ICON WRITING RETREAT
AT GHOST RANCH
We began our five day retreat for painting the Saint Francis Icon with a group meeting on Sunday night. Meeting in the Agape Center at Ghost Ranch we exchanged stories about our lives and why we had come to this beautiful, remote desert location. We also talked about writing the Icon of Saint Francis.
We started our Icon of Saint Francis- Patron Saint of Santa Fe. Beginning with tracing and transferring the drawing, each person began their prayer journey separately and as a group. Most of the eight people in the class had not had any art background at all.
In the afternoon the Roskrish- or chaos layer was applied to each area of the Icon. We broke for dinner but came back to the studio and worked into the evening.
Again, after an informal breakfast in the dining room, we got an early start with the Icon. Today is re-drawing the lines and beginning highlights. Because we had worked so many intensive hours on Monday, we took the afternoon off to enjoy some of the activities at the ranch.
Some people went hiking, others took a bus tour of Georgia O’Keefe’s
house and still others rode on horseback into the desert surrounding O”Keefe’s house. If you’ve never been in the desert around Santa Fe, you are missing a great experience. The spirituality of the place fills the emptiness of the desert. One experiences a deep peace and heightened awareness of nature.
We were all mindful of the fact that St. Francis is also the patron Saint of the environment and ecology. In Santa Fe at the Cathedral of Saint Francis there are many statues and remembrances of Saint Francis. The Dancing Saint Francis is located in the rear courtyard.
After dinner, we met again at the Agape Center and shared more about our life stories. It was good to get to know these amazing people, each one called by God to come to this place and pray and work together.
Wednesday we started early and worked all through the day and evening hours, stopping only for lunch and dinner. First highlights were finished and floats of thin transparent veils of color were systematically applied.
Each meal we sat together and enjoyed getting to know each other better. Gradually we realized that this was starting to be a peak experience for everyone. That feeling intensified on Day Five.
Thursday was our pre arranged field trip to the Holy Archangel Monastery in the Desert. Layne Kalbfleish, Director of Educational Programs at Ghost Ranch, drove the van about an hour into the desert. We traveled on dirt roads leading up and down mountains, traversing switch=backs and seeing no sign posts for long stretches of time.
We were warmly greeted by the Monks at Holy Archangel Michael, and led to their chapel. Father Silhouan explained the importance and significance of Icons in the life of an Orthodox Church. He patiently answered many questions and finally led us to their book shop where people could purchase books. The monks gave some of us Icon reproductions mounted on wood and also gave us a marvelous coffee and chocolate social time before our departure.
We left knowing that we had received a very special experience and that we wanted to return again!
Coming back to the ranch for lunch, we worked all afternoon and after dinner worked again. We wanted to make progress since Friday we would have another field trip to Christ in the Desert Monastery.
Friday morning we worked and prayed in a concentrated manner. All the details for the Icon had to be finished before lunch!
Student Comment: “Christine Hales imparts knowledge, confidence, enthusiasm, and profound wisdom into the process of Icon writing… What a wonder to be immersed in the Theology of Icon Writing with the foremost expert in Iconography.”
After lunch, we car pooled and rode out in SUV’s through the desert once again into the most remote location I have ever experienced. For miles there was no sign of civilization- just the most beautiful desert terrain. Thirteen miles down a dirt road, our two vehicles made frequent stops for photographs.
The Chapel with its Icons and soaring roof inspired us to sit and pray.. On the trip back home to the ranch, we had some amazing experiences with nature and adventure. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say that we had a fabulous time! And I can’t think of any other eight people I would rather have spiritual adventures with!!
Saint Francis Icon
After Dinner we varnished our Icons and quickly brought them back to the Agape Center for a special blessing that Chaplain Brenda had prepared for us.
Truly a memorable experience. We all shared our last breakfast together on Saturday morning and then went our separate ways. But we will always are these strong bonds of Agape love and blessing throughout Saint Francis Icons. I truly was very blessed to be the teacher of eight amazing individuals. Adieu, until next year!
Student Comment: “This workshop has changed my life by providing a transformation both within and without. Thank you, Christine and Michael!”
We will repeat our experience at Ghost Ranch April 7-13, 2019. You can call Ghost Ranch to Register- space is limited!!