As I undergo my A Wild Soul Woman Certificate Training, I bring my learning and experiences to our time together with an exploration of the landscapes of Iceland.
In our morning workshop, we bring to the table a birthing journey – a journey to get closer to our true selves. Being with nature, writing and reading about nature, is the key to this process. As Mary Reynolds Thompson has said: ‘ In order to heal the self, we have to heal the earth and in order to heal the earth, we have to heal the self.’ We are in a circular relationship with ourselves and the world around us.
We are not on the hero’s journey but the heroine’s journey, so the path is not linear or goal orientated. Our path moves inward and spirals. This journey is all about the process, and the birthing of new selves again and again. We will move through the different landscapes of Iceland, on the page in our journals as well as on foot outdoors, to journey into the depths of our wild hearts.
Here in the desert, the barren land, we learn to let go, release our preconceived ideas of who we think we are as well as any identities that have been out on us by others, so we can just be. Surrendering.
But is everything really dead here? Within the lava fields, their is life and there is growth. Organisms have adapted and accepted what is, learning how to thrive in such harsh conditions. We as women can learn from this and thrive also within space. In the silence and solitude, at the end of the end, we can learn how to listen to our passion, to our fire within.
Hello Sarah. Welcome to Livng Wild Studios. Thank you for agreeing to answer these questions. We are so looking forward to spending time with you in Iceland.
1. Tell us something about yourself (How did we meet?)
I have spent most of my life being washed in the drizzle of the temperate rainforest and rich habitats of the Salish Sea, located in the NW corner of the US. Getting lost in the woods, paddling the waters, climbing the mountains and dancing to the diverse beats of the community -the slurp of oysters, the tang of strawberries and rhubarb from the garden, my mother’s forays in Indian quisine, Grandma Glickman’s kosher pickles, the Kurose family sukiyaki – all built my bones, tantilized my tastebuds for the wild, and fed my character and curiousity like the flesh of spawned out salmon feeds the bears and otters and mink and eagles and cedar trees and giant firs of our place in this world. Nurturing this place, the creatures that live here, including my three sons, my husband, extended family and friends has been my life, through a long and sporadic career of feeding people, including starting a bakery and cooking aboard natural history charter boats, and over twenty years of conservation work to preserve Fish, Farms and Forest habitat of the Olympic peninsula. I nurture myself through adventures in the wild and of the heart, and through travel to different landscapes and cultures.
It was on one such adventure that I met Sheree in the hills outside of Rome, where we helped a group of artists harvest olives from their olive grove for a few days. That was the beginning of my deep affection and great admiration for Sheree that has grown with her visits to the NW. I feel SO fortunate to have her in my life!
2. What gets you up out of bed in the morning?
The view out my bedroom window is a reminder of how fortunate and privileged I am to live in a beautiful home built by my family in a welcoming, creative and progressive community. I look upon cedar trees and willows, birds dashing from the bushes to the feeders and the sounds of croaking frogs and ravens overhead. My garden feeds us, as do the famers of our region, and my work as the Director of Conservation at Jefferson Land Trust is very gratifying, as I get to help the community to preserve open space, working farms and forests and wildlife habitat, forever!
3. What do you know to be true in your heart?
As far as I know, we are given one life on this amazing planet, and we need to live it to its fullest! Find and follow your passion, nuture your creativity, appreciate the people in your life and what you are given, and dance!!
4. What was the best advice your received? The above!
5. What are your thoughts about a woman’s place/ position in society at the moment?
Women have a lot of opportunities these days that my mother’s generation and those before did not. In my own world, this has manifest in a career that garners respect and opportunities. In the greater picture, it seems that a fuse has been lit to take the women’s movement to the next level, hopefully addressing the deep inequalities, gender stereotypes, actions and attitudes that continue to divide us and foster disrespect and oppression of women. I believe that our future will be brighter with more women in power. It will be a bumpy road, but I hope that we can demonstrate how to do this with respect, love and compassion for all genders, races and cultures.
6. How do you hold a relationship with the land?
I believe in the concept of reciprocity, as Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass writes. We are nurtured by the land in so many ways – from the food and other natural resources it provides us, to the solace and soul food of time spent in nature. In turn, we must nurture the land and creatures of the world as well, otherwise we will lose the riches offered us.
7. What are you looking forward to most about your time in Iceland? Why did you agree to come along for the ride?
I am really excited about the adventure in Iceland!! Of course, I’m eager to explore the landscape and culture of a new place – it’s glaciers, people and foods. I’m also very intrigued to explore the inner landscape of creative thought and spirit with a group of inspired women, led by our amazing Sheree!
8. What are you planning to offer to the Iceland Retreat. What plans have to put in place so far?
I look forward to nurturing my new friends – with good food inspired by what Iceland has to offer; with foot rubs and laughter and dance! My latest passion is wildlife tracking, and it will be so great to explore Iceland’s wildlife mysteries with the group.
9. Anything you’d like to add? Gratitude, night-Time routine? Rituals?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to join you all in this experience! I look forward to stretching myself – with yoga, new creative tools, daily practices and adventures.
