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An Unplugged Home Retreat

I scheduled a wonderful retreat week for myself the week before last. It was a quiet week with long unscheduled days, days that stretch out before you like the vastness of the prairies where I grew up. I'd wake up early, take my dog for a quick walk, have a smoothie and a cup of coffee and settle myself at my studio desk to write in my journal. My desk overlooks  a walnut tree and beyond that, a grassy area and a stand of white pines. At times I just stared off into the trees as the wind gently played in the branches. No thoughts. Other times I'd read some passages from my spiritually oriented books, closing my eyes to consider what these readings might mean for me today.

Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others." Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today

I've done digital detox weeks at home before but then I simply called them Home Retreats. I think my first retreat was in 2010. When I did a second one in 2011 and wrote a blog post about it…
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Finding A Still Place

I'm fortunate to live in the country with woods behind my house. I've walked through them so often that I've formed a path with my footsteps.

I find I'm walking in the forest much more than usual these days. In fact, I need it. I need the grounding that it offers. 
Do you find you are walking more slowly, noticing more? I used to walk through these woods, thinking about my problems or my work or things I needed to do, often with my head down, focused mainly on the path. There were times I barely looked up. Now, in this time of isolation and anxiety in the world, I'm moving much more slowly, letting the beauty of the forest unfold each day. Staying present. I'm harvesting a few wild leeks, watching the way the sunlight weaves through the trees and lands softly on the moss-covered rocks, noticing the Trilliums as they keep themselves tightly wrapped in their green blanket, waiting until they are certain of warm weather to open up. It's calming here. Healing. In…

Trees: Helping with Grounding and Loneliness

I'm realizing how difficult it is to stay grounded in this time when we're constantly bombarded by news that causes panic and fear in all of us. And it's difficult to recognize when we're not grounded. I'm currently leading live online zoom discussion sessions with several groups made up of 4 artists each.  In these groups, I do a grounding meditation at the beginning of each session. I can feel the group energy change as we connect with the earth. Participants have mentioned how important and calming this process is.

It can also be a time of loneliness. Even artists who are so independent and truly love alone time can get lonely. That happened for me on Easter Sunday. I normally have the whole family over for the afternoon and for Easter dinner. We play bocci or frizbee or some made up game outside on the field, while we yell at the dogs for running away with the balls. Then we come inside for a delicious dinner of ham, scalloped potatoes and apple pie, served wit…

Meet the Owners of a Retreat Centre on the Camino

In the fall of 2018, I co-taught a painting workshop at Flores del Camino, a retreat centre in a tiny historic village in the north of Spain that's built entirely of warm-coloured stone. Located on the Camino de Santiago, the owners, Basia Goodwin and Bertrand Gamrowski are the heart of the retreat centre, focusing their energies on holding workshops with a sacred focus and serving the pilgrims who walk the 750km route. Basia and Bertrand have infused their retreat centre with such beautiful loving energy that I'm returning to Castrillo de los Polvazares in May to teach a second painting workshop. I thought it would be lovely to interview them and learn their stories so I sent them a questionnaire. They have answered it in the form of a conversation between themselves which I am privileged to share here.

Bertrand: We met each other at a turning point in our lives. Basia was wanting to move to Northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Soon after we met she sent me to walk it. In…

Exploring Awe in Life and Art

I have had many experiences of awe in my life: the birth of my third grandchild last summer was a highlight. I actually experience awe each time I see him. But other than that miraculous experience, I felt awe when I taught a Workshops in Wild Places workshop recently in Tofino, BC. Our group went one day into Tofino where we caught a boat to Meares Island, just off the coast. We wound our way past tree-covered islands until we came to the Meares Island dock. The island supports an old growth forest and is designated as a Tribal Park, an indigenous-led protected area. Led by our guide, we walked in single-file, slowly and reverentially on the roughly hewn boardwalk that winds through the forest. At the end of the walk, stands a magnificent, gigantic 1000 year-old yellow cedar. We let out a  collective gasp when we saw it. We  felt humbled in the presence of such a being.

I felt awe as well, in my Newfoundland workshop that took place last June at The Doctor's House. We were on the …

Ask yourself: Why am I alive?

Painting in Scotland with Words

Dunskey Estate in Scotland was rugged and head-over-heels luxurious at the same time. I've just returned from teaching there-the second workshop for Workshops in Wild Places. The aim of these workshops is to encourage a deep connection with the land through meditative walking, hiking, reading poems outdoors, having happy hour on the beach at sunset, and other such important exercises, then coming into the studio to create an abstract response to the land.

While an imposing structure on the outside, the castle was cozy and sumptuous inside, with comfortable furniture, large and thick antique rugs, and fires blazing in each room we occupied. Our group took over the entire castle, eating gourmet dinners in the great hall, breakfast and lunch in the dining room and having meetings and discussions in the Drawing Room. 

Set upon 2000 acres on the sea, this opulent estate has a wildly rugged side, with beech and pine forests and a long rough path edged with ferns that winds over a river…