the serendipity of new landscapes…

its tough being both a gypsy and the earthy, grounded sort. so often i crave new horizons, both literally and metaphorically…but once i’m there, i want to hang out for a good long while. to recalibrate, to acclimate… as constantly moving doesn’t suit my nervous system.

walking last week in this new landscape in utah, i found myself daydreaming as i gazed into parched riverbeds and wondering about the unusual scrub and plant life here… i imagined myself miniaturized and walking among the bushes as though they were trees. a shift in perspective to remind me of how small i am. in this transitional time when i am also needing to be stepping into a larger way of moving through the world, it seems to be good balance. i will always be small in comparison to the trees, the mountains, the sea, the earth, the spirits…and i can’t even begin to know or hold their wisdom. more so, i’m happy to be small in their presence. to be in awe is a feeling i want to experience as often as i can.

as i was leaving the wildlife area i was walking…a large bird of prey perched on a post nearby. i drove and she followed for half a mile at least along the road – easily flying along at more than 25 mph – and then she found another perch. so we both stopped and looked at one another. she was mostly brown, muted like the rocks in which she lives, but backlit so it was hard to tell. a hawk of some kind perhaps? i am always just so amazed to be in the presence of any creature that i don’t methodically check for things like feathers on the feet. but i’m trusting this visit was intentional. it sure seemed that way. in any case, her appearance was a reminder to me of committing to new visions…


this dichotomy was not lost on me either: on that day, that amazing gorgeous day when my Jen and I brought Serendipity to life – our seaside gathering on the beach in the Outer Banks this October – I found myself visited by a visionary bird and walking in a coral canyon along an ancient seabed. Sky and sea together no matter where I go (please note the feathers on the turquoise blue of our homepage…).

serendipity see your course

Serendipity is an experience that is always a little hard to express. You know how valuable I feel retreating with kindered spirts is to a woman’s heart…and this gathering has happened every October since 2010. It is always a mix of new and old friends and faces. Each time it seems they find their inner light again…spiraling up and into new ways of being within themselves and the world. We bathe in the moonlight, warm ourselves with firelight, laugh (a lot), photograph the beauty around us (in the natural and human forms), sit in comfy chairs – coffee mugs in hand – gazing far out across the open sea to the horizon, participate in some beautiful classes with incredible women as guides, hang out, dine on amazing food, reconnect to our soul’s voice and in short, have a lot of fun! This year we are mixing it up a bit…I think you’ll like it.



Last August, I had one of those ethereal, yet deeply grounding experiences that can be so difficult to capture with pen and ink.

Retreat is something I take seriously, as absolute to me as breathing and eating and shelter and bathing…a necessity. A non-negotiable in my relationship to myself. Something that works its way into the budget no matter what because it is that important for me to be able to walk around and do what I am here to do…

I never sat down to share my time at the Matrilumina retreat I was invited to last year…A trial run of what has become this. I’m sharing now because they are closing registration in two days…and it’s important to me that I support my friends, but also…because you might be needing this desperately and I want to support you in the decision to say yes.

Since I’m an earth sign, it feels natural for me to tell you about the place first. Let’s get you grounded… They have chosen to share Esalen Institute with you. A conscious community dedicated to Soul work perched on the cliffs over-looking the Pacific ocean in Big Sur (home to Henry Miller among other artists). Rustic cabins nestled into the hillside, a view to eternity, trees, rocks, rivers, paths, flowers, gardens…organic food grown on the land. A hot spring bath house overlooking the ocean, the spring smells like sulfur, and you come to love that scent on your skin. You walk on to the land and you feel it in your body…the goodness. And it is filled with creatures, fox joined us nearly every day, and as it is just south of Monterey bay, the whales migrate past here in March. Talk about totems for going deep…


What went on in this landscape is harder to put into words. We gathered…

…and our guides each shared practices and prompts to help us connect with one another, get clear on our souls path, feel comfortable with our strengths and vulnerabilities, gave us permission to stop, to rest, to unburden… and we nurtured one another. In the letting go process, some of what we had been carrying in our bodies was released and that energetic detoxing process had a few of us feeling less than tip top…but on hand were healers of all modalities and we were able to witness the way women care for each other so naturally. Because it is what we do.

And the women…there were 21 of us, and we sat in an intimate cocoon of a room on the floor, with pillows and an altar and our pens and notebooks and journeywork and body inventories and mind maps and crafted expanding visions for ourselves. We learned how to shift perception, or grew to commit more deeply to the pathwork we were already engaged in. We could open up the niggling little trouble spots of the psyche and hold them out to say…”do I really need this piece?” or “I need help with this piece.” There was a bonfire…an impromptu dance party…and we read stories and sang songs to each other.  Pixie, Christine, Maya, Melody and all of us present were indelible co-creators of the experience…guides yes, and participants too.

