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Book Release & Emotional Release


My memoir, My Million Dollar Donkey officially comes out on Tuesday, Sept. 28. Apparently, all books are released on a Tuesday. You learn something every day. I am having a book release party on Wed. June 29th from 7-9 pm at Heartwood, an event open to the public. Not the best month or time or day of the week for a book release party, I suppose, but with our Summer Yoga Training Programs starting up and the book release date landing in June, I was hard pressed to find time to fit in a party. I’ve been on Craigslist this morning seeing if I can rent a donkey as a mascot to set the stage and provide inspiration for those who attend. I’ll be reading from the book, sharing some of my hard earned country wisdom, and no doubt enjoying the support from friends and students. It will be a very special evening for me, and long in coming.

I was sent a few cases of advanced copies of the book, so My Million Dollar Donkey has been for sale at the studio for a week or so. Quite a few students have picked it up unbeknownst to me. When I go in to teach, I am often treated to heartfelt positive feedback which always comes as a surprise since I have no clue who has picked up the book (so they don’t have to politely pretend they like it). The story seems to really resonate with Yogis as well as people who are in midlife, or who have sustained losses of love, money or self. I’m so honored that these people, who no doubt pick up the book out of devotion to their yoga teacher, take the time to read the entire story and bother to go out of their way to tell me what they love or feel moved by – or even what they take exception to. One student told me she loved every word of my book except a short passage describing “some women of Sarasota as superficial”. She wiggled her finger at me and said that wasn’t a fair description of all women in the area, and I laughed and reminded her that I too am a Sarasota Woman, so I meant no offense.

I have been signing a great number of books. That is fun. But for all that nice words provide a flash of confidence and pride, the most poignant feedback I’ve gotten thus far was the beautiful reaction and appreciation from my parents, who made me feel gifted and very respected (I should mention they do not praise lightly, so expressions of pride feel doubly special). I also will always cherish a beautiful text from my youngest daughter that revealed not only her support for my writing honestly and well, but her beautifully expressed realization that she’s been afforded an amazing gift to see the world and our shared experience through my eyes. Witnessing how I felt and experienced this time in our family history allows her to know me better and to understand things in a broader perspective.

To be validated by those you love is probably the most wonderful feeling in the world, a feeling that was rare, if not totally absent, from my past . I can’t help but note that my life reinvention, difficult as it was,  led to an evolution in my community, family, and friends. My world now turns on an axis of love rather than jealousy or resentment, because those who couldn’t muster up earnest care or positive intentions towards me have just naturally slipped away. Amazing what making a commitment to yogic principals does to restructuring a life. In this way, releasing my book was releasing something I’ve held inside for many years too. An emotional freedom has been gained.

If you missed the trailer, here it is:


One very special part of finalizing this book project for me is that I have something more to share with my writing students. When I first returned to the area, I taught writing at the Sarasota Senior Center because I wanted to reconnect with the community and volunteering has always been important to me. I learned a great deal about how to effectively teach writing during that time.  18 months later, I began teaching at my studio, and later began a writing program at Heartwood Retreat Center, (which is at long last taking root and blooming). Meanwhile, I am teaching 5 writing classes at ACE (Adult Community Education) at Vo-tech in Sarasota starting in Oct. including Memoir, Journaling, Writing Spiritual Wills, and Fiction. I’ve written syllabus’s and prepared lessons and I’m excited for the term to begin.  Now, when I lecture about what works and doesn’t work on the page, and when I discuss the challenges of not just starting a project, but sticking with it to fruition, I have a tangible project to point to as example of elements that worked better than anticipated and elements with room for improvement. I can talk less theoretically and more experimentally about the publication process, and we can openly explore issues of concern, like the awkwardness of writing about your own life and having to face the reactions of family and friend. Or a writers doubt or disappointment about how difficult the process that go far beyond the simple act of writing the dang story. This book offers me a world of new material to work with in regards to mentoring others – and the philosophy I’ve developed regarding the act of writing for personal growth has been a foundation for my next project too.

 I admit, as a first time author, and considering the subject of this memoir,  I don’t expect much from the publication of My Million Dollar Donkey monetarily or career-wise. But like dance, (and all my art endeavors, in fact) I do not engage in writing for notoriety or with expectation for measurable gain. I write as a spiritual and creative practice. In this way, seeing My Million Dollar Donkey evolve and manifest into a book that actually reaches out to others and sends a message of hope or wisdom has been a deeply moving experience on many levels. The process of finalizing this story has given me a whole new understanding of myself and my life goals and the potential for writing personal life stories spiritually.

So much, in fact, that I’m writing a book about it called, “Yoga on the Page.”  More about that later. For now, I invite everyone to my book release party, or to at least pick up a copy of the book on Amazon to read with an open mind towards not just the story, but what goes into a release such as this on every level. I look forward to feedback and all I have yet to learn from others, because if there is one thing life has taught me, it is that everyone we interact with in life is both a student and teacher.

Buy the Book


Meteorite (29)

Writing for Healing – a community

This week, I attended the TWI (Therapeutic Writing Institute) Therapeutic Journaling and Memoir convention in Hendersonville NC, where I was provided opportunity to listen to some of the country’s leading teachers and authors on the subject of writing for healing. Most attendees were therapists getting credentialing so they can add writing to their programs. And then there’s me.I discovered a whole new community of healers I didn’t really know existed before.

The two time US Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, was a featured speaker. She read her work –and after her keynote lecture and powerful poems, she shared information about programs devoted to helping troubled teens express themselves with poetry that she has been involved in.


Poet Laureate, Natasha Tethewey, giving a presentation

I took a variety of courses, including several on writing ethical and spiritual wills (lasting words to leave for future generations to share the wisdom of who you are and what you believe), writing to get closer to nature and to forge deeper connections to earth spirit, the power of circles to connect people in healing communities, how to write spiritual poetry, and much more. I have so many of the writing books that were featured, yet still I brought a few and had them signed. I bought a few more for the library at Heartwood too – interesting new titles that I can’t wait to read and share. I have been asked to teach at ACE in Sarasota next term, and my mind was alive with ideas for innovative writing classes for the Ace population, as well as students at Heartwood, too.

Most delightful was the community meals that allowed me to meet the other 160 attendees, most of whom are therapists, all of whom are writers with stories to share of how writing has changed the lives of those they work with. The people I met were all passionate about writing, serving others, and making a difference in the world. I couldn’t help but be impressed with their commitment and generosity of spirit. It was unlike any yoga or writing event I’ve ever been too – yet oddly similar at the same time. This convention opened my eyes to many concepts, teaching me what I know and what I don’t know about therapeutic writing. It was a profound experience that revealed I have good instincts and I’ve been teaching quality material. Sometimes the validation that you are doing something right is the best take-away of all. The free writes and opportunity to follow another teacher’s lead in journaling was deeply appreciated too.

The timing of this experience couldn’t have been better because as soon as I left for a week, my book arrived at my home- a month earlier than expected because the official release date is still a month off. I have had some concern about my memoir and how it will be embraced or perceived by those who are mentioned in it, yet after listening to the wisdom of these great teachers and their message about writing as an act of healing, how important it is to speak your truth despite resistance and fears and the way others try to silence you, made me not only feel validated, but deeply proud, that I stuck with my project for over 9 years to finally get the book in print. Coming home to hold the printed words in my hands for the first time had special significance after hearing so much on the subject – and I couldn’t help but feel good about my own commitment to spiritual growth and the writing I’ve done to understand myself and my place in the world. It doesn’t make a difference if anyone likes my book or not. What is important is that I wrote it, boldly and with right intention.

When a few new friends at dinner discovered I was a yoga teacher, they quickly instigated an impromptu class, and I found myself teaching yoga to a group of writers on chairs (since we didn’t have mats) outside in the grass after a long day of writing indoors. It was magical. A hummingbird soared by as I was teaching, reminding me of my garden, because we have a resident hummingbird that I seem to see everyday this time of year sat home. At Heartwood, I am trying to blend yoga and writing, and this small, spontaneous hour and the visit from my little bird friend seemed to confirm that my vision is indeed possible.

It has been a long time since I’ve taken the time or spent the money to attend an event like this to expand my understanding of writing. The drive was long, the beds in the retreat center hard and uncomfortable and it rained the entire time.  Despite it being spring, the weather was uncommonly cold, and of course, I did not pack for such conditions, but that didn’t kill the buzz! I drove to Walmart to buy a blanket for my bed, and endured the rest with a smile.

In addition to enjoying the educational program, I had been looking forward to experiencing a different retreat center to see how the vision we have at Heartwood holds up. This convention was at the Kunuga Retreat Center near Ashville, which is a renowned 180 acre Episcopalian spiritual retreat center that has been established for some 80 years.  I got such a kick out of seeing they had a peace pole (the same size as ours) and a labyrinth (the same size as ours) and other similarities. This reinforced my belief that we are on the right track. I certainly felt pride that we have done as much as we have with so little space and limited private resources.  I came back with a few new ideas to enhance the inner quiet for our students too. I walked the labyrinth in the rain, using the time to consider how my writing has changed, grown and taken root in new directions over the years. It was lovely having the private time to process what I was learning and doing as a writer, teacher and woman.


Labyrinth at Kanuga

Today I am home. David is hard at work refinishing the back room of the studio to make a permanent art room so we can expand our programs to include more spiritual arts. Soon, we won’t have to drag materials and tables in and out of storage every time we use them. Meanwhile, I am sending out copies of my book to family and friends, and attending to the backlog of work.  Back to the grind, but what a lovely grind it is.

It is good to get away – but even better to come home to a place you feel defines you, and to see it with invigorated purpose.

International Labyrinth Day

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Today was International Labyrinth Day and people all over the world walk labyrinths in churches, spiritual centers, parks and private facilities in honor of world peace.  David and I recently built a Labyrinth at Heartwood, so we opened it to the public today in support of this cause. I gave a short lecture with a nifty PowerPoint presentation on the history, purpose, meaning and metaphor of walking a labyrinth so people could see the potential in something as simple as a walk, if done with intention and an open heart . We had about 20 people in attendance, some who are new to labyrinths, and others who have walked the pattern all over as they travel and explore different communities.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and the positive commentary and warmth we receive from those who joined us today made for a poignant afternoon.  On days like this, I love what I’ve done with this chapter of my life.

Last night David and I were out there hanging heavy iron decor on a structure by the labyrinth and working to maintain the grounds nearby. David installed a marble shelf in the entryway, which later will include a kiosk with more information on labyrinths so people can learn more. We created a guest book so people who come to visit can sign in and their names can be included in the world wide count of people who walk for peace. We also created a community journal that will be kept out there inviting those who wish to share insights or encouragement with others to leave a few words behind. Sometimes all people need when they are facing challenges is to know that they are not alone and that others have walked the same path.   Like all of Heartwood, the labyrinth project is unfolding slowly, depending on what resources and effort David and I can spare, but it is deeply rewarding to stand back and see we have made something special to support those seeking answers and personal peace, for no other reason than because we can. Walking a labyrinth is free, good for the heart and soul, and it keeps people unplugged and connected to nature and their best self. Everyone should give it a shot just to see if such an endeavor has anything to offer them.

We’ve had visitors walk the labyrinth before today. One woman came in a wheelchair, and she did the entire path on wheels to contemplate her life. Her mother walked behind her, giving her space, yet feeling a part of her journey at the same time.  We considered this  a very special initiation for our project. We’ve had groups walk the labyrinth together, and couples, as well as solitary people with issues they wanted to contemplate. Several people today decided to pick up our “Journaling the Labyrinth” worksheets, where thoughts can be written in the path of the labyrinth on paper. I asked if they would mind my taking a picture (from afar so their thoughts remained private) just to share what this looks like. One woman introduced herself as a mental health counselor and she asked if she could return with a few of her clients, one on one, whom she feels would greatly benefit from the experience. Of course, we said, “anytime.” After talking, she and another health care professional (cranial therapy) decided they really should bring a few of their patients to my journaling workshop as well as to visit the labyrinth. We believe everything we do here, writing, yoga, spiritual meditation etc… is connected so when one of our free programs or activities opens the door to another (also free) program, we can’t help but feel our work counts and touches lives.

About an hour after the lecture, and after most people had walked the path, I couldn’t help but smile to note that all three of our hammocks had people resting in them. A few others were writing in the garden or had taken one of my labyrinth books out to read a bit on our benches scattered about the grounds. One group of women, people who just met today, decided to share a ride (parking is difficult) to Pickin’ in the Park in Bradenton to enjoy the art festival and music. It is an amazing thing to watch community form and support each other and know you have positively encouraged it through acts of good intention. David and I are honored to be a part of an ongoing process to create something special here, and tonight, not for the first time or last, we will walk the labyrinth together to reflect on our own journey as a couple and as partners in creating a small, but meaningful, retreat center that, on a good day like today, touches lives.



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For several months now, David and I have been on a quest to learn about bamboo. Our initial consideration of bamboo started with problems we’ve had with neighbors. The houses on two sides of our property are situated very near the property line so  they loom over us, creating a distraction in what is, otherwise, a very natural and serene property that promotes deep connection to nature. Our home and outbuildings blend into the environment with dark, rustic wood, while one of our neighbor’s houses (the closest and most prominent) is bright red–a beacon you can’t help but notice and that feels rather invasive. More problematic has been the way the man living there is overly focused on anything we do and feels entitled to judge, attack, reprimand, and cause trouble in manners that show not only a lack of respect, but ignorance. In short, we live next to Mrs. Cravitz (with a mean streak).

So we put up a privacy fence – which I’ve wanted desperately since the first day we moved here. The problem has been that a different neighbor, one we much respect, wasn’t receptive and reacted negatively when we began putting up a fence, so to keep harmony, we stopped the process even though we had invested heavily in (as part one of a two part plan to get some privacy) the materials. To be honest, with such an expansive space, fencing Heartwood was a bit too pricey for us considering all the other projects we undertook. But eventually, we felt we had no choice but to put up the fence when the problematic neighbor got even more nosy, and started shooting guns whenever he saw cars parked here, just to disrupt us (which he bragged about online). His dog was coming over and digging under my chicken coop too, which worried me because a few seasons ago, the dog came over and killed a few of my poultry. I was uncomfortable even going out into my own pasture because, after a year of voiced threats and cyber bullying, I feel he can and will do whatever he can to cause us harm. The point is, eventually we had to admit it was time to create a barrier and reclaim our privacy and our right to live without interference or fear from others….. Sigh…… a fence was at least a start.

Anyway, once the fence was in place, we decided perhaps we should screen off some of our more troublesome spots with quick growing bamboo. Bamboo has a bad rap as many people consider it an invasive species that runs rampant in a yard, destroying fences and causing other problems. But this sort of troublesome bamboo is “running bamboo”, that spreads quickly and in every direction through root runners . Clumping bamboo is another story all together, and while it spreads and grows larger to some extent, it is easy to control and stays where you put it. It is a perfect tall screen if you need one, and is beautiful, sounds amazing, and has very positive associations in a zen/yoga community. Not all bamboo is equal, and clumping bamboo is a bigger investment of time, energy and money than the easy to collect running bamboo, but worth the trouble in our opinion.

Some bamboos grow up to 100 feet in three years – a few species can even grow a foot a day in peek growing season! Bamboo is a renewable resource, with shallow roots so it can be planted near a septic etc… It’s considered “lucky”. And it is beautiful with many varieties to suit each selected planting area. David researched bamboo, and as a gardener and scientific sort of guy, became a walking bamboo dictionary. We have gone to two bamboo farms to talk to specialists and see different species, to see, touch, and listen to different varieties before daring to invite it to our beautiful property. From the start, I am concerned with maintenance and keeping up with the demands of any landscaping choice we make because I am the primary gardener who is chief pruner, weeder and decorator. David’s role is more the heavy work, the planting, watering, big pruning, building……

So we went bamboo shopping, each with our own agenda and concerns. We fell in love with the black bamboo, the gigantic bamboo, the golden bamboo and stalks that grow in blue or reddish tints. We’ve had great conversations with bamboo enthusiasts and specialists who share stories of how bamboo saved relations with neighbors, created amazing landscape features and offered them a livelihood. David even talked whimsically about turning our pasture into a bamboo farm as something we could do on the side when we hit our old age… but I talked him out of that. Just not the direction I believe we are made for in this phase of life. Anyway, it’s been a bamboo fest at our house for months – and as always, it is fun to learn something new and be engaged in a new project.

We chose a few species that will grow successfully in our area – the soil and the climate is appropriate for success for these varieties – and we had to forego a few because we are just a few degrees too cold here (black bamboo.). We planted a dozen quick growing tall plants in front of the fence to mask the red house. We planted spreading blue bamboo by the labyrinth to create a privacy wall to deepen meditation practices. We planted gigantic, thick bamboo behind the yoga center to create privacy and because we adore the sound when wind rustles through the bamboo once it is grown. It is like a living wind chime! We have plans for more varieties and starter clumps when we can afford it, and David has plans to start his own cuttings from a friend’s property when the season is right – something he wants to do partially because it will save money, but also because he is enthralled with learning new things and wants to enjoy the experiment factor.

When we visited Ringling last week, we marveled at an intimate sitting space outside the museum that created what felt like a room in a bamboo cave with pathways leading to private benches. They had a few banyan trees too make it even more spectacular, but even so, the bamboo was magnificent.   The shade, the privacy and the beauty of the space was deeply inspirational, and the moment we got home we picked a place to create something similar.

David has worked hard planting our bamboo. He had to dig huge holes that he filled with a mixture of peat, manure, soil and plants. He then ran new irrigation to each bamboo area to assure we nurture our new living wall. He checks the plants every day, tends them, waters them and talks to them. I have to believe our bamboo is happy here.

Now, all we need is patience. In three years, we will have transformed our terrain yet again, changing some of our empty pasture areas into tropical garden rooms that will create spaces rich with opportunity to seek solace and quiet alone in nature. I’m delighted to report that our bamboo has already grown a foot taller in the first month. Not thicker yet – but research has shown us that it will take new shoots for that result.

Life is ever changing, and so is the landscape. It is a joy to be a part of the process, treating our property like a work of living art. One idea always seems to lead to another….. and since it is spring, the creative juices are flowing like wild at Heartwood. I look forward to every stage of the evolution and what we learn along the way.

Love Where You Live

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Years ago, when I was young, I moved to New York City to be a dancer. I loved the city. I loved the energy of the bustling commerce, the sophistication and art, the opportunity to make dreams come true, and the endless diversity I witnessed in people and things to do. I never saw the city as a concrete jungle or dirty, overcrowded pit of despair as New York has often been called, but as this marvelous open canvas upon which I could color my life and paint a world of creativity and unique experiences. I was deeply happy to live in a place where every day an adventure popped up unexpectedly and opportunity abounded for me in regards to my art, my career, community, and personal growth– and this was before they cleaned up Times Square!

Then, I married an actor who had grown up in Long Island. He was a lovely man, but he had a different view of the city. While I saw an exciting place unlike anything I’d ever explored before, he saw the familiar, a place far removed from the beautiful beaches and open stretches of land in Florida (where he went to college). He constantly talked about how he hated the city. He hated that you had to wait so long in the DMV to get service, or that the streets turned to mush after snow fell. He hated that people begged on street corners and you had to hold your personal belongings close or you might get mugged. He constantly pointed out the flaws in our home town.

As our years together clicked along, this constant focus on what was negative about New York encouraged me to change perspective. I became increasingly aware of the threatening element of the city and what I once viewed as a fascinating mix of diverse people suddenly seemed a den of weirdo’s with misplaced priorities. I never hated New York, but inevitably, my love of the city turned into something less respectful, because the appreciation and wonder I once felt had been overshadowed by the strong opinion of someone I loved. If he was unhappy in the city, then the city had to go. And when we had a baby, I felt no choice but to escape, least I subject her to this negative environment too.

We moved to Florida.

I loved Florida. I loved the warmth, and the beaches. Perhaps I wasn’t privy to the same exact kind of opportunity, because here I was not forging a career as a dancer anymore, but as a new business owner and a new mother, Florida seemed a place where the community could support my long term goals for happiness. I loved the tropical nature and the art that seemed to penetrate all corners of Sarasota. I loved that you could visit the county and the beach in a single afternoon, and see sophisticated Broadway shows on tour, just as easily as you could hang out in a bistro outdoors and hear street musicians. Sarasota had farmer’s markets and festivals, and boat races and more. In a way, everything I loved about New York was here, if I just made time to enjoy the seasonal opportunities. I felt lucky to have landed in a place with such profound diversity and opportunity.

Sadly, my marriage didn’t survive the change of climate when we altered our life to fit Florida, but I felt very at home here and loved my town and community, so when my soon to be ex left to return to New York, I stayed. Florida was good to me. I was successful here.

Eventually, I married a dancer who saw Florida differently than I did. He complained that there was nothing in our town but restaurants and malls. He hated the fact that, in his opinion, the seasons don’t change in Florida. He missed snow and fall leaves. He thought the suburban people were boring and superficial and the houses in neat little neighborhoods lacked character.  We had children, and as we strove to afford entertainment for 5 people now rather than 2, he constantly pointed out that Sarasota is nothing but malls and movies and restaurants that were expensive. We were in that stage of life when a couple is exhausted from raising a family and running a business, so frankly, all we did was go to malls, movies and restaurants because anything else seemed too much work.  I loved boating and the beach, but he wasn’t much into that sort of thing because he didn’t like what the salt water did to his curly hair. I was runner, and I spent what time I could outdoors. He was an avid gardener always trying to turn our Florida backyard into a North Carolina looking landscape – which of course would be disappointing since you can’t fight nature’s regional design, but despite our time outdoors of our own selecting, we insisted Sarasota lacked the connection to nature that we longed for. Our lives felt narrow from living in this stifling place, so we determined we needed to move.

We moved to the Georgia mountains.

We thought Georgia was so quaint and held the promise of real opportunity. Instead of spending money to go to indoor activities and organized entertainment, we found things to do that were free, such as outdoor festivals and walks in the woods. And since we now were “retired” and didn’t have to kill ourselves to run a business or raise a family, we had time and energy to live more expansively. We believed we finally had real “things to do” because we took note of, and pursued lots of diverse opportunities for low-key, inexpensive activity. The truth was, there was so little to do without malls, restaurants or movies, without art, or diverse people, or expansive thinking, or educational programs other than a few craft classes at a local folk school, that we had no choice but engage in those more subtle things that were available if you bothered to get off the couch to enjoy them- like taking walks or making crafts at home or visiting a local park to listen to local musicians.

In time, the shadow side of Georgia proved that real opportunity (in our art ambitions, forging a liberal community, or work) truly was lacking in this region of the world, and when our life imploded, I had no choice but to leave. If you can’t make a living where you live and the people around you cling to a different mindset, thus alienating you from deeper friendships, you are headed down a spiral that will eventually cause more grief than moving and starting over involves. So, as much as I hated to do so, I returned to Florida.

I had a hard time coming back to the place I had left with such arrogance and assurance because I had convinced myself there was nothing here but cookie cutter homes and superficial people and nothing to do but malls, restaurants and movies. But when I got here the second time around, I spent more time outdoors – at the beach and visiting farms, and seeing the art of Sarasota. I took some classes and enjoyed conversations with interesting, stimulating people. I discovered a huge community of like-minded liberal people who loved art and organic living and yoga.  I was constantly shocked at how much there was to do, and how little it cost. I felt like Sarasota must have changed, but deep down it was obvious. I had changed – changed attitude at least. These things have always been here. I just didn’t embrace them due to the limits that come with always having small children in tow.

In time, I met and married David. A man who LOVES Sarasota. David sees Florida as a place brimming with opportunity. He loves the weather, the tropical plants, the beach and the bay. He loves the water, the farmland, the orchards, the art, the sophistication, the music and the diverse people. He loves that Florida is intellectually stimulating, with classes, meeting groups for just about every interest, museums, public non-profits, festivals and more. He constantly expresses appreciation for the career opportunities, varied lifestyle choices, diverse, open-minded people, varied architecture, and the endless entertainment available to us here. Just about every day, David tells me how grateful he is that we live in such an amazing place, and he constantly points out the merits of Sarasota with true joy, keeping me in a state of appreciation too.

Odd. I am happy, living a full, expansive life filled with opportunity and adventure in the very same place that I once saw as limiting. What a revelation!

This isn’t a blog about spouses killing the vibe of a place, but about how each of us must take responsibility for our happiness and protect our authentic opinions. Naysayers can influence your view of the world, and that is sad. There are no boring places, only boring people, and when we look for amusement externally, or when we are too tired (or lack creativity) to make life adventurous no matter where we live, we get what we deserve.) What I want to say is that loving where you live has mostly to do with HOW you live, and that is up to the daily choices you make.

Anyway, this week, David and I went canoeing. We rode our bikes to enjoy the amazing spring weather. We’ve been to a movie and to a restaurant for a lovely meal out. We went to the Dali museum in Tampa last week to see a fantastic “Disney & Dali” exhibit with Neva, but since we are watching our spending, we followed this up with a visit to the John and Mable Ringling Museum on Monday (It is free to the public on Mondays) to walk the grounds, enjoy the landscape, see the renaissance art and the two new exhibits – the silk art of Muslims and the new Japanese modern art room –without spending a dime. We read on our hammock, had a glass of wine in our garden, and later, lay in bed to watch Game of Thrones. Tomorrow we plan to go Strawberry picking at a innovative farm around the corner with hydroponic systems we want to reproduce here. I devoted time this week, as always, to building my business , which thanks to Sarasota’s enlightened community has endless potential. David talked to a few people about new job opportunities. I hosted an amazing weekend with 4 workshops celebrating body, mind & spirit and enjoyed the company of like-minded people that were fun to share conversation with.

How could I ever have thought there is nothing to do in Sarasota? Taking off the blinders I realize I can’t find enough time to fit all the things I want to do in a place so brimming with beauty, opportunity and grace. Work, leisure, study… it is all nurtured here.

We see what we choose to see, and by our view, we create our world. A life of opportunity begins with having a positive attitude and making sure the company we keep supports our appreciation for life’s grand diversity.

I live in an amazing place with someone who will never let me forget that. It is so good to love where you live.



Balancing & boating

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On Wed. I had a group of wonderful yoga teachers graduate from their RYT-200 yoga teacher training. On Friday I was set to begin a yearlong advanced training – my favorite yoga program to teach because it is such an organic process and each year the program forges a different path depending on who is enrolled.

Due to the start and finish times of these teaching endeavors, David and I decided to enjoy the day off in between. We did a little work around the property in the morning to take advantage of the miraculous weather, then stopped ourselves (which wasn’t easy) realizing that once in a great while we deserved to enjoy the day without the work element. We put down our pruners and picked up our paddles to go canoeing.

David has wanted us to get out on the water for a few weeks, because he recently bought two new high end, hand-made paddles to go with our light-weight, well-made, (albeit vintage), canoe. He spent quite a bit of time researching and choosing what kind of paddles he wanted to buy.  The new paddles are perfectly sized for each of our arm to waist ratios, perfectly curved to enhance the draw, and perfectly weighted for racing (although he  doesn’t race anymore, at least not when he’s out with me.) He commissioned them from a paddle artist, I kid you not.

I’d be happy with our old plastic, beat up paddles because frankly, I don’t know the difference between a good paddle and a large plastic spoon, but I have to admit I enjoy seeing how much pleasure David derives from something as simple as his owning a prime paddle to enhance his great pleasure of being outdoors in a quiet boat.

We like to go to a different body of water each time we canoe if possible, and there are tons of choices in Florida, with many very close to us. This time we went to the open water access at Lake Manatee Fish Camp. On this gorgeous Thursday afternoon, we had the water mostly to ourselves. We rowed around the shore to birdwatch (David has been a birdwatcher for years and can name every species by recognizing their calls even before we spy their color or size). As always when we are in the wild, we were Alligator watching too, and for the record, I saw the first which means I remain the leader in the life-long “Who saw the first Alligator” contest. We saw a few 12 footers floating on the surface of the water, and were startled when we were only a few feet from a grassy marsh and suddenly right next to the boat, a huge stretch of grass rustled loudly and ominously revealing we clearly had come too close to a VERY large resting alligator who took exception to our invasive conversation. As the perfectly calm shoreline burst into loud sound and movement, I felt like I was in a horror movie, with a monster ready to attack from the dead quiet forest.  I went into slight panic mode and even David agreed we’d best get on our way and put his newfangled paddle to the test. Thanks to his expertise and his superior paddles, we shot out of there in a flash.  We laughed about it moments later, but for that split second,   I was more than a little uncomfortable, I admit.  But since all’s well that ends well I can now say any day in nature is made more memorable with a touch of excitement, so I was glad of our close proximity to danger (if you can call it that). The adrenaline rush served to keep us more “in the moment” and the only suffering that came as result was my having to listen to my mother’s worried complaints on the phone when I accidentally shared that we saw a few alligators on our day off.

It was a wonderful day. I often think of what it means to live a life in balance, and carving out time in our busy hard-working life to enjoy a little peace and adventure is hugely important to avoid the oppressive feeling that the world is passing you by while all you do is stick to the daily grind. I remember years ago, feeling I had to escape Florida to ever make room in my life to enjoy nature or down time. I moved, and all the sporty, life enriching experiences I imagined were forthcoming never manifested.  What I learned by that period of life is that your life can be whatever you chose to make it, wherever you live because it isn’t the surroundings that make your life peaceful, or organic, or natural or pleasant or fulfilling. It’s your mindset and having the discipline to not put off tomorrow what you deserve today. I’m not implying that we should be self-indulgent and irresponsible with our time or resources, but it is just as detrimental to be chained to work as it is to be the kind of person who lazily avoids doing what it takes to keep life working.  The world offers whatever you need if you can just stop making external excuses, and instead see that the remarkable opportunities that abound wherever you land on the map.

Today, I am back at work with a packed 12 hour teaching day with both a RYT-200 & a RYT-500 class  in session. Since I love what I do, this is more a joy than a cumbersome demand, but I also know that I am fueled to meet the demands because I paused yesterday to revive the soul and just breathe.


Creativity Abounds

I have been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Partly, this is because I’ve begun writing a new book –a non-fiction book on the craft of writing for spiritual growth (journaling and memoir). In consideration of how I want to structure the material, I’ve given a great deal of thought to creativity and how it manifests in a person’s life. When I teach journaling I often recommend the book The Artist’s Way and ever since reading this deeply inspirational text, I’ve seen every single person on this earth as an artist. The joy I found in embracing my own creativity without guilt has gently shifted my vision for Heartwood too, so we are doing more and more to introduce spiritual crafts and art as a means of personal growth here as an extension of our yoga programs. I think one of the surest paths to spiritual awareness and finding one’s center is through artistic expression – and there are endless possibilities for creativity.

For years, I lived with an artist who unintentionally yet undeniably made me feel as if artistry was some kind of competition – and if I wasn’t going to be the best, I should just leave that game to the super players. The general consensus was that I was a great dancer and choreographer, and a pretty good writer, but since I was only expert in those subjects, all other art was better left to experts in those fields. I would dabble in crafts, such as fiber arts, cooking or sewing, but I was careful to voice a disclaimer to make sure no one thought I dared think I was actually GOOD at this stuff. It was as if only the most talented of people were allowed into the secret club of the gifted in each field. Thankfully, my entire world opened up the day I let that foolishness go and embraced my artistry as a non-denominational, all-inclusive, member of the human race endeavor. Now, it feels like my entire life is a work of art – everything from my writing and gardening to the way I run my business, dress or clean my house. Yes, when you see life as a blank canvas begging for color, everything you do begins to feel like an act of creativity.

David and I recently took a full day’s writing workshop with a renowned writing teacher who teaches Chilmark workshops at Kripalu , Omega, a few colleges, and many other places – Nancy Slonim Aronie. She is author of Writing from the Heart, a book more about the origin of creativity, how to unearth your voice and the right to write than she is about teaching the actual craft of writing. David and I had a lovely day, both in the workshop and on the break when we strolled downtown and stopped for an intimate, artsy lunch in a little bistro downtown. But though I enjoyed the program, much of the day I felt my mind waning from the course and rolling around how my version of teaching writing differs from what we were experiencing and whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not implying my writing courses are better or worse, but definitely different, and since I want to be both inspirational and informative, I had to give thought to whether my choices were effective for my students. A few of my writing students were in the workshop, and it was a fascination to me to watch them interact differently due to the different energy of the room. They too remarked on how different my class was from this one, and they thanked me for what I offer, without in any way judging either of our classes (which I thought was lovely). Having taken so many kinds of writing classes – everything from romance writing workshops to my literary MFA, I realize that every experience offers a different perspective and understanding of writing and writers. And they are all good. Teachers must employ creative ways to teach the love of writing too, which means there are many ways to get where you are going – all valid.

David and I have taken to signing up for some art adventures as our date of choice lately. Recently we have been taking art journaling classes at creative cove. We’ve had a ball painting, collaging and exploring art on the page as a precursor to adding poetry or other writing to a journal. I’ve enjoyed this so much I arranged a private lesson for us when my daughter came to visit, and she and I spent hours the following day art journaling on our own. My art journal is expanding, as I get more adventurous with paint and paper mediums.

So, as the walls of self-consciousness come down and I see that every effort to create helps a person connect to something deeply personal and often spiritual. I no longer see the art being created, but the act of creation as the ultimate point. And this is where I will begin my new book – not on how to write, but why.

Below a few pictures of David and I in class, and a few pages of his journal and mine as we explore the fun of expressing individual selves . . . together.

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The right to write

artist way

Today, I taught “Journaling for Deeper Awareness” a three hour introduction to creative journaling that explores new approaches to putting thoughts on a page to gain personal insight. I always have between 12 and 20 people in attendance and I offer the course about 7 times a year, so if you add up the people who have sat through my lecture, I’ve lead hundreds of people to the altar of journaling Many people tell me that once we turn on the writing faucet through this inspirational process, they simply can’t turn it off, and the words gush from them for months revealing all kinds of insight and healing. I’m told this course is one of my most powerful teaching endeavors because the way I introduce the subject – not as a series of exercises, but focusing on the theory behind the process –  really changes lives.

“All those emotions and all that history require space to percolate. . . . better out than in”, I always say.

Today a gentleman in the class said that he wasn’t sure whether or not my exercises and the material I presented was going to help him in any way, but hearing the stories of my past (which I tell with sincerity and lots of humor) has deeply affected him. He said, “I can’t tell you how much listening to your talk has helped me. I thought my divorce was the worst ever, but hearing you tell about your experiences makes me feel better somehow. There is something profoundly settling about knowing someone else has had a similar, or worse, experience. ”

I wasn’t sure if the idea that my troubling life experiences makes someone else’s life seem less horrible by comparison is something to be proud of, but the idea that one person feels I’ve helped them “hugely” has to be a good thing, right? And I always tell students about my negative experiences as an example of how to turn life’s upheaval around and find emotional balance and forgiveness through writing. So there is a positive curve to my stories in the end because the overriding theme is how writing saw me through darker times.

Recently, I was asked to be a contributor to the Sivana blog (an international yoga company that prides themselves on sharing eastern wisdom with western thinking customers), and I chose to write about journaling to clear your chakras (seemed an appropriate subject for that specific audience.) Mostly, I took a few of my favored exercises and turned them on edge to address the issue of blocked energies when the chakras are viewed as the 7 basic human rights. A few people who read the blog have written me with positive feedback. That was nice. (You can check it out here:

One Week To Completely Clear Your Chakras

I loved that being a guest blogger enabled me to extend my reach to share this process with others, and I found it interesting that the basic concepts of writing, be it journaling, blogging, letters or formal essays, can be used for healing no mater what angle you approach it from. Writing works – as a yogi, an artist, a writer, or every day person who simply wants to try something new for the fun of it.

I believe in what I am teaching, because the act of putting pen to paper has been the most valuable thing I’ve ever done to understand my place and purpose on earth and to work out the chaos of events that has at times left me feeling deplete of love, respect, appreciation or just tied in knots . Writing has shed perspective on my relationships, my history, my energies, my self-perception, my behaviors and my hopes for the future. I’ve been blogging for well over ten years, and thousands of individuals have read my posts. I always marvel when I look at statistics –not just friends, but strangers read my work and that realization impresses upon me that I must be responsible to the words I scatter. If someone will devote minutes of their life to reading a post – the least you can do it make it worthy of their precious time.

When I became single again after years of being married , I was ridiculed for my writing by a few people who consider themselves to be spiritually evolved, yet who felt they were now my nemesis’-a position which entitled them to attack me. The letter included no message beyond personal insults, so it served no purpose except as a contrived vehicle to hurt me. In a carefully worded e-mail I was told I have no soul, that I am a bad writer and that I will never have anything published – and that my years of steady blogging was a sign of my overblown ego, because no one cares what I think. The letter went on to attack my looks, my lack of talent, and my sexuality, as well as proclaiming that my children, my students, my parents, my ex, and friends, (if they were all honest) would have to admit they have all always hated me. Apparently, I’m clueless about how truly disliked I am and everyone else is in on the fact.

Lots of cruel things were said, but the comment about my writing was the only thing that stayed with me. That letter was a perfect example of how people who consider themselves soulful can so easily dismiss and belittle the spiritual journey of others. People who, by all accounts, should respect and care for you are often the first to attack your process if they want to silence you and/or rob you of your right to figure out who you are and what you believe rather than accepting that you may have feelings other than what they want to program into you .

I kept that letter for prosperity, and when I teach writing, I use that message as an example of how outsiders will judge and try to interrupt your right to explore you heart with writing by criticizing or making you feel ashamed for expressing your honest feelings. I want people to know that you don’t need permission or anyone’s blessing to research your heart and mind by writing, and no one can take this inward journey away from you by claiming you need measurable results (like being published) to validate your time spent writing. There is a book called “The Artist’s Way” that deals exactly with this issue, how people silence artists through attempts to shame them or point out that their talent is lacking (when talent is not something that can be measured or found lacking when it comes to personal expression). I recommend this book at every writing class I teach. (Funny thing -the person who instigated that letter to me has proclaimed that book to be their favorite for many years – kinda funny to think they value the message in regards to their artistic freedom, yet don’t feel the same respect should be afforded others.)

Anyway, I have long been a writer. I layer words in private journals. I blog, I write formal books. I’ve won writing contests. I’ve written garbage. Lots. And I have to say, I’m proud of it all. Every word I’ve ever written has been part of this amazing journey to explore life and how I feel about it. Some of my words are lyrical and hit the mark. Others flounder and are sentimental and stupid. But I see every effort to come to the page as an act towards self-knowing.  I wish for everyone in the world to have the gift of insight that comes with asking yourself questions and finding the answers through writing. I feel privileged that I can share what I know and believe about this process with others. Mostly, I’m proud that time, perceived success (or lack thereof), and other circumstances have never silenced me or made me second guess the rich value in writing. That is the message I want to share most with my students and the world at large. Write. It is not about what you actually produce, but what you learn by shuffling about words and letting them fall, uncensored, on the page.

That Fishy Learning Curve

Two and a half years ago, David and I began building a garden. This was a symbolic thing for us because we are beyond the stage where, as a newlywed couple, we’d start a family and bring new life (children) into the world. Mutual history and life experiences are what  plant deep roots in a couple’s history and over time, this vested interest makes it worthwhile to stay together when things aren’t perfect. The garden was our first unique creation as a team, and while the creativity of the project was fun, the planning, budgeting, and learning to work together and problem solving together was the real gift.

David broke ground to establish the basic design, determining that the primary focus of the garden was going to be a pond in the center. With the help of a bulldozer, he dug  a huge hole in the middle of our grassy stretch of lawn, and then he added a liner, rocks, plants, a waterfall and a hand engineered filter system. After a few months of letting the water rest and the plants get established, we invested 450 dollars (which felt like a fortune) on 7 hand picked, mature fish – one for each Chakra since our garden was going to be designed to celebrate the energetic body. I had a great time picking those fish out of hundreds on display, and when David got home from work that day, we sat outside pointing out the varied differences of each fish – both in color and personality. The fish adjusted well and lived happily – proof that we were on the right track and knew what we were doing.

Every morning, we took our coffee out into the garden to inspect how all our new, smallish plants were growing in to fill in each chakra area. We brainstormed ideas – arbors, or Chakra mosaic stones, to keep the garden evolving.  But no matter what new plantings we set out to inspect each day, we always began our  morning visit standing on the bridge that David made, feeding our koi. We loved how they would come to the surface to eat, showing off their brilliant color. A few short months after introducing our new fish to the pond, we noticed a few baby koi too. Now our fish acquisition exceeded the actual number of energy centers, but we considered these surprise fish to be the minor chakras since these fish were smaller anyway. We looked for the new fish each morning, marveling at how quickly they grew. Once in a great while, a heron would manage to spike a koi from the sidelines, and we’d find one of our beloved fish on the gravel next to the pond, dead. It was always frustrating since the fish were way too big for a bird to consume -the death was a waste, but that is the way of nature.

Koi are notoriously dirty fish, and as the months progressed, the pond got cloudier and dirty. David changed the design of his filter more than once. We hired someone to come and clean the pond last spring.  An expensive proposition, but a fair investment since we so love this pond and our symbolic fish. Even with a professional cleaning, the water never got as clean as it once was, and the koi became all but invisible to visitors – except us, who got to see them in that early morning time when they came to the surface to feed.

So, I began complaining. I wanted everyone to see and enjoy our huge, colorful fish. David tried changing the koi food, and tampering with the filters. He even started designing a unique and original koi pond cleaner that would run all the time, like a pool cleaner. He talked about  patenting the concept and design and manufacturing the product when and if he ever had a workable model.

As this spring approached, the dirty pond seemed all that much dirtier juxtapositioned next to the great blooms erupting everywhere. With filled yoga trainings, people are out there, enjoying the garden constantly,  so I amped up my complaints about the state of the pond water. It has been murky for over a year now, and I fully expect my brilliant, engineering husband to figure a way to get it back in balance.

So this week, David (always devoted to my happiness) decided to take some time to clean out that pond once and for all and to redesign the filter again to keep the pond clear.

He thought on the task awhile, then decided to siphon the water from the bottom where all the gunk is, and put new water on top, thus maintaining the level. This was similar to what the fellow did who specializes on cleaning koi ponds, only that guy took a full day to do the job. David considers himself far more economical with time and resources, so he figured a way to do the same work in only a few hours.

So he set up the system and went to Home depot to get some supplies for another job he had in mind to do. I was in the garden taking pictures and I noticed all the fish started hanging around the surface (pictures above). That looked “fishy” to me, so I called him and said that perhaps the koi were struggling to breathe, and he should reconsider his pond cleaning strategy. David insisted that things were fine, he was only doing what the pond specialist did, and he would be back in a little while to finish the job. Trusting that David usually has a grip on the science of any project, I went back to work on my computer and forgot about the fish.

Within two hours, David came home only to find all of our koi – 14 gorgeous, decorative fish (some two feet in length) floating belly up. Goners. David flipped out and quickly used a net to transfer the huge fish to another pond we have, where he hoped the natural balanced water might revive those fish who still were moving slightly. But this just meant they said goodbye to the world in a slightly bigger body of water, because in the morning they were all floating belly up on the surface, their brilliant color glistening in the sun.

David really expect them to survive by the move, but he couldn’t see a live creature struggle and do nothing. He couldn’t sleep all night, wrestling with guilt and wanting to kick himself for his mistake.  Of course, the fact that I called him with the warning and voiced concern made it worse. David also felt badly that he had brushed off my practical concerns. For me, the call just meant I was absolved of guilt and could shrug and say, “Well…. I told you it didn’t look right…”.

I told David that losing the fish was sad, but they are, after all, only fish and that I’ve done worse. I once cooked 58 baby chicks in an attempt to set up an incubator light to keep them cozy….(a chapter from my “new, soon to be released” book for anyone who wants the nitty gritty on this admirable moment in Ginny history). David pointed out that they may be just fish, but they were symbolic, expensive fish, and important to us.

But if there is one thing living 57 years and studying yoga has taught me, it’s that the only meaning anything has is the meaning we assign. I’m certainly sorry all our koi are dead. But at the same time, I have the opportunity to see the symbolism differently. I do not have to mourn or suffer the “what if” or “if only…” that tortures us when things don’t go our way. I don’t need to feed a personal drama or use this moment to tell my husband he should listen to me more. I can accept what has happened gracefully and apply what we’ve learned to my personal wisdom.

Yes, we loved our fish and each day the responsibility of feeding them gave David and I a joint activity that connected us to the garden and each other. But making mistakes is a part being a couple too, and accepting that rituals and daily habits come and go as life throws us curve balls is a sign that we adapt – and how nice it has been to see we don’t turn on each other with “I told ya so’s” or “you should’a’s”  when we are disappointed. As such, the death of the fish is almost as symbolic as their surviving had been. The fish don’t mater half as much as how we, as a couple, deal with their life, death, and impact on the story that makes up our history.

So what now? David is studying pond filters, and we have time to drain the pond and start over. And when we feel ready, we will start again with some new fish – economical smaller koi since I now know that they grow over a foot a year here. There can be meaning in how we revisit the problem this time around too if I look hard enough.

On the night the koi died, David opened a beer, signed and said (kiddingly), “I suppose my murdering the fish will be a nice chapter in your next book. The world will know how thick I am in regards to the fish learning curve…”

A chapter in my next memoir – hummmm – I doubt it,  but this fish tale certainly will make it into a blog. After all, death, mistakes, good intentions and the lessons we learn from daily life is the stuff worth examining- doing so is how we plants roots.

My Garden of Yoga


It’s that time of year when Heartwood is in bloom. Each day I marvel when I walk into the garden and see a swatch of color that wasn’t there the day before. While I was sleeping, one plant or another has reached that pivotal stage where it is ready to open and, suddenly, a flower is before me, revealing deep levels of beauty and a familiar design that, if I look closely enough, is unique from all others. I know witnessing this beauty is fleeting, so being in this time and place to see nature unfold humbles me and I am honored to have had the exposure to something so intimate and remarkable as this act of a single flower evolving to a state of grandeur .

I walk pass these flowers, smiling at their beauty-enjoying how pretty they are, and yet, even so, because I have a certain expectation about what I will find in the garden each spring day, I am never surprised by the arrival of blooms. Blooming is what flowers do this time of year, right? So, even in my state of gratitude, on some level, I still take the beauty for granted. I am enjoying flowers, yet missing the true depth of the miracle of seeing a flower bloom. In the picture above (which I took a few moments ago), there is a bee on the flower to the right. Looking at the image, did you notice this extra detail, or did you see only the expected, pretty spring flower?

Like flowers, yoga students bloom. They come to Heartwood to learn. I teach them all the elements of yoga that they are required to master to be certified by Yoga Alliance. I try to go deeper and add even more poignant elements in the training with hopes that a more expansive program will help the lessons of yoga infiltrate into their hearts and minds and embed deeply within. When this happens a subtle (or not so subtle) transformation occurs. Thanks to the universal science of cause and effect, the evolution of a yoga student inevitably means that the entire world shifts a little bit because this student will now go forth and interact with others in a more yogic way. Their life choices shift a bit, and the steps they take from this point on land somewhat off of the course they might have walked without the yoga experience affecting their gait. Everything – the entire world- is different after just one person embraces yoga in an authentic way because each and every one of us impacts every person, place and thing we encounter in life. And how we encounter others makes a difference. And this in turn affects how those individuals will encounter others and so on and so on…

I am a pretty good yoga teacher, or so I like to think. Therefore, this inevitable blooming of a student’s heart and mind never surprises me– like flowers in spring. Together, we have put in time and effort to explore yoga so, naturally, they are destined to evolve. I’m deeply honored to be a part of this process, but even so, to some extent, I take for granted that each of my students will transform and bloom, so I’m not particularly surprised by this  happening. As the yoga training course comes to an end, the students often profess that something profound has happened in their world, and I smile knowingly, as if to say, “Yea, that is how it goes….”

I must take care, least I miss noticing that small something special that is happening under the obvious, because, just like my flowers, witnessing a yoga student unfolding in beauty and understanding is an exquisite work of nature worthy of deeper attention. If I take for granted that every student is simply going to be more yogic, I don’t notice the remarkable detail that might be right in front of my eyes – the unique and individual new yogic identity that has suddenly manifested and is unlike all others. I don’t want to just see a beautiful flower, and I certainly don’t want to see it through the eyes of a gardener taking credit for his or her green thumb – I rather look closely enough to notice the bee on the flower and ponder the miracle that the act of a blooming truly is.

Each student’s time at Heartwood is fleeting, and after we have enjoyed our time learning together, it is appropriate they move on to other places where students of their own await their influence. I always feel a little let down when my students graduate, for I miss what they add to the place while they are here, just as I miss the flowers when the seasons change. I am a gardener, and without me and all my hard work, I guess I could boast that there would be no flowers on our property, and yet, I can’t really take credit for the beauty of these flowers. Each plant has a life, a color and something special to add to the environment – and though I get all sweaty nurturing, feeding, pruning and exposing my plants to sun and water- they really bloom only when and if nature determines they should.  I can’t take credit for that. So I endeavor to do the one thing I can – witness, marvel and truly celebrate the miraculous process of a flower – or a student-  coming into their own. To watch things bloom is amazing, and just knowing you play a small part in the process is very special indeed.

Here is what I saw blooming today at Heartwood.

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