Total Recall reminiscences

Heartbeats and Drum Beats Call Us Together

Musings on Total Recall Women’s Retreat as it celebrates its 10th Anniversary

By Heather Greene


Being my first Total Recall, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. I knew that women would descend upon Pelee Island from around the province and some from much farther. I knew that everyone who attended in previous years had rave reviews of the weekend, although no one could quite put their finger on what exactly made the experience so special. And despite having helped plan two years of Total Recall, I still wasn’t sure what made the retreat what it is. Was it the fact that, being cut off from the rest of the world quite literally, we could relax and let our inner children emerge? Was it the silent, star-filled nights and the sun-drenched days lived to the rhythm of beach waves? Or was it the other women, who were all here for the same reason and shared the unspoken agreement that cattiness, competition, and judgement would be left at the mainland dock in favour of acceptance, support, and joy?

Now that the tenth Total Recall has come and gone, I’m able to reflect on the experience and compare my expectations with reality. I feel that a milestone has been passed: I’m no longer a Total Recall novice, and have a much better understanding of why this event holds such meaning for its dedicated participants.

Going into the weekend, the events that I looked forward to the most were what I considered the most “adventurous” ones: the scuba experience, the equestrian encounter; the active workshops that would require physical activity and expand my list of skills. And enjoy them I did! But I have been surprised to realize that some of my favourite memories were of calmer, more profound moments shared with the entire group. The collective sorrow, strength, and admiration in the room during the gala dinner as Denise Logan shared her powerful and moving testimony. The quiet afternoon lull in the grassy open spaces of the campground as women who weren’t in workshops wandered back from the beach or from B&B naps. The energy pulsing through the site as drummers called us to closing ceremonies and handed around instruments so all who wished could join in the communal rhythm.

These moments were in addition to the regular serendipitous occurrences that Pelee engenders: rides materialize to where you need to go, an extra bedroom is found in a beachfront cottage when your reservation falls through, connections are discovered between former strangers… and the list goes on.

Looking back on a weekend that permanently changed what the word “retreat” means for me, I think that it was a combination – a combination of the magic that is Pelee Island, and the strong intentions, openness, and enthusiasm of dozens and dozens of women – that made the weekend what it was. Friendship-building. Courage-inspiring. Life-changing, even. Each of you will have a different story, a different experience and set of memories that will hopefully draw you back the island next June. I hope that some of your memories overlap with my own. But if not, I look forward to making some with you in the years to come.




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