Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?
Tao Te Ching
a joint blog entry by Sue Bland and Debra Brown
Sue : I am not a patient person. Mostly, I do not have the patience to wait until my mud settles and the water is clear. To remain unmoving is very difficult for me. More often than not, I rush ahead with plans and lists and schemes. The wisdom of the twenty seven words above seems written for me.
Last year, when I was searching for venues to hold my art retreats and PLAYshops and my friend Debra was considering opening her farm home in the Eastern Qu’Appelle Valley for retreats, we wondered, slowly, tentatively…is this something we could do together?
This simple question, and the eventual answer to it, has taken us on a journey together , something we both came to see as a ceremony of sorts.
We talked about the question, let it rest, dreamed about it and slept on it. In time, the answer to our question arose, and it was YES. When would we hold it? We thought about May, dilly dallied, rejected May. Somehow, late August felt exactly right to both of us.
Together we came up with the title – Immersed in Nature: An Art Retreat at Valley View Farm.
We prepared, each in our own way.
Debra: I sorted, cleared, reorganized more layers of 75+ years of family habitation. While this challenged me on many levels, I never lost the clear knowing that offering this retreat with Sue was a gift, the right “next step” to explore the long-held dream of offering sacred space for people at the farm.
Sue: I am so moved by the beautiful hills and valleys, grasses, woods and wetlands at Valley View Farm. How could this sacred place change and inform the way I offered a PLAYshop or an art retreat? If I truly listened, what did the natural world have to say about how we might approach our time together? I wanted our art to emerge from the nature were were immersed in. I wanted to offer exercises that might shift, ever so slightly, the way we see, experience and respond to the natural world. I practised close to home – in my beloved Pheasant Creek Coulee. There I sketched and painted, or simply sat and took in the beauty. There, I considered the visual elements of line, shape and colour.
Our enthusiasms and efforts were buoyed by registrations and expressions of interest. As we got closer to the weekend, a few people cancelled. Should we go ahead? Doubts surfaced. What if everybody cancelled? We determined that we would go ahead, no matter what. The ceremony of this joint venture was well underway, and even if it was just the two of us, we would see it through until the end because we very much wanted to.
Happily, we had three participants, each of who brought her own special gifts and interests to our shared weekend. What follows are some “moments” that stood out for each of us.
Sue: Coming downstairs to see guests each with a dark coffee in tow in the sunporch, a book or journal nearby; companionable silence.
Debra: the land being received with such appreciation and delight on our introductory misty-wet walk up the hill, and throughout the weekend
Sue: a silent walk, sharing wonder and delight with others, but not using words
Debra: women moving and creating in their own rhythms, filling the house with waves of peaceful silence and rich conversation
Sue: the smells coming from the kitchen, as Debra created magic… with plates of such aesthetic beauty and such fresh taste, you could die and go to heaven
Debra: the radiance of one participant, after a final pre-departure walk (and drenching) in the hills
Sue: the sound of charcoal on paper as we drew
Debra: the insistent presence of Nature throughout the program. ‘Immersed’ we were [or was that baptized and blessed?] by the rain, the shimmering dew on the grasses and verdant forest
Would we do it again? When the weekend was over, we really weren’t sure. A week later we met and talked about all we had learned, what we would change, what we would celebrate. Then, with the need to follow the insistent thrum in her core, Debra said, “There is something new rising in me”. That insistent rising is the seed of Sweet Darkness: A Mid-Winter Silent Retreat . And so, this ‘ceremony’ continues to ripple through our lives and into the world.