Choose a personal retreat to relax, inspire

One event that I’m looking forward to this fall is a women’s retreat that my church is organizing in Green Lake. I know it will be a great way to get to know myself, and other people whom I already respect, just a little bit better.

Maybe you also need a place to hide or find yourself, a setting that will inspire your creative side or nudge you into making a tough decision.

I have reflected upon small and big pictures in a lot of ways: in groups and in solitude, in silence and in workshops, at an Oregon monastery and a Hawaiian dance camp. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated, or expensive.

Go online – there are dozens of places in Wisconsin that call themselves retreats. A particularly helpful source is www.retreatsonline.com; it has more than just sites associated with churches.

Here are five very different types of retreat experiences that can help focus the mind while the body stays relatively close to home.



Tracks and Trees
, Watertown and other locations – (920) 699-3217, www.tracksandtrees.com. Director Doug Gaulke wants people young and old to learn about and respect nature. There are dozens of workshop topics at his learning center that encompass one day or less of study. This is a place to figure out how to track a black bear, make herbal soap, identify trees and birds.

Families also can learn the basics of wilderness survival – how to build a shelter, gather water, create fire without matches – during retreats that Gaulke and others will conduct in the Black River Falls area this summer. The dates are June 18-20 and July 23-25; cost is $150 per adult and $75 for children under age 12. Participants will camp.

“You and your family will learn basic wilderness survival skills while developing an intimate understanding of the landscape,” the class description states.

At Gaulke’s rural Watertown property, there will be an introduction to plant identification and foraging, for older children and their parents, on June 5-6. Cost is $185, which includes meals and camping space. Preparation of foraged foods will be a part of what is taught.

Saint Benedict Center, Middleton (near Madison) – (608) 831-9304, www.sbcenter.org. It has been more than 50 years since the Sisters of Saint Benedict settled on 40 acres of paradise, farmland with a tremendous view of Lake Mendota. Now the ecumenical property has grown to 130 acres, much of which has been environmentally protected and preserved as high-end housing developments and pricey golf courses near it.

A glacial lake, restored prairie, gardens, wetlands and nature trails are a part of the treat that awaits visitors. Retreats can be structured or simply private time, in a dorm-style room for an overnight – or in a part of the isolated Hermitage, a two-unit cottage that includes cooking facilities, for a couple of weeks or months. Rates depend upon where and how long you stay; it can be as little as $20 per day.

“Listen!” is the title of a June 3-5 small group retreat for men and women who want experience the Benedictine tradition of balanced living. The cost is $180 (or $285 per couple), which includes meals and lodging. This type of retreat is offered four times annually.

“Listening with the Heart,” June 11-12, is for single Christian women who are ages 25-35. It is a time to nap, read or write about life choices – and a place to share issues and thoughts with other women. The cost is $40, which includes meals and an overnight stay.

Sinsinawa Mound, Sinsinawa (southeast of Platteville, off Highway 11) – (608) 748-4411, www.sinsinawa.org. Another picturesque and rural setting, these 450 acres are operated by Dominican women who celebrate self-examination through art and spiritual study.

It’s $20 to spend the day, which includes food and a room for solitude. To stay overnight, it’s $55. Guided retreat topics include a study of the Psalms, June 13-18 ($350, includes meals and private room); women and cancer, June 18-20 ($169); and silence, July 25-31 ($390).

Great bread and cinnamon rolls are baked here (and sold during church fund-raisers in other cities). There is a labyrinth that can be walked, considered a method that invites spiritual reflection.

The Clearing, Ellison Bay (Door County) – (877) 854-3225, www.theclearing.org. If there is a budding, confused or inspired artist inside of you, this may be a great match. This National Register of Historic Places property is on 128 acres of woods, and retreat programs are plentiful.

It is a haven for writers and watercolorists as well as people who want to make hand-made brooms or learn to cane chairs. Poets and hikers, flutists and geography buffs, quilters and wood carvers all are welcome.

Programs in these areas typically last six days. There are too many topics to list. Retreat cost depends upon the duration, topic and type of accommodations; most are $665 to $965. There is a discount for commuters.

Lodging is in dormitory space; some rooms are private. The property also has a lodge and schoolhouse designed by architect Jens Jensen in the 1930s.

“Instruction is non-competitive: there are no credits, no grades, no degrees, no pitting of one student against another,” the website declares.

Dan Anderson Renewal Center, Center City, Minn. (50 miles north of Minneapolis) – (800) 257-7810, www.hazelden.org. You don’t have to be in a 12-step recovery program to spend time at the tranquil, 500-acre campus here, but the facility was built upon those principles, which have helped rescue many a troubled soul from a life of addiction and/or co-dependency.

Unlike the stereotypical retreat setting, this one is almost plush. Both the quality of accommodations and comfort level are high. It is up to the participant to decide whether time will be spent alone, in consultation with counselors or in 12-step group settings.

“No matter where you are in your recovery journey, or what recovery program you’ve participated in, you will leave the Renewal Center refreshed and prepared to meeting the challenges ahead,” the website suggests.

Rates depend on the time of year and accommodations; the present range is $172 to $282 per day, including meals. There also are retreats that have specific topics.