April in the Berkshires…..FDR, yoga, and writing.
Laura Davis is many things, including a best selling author and a teacher. I have been part of her online following for the last year and have enjoyed her weekly communication – The Writers Journey Roadmap. Laura conducts unique writing workshops in California and around the world. She also teaches each year at the renowned San Miguel Writers Conference in Mexico. I have wanted to attend one of her workshops, but time and distance kept me from taking the plunge. So when I read this in her newsletter, I knew I would make it a priority….
“If you live east of the Mississippi and haven’t wanted to fly all the way across the country to study with Laura, now you have your chance! This five-day-retreat at Kripalu, a beautiful yoga retreat center in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, will give you the opportunity to discover the stories that are living inside you. Experience the power of a vibrant, supportive writing community with a seasoned, compassionate teacher.”
The opportunity for writing practice with Laura, while also practicing yoga with some of the best teachers in Massachusetts, in a beautiful setting…well, who could say no to that!
Readers of this blog will know that I like to enhance my travel with side trips. After volunteering in Thailand, I visited Siem Reap, Cambodia. Before a workshop in Paris, I did a road trip along the beaches of Normandy. While researching the route from my home in Pennsylvania to Kripalu in Massachusetts, Hyde Park, NY jumped out for a few reasons: its charm and setting along the Hudson River, and it is also the location of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home and presidential library. The presidential library (the first in our nation) is chock full of memorabilia, including FDR’s desk from the Oval Office, complete with tchotchkes and family photos. The original copies of both FDR’s and Eleanor Roosevelt’s correspondence and speeches are displayed next to photos and history boards.
On the walk across the grounds to the house, Springwood, you come across a formal rose garden, where FDR and Eleanor are buried. Roosevelt’s home has been scrupulously maintained, down to the pens on desks and combs on bureaus. Several rooms on the first and second floor are open to the public, but only as part of guided tours. I had read in advance that the hour long tours fill up fast, so I went straight to the visitor center to claim my spot. As expected the next available slot was almost two hours away. So I used my free time to tour the grounds, library, and museum, which are well worth your time and money. The home tour is a walk through the intimate story of FDR. There are no elevators in the house, surprising given Roosevelt’s infirmity and wealth. How did he get upstairs to bed at night? He was lifted into the back hallway dumbwaiter where he hauled himself, hand over hand, up to the second floor. Remarkable.
I spent three hours in Hyde Park and I wish I had just one more hour to take it all in. The house tour fee is $10, unless you have a National Park pass (I do), then it’s free. Entry to the library and museum is not covered by the pass, but cost is only $10, discounted to $6 if you are 62 or over. If you are visiting anywhere in Hyde Park, be sure to grab a bite at the Eveready Diner, just down the street from the FDR site. Food is delicious, reasonably priced for Hyde Park, service is friendly, and the coffee is great.
From Hyde Park, the drive to the Kripalu Center is less than an hour an half (on a Sunday afternoon).
I arrived at Kripalu in time to settle into my room and walk around a bit before dinner. Kripalu is a center for health and yoga, located 5 minutes from Lenox, Massachusetts on 100 acres of rolling hills and woodlands, with views of the Berkshire Mountains and Lake Mahkeenac. Formerly a monastery, its rooms are basic, but comfortable. There are lots of places to wonder, sit, meditate, and explore nature. Kripalu offers several yoga classes every day for all levels of practice. I attended two a day, including yoga dance – an uplifting and joyful incorporation of yoga and free form dance.
Three meals a day are included and there is a café on site for purchasing snacks, coffee, ice cream, etc. Unlike many yoga centers, Kripalu offers the occasional meat entrée choice for dinner, and….coffee is available with breakfast….hallelujah! The quantity and quality of food was very good. Take note: the rooms in the main building are not air conditioned. So if you go during the height of summer, book your room in the annex.
The workshop – Crafting Personal Stories That are Vivid, Compelling, and True
Writing workshops are like Las Vegas….what happens there, stays there. So I won’t go into a lot of detail, other than to say Laura Davis and her co-facilitator, Nancy Gertz, provided us endless opportunities to deepen our craft. Their guidance and insight led to many breakthroughs and much productivity. If you have thought about writing, or want to use writing to work through something, one of Laura’s retreats could be a worthwhile and enlightening experience.
Five days after my arrival at Kripalu, I head home feeling zen and relaxed, stretched and full, with a binder full of writing…new beginnings to new stories.