Tuesday, April 24, 2018

These Beautiful Blues

From a visit to Yves Saint Laurent's Jardin Majorelle a couple of trips back
In March, Deep Travel Workshops enjoyed Larry Habegger as our instructor in Morocco. For one of his sessions, Larry asked us to write about our intention as writers—what did we hope to convey to others?

I hadn’t exactly articulated that before, and this is what came out:

“As a child, I wondered if we all saw the same colors. Is my green your blue? Is your red my yellow? With my writing, I think I want to figure out what I see, taste, feel...and to share it. To hear back what you see, taste, feel. To compare notes and knowing. To shimmy about in a synesthesia of experience—borrowing and lending. Giving and taking. Eventually, I imagine that what I write could be a color of my own mixing—a new pigment that someone else can use like I learned to use the colors of others. Maybe I hope to concoct a Majorelle blue like that of Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech. A blue I fell so deeply in love with, I took its powdered pigment home, not knowing that by merely unscrewing the lid, the particles of color would rise up and land everywhere, turning everything I touched the color of distant seas and skies. I want to make and share an indelible reminder of unexpected beauty.”

Thanks for that prompt, Larry! (And I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that pigment….)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Travel Philosophy with Bathtub

Fun with Photoshop: Silly Illustrations!
I was recently asked to share my travel philosophy. I couldn’t remember ever having articulated one. For years, the closest I came was a maxim I’d heard from a friend: “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”

I followed that advice as best I could, even though for many pre-smart phone years I traveled without a camera. Thankfully, I took notes. Then I started sketching and painting.  My souvenir rule for most of my 20s: whatever I brought home had to fit in the pages of my journal.

But that maxim only addresses the moments of being in a place, and I realized that if I have a philosophy of travel, it starts well before I leave home. So I decided to borrow another friend’s idea, one she passed on to me in the form of the John O’Donohue poem, “For the Traveler.” Here’s my favorite part:

Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life…

The whole poem is beautiful, but I found myself drawn to this section about preparing for the journey. As someone who loves to plan, I’m not surprised this resonated with me. And it’s good advice whether you’re heading to the new coffee shop around the corner or to the ancient medina of Fez.

There is no one way to travel—as evidenced by the diversity of our seatmates on an airplane or the camels carrying us across sand dunes. But the beauty of taking time to bless our journey before we go is that we’ll have grace to deal with those seatmates, whether they have bad breath or bump around a lot (which applies to both plane passengers and camels, come to think of it). Preparing our hearts opens us up to discoveries that can get lost when we haul the ballast of our hearts around with us, leaving no room for treasures.

I have several pre-departure rituals. One is to take a bath before a long journey, even if that means turning on the tap at 4 am. The bath helps me to do several things: to choose to make moments of stillness in the busiest times in my life. To metaphorically wash away any anxieties and limiting mindsets I don’t want to bring with me. To literally be as clean as I can before hours or days of airports and unreliable hot water. And to bless the journey so that when I return home and next sink into my claw-foot tub, I’ll be a kinder and wiser traveler than when I left. Ideally, I’ll have changed my own world to better love the wider world.

Many grand quotes turn into clich├ęs (what a wonderful problem for a truth to become familiar, right?). So I’ll end by borrowing yet another travel philosophy for daily living, this one from Proust. You’ve heard it before, but then you’ve also bathed before—some things are worth repeating on a regular basis!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Bon voyage to all our comings & goings, near & far!

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Art of Adventure


[I] look out on a land of mists and mysteries; a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets, mighty towers and ramparts of flushed stone, hot palm groves and Atlas snows, peer and disappear at the will of the Atlantic cloud drifts.—Edith Wharton, In Morocco

We have one last spot on the upcoming Deep Travel Morocco trip! Join us from March 22-29:

Come experience sensory-rich Morocco with travel writing guru Larry Habegger. Larry co-founded Travelers’ Tales books and edits the Best Travel Writing anthologies. He is also known for skillfully coaching many novice writers from first draft to their first publication. We will begin our writing workshop in the Fez Medina—a UNESCO World Heritage Site of over 9,000 byways. From there, we will venture into the Middle Atlas for some retreat time in the mountain village of Moulay Idriss. While in Moulay, we will visit the 2000-year-old Roman ruins of Volubilis, tour Morocco’s wine country, and enjoy daily life in this small, enchanting city before returning to Fez. Along the way, we will meet local artists, restaurateurs, change-makers, and traditional storytellers. An adventure awaits you!

