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Beacon Archive

October 2002
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Peace Retreat on Beaver Island.

On the morning of August 31, twenty travelers arrived at the Charlevoix boat dock to participate in the annual Labor Day Weekend Retreat organized by Jim Norgaard and Sally Wagoner, this year entitled “Practicing Peace in These Times.” We would spend three days with co-facilitators and Islanders in a beautiful meadow surrounded by forest. We began with a journey to Barney's Lake, shimmering in the hot midday sun, where an orchard filled with apple trees and hops was the Island's first gift to us. Sheltering trees, mossy green forests, foaming silver surf ... we were soothed by their warm greeting. Arriving at our campsite, we pitched our tents and began the first in a series of circles and workshops that would turn this group of strangers into a community, a genuine family.

If experience is the best teacher, then the facilitators had much to offer. Guests Loren Stewart of the Findhorn Community in Scotland and Debbie Willens led a workshop on making peace between the genders. Patricia and Berhard Ordernheimer of the Michigan Peace Team shared their experiences in Nablus; and were joined by Holly Wren Spaulding and Robert Bartle, who told stories of their peacework in Mexico and Argentina. Jim Norgaard, a teacher of Celtic Studies, has worked in peace and environment work and community networking. Sally Wagoner is a registered nurse, herbalist and massage therapist in Indiana. Each day during this year's retreat we explored an aspect of peace -- personal, communal, and global. “Peace Mentoring” gave us an opportunity to delve into our own personal beliefs about peace, while “Essential Peacemaking Between Men and Women” provided insights into our thoughts about the opposite sex. The nature-inspired “Body Prayers” exercises gave us time to play and stretch our bodies.

Our growing sense of respect and care was deeply fostered by the Island, which seems both ancient and new, sacred and playful at the same time – a fitting and fertile ground for our seeds of peace to sprout. We honored it by walking softly on its ground, leaving behind only the joyful spirit of our presence. On the ferry back we perched on the upper deck with guitar in hand, singing every song we knew. We were joined by travelers young and old, adding their energies to our voices. Someone said “Hey, you guys must be related...this must be a family thing.” And they were right. The Island and its surrounding waters provided the perfect nurturing environment for us to explore the meanings of peace – in our lives today, and in our hopes for the future.

–Gail and Hal Willens

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