Retreat: Dancing Divine Feminine Wisdom

upload Two years ago I was the officiant at Thaemos and Jami’s beautiful autumn wedding, a role which I was honored to play. It was a gorgeous hot day and we made the magic happen. Lo and behold, they were hitched!

2015-11-13 12.00.16Last weekend I was given the most amazing thank you gift. I went with two dear friends (and met a third there) for weekend at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. 2015-11-15 15.10.22

We participated in a 10-hour workshop led by Banafsheh Sayyad, MFA, LAc, a Persian sacred dance artist and transformational teacher, and Safron Rossi, PhD, who teaches mythology and depth psychology at Pacifica Institute and is curator of collections at Opus Archives. Safron recently edited a collection of Joseph Campbell’s writings and lectures on goddesses.

“Transformation of consciousness is a key to navigating the chaos of our world, both personally and collectively. Hidden in the wisdom of the great goddesses of world mythologies is the seed for this transformative potential. What does it feel like to embody mythic consciousness? Tap into the archetypal energy core of the great myths through dance and myth-telling, and experience the transformative power of the feminine. Women and men both need to cultivate an intimate relationship with the feminine divine, and dance is one of the most direct ways to experience her energy and embody her wisdom.

“Join Banafsheh, Safron and musician Tony Khalife in a weaving of mythic storytelling, images, reflective writing, Dance of Oneness®, and live music. Invoke, explore, and embody the goddesses Sophia from alchemical and mystical traditions of the East and Christianity, the Sumerian-Babylonian Inanna, and the Greek Aphrodite. Dance of Oneness®, the conscious movement practice and philosophy designed by Banafsheh, supports living your fullest potential through loving your body and your Self, and living as a Lover. Guided movement and dance technique serve to ignite your unique expression of dance. Open to everyone. The workshop includes ceremony and ecstatic dance celebration.”

Doesn’t that sound delicious? I can assure you, it absolutely was! We explored so many juicy questions in examining the myths and images of Inanna, Aphrodite, and Sophia. Diving into that goddess mythology and imagery again felt wonderful; it’s been quite a few years since that stuff was part of my daily life. It was like meeting an old friend again and getting the most comforting warm hug.

2015-11-13 17.29.34These are some of the ideas we explored: After hearing the myth of Inanna’s descent into the underword, we were asked: What are you willing to let die, to sacrifice, to make room to birth something new? What is trying to be renewed? What part of you yearns for rebirth, transformation, or transmutation? What needs to be born?  

Innana’s descent brings to mind  the shedding of layers or masks, the sacrifice of our identifying symbols, or even the sacrifice of self or self-concept. In the darkness lies an opportunity, a seed. It holds the possibility of the excavation of oneself. Janelle said “composting.” Let die to be reborn; within the dank earth the seed can germinate. Yellow Galaxy Whorl

Banafsheh taught us the basics of Sufi sacred dancing. For something like 45 minutes we whiled like dervishes, spinning fast or slow, unwinding into a quiet, listening place. What goddess is whispering to you? When you dance what goddess is dancing in you?

I learned the Arabic word for womb is rahim. Banafsheh said it also means mercy and compassion. This was an important moment for me, it cracked my heart wide open. We played with our womb energy and moved it through our hearths and out in the world through our expressive dancing. My womb energy is my caretaking, interconnected, merciful,  loving, compassionate source. It’s both suffering and birthing, of my self, of love, of child of light, of the world.  I was inspired that maybe I could say rahim instead of amen.

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We also covered Aphrodite, a goddess I have always been tuned to, and especially her connection with rapture, that force which longs to join, to unite, with the beloved. She is playful. Curious. Elemental, born out of conjoining of earth,  sky, and ocean. Birthed in sea foam. Aphrodite is lusty, earthy, but also atmospheric, ethereal, light, airy, flighty. A dove is one of her symbols.  She is luscious, unapologetically sensual. Yet even Aphrodite must be by herself a while, regularly, and renew her virginity, to go within and renew herself. Replenish. The goddess, the divine feminine, is a vessel of love, energy, rhythms, and compassion that is constantly pouring out into the world and welling up within us to be poured out again. We have to refill our personal vessels sometimes. Esalen is Jami’s place of replenishment, revirginificaton. Where is mine? I wonderd. How can I get there more?

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We also touched a little on Sophia, the goddess of the world’s wisdom, God’s companion, adviser. She appears in Jewish, Persian, Gnostic tradition. She is the soul of the world. I would like to study Sophia more. We didn’t have enough time with her.

