THE CAMPERSAND 2023 ALL-PATRON RETREAT: THE BIG WRAP POST.
Hello my loves.
Greetings from Woodstock, NY. I’m writing this from my favorite new place to work: Graveside Variety. 🙂
This post has taken forever to get out the door, but who caaaaares.
If you were at Campersand, please join in on the comments, I wanna hear from you all!!! Good, bad, up, down, reflections, stories….go for it. I’m reading everything, and wanna know. And elucidating for the other patrons what it was like will be…nice.
IT HAS BEEN SUMMER and i’ve been full time momming and hosting and having graveside guests in and out of my house every day and it’s been a pretty glorious way to build up backlog. I also added this Sinéad song to my plate last minute…and that’s sucked up any of the extra admin time, and I have about zero regrets about that. I’m working on a piece of long-form writing that I’m already in love with, and working on getting the Sinéad recording ready for a real-ass world-wide release (very very quickly) and I’m also trying to figure out what I’m doing with the rest of my life and stuff. It’s actually nice to have a few weeks to DIGEST what happened at Campersand a mere month or so ago…it already feels like an eternity, and I’ve had a lot of time to ponder what it meant.
For those of you who are JUST joining the community, the patreon, etc…”Campersand” is a weeklong retreat – just for patrons- in the woods of upstate New York that I just led for the second time. The first Campersand was in 2019, and it was WONDERFUL in a gazillion ways.
(Also, Campersanders, we have a BIG wrap email coming your way. Hold the phone)
We had wanted to do Campersand 2020, but y’all know what happened. It took THREE goddamn years to re-gather in the woods, but we DID it.
There were a few differences between the 2019 Campersand and this one: notably the size. 2019 was limited to 50 people, this one had 100. But it still took place in the summer, at the same beautiful spot (Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, NY), and…let’s just start telling the story.
We also experimented with a scholarship, which we did through a GoFundMe which raised about $5,500, and which worked wonders. A handful of people who couldn’t have afforded it got to come, and that made it extra magical. It was a powerful group, glued together by the larger community here.
Here’s me, at Campersand, alone in the garden, feeling happy.
All photos by Michael, Hayley, Liz, or Amanda unless otherwise noted..
The big stuff?
This week was nourishing on so many levels.
To be physically in community.
To talk with my patrons in a circle.
To be off the internet. To be able to talk freely and openly without having to pause, edit, delete, re-consider, and worry. To tell the truth.
To be with everybody, in such a deeply honest way.
To have a bit more of a conversation and less of a megaphone.
To learn more about people’s stories, people’s lives, people’s heartbreaks.
To break bread.
A few of my favorite moments:
The man – a veteran – who cried for (he said) the first time in his life.
Sophie telling someone who stuttered that the stutter was a gift.
Listening to offered songs indigenous tongue.
The woman who was navigating a difficult bump in her relationship, and she asked for help, and we tried.
Everyone sending one huge closed-eye wave of love to someone’s brother who needed it.
The man who carried Da Baby on the silent walk and told us the story that the last time he’d paid that much keen attention to where he was walking, he’d had a military rifle in his arms, not a baby.
There were so many moments that I just cannot list. Hopefully the comments will wield more bountiful fruit…
But before we get deeper into photo land…
One of the things that I loved most was putting everybody to sleep tonight, and composing a different piano piece, and then getting into bed myself, feeling everybody in my heart.
Hard to describe, but so powerful.
To just be with everybody like that, and to know that we were all in the same place, little a cosy pack of animals in the back of a cave.
We entered into the week with air quality warnings…that was fun. The humidity was high: the week included July 4 – the hottest day since global records began being kept in 1979. We sweated.
Climate change is fucking REAL.
We couldn’t swim in the lake because of the algae situation.
But…it was still beautiful.
There even was a resident fox named Chips.
WHAT WE DID….?
We had our own beautiful hall to ourselves..The Hall fit everybody (snugly) and there was a piano, and lots of chairs and yoga mats and blankies, and tons of stuff to write with.
Everybody slept in different places (some rented cabins/rooms, and some camped, and some even commuted from their local homes)…but from about 9am-10pm every day, we did shit!
It was “ARTS WEEK” at Omega – which is sort of like a huge yoga/wellness/writing retreat center for ALL types of events and gatherings – so there were shows for all of the programs at Omega each night….I hosted the “Alpha Omega Cabaret” with Chris Wells (who was also at Omega, leading a writing group of about 20 people) on Monday night, and there was an Omega-wide group show on Thursday night, our last hurrah moment….
We opened the cabaret with a legit primal scream.
(liz here: unfamiliar with Chris’s work, listening setlist discussions earlier in the day, I was unsure if this was a song called “primal scream” or an actual primal scream. I now know that Chris Wells & Amanda together are MAGIC, weird, and WONDERFUL and to expect the unexpected.)
(photo by Angel Rosen)
Chris read a story he’d written….
I sang some silly songs.
Father Nathan Monk – who had just arrived to spend time with our group to talk about writing – captivating the entire room, as usual….he shared a story he wrote just for the occasion:
(photos by Hayley)
….And lovely Angel came up to do a poem, and casually roasted Chris….
