dekoven2017October 13–15, 2017, the Women’s Connection Fall Retreat at the DeKoven Center in Racine, took place. It was a rainy weekend, but the sun was shining in our hearts. Our keynote speaker was Shelley Graff, the Goddess’ own Songstress. Women gathered from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri. The theme for the conference was “Within,” accessing the wise counsel that we all share but can often be drowned out by the demands of daily life and our own expectations. Having a break to honor “Within” was precious.

People started arriving around 4:00, and began to settle in for the lovely weekend ahead. Women brought objects for the raffle, and their creative contributions for an open mic on Saturday night. Shelley’s keynote and three workshops awaited them on Saturday. Shelley had so many songs for us to sing that helped us build community with each other.

We always enjoy the meals at DeKoven. They are tasty, nourishing, and plentiful. They do their best to accommodate each participant. It is also a nourishing time to connect with old friends and to meet new people.

Around 7:00, the opening ritual began. We sang, drummed, settled, and centered. It was a good time to let the outside world go and enter into the time we had set aside just for us. A good time to go “within.”

Saturday, we were up for breakfast, bright and early. Some of us also ventured across the street to the lake to watch the sunrise, although on this particular weekend, the sunrise was mostly in our imagination with the thick cloud cover. Nevertheless, some traditions are not weather dependent.

After breakfast, we participated in Shelley’s keynote workshop, learning many new chants and even generating our own. We split into groups with the goal of creating a chant, or at least experiencing the creative process involved. One chant, in particular, was quite noteworthy, and will become a future “energy elevator,” that will be sung robustly for many years to come. You will simply have to sign up for a weekend to hear it.

After a lovely lunch, we had our choice of workshops. Some of us attended “Mudras and Mandalas,” some of us tried juggling, and some of us met with Shelley to figure out how to start up a Sacred Circle of Song in our own neighborhoods. And then, again, some of us elected to nap, or hang out with the vendors, or get a massage from Gina, or catch up with a new or old friend.

Dinnertime came quickly, and we gathered together with new and old friends, feeling more at ease. After dinner came the raffle drawings. People were happy to donate, and people were happy to receive special treasures. Then was the open mic where we shared our talents, great memories, and deepened friendships. Some of us stayed up to play games, others were happy to retire.

A rainy Sunday dawned. We had breakfast, and then the closing ritual. The DeKoven Center sent us home with a bag lunch. Another beautiful weekend of memories.

I sincerely hope you will be able to join us in Princeton, Illinois at Pilgrim Park, June 1-3, 2018. The theme will be “Finding Your Voice.” Great conversation, new friends, old friends, and a break from your routine await. Hope to see you there!

~ Pat Hyams

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