2017 Xenite Retreat
Lake Hughes, CA, USA



2017 Xenite Retreat Review
by MaryD

Quiet has descended on Lake Hughes. I alternate between sitting in my cabin and sitting outside trying to escape the flying mothy thingys (doing the Australian Salute every which way) while I'm trying to write this report. Outside the sound of birds puncture the silence, the sun is shining and there is quiet...so much quiet. The Argo Express has long disappeared down the dirt road and away from the camping grounds, Xenite's cars slowly drive away, I wave as another Xenite drives home, hug another with promises of next year.

Then quiet again. I hate the end of Xenite events...whether it's the conventions or the Xenite Retreat...long lingering farewells, the sound the Valkeries war cry echo in the distance. Did the last three days happen?

Indeed they did and all that's left are memories. Memories of three days that saw excitement on seeing old friends and making new friends, exhilaration at going beyond what each person thought he/she could do and a feeling of acceptance. Once we rode through the gates of Lake Hughes camping ground...it was ACCEPTANCE. There isn't any doubt about that. That was a interesting discussion I had with several friends at the Last Dance party...maybe it had something to do with having a rainbow of multicoloured light sabers in both hands and waving them about that I was urged to come out - I've been an honourary lesbian for 20 years so the idea if you hang around gay people, you become gay is just not true. I guess based on that idea that if you hang around tall people, you would grow taller!
Anyhoo getting back to ACCEPTANCE. Everyone is accepted at a Xenite gathering. People who have to be on guard at home or in their workplace can relax. I'm not going to say I know how they feel, because I don't. I have never faced that kind of animosity and hatred. So when everyone comes to a Xenite gathering, they know they are accepted. They are with family. It warms your heart to know that once they enter through those gates, they can just BE.

Xenite gatherings exhaust me because I have to tell introvert Mary to go play. Introverts don't like to go play because that's not our natural state of being. We like our solitude and can function quite well on our own but for three days Introvert Mary plays (and not touching my laptop - that is extraordinary on it's own). A little bit of exhaustion is worth it for all the fun I had over three days.

Speaking of light sabers...I believe there is a video or two of my light saber fight with Marilyn Edwards and one with me and Linda Crist. MEGA fun. Way way too much fun

Some of the awesome highlights...no order, just things that pop into my head as I write.

  • The memorial for Ann Pilichowski was so moving. I've never been to a Pagan ceremony before and it was just so heartfelt. We held that in the pool area of the Burbank Marriott. We then had that giant X appear in the clouds high above us during the first day at the Retreat. A sign from Ann she was looking down on us. We miss you Ann!

  • Seeing the outpouring of love for our beloved friends - Tiger and Marilyn. I met these two extraordinary women in 2001 and I have loved them ever since then. Marilyn she had just lost her mum and we all felt her pain. Those two ladies are just EXTRAORDINARY. I love them dearly. There was a collective 'oh there's Marilyn and Tiger' as they entered the dining room. We didn't know if they would come but they showed up. The number of hugs and kisses they got was fantastic. When you are at your lowest ebb, you want the love of your friends and they both got it in spades.

  • Watching Tiger as Caesar at the cosplay contest was one of the highlights of this trip - it was a highlight full stop (or as you Americans like to say...PERIOD). For those that don't know Tiger - she's an Amazon Elder - 78 years young. Feisty and so full of life. I love being around her and I love her hugs. Marilyn is one of the sweetest humans on the planet. You can easily identify Marilyn...she's got a camera to her eye or that sweet smile. Marilyn also got dressed up and came from a character of Once Upon a Time. Just extraordinary.

  • Watching people who doubted their own abilities come alive when they broke wooden boards in Sharon Glasswell's You The Conqueror class. I was so proud of them as they attempted to break through their own doubts. The cheers from everyone as they sent one by one to break their board was deafening. I doubt they heard the cheers as they approached or were able to breath because I found myself holding my breath as they went to break the board. I would lean against the window sill (I was sitting inside while the action was outside) and held my breath with multi-colored light saber in hand willing them on.

    Watch this video - many thanks to Sharon Glasswell for posting this!

  • Adrienne Wilkinson. I adore Adrienne and she is such an awesome lady. Watching the fans support her charity and giving her so much love. LOVE LOVE LOVE! She did a commentary for Season 6 Episode 3: Heart of Darkness which was HYSTERICAL. I have to say the part where Eve gets conked on the head with the fish is still quite satisfying 17 years later! LOL! It's even funnier when Adrienne is doing a commentary about it. I love Adrienne to bits.

  • My workshops. My editor and dearest friend Rosa (who was also one of the Team Awesome members) taunting me that I couldn't stick to my outline for my fan fiction workshop. Now dear readers I did have an outline - all neat and in point form of what I was to discuss. I rattled it off to Rosa and she gave me that little smile she has when she knows what I'm about to do even if I don't know I'm going to do it. I don't stick to outlines when I write - I find them constricting. Well this wasn't fiction, right? Yep you guessed it (and so did Rosa). I didn't stick to my outline. The piece of paper with the outline stayed in my pocket. So much for that idea. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and having Linda Crist (who is an EXTRAORDINARY writer) join in the conversation was awesome. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • Steven L. Sears. That's all I have to write. He was Steven - the adorable lovable Steven. He is such a joy to be around.

  • Brittney Powell is a sweetheart. I love her to bits and was thrilled when she did the Valkyrie war cry with her Valkyries. She is such a sweet lady and her playing with us was priceless.

  • The Xena Puppet Show BLEW ME AWAY. The puppets were glorious (I was wondering how I could "borrow" Ares but I doubt he would be going anywhere anytime soon), the singing was AMAZING - Penny and Arielle Strauss sang as Xena & Gabrielle and let me tell you folks, the beautiful sound out of those two was surprising (I wasn't expecting it). We have some amazingly talented people in this fandom. Just absofrigginlutley amazing. Unfortunately we couldn't video tape because of copyright but take my word for it, it was stupendous! The songs have stayed in my head...wish they would leave but alas they won't so every time I hear someone say ‘dead' - up pops the lyrics...dead dead dead..."

  • Cat Crimins and Michelle Munier! Those two made me forget I was getting hypothermia. I tried Sharon Glasswell's suggestion of mind over matter: relax and you will feel warm. Nup that didn't work, I was still bloody freezing. I tried to forget how cold I was by the Cat & Michelle laughathon going on. There was another comedienne also performing but I'm afraid to say I can't remember her name. Sorry. Michelle made me laugh so much I almost fell off my seat. The cool night air in the open air theatre was forgotten (who needs feeling in their fingers and toes anyway) and we laughed and laughed.

  • I met so many con virgins! My goodness. It was so wonderful to see all those hands shoot up to identify the virgins. They are virgins no more!

  • The staff of Lake Hughes are just overjoyed with us being there. They got involved in the activities, they started a bidding war for the giant Xena banner and were just beautiful people.

  • Lake Hughes resident dog Yodi was amazing - that dog got so much attention. He placed himself in the doorway so whoever passed would stop and pat him. During the Bra-naville, he lay on the grass and just soaked up the attention.

  • MaryD's Nookie Corner (yes that is as naughty as it sounds). Last year at 2 am I was woken by two lovely entertaining ladies who were making themselves very happy outside my cabin. I don't know who they were but they did end up in my 6th novel (well I plagiarized them - writers will use EVERYTHING so be careful what you do in the vicinity of a writer). Well this year two gorgeous ladies found the time to show me their kissing technique to baptize the Nookie Corner. They were polite enough to let me know they were there and they were doing it! I just cracked up. Ladies, I don't know your names so please let me know!

    Now speaking of the Nookie Corner...1 am on Sunday night, three Amazon Elders who should be in bed due to their age thought it was Christmas and decided to serenade and giggle their way to my window. I believe a lot of ale was consumed at the Last Dance party. I fell out of bed laughing, opened the door and there they were laughing up a storm. Cray Cray at 1 am! Since I wasn't wearing my glasses and I'm as blind as a bat without them...I could be wrong but the ringleader was a certain Jackie Larson and her sidekick Leila...BUT I could be wrong...then again those giggles I know well!

  • Lupe - laughed myself silly at the pool. Santiago - a gorgeous young man who I loved meeting for the first time! Arkie - He makes me smile every time I see him and has way too much energy. One of the funniest moments is me trying to hit him with the water infused sponge - my aim is HOPELESS. Need to work on that for next year. Jimmy...Jimmy made smile. I just wanted to hug him.. a lot <g> Leo - Sweet and gorgeous. Leo is one of Team Awesome and he was there every time I turned around to ask something or just hang out. Leo in a bra is one of the funniest photos I've taken. Hanging out with fellow Amazon Elder Kym Taborn (and hiking aficionado ...there are bears in those woods Kym!) Hanging out with my fellow scribe Linda Crist. AWESOME lady and has been a friend for many years.

So many memories and so much fun. Last but not least I need to mention Penny Cavanaugh and her Team Awesome. They worked TIRELESSLY. It was spectacular event and it will get better and better. This proves that if you have a dream and you work hard, you can make ANYTHING happen.

Do yourselves a favour and go next year. You will not be disappointed. For the price of $675 you get a bed, chef created food, excitement, games, hiking etc - trust me, you will come away from it vowing to go back next year.

The time had come for me to leave Lake Hughes. I looked around for one more moment and smiled. Those flying thingys were still dancing their way through the cabins as the car drove away leaving only happy memories and promises of what will be next year.

The Xenite Retreat - run by fans for fans. The best kind of retreat.

Battle On!



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