Wilderness a bonding experience for women
With work commitments and life’s daily stresses, it can be difficult to find time for peace and quiet. Women’s Wilderness Weekend of Rhode Island provides an entire weekend of bliss for hard-working women who want a brief and relaxing escape.
Women’s Wilderness Weekend of Rhode Island is a non-profit organization currently offering two weekend retreats per year where women 18 years and older can connect with themselves, each other and with nature. The group was established as part of the University of Rhode Island in 1975 and was later created as a non-profit organization in approximately 2001.
Mary Carlos, president of Women’s Wilderness attended her first weekend retreat in 1995 after her sister told her of her experience. Carlos returned for a retreat in 2007 and has been on the board ever since.
According to Carlos, she attended her first couple of retreats alone and immediately made new friends with the other women, and now she meets new people each year and makes countless new memories.
“I always come home with a new memory from the weekend,” Carlos said when describing her past experiences with the retreats.
According to Carlos, she has had so many memorable experiences that she could not choose a favorite, instead saying that spending time with friends and making new memories with them was one of her favorite takeaways from the weekends.
One way women become friends and connect with one another during the weekends is during the opening and closing circles, during which all of the participants sit and talk at the beginning and end of the retreat. While the opening circle is mostly filled with icebreaker games, Mary described the closing circle as more intimate. During this time, women usually open up more about their personal lives to the other members of the group. Before the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, women would also become emotional during this time because the closing circle signified the last time they would see each other until the next retreat.
Carlos has not only made new friends from her weekend retreat experiences, but she has gained new skills after taking classes during the retreats and later teaching some of these skills to new members. For instance, she learned how to make lip balms and soaps during weekend retreats and later taught these skills to future retreat participants.
In addition to Carlos, a former participant of a weekend retreat, Heather Labenski, learned how to knit at the retreat and now has a business, HeathKnits, where she teaches others how to knit in different workshops.
“When I see women having a good time and laughing and joking and enjoying the weekend and learning new things, that makes me happy,” Carlos said.
Some other classes that have been offered in the past include photography and jewelry making, and various craft activities. Along with these classes, the retreats include recreational activities, like hiking, kayaking and yoga. However, retreat attendees do not have an obligation to participate in any of the scheduled events if they do not wish to, according to Carlos.
“Yes, you can go out in nature, but you can stay in the house all weekend…you do what you want to do. There’s no set anything.”
The only rule for the weekend is that there are no drugs or alcohol allowed in order to be more sensitive to participants who may be involved in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Carlos also adds that women do not need substances to enjoy the weekend’s festivities.
“You don’t need it. There is so much fun to be had that you don’t need to be drinking.”
While women are connecting with one another during the weekend, they also have the opportunity to help each other and future participants through donating towards a scholarship program. Named after a past participant of the program, the Women’s Wilderness-Leslie Scott Memorial Scholarship Fund allows women the opportunity to afford the cost of the program. Carlos received the scholarship after she was laid off during the Recession and needed assistance with affording the program.
In addition to helping each other, Women’s Wilderness Weekend of Rhode Island participates in a service project for each retreat to help people in need. For this month’s weekend event, they are helping the Amos House in Providence, a company that helps people help themselves out of homelessness and poverty. The participants of the weekend retreat can help by donating goods at the retreat that will be sent to the Amos House.
The upcoming retreat will take place Oct. 19-21 at the Episcopal Conference Center in Pascoag, Rhode Island and will feature events like a Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Night and Costume Party, an apple pie baking class, yoga for meditation and mindfulness, hiking, kayaking, and many other healthy and rewarding experiences. The cost of the weekend is $264. Limited scholarships are available. For more information call 213-9699, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit womenswildernessri.com