Spiritual Retreat at Camp Desoto

August 22, 2017

The idea came about when some Camp Desoto “girls” attended my oil painting workshop in Provence a few years ago. You see, once a girl spends a month on Lookout Mountain at Camp Desoto, she becomes a Desoto girl. No matter where life takes her, with the familiar melody of a song, the smell of pine woods, or stumbling across an old photo she is instantly transformed back into that girl at summer camp. Throughout the week of the workshop we reminisced about our Desoto summers and the profound impact of camp on our lives.

Photo of the iconic Gymnasium at Camp Desoto
Photo of the iconic Gymnasium at Camp Desoto

When I spent my first summer at Desoto, I was nine years old and newly motherless. I ventured with my sister to Lookout Mountain, where we were embraced whole heartedly by counselors and campers. Living in nature for a month, surrounded by the harmony of voices, finding adventure and belonging, it was a balm for my soul. I found a place full of warmth, light and love. It was there in the camp Crafts Shop that the seed was planted for me to become an artist.

My passion for art led me to follow in the footsteps of Cezanne, and brought me to his Mount Saint Victoire, in Aix en Provence. It was here in France, surrounded by those camp friends that we began to dream, “wouldn’t it be wonderful to return to Desoto?” Now a few years later, that dream is becoming a reality. This fall I am going back to camp and I hope you will join me.

Jill Steenhuis Painting Camp Desoto Gym, Oil on Canvas
Jill Steenhuis painting the Camp Desoto Gymnasium in Oil

How wonderful it will be to return to my roots as a Desoto Girl! To silence the noise of life and allow the guiding voice of nature to fan the flame of creativity that burns within. The monk, Thomas Merton, wrote:

“There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.”

Won’t you come with me to the mountain? We will paint, we will sing, we will pray and paint some more. The Desoto gates are open, awaiting your return!

The workshop will be held October 13 – 15, 2017 at Camp Desoto. Discount if registering by September 1st. To download the registration form, click here.

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