May 30, 2012

In and Out of the Quad-Cities

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

Gail and Toni’s Retreat

The hustle and bustle of daily life, the constant drone of a TV, quick trips to the store, a cell phone call from the doctor’s office, running the dry cleaning down to Burke’s – the joys of living the Good Life. Whether we’re ready to admit it or not, this 21st century lifestyle can wear a person down. Vacations are supposed to recharge the batteries. But, for some reason, most of these holidays become just as jam-packed as the daily grind. And, if you happen to go on vacation with someone like Current Trophy Husband Frank, you find yourself longing for the trip to be over so you can rest.

Energizer Bunnies, we’re not. These two gals can’t keep going and going and going. We do need to charge our
batteries every now and then. Recently, we discovered just the right place. A magical spot for relaxing, clearing the mind, and building peaceful contemplation lies just around the corner. Strangely, we have missed it until now. It’s not supposed to be this way, but for some reason it has remained a bit of a secret.

Before we give up the details on our mysterious new spot, allow us to digress. Yeah sure, we know this is no surprise to our regular readers, but we do tend to wander a bit in our thoughts. Join us as we mosey our way over to that gigantic dictionary in the corner. You know the one we’re talking about; back in high school every study hall and English class had one.

We’re fumbling our way through this printed monstrosity and finally land on “retreat.” The first couple of definitions are military in nature. Good stuff for our future story on the Ghosts of Gettysburg (stay tuned), but not what we have in mind today. Finally, we get to something closer: a place of privacy and safety. But, even that one’s lacking. Ah, here it is… just what the doctor ordered. Definition five, a period of group withdrawl for prayer, mediation, study, instruction and spinning, is just what we were looking for. Well, actually we added the spinning part, but the rest is pure Webster.

Recently, our fiber guild (remember the secret society we exposed a couple of months back) held a weekend retreat at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat just outside the QCA near Wheatland, Iowa. Located on 200 acres of truly organic native prairie, this place certainly reminds us of our favorite line from the movie Field of Dreams: “Is this Heaven, no it Iowa.” When you stand and take in the native charm of this place, it can be hard to tell exactly where you are.

Before we talk about the retreat, we’ll take you for a spin around the grounds. The vision of a dedicated monk, this place combines a Victorian Farmhouse with a comfortable but simple lifestyle. Today the retreat is operated by The Sisters of Humility.

Just a quick side note; the Sisters of Humility have a long history with the Quad-Cities. They founded Davenport’s Marycrest College as well as a similar institution down south in Ottumwa, Iowa. Today, you are likely to run into them in charitable and social service programs all around the Quad-Cities. Now back to the Retreat.

The Retreat combines modern features with comfortable sleeping and community rooms along with a pristine natural setting. There are paths, which meander through the beautiful Iowa hardwood forest and through native prairie settings. Imagine sitting down to soak in the scenic wonder of some of the Midwest’s panoramas while the music of a trickling brook plays in the background. Open your ears to the jubilant noise of birds singing in the morning and watch a mother deer escort her young fawn down a quiet path. As our friend, Catherine Reid would say, “It’s all that and a bag of chips.”

Here we gathered with a group of new and old friends to spend a weekend recharging and sharing our passion for fiber arts. There is nothing more peaceful than the rhythmic hand work of running a spinning wheel, loom or anything else while surrounded by this kind of harmony.

For those of you who might be interested, you can check out the retreat by visiting their website at http://www.chmiowa.org. This is too good a secret to pass up. If you and your loved ones need a serious refresh and recharge, this is the place.

Before we go, a couple of parting thoughts on retreats. Gail has always had a thing for the music of Scotland, Wales and the old fashioned fiddle music that flows from the areas. Sometime in the 18th century, somebody wrote a little fiddle tune called Bonaparte’s Retreat. Later on down the road, it became an American Standard. So with the fiddle playing in the background, we’re going to make our retreat. But first, we forgot to tell you – the Prairie Retreat has a labyrinth. How cool is that? Now here’s to a great June.