This weekend, Lulu and I went on retreat with our mother-daughter group, to the hostel in Point Reyes.

hostel under a rainbow

It was a glorious weekend.

The eight pairs of mothers and daughters formed from our homeschooling support group, back when the girls were eleven and twelve. A few of the girls have left the larger group to attend school, but our monthly meetings have helped us maintain our friendships.

We meet each month and explore different topics related to girls and growing up. This last year the girls decided that they wanted our meetings to be less structured and more fun–more of an opportunity for us mamas and our daughters to simply enjoy each other’s company.

We started planning the retreat almost a year-and-a-half ago. And was it easy to find a whole weekend in which sixteen busy mothers and daughters could get away? Nope. The organizing got so frustrating that we almost gave up.

I’m so glad we didn’t. We had such a wonderful weekend. The moms made breakfast on Saturday morning, and the girls cooked a fabulous pasta dinner. Weeks of rain magically cleared away on Saturday, and we had a gorgeous afternoon on the beach. The girls had a few (secret) activities and ceremonies planned, and there were giggles and shrieks and solemnity in equal measure as they were carried out.

trail to limantour beach limantour beach ceremony

Despite all of our scheduling difficulties, we had somehow managed to unknowingly schedule the trip during a full moon. On Saturday night the mothers planned a special full-moon ceremony for the girls. I hesitate to divulge too much, but at the same time, if sharing a bit of what we did might encourage other mothers to get a group like this together for their own girls, and to consider planning a special coming-of-age ceremony for them, I think it’s worth it.

Our ceremony involved having the girls take a one-mile hike in the dark, alone. They followed a trail we had marked earlier in the day. They didn’t bring flashlights–although the moon was so brilliant that they didn’t need them. Each girl began her hike a few minutes apart from the other girls. Each of us mothers were stationed along the trail, waiting with a flickering tea light. As each girl approached us in turn, we shared something we wanted to offer her as she journeys into womanhood: a poem, a story, a bit of insight. At the end of the trail, the girls met up and walked back to the trailhead together, where we mothers had gathered, waiting for them.

The ceremony turned out to be far more moving than I could have imagined. Waiting on the trail, the only sounds were frogs singing, a creek rippling and the waves of the Pacific. Then slowly the sound of footsteps approaching in the gravel would build, and a girl would appear in the dark, to hear your words and receive your hug. And then she would walk on and there would be silence again and in time more footsteps would come. After the last girl left me, I just stayed in my spot, watching the clouds shroud and then reveal the moon, basking in how grateful I felt to be in the presence of some absolutely lovely young women.

As we ate breakfast in the hostel kitchen on Sunday morning, another hostel visitor commented on how special it was that our girls, at fourteen and fifteen, seemed so happy to spend time with their mothers.

“They’re beautiful girls,” he said.

And they are beautiful. Inside and out. I’m still buzzing with how good it felt to take a weekend to celebrate that.

mother and daughter
26 comments… add one
  • Just Peaches Feb 2, 2010 @ 8:27

    Are you trying to make me cry Patricia? My own daughter is twelve and I am in awe of what a beautiful young woman she is becoming. Its so great that you were able to take the time to celebrate that change with her. Isn’t it nice to see your relationship evolving?

    • patricia Feb 2, 2010 @ 16:25

      It is nice to see our relationship evolving. Especially when society and the media paint teenagers as people who don’t want to be around their parents. Sure we have some challenging days, but my daughter genuinely seems to want to spend a fair amount of time with me. And I love every minute of it–even when she talks my ears off.

  • Lee-Anne Feb 2, 2010 @ 8:29

    Thank you so much for your blog. I’ve not been so inspired for a long time! Thank you!

    • patricia Feb 2, 2010 @ 16:29

      Thanks for taking the time to say so, Lee-Anne. Feedback is inspiration as well!

  • Lise Feb 2, 2010 @ 11:22

    Wow. My baby’s not yet one, and I’m already thinking I have to do this when she’s older. What a beautiful idea. Thank you for sharing!

    • patricia Feb 2, 2010 @ 16:32

      Oh, you do have to do it someday!

      Meanwhile, you have so many wonderful times ahead of you. I envy you, still having little-girlhood ahead of you.

  • sarah Feb 2, 2010 @ 11:49

    Wow. I’m so inspired.

