During the final preparations for my leaving, I stacked my old canvasses snug on the top shelf of the garage. Abandoned in the group was an outline of a large cat, void of color, spirit and connection to the rest of the colorful collection. Below the artwork were boxes of journals and the unfinished manuscript for a memoir that has been a testament to my inability to organize and structure a piece that made little sense and was met by a disapproving mother. Locked in another room were boxes full of my spiritual trinkets and sacred objects, long since neglected due to disappointments and death.

As I pulled out from the garage on that final morning I was struck by the reality that my final preparations for my retreat were spent alone, including the long overdue garage sale. Most of my friends had disappeared, were away, moved, and had otherwise disappeared off my guest list; what remained were my scattered connections on Facebook that I had made through contests and circumstance, but basically I was alone. My life had become parched like the hiker in the desert sun, the spring flowers withered by the heat, and the earth baked solid but dry.  The new Toyota commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpeoRIvnxfk ) said it perfectly: the daughter staring at her computer screen, judging her parents lack of friends on Facebook while they are out riding mountain bikes on the trail as she sits at home deciding if a picture is real.

Along the 1,300-mile drive to get to my retreat, I began to explore my inner world that had been rocked to sleep and pacified by the drama mirrored back to me from the flat screen TV. The further I drove from the desert where I felt withered by the blazing sun and past disappointment, the more I remembered that the central theme of my last five vision boards had trees and water—the importance of this journey was paramount.

As a coach/healer my work always reflects the places I need healing; so offering personals retreats was my soul's wind catcher. As I explored the island for you, I found me. One day while looking for a place to kayak, the car took a left and I spent hours wandering with my mouth propped open in awe.  After exploring an ancient fort, I hiked along the border of okra grass lined with purple and yellow wildflowers leading to a bluff framing the snow-covered mountains. Below the upper ridge was an austere bay cooled by the distant range. As my mind emptied of my discomfort, I realized that the dandelions coloring this landscape would soon turn to feathery weeds and that creation is cyclical and always returns to nothingness before birthing again.

In my quest for places for you, I found me. I was hiding in the thick forest, which patiently showed me that rain was the critical component for lush, verdant ferns, pines, and sweet aromas hidden deep down the wooded path. Upon further exploration I discovered Butopia, a tree house designed for dance, brilliantly crafted to ask the question, if I cried in the woods would anyone hear? I promised myself that I would go back there to find out—to find my voice that is locked deep inside the inner rings of my tree.

Still on the search for the perfect retreat for you, I found my creativity had been locked inside the dried out tube of acrylic azure blue—the hardened wrinkle in the metal tube had become a reflection of my life. This was not immediate. There were several days when my "Touch Drawings" resembled my preschool scribbles on the bedroom wall; the judge ready to pounce and destroy the fun. As I continued to unwind from the computer, my morning pages were restored. The phone sat turned off in the car for ten hours as my fingertips darkened from the caked paint exploring the loneliness, the disconnection, and the grief from loss of the dream. The waiting was up.

As the days expanded, I met myself in the woods. Revealed to me were the necessary thunder, lightning and rain that make the forest lush in mystery and inspiration. As I moved with the rhythm of the birds, the colors began to sing in harmony once again. Creation was resurrecting me. The mystery was revealed that in the waiting there is always a separation from the sun lighting up the path and the shadows of the trees.

During my personal retreat, I went to an Earth Nest—a hidden sanctuary, built as a temple of renewal, known only to a handful of island locals. Nested in the grove of pines was a sunken hole, and to the left, a mound of rich, dark, compacted earth. The caretaker had passed away ten years ago, but the sacred shrine remains as a blessing for those in need of deep soul searching. With patience, I ceremoniously loosened the earth with a stick and spooned it over my partner. We had ventured into this sacred spot to share our drawings and from this union a ritual began to form.

For her, the ritual consisted of a soul retrieval, the drumbeat calling forth the heartbeat of the mother to move her toward her resting place. We called on my spirit guides to honor her insight and vision as she nestled down in the grave, covered in fresh soil. Her breathing slowly moved the cloth covering her nose as she went deeper inward. During her journey she renegotiated her dated contracts in order to renew her mission for joy.

 After shoveling the earth together we prepared the ground once again for my inward journey.

 As she gently cover me with the earth, she sang to me sweet melodies, christening me with all the necessary tools that I already hold to bring forward my reconnection to the sacredness stored in the boxes in the garage.  Endless time elapsed as tears flowed down into the ravine, mother earth nurturing me and holding me dear. Emerging from the earth there was a visible softening of life—an openness to a deeper connection to spirit and creation.

The retreat was nearing a close when, nurtured by the organic food prepared with love by the soulful chef, I danced, I sang, and the colors of the palate like herbs seasoning the food spread freely over the tissue paper canvas. I was restored and ready to step out into my life again, roots connected deep into the rich soil.

If this is an experience that you believe would change your life, please consider joining me at the group or personal retreat this summer on Whidbey Island or this fall in the desert. Or join us for a life-altering journey to Peru in September.

Addendum..

Creativity is back. See The Shaman Chef in Action on YouTube with a new video…Ling Cod with fresh Island Berry Sauce.  Watch here

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