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On the first weekend in May my niece Tanya and I co-facilitated a retreat at Mount Saviour Monastery. We are both Benedictine oblates associated with Mount Saviour and we knew the monastery, particularly during lambing season would provide a unique experience for the more than 20 women who would be joining us in an exploration of art & spirituality.

With the idea that there would be more of these weekend retreats we decided we needed a distinct name for our gatherings. Since we would be using ‘key’ words in our practices and our goal was to unlock our creative spirit, we named it Keys Retreat. Although our focus for this particular retreat was ‘ancestors’ and the next one will be something different, we will use the KEYS (unlocking your creative spirit) name for each of these retreats and somehow tie in the use of key words.

I first started collecting Key Words a few years ago after receiving a newsletter ‘The Painter’s Keys’ from Robert Genn, a beautiful, wise and gifted man. I first learned of him from a friend who is an artist. Although I tend to work more with fibers, textiles, dyeing, writing, images, etc., I had an interest in using watercolor in some of my work. My friend thought I’d be interested in tips and suggestions offered by Robert to improve my painting, but instead he inspired me to explore writing poetry, practice Lectio Divina and to facilitate groups while incorporating art in a variety of ways.

In one email Robert talked about his collection of keys words and how he used them. As I read his words I realized that I had been in a way collecting words but with no particular purpose. Prompted by his practice I started a list, adding definitions, quotes and notes to words as they came to me. The words for the Keys retreat came from this list. Just a few of the words were: anchor, abundance, bridge … Each person picked a word without looking and many of the participants were surprised at how their words and the message included resonated with them. The words lent a unique retreat experience for each participant and by the end of the retreat some had discovered a new meaning of their word as it related to them.

During the first evening’s meeting when we chose our words, I dedicated the retreat to Robert Genn and only just now realized he doesn’t know. I will be sharing this with him so he can know how he has inspired me. If you would like to learn more about Robert Genn and The Painters Keys you will find him here:

If you would like to learn more about Mount Saviour Monastery:

Retreat through images ….
The image at the beginning of this post is of my prayer beads made in one of the workshops. I chose to use a railroad caboose or coach key because it represents my father who worked for railroads till retirement. The medal at the end of the prayer beads is a St. Benedict medal.

The view from the guest house I stayed in at Mount Saviour. Photo taken by my daughter Christina. There would be many dozens of ewes and lambs joining these by the end of the weekend.

Participants working on prayer scarves … fun! And some finished scarves.

On the last afternoon of the retreat, we joined hands in prayer after lighting candles in the crypt.
Beautiful experience. Then we visited a small shrine on the grounds before returning to our guest house for a collage project. The road is steep so we took it easy going up.

and one more of the sheep…


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