  • Diane Feb 2, 2010 @ 15:50

    Shoot, all teary. What a fantastic thing to do and in such a beautiful place. I’m so glad you shared what you did! (Even if I was biting my lip and trying not to tear up on the keyboard…!)

    • patricia Feb 2, 2010 @ 16:42

      Aw, wipe those tears, and tuck the inspiration away for Little Miss someday. I’m sure you’d plan something wonderful and tear-inducing for her too.

  • Kristin Feb 2, 2010 @ 16:15

    Oh–it sounds lovely. The Dads in our homeschooling group with sons have had get-togethers for them, but nothing regular and “deep” like that. I look forward to starting a group for our daughter some day.

    I’m wondering…why didn’t you mention the inspiration behind the initial gatherings, the book from the homeschooling conference that got the thing started: Mother, Daughter, Sister Moon? or something like that. (I own it, but I can’t find it on my shelf.)

    Thanks for sharing.

    • patricia Feb 2, 2010 @ 16:48

      You know, I think it was the older group of girls and moms that used that book as inspiration. None of us even owned the book–until Bonnie gave me her copy last year.

      We were more inspired, as I recall, by that older group of girls, and another mother-daughter group that some of our members had participated in. Everything we’ve done as a group has really come from our own notions of what we wanted in a group, which is the best way to do it, I think!

      That’s why I posted this–hoping to inspire other groups as we were once inspired. You’ll have a great time doing something similar with C some day!

  • gonzomama Feb 2, 2010 @ 19:00

    i can only imagine what a powerful experience that must have been, for the mothers and daughters. such a great memory for those girls to carry with them and to know at that age how supported and loved they are.

    • patricia Feb 2, 2010 @ 21:28

      I think so too. One of the women wrote something to the girls after the retreat that echoes your thoughts. I thought it was especially lovely:

      “No matter what happens in your life in the future and no matter where you go, you can always remember the night when you had the courage to walk a wooded trail, alone, in the dark. And on the trail, you found women who loved and supported you, and helped to light your path. May it always be so…”

  • Angela Feb 2, 2010 @ 21:35

    Absolutely beautiful. And inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • patricia Feb 4, 2010 @ 8:20

      I’m glad people have appreciated having it shared! That’s what I was hoping for.

  • susan Feb 2, 2010 @ 21:38

    Thanks so much for sharing this. The minute I read it I knew I had to form such a group for my eleven year old. I’m already conspiring with other moms about it. Love that final photo.

    • patricia Feb 4, 2010 @ 8:23

      I’m thrilled that you’re considering starting up your own group, Susan!

      I’m happy to share what we’ve done with you–though I’m sure any group you form will find plenty of ideas of its own.

      I love that last photo too.

  • Carrie Pomeroy Feb 3, 2010 @ 9:26

    Another mama getting teary-eyed here. Just beautiful! I’m imagining what something like this would have meant to me when I was that age. What a difference it might have made!

    • patricia Feb 4, 2010 @ 8:26

      Some day it will be interesting to ask Lulu and her friends to reflect back on it, and see how it may have influenced them.

      If nothing else, they know that they’re worth our time and attention.

  • susan Feb 4, 2010 @ 14:54

    So simple and beautiful, inspiring. Hope we can put something like that together out here in the Pacific NW! Maybe for our boys, too!

    • patricia Feb 5, 2010 @ 8:03

      Our group’s older boys went to the same hostel with their dads a few years back. They didn’t have a “ceremony” (that I know of!), but it was still a weekend that I think they’ll all always remember.

      Just taking the time to be together is the main beauty of such retreats, I think.

  • Natalie Feb 5, 2010 @ 22:31

    So joyful and grateful everytime I am reading – should I admit it… devouring!-your prose ; Patricia, you write so beautifully! Your words make me dream of possibilities, your thoughts keep me musing about the authenticity of my days…
    I celebrate and truly admire those “wise” women who have a compassionate heart ;to guide a daugther, to love her deeply, it takes courage , it asks a sense of ” who you are”… Simply merci for giving us a peek of how a “mother-daughter” relation can be a great joie de vivre!
    Oh…and those photographs; make you wish you were there too!

    • patricia Feb 6, 2010 @ 16:07

      Such nice words about my writing, Natalie. Thank you.

      And thanks for taking the time to say hello!

  • melissa s. Feb 6, 2010 @ 19:36

    tears in my eyes… what an inspiring post

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