Shades of Grey

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There is no black-and-white situation. It’s all part of life. Highs, lows, middles.
Van Morrison, musician

Ins and outs. Ups and downs. Gives and takes.
Are you okay in the grey?

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. what you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.
Aaron Siskind, photographer

What do you want to remember?
What do you want to forget? How do you want to see it?

grey & silver, small & crop

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
Elliott Erwitt, photographer

Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing.

- Edmund Burke

Light. Magic.
Mystery. Shadows.
Creative flow.
Ins and outs.

I think that’s why artists make art – it is difficult to put into words unless you are a poet. What it takes is being open to the flow of universal creativity. The Zen artists knew this.
Alex Grey, artist

For the poet and the lover and the artist and the seeker:
Play in all the shades of grey.

Inspiration: It’s Closer Than You Think

If you’re looking for inspiration, sometimes there’s a whole world of it right nearby. You might be in the habit of walking or driving around without really noticing your surroundings, but if so, you may be missing out on some idea-generating treasures right in your midst.

When I need a change of scenery to get my creative juices going, I usually just take a walk through my neighborhood – Chestnut Hill (a section of Philadelphia). I’m very lucky to live in a place where residents and business owners take great care in making their properties look enticing and attractive. Even so, sometimes I breeze by the beauty a little too fast and miss the special details (hello, Mr. Cricket!). I took all these photos within a block of my house (except for Woodmere), and just that little jaunt has given me some new ideas and fresh photos to use in my next round of collages.

Chestnut Hill 1The little lending library (top left) is a new addition – you can take any book and bring it or another back whenever you like (I took Awaken Your Senses, of course, and a steamy-looking novel by Paul Theroux). Everyone’s flowers are crazy lush this year – eye candy everywhere! I often pop over to Paris for a La Vie en Rose cocktail on Friday evenings – there’s even a jazz club downstairs, bien sur.

Chestnut Hill 2The green revolution has come our way, thankfully, and there are some great eco-friendly shopping options up and down the Avenue. My world changed when Green Soul opened – fresh pressed juices, smoothies and yummy salads, all with fresh ingredients… heaven. 054

The outdoor exhibit (top right) is put together by a group called Fresh Artists that works with public schools and businesses to mount shows of students’ work. (Love how the frames are actually part of the print – brilliant!). The Woodmere Art Museum (top left) has a permanent collection and special exhibits of regional artists, and they often have outdoor installations on display as well (and a hay bale maze come Halloween).

I love my neighborhood! It continually encourages me to really look around and discover the beauty and magic right outside my door. Although I love to travel and explore new towns and sites, there’s something to be said for the smaller, more intimate discoveries close to home.

How about you? Where do you go to find inspiration? Your backyard? Down the block? A couple towns over? I’d love to hear where you go for a quick and inspirational pick-me-up!

Beauties and Mysteries

Beauties & mysteries of lifeI took this photo at Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas. After a couple of days of bright lights and crowds, this vast and quiet landscape brought peace to my soul. I can always count on nature to soothe and inspire me.

How about you? Do you have special places that you go to nourish your soul? Do you seek natural areas or does the energy of the city refresh you? Where do you find the beauties and mysteries of life?

Beautiful Things & Golden Moments #2

Orange calcite given to a friend for emotional healing
Concocting a room spray with essential oils of lavender (calm), Clary sage (clarity, balance) and frankincense (sacred)
A lightning storm over the ocean that lasted all evening
The manager of a grocery store spontaneously giving my mom a bouquet of a dozen red roses for her 90th birthday (way to go, Kenny!)
A jaunt to Bald Head Island on a glistening day

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Did you have any golden moments this week? I’d love to hear about them!

Beautiful Things & Golden Moments #1

… the remains of a faerie house005
… sipping cocktails on the porch during a July hail storm (and getting drenched when the wind suddenly shifted, but not moving inside)
… sacred moments at St. Louis Cathedral (New Orleans)
… hiking to the summit of Overlook Mountain and enjoying a sweeping view of the lush Hudson Valley
Overlook vista

Tell me… What are some of your favorite Beautiful Things & Golden Moments?

The Sacred Sensual Ritual of Comfort Food

 Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.
- Dorothy Day

When I visited my friend Peter at his place in Rhinebeck, NY a couple weeks ago, we joked several times about how we were creating Sacred Sensual moments – from sipping ginger pomegranate martinis on the porch during a hail storm to hiking up Overlook mountain and eating his homemade avocado-tomato-cheddar sandwiches while surveying the lush Hudson Valley. Only a few days after I returned home, his 87-year-old mother passed away unexpectedly. The process of arrangements ensued, and on top of that, Peter was committed to running a three-day retreat at Bard College, his alma matter. After that concluded, he geared up and went to his hometown for the memorial service. I joined him there as did relatives, friends and neighbors.

By the time Peter returned to Rhinebeck the following night, he’d been busy just about every minute since his mom had passed. For better or worse, there were no more distractions. When I texted him the next afternoon to ask how he was doing, he wrote back: “I’m doing what I always do when I’m upset: cooking.” Later, he sent me this email:

I slid the golden roasted chicken out the oven. I saw the course salt atop the crisped skin and smelled the combination of herbs and lemon and garlic. I just had to slice off a piece of the breast to try it. But before that I cracked open a 2012 Cabernet Savignon and poured a ruby red glass. As I brought it to my lips I was hit with the lush smell of ripe black cherries with a softer note of tobacco in the background. The sip was rich with just a hint of pepper and the slight tang of tannin. As the knife broke in to the tender flesh, hot juices escaped with a hiss. The first bite melted into a buttery, salty, lemony, garlic fusion. Followed up by another sip of the berry juice, I breathed in a sacred sensual moment. 
I really really needed that. Since losing mom I’ve been experiencing such a roller coaster of emotions. I’m finding comfort in these small moments – a snippet of my favorite song, the weight of my beloved Fritz [his dog] sitting on my lap, the warmth of a glass of hearty Cabernet. They help ground me, allow me to take a breath and remember that I’m still here, still connected, and that with time, things will settle.

