On a bright and sunny afternoon, three vans left the Downtown Eastside and headed east toward Loon Lake. The remote location of the University of British Columbia research facility was apparent as the Dudes drove up the winding dirt road toward the isolated location of the Loon Lake Lodge and Retreat Center.
The retreat may have began on October the 4th 2017, yet when a long time member arrived at Loon Lake he turned to the Doctor and exclaimed “It took us seven years to get here”. The retreat was a long time dream in the making for the Dudes Club. It came to fruition as twenty-one men came together for three days and two nights of feasting, workshops, talking circles and Indigenous ceremony. The purpose of the retreat was to celebrate, heal, and contemplate the origins of the Dudes Club, where it presently stands, and the possibilities moving forward.
Sandy Lambert, the Dudes Club Elder, welcomed the Dudes Club members to the retreat with a traditional circle and smudge. Shortly after, representatives from the Kamloops Dudes Club joined the group. After some introductions, the Dudes settled into their rooms and prepared for their first meal together at the retreat.
After a relaxing meal, the Dudes congregated around a campfire under a clear sky surrounded by a quite cool crisp fall evening. The men spent the night chatting, drumming, listening to guitar music (provided by Bob Chippeway), and telling stories.
The next morning was kicked started with coffee and a hearty breakfast, after which the Dudes gathered for a traditional smudge lead by the Elder. Shortly after, a talking circle lead by Dr. Paul Gross gave the Dudes an opportunity for formal introductions, overview of the retreat, and sharing of recent activities of the Dudes Club near home and in Northern communities of B.C.
The men, refreshed, headed out on a hike in the woods that surrounded Loon Lake. After lunch, the Dudes refocused for a workshop facilitated by David Hatfield that concentrated on external influences that define masculinity for society and men.
To decompress after the workshop, some men chose to canoe on the glass-like surface of the lake, while others took the opportunity to play cards, contemplate alone or with others. Dinner was served and when finished the Dudes gathered to watch the movie Crazy Heart. Once again, the night concluded around a campfire accompanied by song and conversation.
The morning was embraced with coffee and the men fuelled themselves with a healthy breakfast. The Dudes gathered by the lake’s edge to participate in a smudge conducted by Elder Sandy Lambert. The morning ceremony provided a positive frame of mind for the Visioning Circle conducted by Frank Cohn. All gathered in a circle to discuss questions like: What does Dude's club look like to you? What are the Dudes Club’s next steps? The facilitation explored these questions and more as a large group and as three smaller groups. The circle concluded with a team building activity.
Before the closing circle, some Dudes went on the lake for a final canoe, and some took advantage of some much-needed time to debrief through one-on-one or group conversation. Before lunch Paul Gross summarized the retreat during a closing circle. The circle gave the men an opportunity to reflect on what occurred and the possibilities to come. It was an emotional time for some, as past Dudes were fondly remembered.
A final meal was spent together before the trip home. A smudge preceded the men piling into vehicles for the drive home. The weather turned from blue skies to rain. It seemed a fitting transition as the men started to say their goodbyes and parted ways to head home.