Jubulant, juicy Jeena and JamiDuring the workshop we danced and danced. We met women from Iran, Indonesia, Wales (via Fiji), and many parts of the US. We co-created a transformative space, where we were safe, able to move and express ourselves, able to weep or vocalize or whatever. The environment was made magical by Tony’s music. All the dancing was to live music. Such a gift he has, weaving story and voice, drums, guitar, and other instruments I didn’t know the names of. He was delightful too.

So will our delightful leaders and a group of participants who were inspiring and courageous, we made some serious magic by the sea. We women wove our dance together and the goddesses moved through us. And it was a rare and wonderful treat to see Jeena for a whole weekend! upload2015-11-15 08.08.27    2015-11-15 07.59.43

I will refrain from waxing poetic about the baths. Suffice to say, rahim!

And then it was done. We felt full and tired, energized and awake. I think we each came away with a lot to think about. I felt more in touch with a part of me than I had for a long time. I have in the past been cautious about revealing my own spirituality here. But this is too important to be quiet about. 2015-11-15 17.10.53

On the way home, we stopped to touch the ocean, bathed our eyes, lips, hearts, bellies in sea foam, and found red rose petals scattered on the sand, one for each of us. Thank you, Aphrodite.

My heart is full of gratitude. So to Jami, who made this happen. Thank you!

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Here’s a flashback: On the way down to Esalen, we stopped at Point Lobos and did a teeny-tiny hike. It was so amazing to be back at the sea again. I’ve included shots here because it was so completely beautiful.2015-11-13 12.08.372015-11-13 11.58.29 2015-11-13 12.12.12 Me and my soul sister Janelle. Many thanks to Jami for the photo.upload

Chinese New Year in San Diego

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Ian and I went to San Diego last month for an industry conference called Cal ABA. He got to attend presentations and meet with colleagues and strategize with his business partners. He got a bunch of CEUs taken care of too. It was a great trip and I had tons of fun. We did a little bit of sight-seeing in the evenings and we had a full day on Saturday to explore San Diego.

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It happened to be Lunar New Year and we stumbled upon this amazing celebration in the Chinese part of town. It was totally cool and it was the only time during the five days we were away that I really wished our boys were with us: They would have loved to see the lion dancers and the dragons, and all the people celebrating.

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San Diego is a beautiful town, and we explored on foot, for that’s our favorite way to see a city. We walked from the Gas Light district to the top of the hill and Balboa Park.

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We visited the Museum of Man and a traveling exhibit on Instruments of Torture, which sounded really cool at first but quickly overwhelmed me. Some history is more fascinating and palatable when it’s removed—which I suppose it always is since it’s history. But seeing the racks and saws and knuckle crushers and such up close and in person was a bit too much for my vivid imagination. I made it about two-thirds of the way through the exhibit and then left and waited for Ian outside. The purpose was to call attention to the fact that torture is not merely a thing of the past, and that the capacity of harming others is something that’s still within us. It’s up to individuals to choose not to engage in such practices, and to insist that the powers of the world do not.

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But then I got to meet C3-P0, and that made me feel better. He wasn’t very talkative, however. Balboa park is truly beautiful, and the buildings are highly ornamented. I liked this goddess wall in particular:

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And this ficus macrophylla tree, which was planted in 1915 and is 80 feet tall with a canopy width of 150 feet. Amazing!

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San Diego is gorgeous and I look forward to spending more time there someday. We had terrific meals with friends in the Gaslamp quarter and in the old town.

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Our hotel/convention center was kinda weird—like a place out of time. It seemed to have been frozen in 1964, and yet, it was more adorable than not. I wish the weather had been just slightly warmer so I could have sunbathed by one of the three pools.

A lovely trip all in all!

A Dickens Christmas

Bay Bridge #California

In late November, we enjoyed a terrific day at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. The boys had never been before and the last time Ian and I were there was probably 15 years ago. We left a rainy Sacramento to drive to the city, where I got to admire our pretty bridges and took some fun shots out the car windows. (Don’t laugh, they’re worth it.)

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The Fair does an excellent job of representing a Victorian London “where it’s always Christmas Eve and the streets resound with celebrations of the season!” Chestnuts, puppeteers, street musicians, stage shows, Bobbies in uniform, gangs of urchins, card players, and dancers enliven the place. I don’t remember it being so elaborately textured and staged! Honestly, it’s a feast for the senses.

#dickens #faire #music #waltz #violin

I got to dance a bit at Fezziwig’s Christmas party.