That, I think is part of what helped the circle to be so warm and tight and good…we were in a circle that shifted…each had a voice, something to offer, to share. There was no hierarchy, the energy went around and around and around.


esalen tree


still no answers…

julia fullerton-batten

This I know today:

For the first time in my life I was moved nearly to tears in front of a piece of art last week. Barnett Newman is an artist I had never heard of, and shocked myself with my emotional response. If you saw the piece, it would shock you too, I think. An abstract expressionist piece with fields of black and white. Actually it was the transition and energetic relationship between two paintings in a series that moved me. Somehow something opened in me and I felt all (some?) of what he was trying to convey – the restraint, suffering and liberation of spirit.

Perhaps having started on a creative journey of painting in recent years I can more fully appreciate art and all that goes in to making something that has life and energy.

I was also a grateful guest at the NatGeo photo seminar last week. I spoke with street artist JR and photographer Sebastiao Salgado and saw work from his incredible Genesis project. Typically Salgado focused on people, but in this work there was more landscape and wildlife images…and he said that to him, the work is the same. People, nature…you get permission to work with them in the same way.

Also listened to Aaron Huey (his TED talk here about the Pine Ridge Reservation) and Julia Fullerton-Baten (look at all the galleries under fine art on her site) speak passionately about their projects – they too were emotionally moved by the work and what it means to them. There was also a talk given by one of the scientist from the Jet Propulsion Lab who develops the cameras for space travel. One of the coolest things he shared with us of the Mars Rover Curiosity taking a selfie.

…and there it is. The mars rover taking a selfie and being moved to tears by abstract art and passion is what I really want to talk about. In that rover gesture, orchestrated by scientists on earth, we bring spirit to the inanimate and life to a lifeless planet. This invisible, powerful energy touches our hearts. Just as brushstrokes on canvas in two colors can make me cry. Or seeking to convey someone’s story in an image. Or getting permission from a landscape to photograph it. How does this work? Truly how? What is that invisible means of energy, what needs to align so that you are connected to that energetic flow? How can we cultivate more of this?

This is what I want to know…this is what I want to learn. This is what occupies my thoughts here, now.

It strikes me that the answers are quite simple… those simple but difficult things we resist.


(yes, and still i have nothing to say…but thank you for stopping by anyway. i’m merely writing here in an effort to find my voice again. its a process wrought with stops and starts and judgement and personal admonishments, and an inner mantra of “i have nothing to say” and “i don’t know.” this process feels like too much navel gazing, too revealing, too forced. but if i keep writing, my hope is it will become clear again what i should be writing about. and why. because it’s the why that makes it interesting, isn’t it?)

*photo by Julia Fullerton-Batten

patience, little one


Darkness initiates the flowering process.

It’s true.

Once again, the marriage of the methodical and the mystical…the dark, murky, depths of earth are the fertile ground for germinating sprouts of brilliance.

Pretty exciting, yes?

I did my first Tarot reading for what’s ahead…a simple layout of past, present, future…what do i need to know, I asked. The answer:  you are ready. never more ready…but temper it with patience, little one.

*painting by Karl Martens

*patience, little one – my friend has this tattooed on her arm.


“Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.”


all i know today is:

i feel hungry. that deep, gnawing, soul-starved, rumbling kind of hungry that means you are empty.

i recognize that what i feel most of all is like i’ve been trying to squeeze myself into a shoe that no longer fit.

and truth be told…i’m not sure this space fits anymore either. i spent a long time climbing out of the valley. time that made me wary of the shadows, but also wise. it’s different now. i’m eager to meet the shadows and see what they have to show me. the thinking no longer needs to be blissful… it either is or it isn’t. my eyes are open.

today i started the reclaiming process…the revisioning process.

it’s good.

*above quote by author cheryl strayed


what is persisting is this feeling of being tired. bone tired. what does that mean by the way? bones as in death? in any case it is fitting and the most consistent mantra i seem to have right now.

i’m trying hard to be forgiving and gentle with myself to allow the space to be what comes forward…but that is a luxury right now and I’m not 100% certain that it’s not actually contributing to the tired-ness. the chicken and egg scenario plays out again… am i always this tired but disconnected from the exhaustion because I’m living in my head and in a state of striving, or am i tired because my vision is gestating and that takes enormous energy?

guilt and permission in a repetitive hourly coin toss. i question my boldness… my light dims…my chest constricts.

still, there is clarity and emancipation and percolating too, all happening…when the furrow deepens i go for a walk, snuggle the doggie, drink more tea, remind myself it is winter, put a few more lines in the book, put on another layer, boil more water and melt into the mystery. i trust the quiet and solitude and hibernation and how they are energetically aligned with the weather and lack of sunlight. i know this rhythm.

i sleep to dream.

i dream of my nana…i dream of antlers and white space.

and for now my mind is full of questions that haven’t been fully answered…




When I was little, we used to play a game called Tommy Turtle. It went like this…

“Tommy Turtle likes seashells, but he doesn’t like the sea.”

and the other player had to figure out why with one guess.

