Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I am back from what I hope will be a yearly pilgrimage to Sedona and Connie Hozvicka's retreat Total Alignment. I went thinking it would be a tune-up for my creative spirit, but what I received was a total overhaul of my soul.

I went knowing I would be surrounded by some amazing spirits, but what I discovered was a tribe of women audaciously giving what my favorite Irish mystic would say a "mighty squeeze" to life.

I may have been in the desert, but I journeyed into the Emerald City and discovered I can no longer reside in a black and white world.

My intention was to shed some layers of self that I had long outgrown. In doing so space was created for a new way of being in this world - open, receptive, trusting and yes, in alignment with what I believe with all my heart: that life is the experience of love unfolding and that we are love creatively forming, spreading, and dissolving into and out of this crazy and miraculous Universe.

I am struggling with words because this experience goes beyond the verbal, rational, linear mind. It is of the heart and so beyond language or description. It must be felt to be understood.

So here is my feeble attempt to capture magic.

This is what happened to me: I went to the desert to paint. I traveled in a pack of juicy art mamas and we soaked up the energy of this sacred land. We opened ourselves to the place and we allowed it to work it's magic upon us.

I am actually holding onto the ground;
photo by Christine Graziano Miner

We ate food lovingly prepared for us and under a vast Sedona sky; we shared the contents of our hearts; we welcomed the rain with a tribal dance; and we painted.

dancing to the Black Eyed Peas in the rain;
photo by Tracie Hanson

We were given a stern but loving talk by our Fearless leader. The time was over for playing it safe, for painting pretty but empty paintings. It was time to dig in, get messy and dance with the demons. Get it all out and onto the paper. Liberate what we had kept caged or hidden or protected.

I had been painting on an easel, close by the group. Fire was there, but I was leaping over it, afraid I might get burned and unaware of the wings that could have carried me back out.

There was a passage, but it was blocked. Rock solid and seemingly impenetrable.

I have been struggling within the iconic roles of Mother and Daughter. My sense of myself was static and frozen, but another possibility was yearning to emerge. The path to that third possibility was through emotions, through fluidity, through movement and creativity.

On the last day - my last chance - I moved off of the easel and onto the ground. I taped two pieces of paper together and retreated to a distant parking lot to paint. I splashed and spun and poured paint onto the paper. I circled around the paper in a kind of maniac tango. The painting and I wound our way further and further out into the parking lot. The experience was like a desert storm: active, frenzied, pure energy and release. I found myself panting and pausing to catch my breath and then leaping back in for more.

Then the dance slowed down, the rain abated. Just a steady, calm trickle of action. And then the spacious calm afterwards. My inner landscape was washed clean and fresh. The painting ready to reveal itself; my senses and my awareness open to receiving its gifts.

I stood in the gap of waiting and did just that: wait. Previously my way would be to force, grasp, reach for and make something appear. But this day I was patient. This day I knew I would receive if I would simply trust.

I waited at the forest's edge and slowly the animals began to appear. First a bird, always a sign that I am in the right place, that I am home. Then the large female figure tumbled out of her cave, out of the fire of creation; myself being birthed into this new world, this new way of being.

Fox quickly followed - reminding me of what is most valuable only occurs when we are willing to take chances, expose ourselves to risks.

Horse leaped out - the girl I once was who believed that one day she would be free to live her dreams.

Blue Coyote crawling over the mountains reminding me that my journey may be to take the most arduous route but that is my process and to no longer doubt or deride it.

Rat was a surprise. But now I remember in the Chinese cycle of years Rat signifies new beginnings.

Otter - my favorite - slipped in; feminine, playful, moving with the flow of things - all qualities I wish to claim as my own.

Then people appeared: the praying woman,

the mermaid (living in 2 realms, not having to choose one over the other) and finally the 3 magi attending this miraculous birth.

There so much more but this is what I know right now: I visited the Emerald City and the wizard gave me my gift: myself fresh and new and ripe with possibilities. Ready to step fully into my life.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
(- T.S. Eliot Journey of the Magi)


  1. *sigh*

    i'm quite speechless.

    but filled with such love....so much.


  2. i am glad you had such a magical time and i wish i could have joined you. it will be interesting to see where all this new energy and insight takes you, in your art and in your life.

  3. Wow just Wow. I know we spoke about your experience but to see your paintings just brought it all together. You are SO on your path my friend.


  4. You had quite a trip...congratulations on all you discovered ...

  5. simply beautiful, in all the raw power that comes from listening to our own truths in this universe. so glad you shared.

  6. I am sobbing right now ...I'm so deeply grateful to have been witness and playmate in our magical land..to have learned from you and your gorgeous heart. I love you so my Sedona soul sister

  7. i am crying too... i love you Lis

  8. weeping like a crazy woman. thank you for putting this together, you are amazing. with love most enormous from Cali.

  9. so amazing, so thrilled for you - 'sigh'

  10. I am filled with joy for you. Blessings to you as you step into the LIGHT.

  11. Dearest Lis-
    I've read this 3x in the last few days! It is so beautiful & powerful. I see your Phoenix self in Her sacred element of true transformation. The ripple effect of your openness to creative love, your soul healing, is far beyond my imagining. Thank you always for inspiring me with your bravery, your insight, your LOVE.
    I'm heading home the middle of Novemeber & I HOPE HOPE HOPE I can give you a big hug & splash some paint around-

  12. I feel as though I've taken a virtual trip through your colors and words - a trip I've so badly needed.

  13. Awwwwwwwww, love this. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  14. I completely agree with Karen - what a huge Wow!:) Thank you so much for sharing your process and inspiration!

  15. You've found so many more words than I have been able.....Life will never be the same after Sedona. So glad to have shared it with you....

  16. WOW! I am so utterly happy for you! Such an incredible experience and what an inspiration you are (little tears in my eyes). I am going to paint right now!! :-) xo