Friday, I landed home from the 7th annual Brave Voice: Writing & Singing for Your Life retreat that Kelley Hunt and I blessedly do together, along with our fellow artists extraordinaire Laura Ramberg and Ardys Ramberg. Back at White Memorial Camp — located on an arrowhead-shaped peninsula in Council Grove Grove surrounded by the Flint Hills — we were at home with the beauty, art, music, words and other surprises of the Brave Voice participants (called BVDs for Brave Voice Divas & Daredevils) and the lush land.
While what happens at Brave Voice stays at Brave Voice, some things I can share with you involve the magical combination of a pineapple, a cougar, canoes and kayaks and a whole lot of music. Here’s some highlights:
Did you know the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality? Somehow a pineapple ended up at the center of many of our circles, and conveyed to us how such hospitality needs to extend to the ways in which we welcome our creativity, compassion, acceptance of others and ourselves, and power. Thanks to some singing involving drawing on the power of the pineapple, we ended up with a pineapple power hand gesture and affirmation.
Cougars are notoriously shy when it comes to keeping at bay from the humans, especially on the peninsula where the camp is and particularly during mid-morning (like other species in the wild, they tend to be on the move more during sunrise and sunset as well as in the night). When we were doing our first writing prompt during the writing workshop focused on writing from our callings, I happened to look out the window, having opened all the blinds earlier simply because something told me to let in the sky. And there the cougar was — 20 feet or so away, walking around the back of our building. A bunch of us rushed to the window to see him/her — a long, sleek mammal, golden brown with an outrageously long tail. Some later wondered if we needed to take precautions, but Laura reminded us that seeing a cougar here and now was a blessing. I’ve longed to see a cougar in the wild for decades, and now, here one was. Our only pictures of it were fuzzy, a little like trying to photograph the Loch Ness monster, but we know what we saw.
A bunch of us took to kayaks and canoes one warm afternoon, floating or paddling on Council Grove lake. Because of the heat, I tended to park my kayak in small coves, marveling at the shade-viewed green and blue world all directions. Of course, when we came together, we ended up singing on the water as usual, and moving fast or slow across the expanse. Some got on the water this way for the first, or the first in decades, time self-propelling over water, but all of us found solace in the sun-laced water.
Although it’s hard to remember what was so funny now, at the time, there were frequent forays into laughing so hard we cried as well as writing and music that broke our hearts open in the name of life, in remembrance of beloveds gone, and in joy for what and who we love most.
Laura and Ardys set up art stations as usual, and this year, they had supplies out for pen and ink drawings and the making of yantras, a traditional kind of mandala using geometric composition as a kidn of meditative ritual. Some of us painted, scribbled, colored, designed, drew and collaged, art at the edges and centers of our
Walks, talks, quiet and song punctuated our time together in between workshops on singing, songwriting, writing, conversing with our callings, opening our voices and coming home to where we are.
Buddha the sheepdog mix, Isadore the brown and black puppy, Tomcat and other critters of the camp accompanied us whenever they could. Tomcat even slept on our blankets one night when Laura and I dragged mattresses out to the field near our cabin to sleep under stars and near the lake. The animals were as loving and welcoming as the camp, probably because of the hospitality powers of the pineapple.
We’ll be announcing the dates of Brave Voice 2013 soon, but for now, I’m thinking of pineapples in a whole new way and keeping my eyes open for what other wonders move quietly along the edges.