If they didn’t know the answer, the questioner would offer another hint:

“Tommy Turtle likes football, but he doesn’t likes soccer.”

and on and on…until the player could guess the pattern of his likes and dislikes.

that’s what i feel like today, like there’s a list in my head of things i like and don’t like.

“michelle likes reflection, but she doesn’t like regret”

and i’m seeking the answer to the riddle.





and then just like that…the spark of an idea lifts the grey and fog and the sun shines again…the invincible summer.


we gather…

matrilumina, august 2012

we gather.

and if you are called to gather.


say yes.

do anything it takes to make it so.

it will be worth all your effort, your money, your time, the trouble to organize childcare and feed your family while you are gone.

because you’ll return a better, brighter version of yourself.

because the world needs you to be more fully you.

because you need to awaken.

because the women you will meet will be beautiful teachers, and they all signed on to meet you.

because you really do need that kind of beauty…to survive in the world.

and well, because hafiz said so.


where ya been?

over the past six months or so, i’ve been writing a weekly column over at the squam blog. but, as i’m not the most verbose of writers, that means i left things a little neglected over here. so today i collected all the links to my writings…mostly for me to have a compiled record of them. but if you didn’t know where i was, and you are curious…here you go!


squam by the sea & obx love



the tax man

the work of art

hey, they’re just like us

i have a confession to make

it’s spring

my love affair with instagram

sublime moments

dude, the brain

creative rhythmic dancing beings

a few of our favorite things

what in the world was going on

one by one

the art of living

a little yoga to warm your day

a juicy video

advocate for yourself

good, just good…

things are good…
it’s not often i get to say that, and feel it with such pure confidence…usually it’s true when i say it, but there is this catch, this…i know it’s not going to last feeling.

and well, yeah, i know it’s not going to last. and i know the moon, and hormones and stress and whatnot are going to spin me off into someplace where i hear myself saying “oh, i just can’t TAKE this”…but right now? it’s good.

in part because i’ve been HOME. and settling into my dream routine. do you have one of those? a perfect schedule in your brain that you think if you could just get it right and commit to it, you’d be happy? no? oh…well i do. and i feel i settled in with it right now. it includes waking up with the sun, spending some quiet time with myself, enjoying coffee with my love and the puppy, and moving my body (zumba has me entranced, and today it was a walk in the dunes – did i mention it’s sunny and like 65 degrees here?). then settling in to work that makes me HAPPY (i have a new gig! a fabulous new gig that i’ll tell you about soon!), then getting off the computer at a decent hour to enjoy a glass of wine as we prepare a meal together, an outdoor shower under the stars, some reading and finally falling asleep blissed out. yeah, easy to please in some ways. but the devil is in the details. so, in fact this morning was pretty much perfect, as was the weekend, and yesterday too (even with some unimaginable tech nightmare stuff) but it makes the stuff that comes up unexpectedly that threatens to drag you into the pits totally, gracefully, manageable.

i’ve also committed early to my theme for 2012…silly. i need more silly. i want to feel more silly. i want my go-to knee-jerk reaction to whatever situation to be my sense of humour (which is there, and pretty good and dare i say raunchy, but it’s hidden under a layer of literal). 2011 theme is here…and so far it’s been ON.

i did this art journaling workshop last weekend in edenton, nc and a place called studioBe…run by my squammy/serendipity girls donna and tracey. it was awesome, such a terrific group of women and so good for me to be on *that* side of the table!

an unfinished page in my art journal…i made this amazing french onion soup on sunday…oh my god – so much EASIER than i would have thought. and yummy and surprisingly healthy (well, if you use veggie broth). and i’m pretending that i might spend this winter making soup every weekend…

i’ve been juicing like crazy and LOVE it. mixing beets, apples, cucumbers, ginger, lemon, carrots, parsley, celery, radishes, peppers…anything i can get my hands on into that juicer and it’s like drinking pure, enlightened, energy.

i’m excited that i get to host thanksgiving this year…it’s been a long time since it’s been at our house and it makes me feel good to know everyone will be here. i hope it’s sunny and warm enough to walk in the dune but chilly enough to have a fire in the fireplace.

so, that’s where i am…sending goodness your way…