I grateful to Peter for letting me share this because it shows the direct connection between our sensory experiences and their effect on our hearts and souls. Comfort food is more than just drowning our sorrows in a store-bought chocolate cake – it’s about returning to the rituals and sources that nourish us and choosing to love ourselves enough to, “breathe in a sacred sensual moment.”
Reflection - Peter and me in Woodstock, NY, July 2014.

Reflection – Peter and me in Woodstock, NY, July 2014.

Solstice Squash: Earthly Pleasures Are My Church

carpaccio 2 smallSitting under the lavender sky toward the close of the longest day of the year, I savored just-picked squash carpaccio drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette and topped with feta. As I pondered the simple pleasures that dot my life – delicious organic and local food, the option to work outside in warm yet breezy shade, pots of jewel-toned flowers, special times with friends – I felt connected and blessed.

Spring had tested my mettle, bringing blood-pumping highs, unexpected lows and a long series of “whaddya got left?” challenges. These bumps and bangs had forced me to dig down a few layers to unearth what was no longer working – namely, my own doubts, excuses and fears. When I finally uprooted the most entrenched beliefs, I thanked them for their service and then blew them away effortlessly, like dandelion puffs in the wind. I no longer needed them.

Growing up, I loved digging in the dirt – making a bakery’s worth of mud-pies, burying treasures, or planting random things that I thought might grow. The feel of the cool, moist soil in my hands, coupled with the aroma of surrounding Lily of the Valley or Rhododendron, grounded my heady nature. My young mind swirled with ideas and imaginations, but when I fully engaged my senses, I felt connected to the entirety of the world in whole different way. zucchini

One Sunday morning when I was about ten I asked my Mom why we weren’t going to church. She said she was headed out to work in her vegetable and flower garden because that’s where she felt closest to God. It was the first time I’d heard anyone speak about worshiping in a non-church setting. Her words soothed me because I finally understood: immersing myself in nature and the sensual world was sacred. And that’s exactly how it still feels today.tree reflection

Put me on a hiking trail and I automatically step into a meditative state with a clear and open intuitive chute pouring into me. The sensations – feet-on-earth, leaves brushing my skin, sounds of water rushing – transport me.

I feel intimately connected to the divine when cooking fresh market morsels, and the aromas of Egyptian musk incense, real vanilla and freshly-brewed coffee make my soul smile. I’m completely present and delighted by the mysteries of the universe when listening to bird songs at dawn or sharing a warm hug with a favorite corporeal being.lettuce small

While creating Sacred Sensual Living these past few years, I sometimes wondered if what I was proposing was too easy: How can spirituality be so pleasurable? Don’t you have to suffer a little to feel holy? Doesn’t it take some work to catch those glimpses of the divine? There’s never one right path to feeling fulfilled and at peace; it’s different for everyone. I choose the sensory road. Dangling my feet into the cool stream to feel the slippery mud or biting into a ripe nectarine, my soul feels nourished.

A million things can grab our attention, but many of those merely numb us or distract us from our natural state of intuitive flow. Living through our senses helps us be present, aware and open to the pleasurable effects created by the simplest beauty, the subtlest sensation. From here it’s easy to feel gratitude for all of the ways we’re able to partake of the world’s sensual delights.

headhouse marketAs a few stars started to sparkle overhead, I finished off the squash melange and realized that something had been shifting over the past days, weeks, months: the dots that I consider simple pleasures had formed clusters, and the clusters were now snuggling up to each other to form a whole field. The Summer Solstice is a time when we think about fertilizing to promote growth, and I finally felt like my freshly-tilled life was ready to sprout and grow.

12 Essential Questions E-book!

Do you wish you’re your days were filled with more beauty & wonder and less mundane busy-ness? Do you want your life to feel truly meaningful and authentic?

If so, the answers are much closer than you think!

12 Questions cover_small
12 Essential Questions for Sacred Sensual Living
is an e-book starring you. Because the truth is, there’s no magic formula that will improve your life. Only you hold the answers for feeling more fulfilled, connected and in tune with what your heart really wants.  The book just poses the crucial questions to get you there.

The e-book and companion workbook guide you through a series of questions that extract what makes life feel meaningful and special. Starting with exploring sensory experiences as a way to be more present, engaged and pleasured, you’ll then go deeper into what really makes you tick and why it’s so crucial that you honor your intuition.

And then there’s love… we’ll explore the single most important thing for living in love no matter what your external circumstances.

12 cover b&w frame_smallThe 39-page workbook goes way deeper… lots more questions, exercises and quotes to get you thinking, digging down and creating your Sacred Sensual life. It’s easily printable so you can write, draw, paste in images and make it into your own Sacred Sensual journal.

The question format really worked for me – providing a unique entry to deeper self-exploration. – Peter C.

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The e-book includes 12 original photo collages (and an extra surprise at the end). And, the e-book package includes a free digital download of “Choose Love, Always,” a digital collage you can use as desktop wallpaper for a colorful reminder of the power of love.

It’s a great tool for reflecting on what you really want in life and how you can move towards your goals and dreams. The questions get to the heart of what stands in our way and what is just waiting to be revealed. – Kasey T.

You already have the answers inside of you –
12 Essential Questions for Sacred Sensual Living
will help you unlock them, beautifully!