travel, yoga

Creative Roots Retreat: Getting High-fived by a Tree

Mid omicron.

Late night, looking for hope, sunshine, friends, strangers.

Put money down, sketch a plan to get there

Finalize that plan

Pack a few things, including my filleted heart and 3 other beating hearts

Drive. Sleep, drive, sleep, drive.

Remove a few things from the luggage and keep driving , following the sun:

And then, this:

A little over a month ago, I’d packed the car for the 3rd time that week. The payload included some new art! Brand new to the world and also brand new to my belongings. My creations.

Despite my BFA degree, many years of photography and also the current user experience design career that is often categorized, not 100% correctly, as a creative career: it’s been awhile since I pushed materials around on surfaces and created shapes, lines, symbols, stories etc. (It’s fair that this blog is a creative endeavor, but it’s a less tactile and acrobatic one.)

This was fully expected, as it was a retreat whose promotional material not only promised art making (“Nourish your creative potential with guided art process workshops that rekindle your intuition and expression”) but gave you the option to bring your own materials.

I’d assumed we’d use the surrounding tall, colorful rocks, spindly desert plants and general mountain energy as inspiration, if not subjects.

I wasn’t wrong, but I found after getting the paint and emotions moving, that I was wrong.

Getting to this “wrong” was enjoyable, despite the tears. It’s funny how a creating act can turn your mind inside. Plenty of raw material in there, for all of us! Some shared tough stuff like the pandemic and things caused by it, social & financial inequity, and the war in the Ukraine; some more individual or family struggles, like my multiple close family deaths and my new and enlightening experience of raising a mammal. An item I was working through was what to do with my recently-passed mother in law’s craft supplies collection. It’s overwhelming, humbling but also inspiring. And so it’s daunting. I was also thinking a lot about my father, who was then in his last few weeks of life. Had I spent enough time with him? Was I there at the right time?

It’s a wonder tears weren’t one of my art materials; it’s probably fair to say that they were, even if they didn’t dampen the paper.

First, we selected a color or two, its medium (paint? Pastel? Markers? Dirt? Tea?) and tools. Then we set a piece of paper down and put on smocks. What followed: we each moved, pushed, pulled, smeared them over paper, There may have been a verbal prompt by our guide, the thoughtful art therapist, and talented artist who is also my wonderful climbing buddy and friend Bevie Labrie. Drawing recognizable images was one option but we were encouraged to let the medium and our hands move together to explore and discover, for the main activities.

Cypress seed pod?

My favorite activity involved taking a walk, and shooting digital pictures of anything along our walk that attracted my attention. I love spending time in the desert, so I had plenty of material in the strange plants, rock formations, and shadows. Then at the end of the walk, we were given a piece of paper with a circle on it. Bevie encouraged us to use our photographs to find shapes, textures and lines to draw in patterns within the circle, with only a black gel marker. It was detailed, repetitive work that took my full attention and at least an hour of my time. You can see it the finished piece in the first image of this post. It was a “mandala” experience; I love that it gave me way to create something new from things I experienced outside.

There was also plenty of eating great healthy food (chef Bella Staines created so many delicious vegan and Ayurvedically balanced meals), getting to know the other excellent retreat participants and … yoga!

What I saw in Trikonasana

We had 3 outdoor morning yoga practices, when the ambient temperature started at 30-40ºF and ended up maybe 15 degrees warmer at best. Thank heavens for wool, mittens and socks but also our guide Gaby‘s vinyasa and its capacity to get us warm! The indoor evening practices were more quieting and cooling after a busy day; my favorite was a yoga nidra practice with singing bowls. The sound was so transporting; I need to do this more often. I’d love to bring it to more people.

This was my second visit to Sedona, and it was a better one: better for meeting new people, stretching my muscles and heart, fueling my body in a smart way, and sleep.

My last night there, I heard scuffling and scratching on the wall outside my room! The next morning, the chef confirmed my suspicion: I’d had a not-too-close encounter with a javelina, investigating the trash bins.

Mission accomplished: an adventure not directly related to family needs in 2020-22.

Here’s a great video from the weekend, created by Gaby: