From your co-chairs

Portrait of Jeff & Jone Riester
This Winter Edition of the newsletter marks the point of the year when Boynton Society members can take advantage of one of their most popular membership benefits:  Registering for Summer/Fall Seminars in advance of all others.  More details about that opportunity can be found elsewhere in this newsletter, in a piece authored by our Seminar Superstar Bailey Koepsel.

Although I am a relative amateur at Seminars compared to many of you ... only one Seminar in recent years, and even then as a commuter...I do deeply appreciate the "vacations with a focus"  in which so many of you participate as faithful annual attendees.  I know that some of you attend more than one program a year, and many are loyal participants in all programs offered by their favorite leader.  Of course you will be welcomed back with open arms!  For others who, like me, promised myself for many years that I would "start attending seminars when the time is right" perhaps 2018 is the year you honor that promise.  There will be lots of wonderful offerings from which to choose.  So ... take advantage of the early sign-up feature and get your Summer/Fall off to a head start.

As we are now in December, I would be remiss if I didn't include a reminder to consider making calendar year-end gifts to support the Boynton Society.  We all have our own rhythms to our giving to Lawrence, and the University's fiscal year runs until June 30.  But if your deductible gift should be reported on your 2017 tax return, now is the time.  And the earlier in the fiscal year you make your gift, the better it is for Lawrence's cash flow.

Most importantly...thanks for your generous support of Bjorklunden.   You provide the funding that makes our "Birch Forest by the Water" the magical place so many enjoy.
Blessings to you and yours at this Holiday Season.

Jeff Riester
Boynton Society Co-Chair

Searching for the Vortex in Sedona

Keith Smedema

In early November, 10 participants headed out to spectacular Sedona, AZ for a Bjorklunden sponsored trip. The trip was led by Charlie and Karen Schudsen, veteran Bjorklunden seminar instructors who now reside in Sedona.

The main focus of this trip was hiking the beautiful red rock areas surrounding Sedona. Charlie is an avid hiker and member of the search and rescue team in Sedona, so we received instruction in the proper way to hike as well as procedures and equipment to have in an emergency. I now know to take along a piece of aluminum foil to help start a fire in case the ground is wet.

However, being a Bjorklunden sponsored seminar, we went much deeper into the culture and history of Sedona. We were assigned two books to read before the trip discussing early exploration in the area. Upon our arrival, Charlie introduced us to Sedona with a discussion of “Sedona Time”, a concept where clock time is not as important as the experience.

And the experience was magnificent. While hiking through the beautiful landscape, we saw the plants and animals native to the area, and we saw the importance of water to this arid environment.  A couple of times we even went off trail to see places not available to the casual visitor.

These hikes went to places of importance in Sedona history. We saw examples of Anasazi culture such as pictographs, petroglyphs, and habitation. We saw examples of more recent history such as ranching. We also investigated different types of spiritual practices such as Christian churches, a Buddhist stupa, and a local (rumored) phenomenon known as a vortex. At night, we would discuss the differences of time and culture between the archaic Indians and ourselves, and we tried to decide if we could find a common ground between the two.
   We also found time for day trips. The first one was to the Grand Canyon, which requires no explanation. The second was to Clarkdale and Jerome, two old copper mining towns which have reinvented themselves as centers of history and art.

I have to add a few more words on the vortex. It is supposed to be an electromagnetic force that allows people to touch into the powers of the universe. In recent years, Sedona has developed a reputation as a new age refuge where counterculture people come for spiritual experience. While I remain skeptical of this phenomenon, I think our group achieved an understanding and appreciation of the local culture very unusual for a short trip. Although we may not have found a vortex, I think we created our own.

Thanks to Mark Breseman and Bjorklunden for sponsoring this trip, and especially to Charlie and Karen for being our gracious and enthusiastic hosts.

In Honor of Bjorklunden

October 17, 2017

I have attended one of the week-long seminars every year since 2003.  A few of those years I have attended in both the fall and spring, counting at least 15 times I have gone to Bjorklunden to learn, refresh, and renew my spirit.

The ambience of the campus, the beauty of the lodge, the sumptuous flavors of the food, the brilliance of the teachers—all combine to reset my life year after year.  It is a special place with special folks, genuine in their concern that everyone derive the maximum benefits that the experience has to offer.  Special mention goes to the recent addition to the staff, Bailey Koepsel, who is highly competent, accommodating, detail-oriented, and friendly.  Her calm personality exudes that Midwestern charm that we like to emulate if it doesn’t come to us naturally!

And “Bjorklunden” is an experience, not just a place to stay for a few days.  I have traveled to 100 countries; yet I always push my routine agenda and my travel plans aside to attend a Bjorklunden seminar.  Whatever else is going on in my life at the moment can wait when it is time for my annual week in Bjorklunden.

If you have contemplated attending a seminar at this magical place, simply sign up!  Pay the nominal amount (for what you get, it really is a bargain!) and go!  It might just change your life.  It has definitely changed mine.

Susan Nelson

Assistant Director’s Column

by Bailey Koepsel

Tracking down 44 people, figuring out their availability, and getting them to fit into a certain week is an adventure. Mark and I started in August, getting longtime instructors in place first. Then in September we filled in the schedule with new faces, and by the time November rolled around, we were good to go. I had descriptions, biographies, and required readings from all the instructors, the seminar booklet template was saved and ready to be submitted—everything was lining up perfectly.

Needless to say, when Brady and I left for New York on November 8th, I felt pretty good about the 2018 schedule. After all, it was done! There weren't any last minute changes to instructor availability; I thought it had gone really well considering there are so many moving parts. When I returned to work the next week, submitting the seminar booklet was first on my list, along with picking out a handful of pictures to be featured. It was nice to not be rushed, but it didn’t occur to me that, since the booklet final copy wasn’t due until December 8th, there were technically three weeks for something to change.

Two weeks before the final deadline, we decided to add an additional set of seminars in the middle of August.  This is the type of scrambling I tried so hard to avoid!  But, as always, everything turned out just fine.  Mark and I pulled together four instructors we know will make this extra week absolutely wonderful.  It gives us a chance to really round out the summer offerings, and make sure we stay true to Lawrence’s liberal arts mission.  Whether you want to learn more about mixology, get better at photographing wildlife, learn about the issues facing the Great Lakes, or explore apocalyptic writing, this schedule has something for everyone.  We are keeping up with the times and have a star-studded lineup of politically-based seminars, but if that doesn’t float your boat, we also have quite the selection of literary and historical seminars, as well as some great film and TV classes.

I’m going to keep this piece on the shorter side, since I know everyone is excited for the seminar schedule!  A link to the seminar schedule can be found in your Boynton Society Winter Newsletter email! Pre-registration is open from December 14th – January 17th.  Any emails or voicemails received between December 21st and January 1st will be answered in the order they were received when I return to the office on January 2nd.  Please remember, pre-registration is a perk exclusively for members!  We encourage you to spread the word about Bjorklunden and our great seminar program, but family and friends who are not Boynton Society members will not be able to register until January 22nd, when the 2018 schedule is posted on Bjorklunden’s website.

Enjoy exploring the schedule!  I hope to have the chance to talk to most of you over the next few weeks, but if I don’t, have a very merry holiday season!

Björklunden is going to Cuba!

Don’t forget—Bjorklunden is going to Cuba!  There is still time to register before January 1st! More information can be found here.


Björklunden will be exploring Alaska, August 19 – 31.  During this thirteen-day adventure, you’ll discover the natural beauty of the last frontier by land and sea.  Utilizing one of the most scenic stretches of the world-famous Alaska Railroad, you’ll travel from Fairbanks to Denali National Park, where you can partake in plane tours, hikes, and so much more.  From there you will take the Alaska Railroad through Broad Pass, across Hurricane Gulch, and over four stunning rivers to Anchorage before boarding your flight to Juneau.  You’ll have the chance to explore Juneau before embarking on the Admiralty Dream, a ship designed to give guests the best views possible of the surrounding landscape.  Once aboard, the ship will take you to some of Alaska’s most beautiful sights; Glacier Bay National Park, Frederick Sound, Tracy Arm Fjord, and everything in between.

A detailed itinerary, registration information, and pricing can be found by clicking here.