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A Peek into WV Retreat

If you don’t love the sea, the sun, all the simple pleasures, what sort of life are you going to have?—Marty Rubin

Last weekend nine beautiful souls descended on Tim’s cabin. As you can see, Belle was enthralled.

I had succulents and goody bags waiting by their beds and decorated the cabins with twinkle lights and bunting. Tim made vegan and veg cuisine topped with ample kale chips, green juice breaks, and dessert. We practiced yoga on the porch, set intentions, watched Funny Face while creating in art journals, roasted vegan s’mores by a campfire, and created action plans.

After spending a few days immersed in nature, yoga, art, and kind spirits, it can be jarring to think of returning to the real world. To help with the transition, I came up with five post-retreat tranquility tips.

1. Slow. Let your return be gradual. Create space for yourself to ease back into routine. Keep the slower pace of the retreat with you. Remember to breathe and observe what is happening within you.

2. Nook. Create a space to hold memories of what fed you on this retreat—a photo, quote, page from your art journal, yoga pose. Have your art supplies and yoga mat in this nook so that you can create and practice during those sweet moments in between.

3. Hold. Keep the retreat experience close to your heart. Honor how you showed up. Remember the smell, taste, sound, touch, and views of where you were.

4. Space. Carve out a sense of spaciousness in your schedule. Avoid overbooking and work with your energy flow. Midday naps or walks around a city block can have a profound effect on the mind, body, and spirit.

5. Explore. Consider how you are different from your time away. What do you understand better about yourself? What were your takeaways and how will it expand at home?

Since you, too, may be headed off on an adventure this weekend, I thought these may be helpful for  a smooth return. Safe travels this weekend. May it be restorative and intentional with hints of decadence. Bisous.

Playing with Peonies

Earth laughs in flowers.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

My plane landed in DC shortly before midnight on Saturday. With ears buzzing from a three-hour drive followed by five hours on planes, I was eager to unpack, start laundry, and reunite with my pups and Tim. I knew Sunday was a big day—off to Pharsalia to cut my own peony bouquet!

We needed to bring our own shears, bucket, and vase, so Tim got me pink ones while I was away. When we pulled into the drive of Pharsalia, it was like inhabiting a new planet: rolling hills, flowers, white picket fence, swings, greenery.

Tim dropped me off and I met up with a friend who had also traveled down from DC for the event. Over the next few hours we were giddy about the experience. Foxie (yes, that’s the owner’s real name) showed us her walk-in cooler filled with peonies while we all oohed and ahhed. Then she walked us around the property showing various flowers and greenery from bushes to add to our bouquets.

Next came the rows and rows of peony plants. I’d never seen so many peonies! The baby pinks were still in buds, but the bright pinks were ready for cutting (and matched my bucket). After taking way too long to choose my 15, we cut more greenery and flowers from bushes to add as filler as we made our way around the property.

We raced back to the wooden farm tables to assemble our loot. My vase was a small cylinder and I kept adding more and more peonies along with a smattering of greens, white and yellow flowers. You’ll see the final product in the bottom photo and I’m holding it on the bench above.

Yes, it was worth a seven-hour drive!

Our home smells like perfume. This morning when Belle woke me up to feed her at 5am, I opened the bedroom doors and a floral bouquet wafted throughout the living area. It was dreamy (and not just because it was 5am)!

Peonies are by far my favorite flower. They are so delicate, layered, and soft—just like us. Peonies represent a fragile beauty that we, too, possess deep within. Bisous. x

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

from New And Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

Scenes from Taos

I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.—Andre Dubus III

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is abuzz with fellow retreaters packing up before our final morning workshop. In a few hours we’ll go our separate ways, tote our writing dreams back home, and I’ll be back in my own bed late tonight.

I’ve been in Taos for the past few days with a group of women writers working on various projects. It’s my second time to this retreat with Jennifer Louden. My first was a decade ago when I taught the yoga portion and was working on the book proposal for Tranquilista. When I saw this retreat pop up late last year, I felt called to carve out this time for my writing.

Although I’ll be processing the experience and takeaways for the next few days, I wanted to share a few highlights:

  • a morning walk to see the black cross Georgia O’Keeffe painted
  • having tea with a woman I met during my last retreat here
  • soaking in a clawfoot tub surrounded by windows painted by D.H. Lawrence
  • walking the labyrinth
  • discovering a cute tea house: teaography {watch for a forthcoming giveaway}
  • walking in to Taos Plaza three times
  • spending time with paint, collage, and words through art journaling
  • sitting with my {sometimes elusive} muse
  • spending time with interesting women writers
  • sitting by a fire in my neighbor’s room chatting about our memoir projects

Mid-week I began to experience something that hasn’t happened since grade school summer camp—I was homesick. I missed my pups and Tim. He’d send photos of Belle with her tongue out {her lack of teeth causes it to slip out sometimes} and Mookie with his usual FOMO {fear of missing out} look and I’d want to fly home. Those little beings mean so much to me and I can’t wait to snuggle with them in 13 hours {but who’s counting?!}.

During open writing time I was often torn between handling TranquiliT orders and Tranquil Space needs, so I wasn’t always able to  fully drop in. I blame wifi and my inability to resist its lure. Yet when I did, the writing would flow and so would the many questions.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.—Rilke

What would it look like to create space and spend time with your muse? What is the longing deep within? What wants attention?

Ah, the questions. Wishing you a beautiful weekend filled with questions, creative sparks, and occasional answers. Bisous. x