Saturday, November 3, 2012
Last weekend I attended a BookWomen Reading Retreat held in northern Minnesota at St. John's University. 16 women from multiple states attended with the women spanning four different decades and states as far away as New Jersey, Washington and Arizona who came together for a weekend to talk about books. Our facilitator was Glenda, who is an amazing women. She and friend Mollie began The Women's Press over 25 years ago.
Each woman read 5 books around the theme, "Earth, Wind, Water, Fire: Shaping Midwestern Women". The retreat started with dinner and then conversation began in a circle as we got to know each other and shared our story of "What has shaped you".
The first morning we gathered around the fire-place to discuss the theme, Earth and the book Last-Standing Woman by Winona LaDuke. Winona LaDuke is from the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Other books mentioned were A Geography of Blood by C. Savage, The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich and Spirit of the Ojibwe by Balbin, Bailey and Nayouonabe.
After lunch I took a walk through the woods and explored St. John's campus. We stopped and viewed the Illuminated Bible in the Hill Museum. Very beautiful and a must see for book lovers. I bought a beautiful book about books that is a work of art in itself. We stopped at the student bookstore and bought St. John's bread and browsed their great book selection.
In the afternoon we met to discuss the theme, Water and the book The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin. This book is about women who lived in three different centuries and who are connected through Lake Superior. As a Minnesotan, Lake Superior is our ocean and is the largest fresh water lake in the world. The conservation was stimulating.
After dinner we again shared some more pieces of our life on the questions, Do you tell your Story? When and Where? It was an engaging day and I retired to my room to read and to reflect on these amazing women I was spending the weekend with.
On Saturday morning we met to discuss the theme Earth and the book The Orchard by Theresa Weir. Most people in the group really enjoyed this book and we discussed the question, What makes us a survivor? The level of trust and empathy in the group was astounding. This was a memorable conversation. Other books discussed include: Turn Here, Sweet Corn: Organic Farming by Atina Diffley
After lunch, Cary Waterman, poetry author of Book of Fire, joined the group for an afternoon of reading and discussing beautiful poetry around the theme, Fire. Each participant picked their favorite poem in the book and read it aloud to the group. I read Skull. It reminded me of a Georgia O'Keefe painting.
After supper we watched the film Sweet Land which was a originally a short story written by Will Weaver called A Gravestone Made of Wheat. Excellent movie. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it as I have now seen it twice.
The last day, we met to discuss the theme, Wind, and the book Leaning into the Wind by Susan Toth. This is a memoir about midwest weather. We discussed living in the midwest and the weekend went incredibly fast as it was full of beautiful women and wonderful books.
It was great to spend the weekend with like-minded people and it felt like coming home after being gone for years. We picked a great book, talked about our venue and hugged goodbye, hoping to see each other again because many of us left friends.