Miss Ella loves crispy chicken. She leaves it on her plate till last to eat. My mum used to do the same with beef. I don’t understand it me. I take meat or leave it. But, I’m all for the pleasure, satisfaction. Straight away. No delayed gratification.
This explains why, on this retreat, after your self-made breakfast, we start in with the paints preparing backgrounds in our special visual journals. I like to use Pink Pig Pads, because the paper is extra thick, is robust and takes many a coat of paint, ink and glue. So I’ve got an A4 or even a square version of this journal. You bring along your own special journal. One that you’ve been stashing away for a special time or reason. Well this is that special time. Just make sure the pages can take all your creations.
We begin with paints, thick juicy colourful paints, and throughout this session we add images and text, intuitively. Working around the theme ‘Light’, we fill up our pages, working with specially prepared prompts and words for the occasion.
After lunch, we’re out and about. And remember the habit of saving the best till last! Not on this trip. We drive south, towards Vik and the black sand beaches. We stand within the roar of the Atlantic Ocean and feel the chill of the water upon our toes. We’re brave on this retreat, so we strip off, down to our cossies and our full bodies are on. Can you feel the power? Can you feel the thrill? We walk around the rocks to the sea stacks and the caves, soaking up the energy of this magical place.
On the way back we stop off at a number of waterfalls along the route. We walk the cliffs to the top, to the source. We walk behind the falls and feel the fresh spray of water. We are happy to be alive.
There will be free time and down time before dinner, prepared with locally sourced foods by Sarah Spaeth. Come and find out more about Sarah here. After we have time to share our a-ha moments of the day. What are our takeaways?
Still light in the day? Yes of course. This is the time of the midnight sun. Time to walk through the village, down to the shore and watch the sunset.
Four months from now, June 17, you’ll be flying into Keflavík International Airport. You’ll be filled with excited and apprehension, as even if this is your first time or fourth journey to Iceland, you can’t help the way travel and adventure makes you feel. You are filled with wonder and awe and questions. But you know in your core that this creative retreat is what your soul has been screaming out for, for so many years.
Once you come through passport control, you will get the opportunity to peruse duty free. If you like an alcoholic beverage, chocolate or even fancy a traditional Icelandic woolly, this is the place to pick them up, before you leave the airport. This will be the cheapest place to buy the these goods. So make the most of it now.
Collect your luggage. And sail through customs out into the arrivals terminal where I am waiting. Waiting with a sign calling your name. Waiting with a smile of recognition. Welcoming you to the country that has nestled deep into my heart. Welcoming you to a week of possibilities and opportunities and creativity. Relax now, you are in safe hands. Promise x.
Day 3 – Pain as Logic and Metaphor #eatmystardust
Botanic Gardens, Belfast
The pain that lives in my body
intensifies confined under
the dome of the Palm House.
Livid burgundy blooms burst
upon ochre and gold stripes
knocking along flat sharp leaves.
How deep it roots depends
upon the heat striking the panes
of glass reaching for the sky.
Sometimes when I sit down to write, I can use the journal of my everyday, my visual journal. Other times, I need a blank sheet of lined paper with no other distractions. No image, no colour just a clean slate.
Here I might start with the impression I was left with after my walk. Burgundy. Burgundy what? Wall, poster, leaf? I would try to describe the colour for someone who hasn’t seen it. Is it a flat colour? Dull or sharp? No this burgundy was vivid because it was so shocking to the eye around so much green. There I’m starting to bring in comparisons. I’m starting to bring in feelings.
I could worry this line for ages but the aim is to keep going. Just like walking. Keep one foot moving in front of the other and so the writing of lines is the same. Keep moving the pen over the page, keep the words flowing. This is just the first draft. Things are bound to be wrong, messy, cliched. But only when you’ve words on the page are you able to start the pruning and beautifying process. You have to have something on the page to work with before you can create the masterpiece. The poem.
There are many drafts of the poem, of the same line even. Adding in words. Taking others out. Switching of verbs for more specific ones, verbs that are really working it within this line or that.
At all times the purpose is to leave the reader with an impression. To get them to connect to the words not with their head but with their heart. To move them in some way. Create a shift.
I had the urge to write a poem. My hand was itching but not quite ready to lift up my pen. So I went for a walk. Walking helps the process. Helps me think but in a very freeing way. Thoughts of my life or work flit through my mind. But they don’t stay because something in the rhythm of putting one foot in front of another allows the thoughts to enter and leave without making an impression. This is good as my aim is to get to the point where I leave myself and my troubles behind. That I get to the point of being free, unburdened and open. Open to receive.
Once I become open to the environment around me, my senses kick in. I see things, but more importantly I start to feel things. Feel the air on my cheeks. Feel the concrete shudder through my legs. And then smell. Diesel, cut grass, midget gems.
And so it goes on the more I walk. There further I walk away from me and the closer I walk to inspiration. And an impression is made upon me from the outside world that I carry back with me inside to my pen and paper. And usually the impression is a colour. Burgundy today.
Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.
This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.
And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.
Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.
I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.
At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.
Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.
And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone