I quickly realized it wouldn't be interesting enough to justify the space it would take up.  I worked on a pottery wheel and again, quickly realized that although I loved doing it, I wouldn't really be able to teach myself; it's a steep learning curve.  And thus, it wouldn't be worth the money and the mess.

In later years, I've been more interested in exploring the intersections between worship and art than I was in earlier years.  As a group, we've always done worship services that have a lot in common with performance art, and in later years, we've done more extreme versions of that.  I probably never would have experienced worship as experiential stations without this group--or it would have taken many years.

I've come home feeling both exhausted and renewed.  I find myself yearning for a job where I can plan and present retreats on a regular basis.  Or better yet, a job where I explore and use a variety of liturgical arts--and perhaps train others?

But in the meantime, there's my memoir I'm working on.  I am more convinced than ever that the subject matter is important:  how do we live an authentic life, especially when we're at workplaces that may not always support our authentic expressions?  I come home vowing to have the next draft finished by Labor Day.  And then, perhaps by Christmas, a polished draft!

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