I just returned from our most recent Women’s Music Weekend and I should be exhausted. Not so many days ago I left this property in rural France that I’m taking care of for friends, carted luggage and my guitar and music onto trains, planes and automobiles to get in Guelph, Ontario only to spend a few days and then turn around and head back. But all I’m doing is smiling as I remember and write about it now. All I can do is wonder what it is about this weekend that inspired me to travel over 13,000 kilometers with not so much as the bat of an eye?
For one thing, I’m a co-parent of Women’s Music Weekend, having birthed it eight years ago with fellow songwriter’s Katherine Wheatley and Jane Lewis. For another thing it’s not that unusual for me because I spent years going back and forth from Canada to Europe to play concerts to support my CD releases. But neither of those occurred to me. The first thing that came to mind was, I was curious, I wanted to find out if this Woman’s Music Weekend would be as incredible as all the ones before?
It was the same magical blend of planning and surprise, the same perfectly ordered responsive energy shifting weekend that I hosted at my house in the late summer of 2012.
There were only 18 of us then. Everyone was on the same schedule all weekend (and we didn’t allow for much down time back then) and there was laughter and tears and the elevation of vibration frequency that happens when people get together to be creative and free the emotional content of their souls.
Making music, being creative, building community – those are the three ingredients we use to conjure every Women’s Music Weekend. I call us a triumvirate, the three of us, together holding a safe space and imbuing these values into every aspect of the retreat. The results are potent and transforming and mysterious. It has something to do with singing together, digging into parts of ourselves that we often ignore, such as emotions, creativity, vulnerability; it’s something about the energy of being together, inspiring and being inspired, with heart to heart and moment to moment joy; and something to do with love of music and a mutual desire to be our best selves and hope and maybe changing the world for better….
Three days of unfiltered, unfettered happiness.
We laugh, we cry, we write and dig, we create, share our new discoveries, old heart break, dreams and visions, we care about one another, and when someone talks we listen. And when someone expresses fear we encourage them to challenge themselves. And every choice is accepted and celebrated.
Great things happen at Women’s Music Weekend. That’s why I traveled that great distance to be there last week, and will do again next May, when I’ll be who knows where, working on my next book. I’ll cart my guitar and suitcase through lobbies and stations, drag them up staircases and accept the gaze of strangers and the help of the odd generous strong muscled soul. I’ll think about the workshops I’ll be leading, and wonder how they’ll go.
The weekend always kicks off with a concert where we teachers share a couple of original songs and then lead a sing-along of traditional and popular songs. This time I shared two of my new songs, one of them I’d never performed in front of an audience before. I felt safe to share a brand new song I’d never normally do in a concert, because that’s what the weekend is about – sharing, exploring, trying out new things, challenging ourselves. That new song set my course for the weekend. And the full harvest moon helped add to the wonder I sought – though it was concealed by clouds and a lightening storm Friday evening, there it was, full and fiery in a bright blue horizon when I awoke early the next day to lead my morning yoga class. I took a deep breath and held the image in my mind to remember this feeling of amazement throughout the busy day ahead.
Play in a Band, Write a Song, Sing Your Heart Out All Weekend Long
Women’s Music Weekend schedule is packed. Even after we’d taken out and shaved down everything we could to provide some free time (our first and only complaint, other than the weekend is too short, was that there wasn’t enough down time), the days are still filled with options and opportunities. We remind people to take care of themselves and suggest times in the day when they can go and take a walk or a nap or spend time alone. We say, “you always have the option to not do a workshop.” But we know they will. Even Katherine, Jane and me, teaching and being responsible for running things, we never want to miss a thing.
At Saturday breakfast I prepared to be humbled as I always am by the courage and commitment of the people who were already on fire to learn and be and do. I teach lyric writing because that, I’ve discovered, is where my passion for music lies. I love to write and I love to teach lyric writing. But I don’t teach ordinary basic lyric writing, I teach the way I write. I teach digging into the core of personal experience lyric writing. I call it “Mining for Gold.” I feel my way through simple guided meditation and visualization exercises and have faith that I’m saying what the people in the room need to hear. I have faith for a good reason – the lyric material people come up with is consistently powerful.
After attending two of my workshops a couple of women felt the need of comic relief after rooting around to find lyrics in personally difficult experiences. They got together and wrote a song with the hook, “All I did at Women’s Music Weekend was cry.” It was funny, and when they performed it on Sunday afternoon the song made us all laugh. One of these women also worked hard all weekend to see her new song though to a stage where she could share it at the final performance. Her song, titled “Along the Fence Row.” was filled with imagery from memories of her childhood on a farm. Everyone sang along, a few people were teary, and when she finished we all burst out in spontaneous applause and cheered her, beaming, back to her seat.
Spontaneous, free, unconditional love and support for one another – how good is that?
That’s what happens over and over again at Women’s Music Weekend – spontaneous, joyful, free, raucous celebration, unconditional love and support for one another. Many have only just met a few short hours ago, but the intensity of creative courage and vulnerability and sharing bonds them forever. It’s always surprising and at the same time expected, now, it’s happened this way every time, but every time I’m humbled.
I’m excited about an idea for a workshop I’m developing for the next Women’s Music Weekend. I want to create a movement with breath slash performance awareness slash body awareness workshop, and I’m not sure what I’ll call it yet, but I’ll be sticking with with the theme of creating a safe space to be challenged and open to wonder. I’ll find the right music to get us dancing freely, maybe bring in some aspects of deep yogic pranayama breathing and throw in some improvisation exercises to make it all plain old fun.
After this past weekend had ended I remembered I hadn’t said a couple of things I’d really wanted to remember to say. “Recall the first time you heard a song that drew you in and wouldn’t let you go, recall that feeling and be that inspired while you’re in your imagination searching for your own song.” was one thing I wanted to say. I also wanted to say; “Who can explain what it is in music. It’s not possible to describe it, and that is the endless beauty of music, it’s mystery.”
Katherine, Jane and I always spend time after the weekend trying to piece together what it was we’d just done to provided such miraculous-ness yet again. Secretly we’re waiting for the weekend that doesn’t quite work. It hasn’t happened yet – maybe we should stop waiting for that and accept that we’re on to something.
If you’re interested in finding out more Women’s Music Weekend and be on our list to find out about upcoming retreats, please check out our website and sign up for our email list. We don’t get in touch for no reason and it’s always with a lot of joy.
And here is where I mention that I’m about to offer my lyric writing and song writing courses online – which means you can learn to find your most meaningful songs in the comfort of your own home. Sign up for my email list to see if I actually carry through with expert online course developers advice and send you weekly updates.