Foresto #dickens #faire #waltz

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We watched dear friends perform and dance. That’s Bryn and Nicole there, playing with the Bruno Band.

Ebenezer and Ghost of Christmas Present #dickens #faire #christmas

Ran into Ebenezer and the Ghost of Christmas Present—you know, this fellow:

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Scrooges third visitor-John Leech,1843” by John Leech

Mad Sal's #autumn #dickens #faire

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Hammered dulcimer

Wands

We bought the boys wands as souvenirs. Asher chose Harry Potter’s wand. Lucas got a beautiful custom wooden wand.

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After a while, Asher reached a melting point. We realized that from his shorter perspective, it was all a bit overwhelming. I wish we could have stayed a little longer, but when you have to leave, you have to leave. The city glowed under stormy skies for us on our way home.

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Happy Hanukkah!

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Hello!

I will spare you the details about how I’m behind on lots of stuff; it’s been a rough week. However, I’m feeling better and because of that my spirits are soaring! And all that stuff that’s piled up will get done eventually. More to come on Dickens Christmas Fair, tree hunting, St. Nick, and Santa Lucia.

Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago, in case you’d like to make my Star of David window stars this week. Click the link for a detailed tutorial.

I’m wishing everyone a joyful holiday season filled with light, laughter, and peace on earth. Shalom.

Giving Thanks

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Thanksgiving
THANK YOU
for all my hands can hold—
apples red,
and melons gold,
yellow corn
both ripe and sweet,
peas and beans
so good to eat!

THANK YOU
for all my eyes can see—
lovely sunlight,
field and tree,
white cloud-boats
in sea-deep sky,
soaring bird
and butterfly.

THANK YOU
for all my ears can hear—
birds’ song echoing
far and near,
songs of little
stream, big sea,
cricket, bullfrog,
duck and bee!
—Ivy O. Eastwick

 

To my parents, thank you for all the unflagging faith, love, friendship, and for all you do to support me and my family, even still, even though I’m 42.

To my brother, thank you for being so steadfast, and for opening up.

To my in-laws, thank you for the love and comfort, for your respect, for the constant love you flow to my children.

To my sons, thank you for so much joy and inspiration, for being so resilient when we mess up, for shining your pure and perfect light into our lives, and for loving us completely.

To my friends, who are legion, near and far, thank you for the laughs, adventures, trust, time, attention, caring, honesty, support, forgiveness, courage, vulnerability, strength, creativity, madness, and dreams.

To my husband, who is my whole heart, my earth, my home, and my fire, who teaches, scrubs, weeps, strives, laughs, heals, parents, and sleeps beside me, thank you for everything you are and for loving me.

I am blessed beyond deserving, beyond measure. And I am grateful.

 

Love Is …

First time in months #painting #oils #art #learning

  • Ian buying me new windshield wipers and installing them, and fixing my rear brake light because he noticed it was out.
  • Lucas making rock candy at home because he learned how in chemistry class!
  • My Daddy.
  • Friends who trust and follow you into the fire, then lead you safely out again.
  • Meal planning and thinking about all the good food to put into all the good people I love.
  • When my guys give me gratitudes to write in our gratitude journal, even though they’d rather not.
  • Heavy whipping cream in my coffee.
  • Friends who make a special point to walk together on their rare day off.
  • Painting for the first time in 9 months. I love it so! Why the hell don’t I paint more often?!
  • Forgiving myself for not painting more often.
  • Buying all-new concert dress clothes/shoes for my boy for Thursday’s fall concert, and hoping-hoping-hoping they will still fit for the spring concert—or if not then, at least for next month’s winter concert.
  • VoVo’s consistent and helpful babysitting.
  • November, ablaze with fall color, and roses blooming too!
  • My sunny boy with Shaun Cassidy hair.
  • Reading about adventuring hedgehogs with my sunny boy.
  • Parent-teacher conferences.
  • A fluffy dog who is always ready to clean your paws for you.
  • 5k Fun Run for my moody son, who benefited from it even if he didn’t think it was all that fun.
  • My grandmother and my grandaunt, who have passed away. I miss them very much right now.
  • Ian reading The Golden Compass aloud to us, after reading more than 5,000 pages of Harry Potter to us this year.
  • Lyra Belacqua herself. Because boys need girl heroes too.
  • Pulling out beloved, ancient comic books for Lucas to read.
  • Friends who cook delicious meals as a way to celebrate their birthday with guests.
  • Trusting and watching a new chapter unfold.

