Why a writing retreat when I write every day?

Posted March 25th, 2011

Hey folks, This is going to have to be a short post because I’ve got to get packing for a novel writing retreat. I’m one of those writers who writes almost every day. I’ve been told I’m prolific and so people are surprised I still try to go to retreats, especially retreats where I’m there to learn.

I attend retreats because my well tends to become filled with the clutter of daily life. In my case, that clutter can be students’ stories rather than my own as well as family matters, administrative issues, busy-ness, and lately March madness — I’m afraid it’s true. You can’t live in my house without developing a bad case of diehard college basketball fan.

Anyhow, I’ve only got a few minutes before my laptop is charged, my bags are packed and I’m heading to the retreat center. The rest of you — write well.

A Speech to Honors Students On Weaving Community

Posted March 5th, 2011

The following speech was given to Honors Students and Service Leaders on Founders Day at Mount Mary College on March 4, 2011.

Weaving the individual threads of self into the fabric of Community

 

temple1.jpg(Image of Saori Weavings — a free-form philosophy of weaving) 

Good afternoon and thank you, President Schwalbach, for this honor to speak to this amazing group today.

The college’s theme for this year is Community and today the Founder’s Day theme focuses on the weave of community, a weave that reflects the transformative vision of this college—to educate women – and men and women in the nursing and graduate programs – to change the world. It’s a perfect theme to encourage us to consider how we can weave the individual thread of ourselves, our unique qualities — and even our imperfections — into the fabric of our community.

Today, we also celebrate your induction into honors and service organizations, organizations that work to weave transformative qualities into the fabric of community. Sister Joanne Poehlman once described the qualities of this weave as it is lived within the SSND community. She wrote, “Life in our community is a giving and a receiving of love and respect, a living together in trust, openness, sincerity, and forgiveness.” 

She was referring to the way the threads of individual lives come together, the ways our hearts and wisdom and faith form amazing patterns of connection as we put our talents to work. We create a community through a weave of charism.

The tight and strong patterns of weaving can reflect the qualities of solid and socially just communities. To weave isn’t simply a fabric crafting term though. If you’ve ever been to the ballet, you’ve probably noticed that the dancers weave in and out; they spin and glide across the stage in syncopated patterns, much the way a shuttle is passed back and forth between the warp threads on a loom. As a writer I often think the creative process allows me to weave a character’s redemptive qualities out of humor, courage, hope, and perseverance. I teach students that writers must weave our voices with that of our characters to create awareness of the need to act. The subtle weave of thought and action within our writing leads to transformative change reflected in our themes.

Earlier today my colleague in the English Department and director of the Honors program Wendy Weaver shared this philosophy as a teacher in her opening remarks for Founders’ Day. She  said, “Effective teaching takes myriad forms but good teachers share one trait: they are authentically present in the classroom and weave a life-giving web between themselves, their subjects, and students who must learn how to weave a world for themselves.”

          Many world cultures create stories – myths of gods and goddesses, of goodness and community connectedness — out of the art of weaving. It is an art that we can apply to all of our lives. The SAORI way is a creative philosophy Japanese weavers practice. It is described as “weaving that is more than just individual hand loomed weaving. It is also the practice of pursuing spiritual wealth.” Through the act of weaving, individuals work in community to create brilliantly colored, free-flowing patterns.

There are “no restraints, no reservations,” rather weavers “courageously, unconventionally release creativity as they laugh, smile and learn.” What an amazing metaphor for what we can do in community if we simply allow the thread of our own being to become part of the fabric.

There is a similar African philosophy of Ubuntu, a philosophy that means “my humanity is tied to yours.” We are united, as with the threads passed through the loom. Our braided lives become the fabric of humanity on this earth.  

Today, we celebrate your induction as scholars and service leaders. We celebrate the colorful and rich addition of each thread you contribute to the fabric of humanity. We call you to add your own unique and creative hearts and minds to this weave.

I want to encourage you each to make this your mission whether you are, in fact, a visual artist, a social worker, a scientist, a writer, a musician or perhaps a builder. Bring your unique insights and talents to community. And celebrate the joyful, blessed work of weaving the threads of your life into the strong and rich fabric of humanity.