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“Participant Stories: A Retreat with a (Oliver) Twist”

By Xander Ward & Out Doors’ Participants

How often do we really get a chance to slow down? How often do we get a chance to immerse ourselves in a beautiful location and reflect on those experiences in real-time?

For most people, the answer is not very often. There are skills involved in dropping down a gear, being mindful of your surroundings, and using those surroundings to inform creative practices.

When a group of six participants arrived in Central Victoria at the end of June, it was cold. Very cold. In fact, one of the locals told the group that Daylesford had seen a small amount of snow not two hours before their arrival.

It is certainly easier to be mindful of one’s surroundings when the environment demands attention like that. But something else that can be exceptionally helpful is the license to explore one’s creativity. Whether it be in drawing, painting, dancing, music, or, in the case of these explorers, creative writing.

Each frigid morning began by the fire – journals at the ready. Participants were guided through a series of creative writing activities before heading out for days full of forest walks and adventures.

From haiku, world-building, journalling, and writing sprints, these activities got the creative juices flowing. This is evidenced by the beautiful reflections curated by the group.

One of the activities was to write a Haiku poem as a group. For those who haven’t heard of Haiku before, it is a style of poem originating in Japan, that follows a rigid syllable structure. The first line must have five syllables, the second has seven and the last line has five. And that’s it. That’s the whole poem. It is a style of poem that forces the writer to be very selective about which words they use.

So as a group, everybody chose two words in relation to a topic. The first topic was: the cat that was curled up by the fire. Another topic: the horses and ponies that had been greeting the group each morning. Once everyone had chosen some words, they were then jumbled up and placed on the floor. The group then shifted them around until some beautiful Haiku poems emerged.

Group Haiku #1

Title: Dwayne the Cat

Toasty contentment

Friendly velvet batman-ears

Cosy furry heat

Group Haiku #2

Title: That Horse is cold

A chilly cold twitch

Breathe in the warm and equine!

Shiny frosty flick

Haiku by Leanne T

A response to the many mines of Maldon

My landscape is lost

Baked brittle was my soul

Now bricks blossom bolts

Haiku by LK

A response to the wood-fired, scotch oven of Trentham’s Red Beard Bakery

Stone fallen, time past

Rustic red beard, upcycle

History baking

Now, it wasn’t all poetry. Together, the group created fantasy maps, described small objects in excruciating detail, and wrote responses to interesting prompts, such as:

  • You wake up and the whole world is made of cake. Describe your day.
  • Every door in the whole world locks at the same time. Describe the aftermath.
  • You’ve been a horse for two days now. Write a letter to your friend explaining what your new life is like.

If you are reading this article and feel intrigued, why not have a go at responding to one of these prompts yourself!? In all, this was a truly spectacular retreat, punctuated by the delightful works created and shared by participants. To be continued…


  1. REPLY
    Mohamad Fatrouni says

    Captivating visuals of the natural environment

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