More info at DeepTravelWorkshops.com or email info@deeptravelworkshops.com

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#WinterLove

I meant to write about Mexico, having just returned from a few weeks of sun, sand, and cerveza (I was working, really). But what I returned to was a deep joy at deep winter. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Montana. Maybe it’s because, to the best of my knowledge, most of my ancestors roamed northern climes. Or maybe it’s because there is something about owning the cold and bare and dark seasons. About not running from them but burrowing into them and learning how to warm and clothe oneself and how to seek the light. I mean coats and scarves. I mean joy and love.  

Around the time I turned forty, I was talking with a friend about love and how we so often wait and want for someone to love us. We want to say “he loves me” or “she loves me.” At one point in the conversation, I laughed and surprised myself by blurting out, “I love me!” I used to teach English; I know it should be “I love myself.” But I think wanted to hear aloud the words I thought were only true if they started with someone else.

In an interview, Michael Bernard Beckwith said: “And when you can fall in love with yourself and like yourself when you’re by yourself…you can be with others.” If not, we’re essentially relying on others for our joy. No bueno. 

I think I love this particular winter because it’s the first one that’s found me, myself, and I completely content with ourselves and therefore far more able to be content with others. Of course, contentment isn’t a synonym for complacency. As my wise mom says: we can be content while contending.

From this new place of contentment, I’d like to contend for loving ourselves—just because but also because we will better love each other.

May winter clouds be filled with hidden blessings for you.

Love,

Anna
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Daily & the Doing


I started to write a list of the year’s highlights—a fun gratitude practice. But I discovered that the entire list could—like a good caramel sauce—be reduced down to this one, sweet dollop from Julia Cameron: “Creativity lies not in the done but in doing.”

I first read that line seventeen years ago, and it has taken me all of these years to begin to learn it. In fact, as I was fiddling with the now-defunct list and getting annoyed at my inability to get it to flow, I took a break for gingerbread and cloud-watching. This little post and yours truly are both the better for it. 

And so, in this season of celebration and on this shortest day of the year, here’s to celebrating each short moment of our days—whether writing a to-do list or a cycle of poems, warming leftovers or concocting a five-course feast, sketching a poinsettia or painting a twenty-canvas series, sitting still for five breaths or walking five miles. Even beyond any good outcome, let the daily and the doing be our creative delight.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bells & Angels

The Guardian Angel of Mount Angel Abbey

As I begin to write, the bells begin to ring across the monastery courtyard. Between the bell tower and my window, a statue of a guardian angel stands in the rainy courtyard. I woke to bells ringing at 5:20. They have names, which I've already forgotten.

I came here on a mini-retreat, bringing my own bag of coffee and zero expectations. As a Protestant visiting a realm of Catholicism and monasticism, this feels more observational than participatory. I am partly here because I read Kathleen Norris' book The Cloister Walk, about her seasons spent at a Benedictine monastery in the Midwest. I made this reservation after finishing the book this past summer when I imagined the weather being exactly what it is at this moment: rainy and gray.

Earlier this month, I thought I knew the reason I was coming here, but that morphed to the real reason: to not need a reason. To simply take time away to rest for no other purpose: no multitasking, not even the justification of a tax-deductible tripas most of my freelance artist-writer life is. I logged no miles driving here, even though I will spend this morning in the curvilinear, mid-century library looking through books on Saint Teresa for a current writing project. Therein the happy problem when your work is your love: what does rest look like?

The guardian angel stands, implacable, in the rain. I write like I'm trying to rest: with no purpose. I see the angel. I hear the bells. I drink my coffee. I stare at my socked feet, propped up on the squeaky bed I slept fitfully in. Soon, the library will open. Before long, I'll start craving not just spirit food but food for this body. Maybe I'll eat the kale-beet salad I brought. Maybe I'll walk into town and treat myself to spaetzle at the German restaurant. Maybe I'll fill myself with bells. I have learned to live with hunger.

The angel keeps watch. The bells will ring again soon.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Yummy Alliteration: Poets & Painters & Pie at Pennington Farms!


We couldn't resist! Join us for a fun afternoon of playing with words & paints & Pennington's signature "cutie pies." You'll leave with a finished 8" x 10" painting, a poem, and a tummy full of goodness. $95 for all supplies & pie & instruction. Email me to register: ae@annaelkins.com.