Visioning Retreat (Bowen Island)

On a brisk clear November morning a group of researchers, social workers, health practitioners and academics made their way via water taxi, car sharing, bicycling, and city transit, to Granville Island. The group was invited to take part in a Visioning Retreat at Xenia Creative Development Centre. Together, they boarded the vessel ‘Cormorant 1’ and headed out of English bay through the Burrard Inlet, into the entrance of the Howe Sound Fjord, toward Bowen Island, and docked in Snug Cove.

After a short orientation to the center, the group made their way through a swinging gate into a lush fall garden that led them past the grazing horses to the Gathering Place, a thirty-foot yurt. Upon entry, footwear was removed and the group moved into the welcoming warmth of the circular yurt. A tight configuration of ‘floor chairs’ that encircled a lotus themed rug completed the inviting atmosphere.

To prepare themselves for the work ahead the group participated in a smudge/welcoming circle conducted by our Elder Sandy Lambert. Refreshed, folks were invited to form a circle on the ‘floor chairs’; introductions and backgrounds of the participations were shared.

A presentation by Dr. Paul Gross and Elder Sandy Lambert outlined the three phases of the DUDES Club; Phase One as the first meetings, Phase Two that described the research conducted with the club, and finally Phase Three being the present expansion in northern communities in BC. The presentation sparked much conversation, particularly around constructs of masculinity, notions of men’s wellness, and the intersectionalities related to geography, cycles of violence, socio-economic inequity, and gender.

A much-welcomed team building activity was facilitated by Frank Cohn and was complimented by a hardy organic lunch comprised of fresh kale, soup, and melted cheese on toasted bread. After lunch the group split into smaller groups to explore the grounds. Some ventured to the Labyrinth, while others chose to take a walk in the woods or have one-on-one conversations.

The group reconvened in the yurt to workshop the DUDES Club Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Objectives, Values, and key Metrics. After splitting into smaller groups, the participants reformed their circle and discussed their findings. Much work was accomplished and it was agreed that the retreat felt like a beginning of a new phase for the club. Before leaving the grounds, the group stopped and gathered to visit Opa, a 1000 year Douglas Fir tree.

As the sun began to wane, the group made their way to Snug Cove to rendezvous with the ‘Cormorant 1’, which would take them across the water back to Granville Island. It was fitting, as the group dispersed, that the sunset light on the Howe Sound mountains marked completion of the retreat, as each participant left with a renewed vision of the DUDES Clubs and reinforced conviction to supporting men’s wellness.