(photo by Dahlia Graham)
So….below are thoughts and highlights…and many photos. again, I hope the actual Campersanders weigh in AND if you wanna see THEIR PHOTOS, there’s a thread here (Campersand 2023 Shadowbox discussion, Post Campersand Shadowbox Discussion)
The camp schedule changed from day to day, but there were a lot of things on offer, and mostly, the whole group was together for the better part of the morning and afternoon, and we would gather at night for beddy-bye goodbyes.
Activities included everything under the sun….just sitting around in a circle, sharing our thoughts (we did a lot of that), a chocolate lesson (and tasting!), doing partner and small group exercises to get to know each other, gentle movement practices, like yoga, stretching, and shintaido, and various workshops with friends of mine.
Morning shintaido with Manta (aka David Franklin). After we taught the group the basics of this modern Japanese Non-Martial-Art, it was ON, Every morning, a brave group of shintaid-ers gathered to yawp to the dawn!
We punched the air. We raged. I led.
We spent a lot of time writing in our journals (everybody got one as part of the package…along with a tote, and a pencil, and a Campersand water bottle). Sometimes me or a workshop leader would prompt, but sometimes we just let it flow….
Sometimes, while we journaled, I would play piano.
(photo by Karin White)
We shared and and we listened.
We went on two silent walks.
(photo by Skipper J)
We lay down under the shady tree.
Some people were so not into this and we had a good laugh.
We walked silently, one day, to the lake….(which was really only like a five minute walk from the hall, but when taken silently and slowly? It took like half an hour)
There was this beautiful moment when I led a handful of people from the water, onto shore.
Hard to describe. You can imagine.
Manta and I broke the rules.
(photos by Hayley)
There was songs!!! So much singing and sharing and song-ing.
Lots of people brought guitars and ukes.
(photo by Dahlia)
This was a highlight: the chocolate tasting with Dahlia and Bryan of Fruition Chocolate....
….and, the sweethearts, they surprised us with custom Campersand Chocolate!
We almost cried. I think I DID CRY.
I cried a lot that week.
Some shots of the Campersand gift bags! (that Michael assembled before everyone arrived)….
We celebrated some birthdays….
And mostly, we celebrated each other….and our ability to navigate this fuckshow of a life:
This was a highlight for me….every night there was BEDDY-BYE.
I made this one up on the spot the first night and I loved it so much, we did it every night.
AND…very importantly, there were cuddles and baby time with beautiful Shiranne’s sweet precious bundle, known as Da Baby. Shiranne asked if she could bring Da Baby to the retreat, solo, and as a Mom who has felt so left out of shit that babies could not attend, we wanted to roll out the red carpet. She sent up a baby tent in the corner of the hall and attended everything she could, while a growing group of Campersand insta-nannies took turns helping her out.
It was, honestly, one of the most powerful elements of the retreat.
(photos by Shiranne)
This is Shiranne and Da Baby.
(photo by Margot Moulton)
da baby’s corner.
Shiranne thanking everyone for the love and support of her and da baby.
If Michael wasn’t working, he most likely could be found doing this….
(photo by Scott Hanes)
This is a good one of Manta, who’s a huge fan of the universe…..
(photo by Dahlia)
Here’s my close friend Coco Karol …who taught us Munz floor work….slow, twist-y movement…and more. It was Incredible. (www.findingcoco.net)
KATE and VISIBLE MENDING….(www.visiblemending.com)
The incredible Kate Sekules came to teach us about Visible Mending.
I cannot say enough about how metaphorically powerful this was…and I’m even wrapping some of the lessons of visible mending into the piece that I’m writing right now.
Clothing as poem.
but first was welcome with a sea shanty about mending…because that’s how Campersand roles
(photo by Margot Moulton)
THE OMEGA SHOWCASE….our final night….
We joined the zen ukulele group on stage. WE ALL SANG CREEP.
IT WAS ADORABLE.
And…the FINAL BEDDY BYE.
(photo by Nathan Monk)
THE CLOSING MORNING….
Was mind-blowing. Sophie Strand spoke, led us all into a new world, and took questions.
..Sophie making us all smile….
….and then making us cry (not pictured).
most of the group!!!
ANNNND…..CAMPERSAND AFTER PARTY at GRAVESIDE VARIETY!!
THIS WAS THE BEST BIT…a ton of the Cmapersanders made the hour-long drive to Woodstock so we could have a party at Graveside Variety – and it was so satisfying to SHOW SO MANY ACTUAL PATRONS THE ACTUAL SPACE that they’ve been funding!!
We had a blast….
Angel made us this sign for our front door….
(photos by Margot Moulton)
(photo by Dahlia)
(photo by Margot Moulton)
All in all, my loves, an astounding success.
I know the meat, the stories, the experience of all of this goes a lot deeper than this post.
I hope the Campersanders themselves can expand down below in the comments to explain what I mean.
Please don’t hold back, me and the team are reading everything.
On that note, I wanna remind everybody that this never would have come together without the help of SO SO MANY PEOPLE. Michael first and foremost, who spent so much loving time putting this together from the get-go. Liz, who swooped in and helped make things seamless, and the whole staff at Omega, who did a ton of helping out behind the scenes that people didn’t even see.
So so so much work and planning went into this whole thing. I was able to fall back and enjoy my time with everybody because there was a ton of prep, and a ton of support.
And to all of you who came: I have no words. It was human, and messy, and beautiful, and perfect, and I love you all so much.
Let’s do it again. (Next summer, maybe, but I might have to take a year off depending what happens to my life. Hold the phone).
LOVE, in many forms….with a full heart.