"It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed."
- Thomas Moore
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
- Brené Brown
A couple of years ago, Anne Simone and I sat in the Hyatt's bar in downtown Atlanta, and we came up with a wild scheme: go to the Oregon coast and create, rest, breathe, work, and build a community of creatives. Photographers, writers, entrepreneurs. Women working on their lives, selves, careers, families, and dreams.
Last January, we had our first retreat. We called it Mystery & Madness. We rented a house in Cape Perpetua and had a profound experience. From it, came a powerful and supportive community.
This January, in a different house just north, we met again.
While equally profound, I had a very different experience this year. I had landed back in the States a mere week before, dazzled and exhausted and drained and exhilarated and changed after my trip to New Zealand and Australia. Packing up, again, for another week away at the coast was both welcome and wicked-hard for me. A huge part of me wanted to curl up in a ball in my loft and snuggle with my husband and dog and cats, and simply be.
Yet, here I was, in a new house with my amazing posse of 14 women from all over the US. It was time to switch gears.
We cooked. We worked. We walked. We discussed. We rambled through challenges, both personal and business. We brought in a massage therapist and a financial adviser. We sat at the dining room table and colored in incredibly-detailed coloring books. We read. We wrote. We sat in the hot tub and listened to the waves and stared at the stars. We explored. We went out in a wild windstorm at high tide and visited Cook's Chasm, getting blasted with foam and spray and wind and sand. We sang, and had a random dance party in the kitchen. We had an evening-long discussion about each of our years since we last met--the good, the bad, the horrible, the amazing, the mixed, the strange, the revolutionary, the growth, the toe-stubs, the face-plants, the overwhelming-joys, and everything in between.
On my own, I ran on the beach and listened to John Williams and Taylor Swift and Banco de Gaia while splashing through waves in my freezing bare feet. I sipped coffee from The Green Salmon in Yachats. I sat on my favorite bench in Cape Perpetua--for those who know me, my second home. I wrote and brain dumped and dreamed and schemed and planned. I worked with Amanda to re-work my website verbiage.
I was also unsettled. Not in a negative way, per say, but definitely unsettled.
Both that week and even since, something snapped open in my brain. Something uncomfortable that absolutely refuses to be tamed. Something profoundly itchy yet oddly cozy, like drinking whiskey while wearing a scratchy old wool sweater.
I am changed by my trip overseas. I knew I would be. Yet the depth of how it affected me didn't become clear until I had to sit with it day after day. It's true: I have to go back. There, and everywhere else on my landscape-driven list of holy-wows. I found home in New Zealand and Australia--not the home, but a home. I cannot stop replaying the tapes of mountains and roads and lakes and hikes and oceans and people and simple moments. That 10-day roadtrip was like a blast of sunlight on my soul, a furious connection with my best self, and an unlimited permission slip to dive deeply into what makes me happy.
One sunny day in Seal Rock, I sat on the cliff in a big blue Adirondack chair, notebook in hand, scarf over my head, thinking, amongst other things, about that sense of home and happy. Truthfully, Oregon makes me just as happy as those ten days in New Zealand. Staring at the Pacific Ocean and running through the waves with frozen toes? Wandering through the forest to waterfalls? My beautiful living room in my 1927 home in Portland? These are just as much me as sitting on the shore of Lake Tekapo with mountains framed by rolling hills in the background and the warm wind blasting my cheeks. It's just different.
I carefully build these soul-homes for myself. Places, near and far, where all the trimmings and trappings are scraped off, and I'm truly myself. I can breathe, and see, and feel without weight. I also surround myself with people who give me that sense of home--people who call me on my crap, build me up, encourage me to adventure, and laugh into the night with me over games and wine and chatter.
Another piece of my unsettled brain came from that ridiculous and near-constant issue of time. I want to do all, and none, of the things--plan, read, relax, adventure, think, play, run, edit images, blog... All of the things. Yet in one week, there isn't time for all of the things. Having a sense of accomplishment with such a random menu is both good and hard for me.
So, year two, with Anne and Greta and Amanda and Megan and Sarah and Tamara and Marie and Jordan and Summer and Jennifer and Jennifer and Jennifer (no joke), thank you. Thanks for giving me space to be whole, cozy, happy, questioning and unsettled. Thanks for the scouring waves and wind and wild places. Thanks for all the wonderful homemade food in our cranky, faux-swanky kitchen (and the beautiful light beams made from the smoke from burning bacon). Thanks for the community that holds me up all year long. Thanks for the time and space to work in my business and soul.
I can't wait for year three.