Elf Quest #comics #12yearold #seventhgrade #son

NEW Martinmas and Thanksgiving E-Book

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It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, and I wish I had had time to blog about Halloween sooner and our beautiful trip into the foothills last weekend, but I wasn’t able to. My writing partner, Eileen, and I were working hard to complete another festivals e-book for our series. And we made it happen just in time! I’m proud to announce the NEW Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book.

It had been more than a year since our last festival book was released from Little Acorn Learning, and I have to say, I have really missed crafting and writing with Eileen. She is a wonderful, inspiring woman. She cares so much about her family and her community, and she is a powerhouse of inspiration and creativity. Everywhere she goes, she leads others to a more wholesome, soulful experience. She certainly has done so for me a hundred times over.

Here is a mosaic of some of the photos in our new e-book offered as a teaser:

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This volume is the SEVENTH (oh my gosh!) volume in our series of Festival E-Books designed to help you find a way into the natural and religious festivals that honor the earth and our human community. This book includes the festivals of Martinmas, or Saint Martin’s Day, and Thanksgiving. Although not everyone celebrates the North American holiday of Thanksgiving, we feel the twin themes of generosity and gratitude that weave throughout this e-book are universally recognized and cultivated, no matter where you live. We have endeavored to provide inspiration and celebration ideas that will help you create fulfilling and joyful holidays in your home or classroom.

This Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book contains a nature-based religious perspective as well as Christian and Native American perspectives on the abundant and happy season of harvest, when we gather together to celebrate the great bounty of the earth and our beautiful human community. There is, in our opinion, some overlap of autumn symbols and traditions, and we feel they can coexist in the context of the late autumn festivals in peace.

We hope you enjoy our e-book. It can be purchased on the Little Acorn Learning website here, and if you look around on Little Acorn Learning you will find many more delightful products there.

Authors:
~ Eileen Straiton, 
Little Acorn Learning
~ Sara Wilson, Love in the Suburbs

Contents
*Beautiful Book Recommendations
*St. Martin and Martinmas Customs
*Martinmas Verses and Songs
*Christ Appears to Saint Martin Tale
*A Very Old Story About St. Martin’s Eve
*Organize a Saint Martin’s Cloak Coat Drive
*Horsehoe Cookies Recipe
*The Autumn Ball
*Autumn Simmer Pot
*Preserving Leaves with Beeswax Tutorial
*The Robin
*St. Martin Weckmann and Afternoon Tea Recipe
*Martinmas Puppet Show
*Martinmas Lanterns Tutorial
*Easy Painted Lanterns Tutorial
*Lantern Walk
*Saint Martin Chant
*Lantern Bearer Transparency Tutorial
*Caregiver Meditation: Living Peacefully
*Martinmas Mandala Tutorial
*Games for Martinmas Time
*Fall Fabric Wreath Tutorial
*Autumn Leaf Candles Tutorial
*Harvest Mother Doll Tutorial
*Thanksgiving Leaf Mobile Tutorial
*Easy Autumn Leaf Garland Tutorial
*Kindness at My Table Tutorial
*Cornhusk Placemats Tutorial
*Why all Men Love the Moon Fable
*Giving Thanks
*Games for Thanksgiving Time
*Thanksgiving Verses and Songs
*Turkey Window Transparency Tutorial
*Caregiver Meditation: Gratitude
*Family Gratitude Journal
*Welcome to the Table
*Thanksgiving Poetry and Quotations
*Involving Children in Preparing the Thanksgiving Feast:
-Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe
-Bold and Beautiful Carrot Dip Recipe
-Baby Butter Jar Recipe
-Thanksgiving Squash Soup and Roasted Squash Seeds Recipe
-Chip-Chop Roasted Vegetables Recipe
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Love Is …

My children have learned the value of money. They both have things they want to buy, and are seeking jobs to earn cash. Asher claims this is 600 spikey balls, worth a penny each (because I hate them littering my yard). Lucas is presently sweeping and mopp

  • Seattle with my love—three glorious days away from home.
  • Grandmas who babysit my boys for free so I can meet my deadlines.
  • Dry Cucumber Soda.
  • Great summertime piano progress!
  • Giving away our handmade (and mama-made) treasures to younger children, who might just enjoy some of them.
  • Knowing my little niece is just down the street, attending a Waldorf in-home preschool that Lucas went to when he was little.
  • Watching my 12-year-old lace up his fancy new kicks and go running in preparation for the fall cross country season.
  • Joining in with a bunch of friendly, eager people from our Class of 2020 to do yard work for some beloved grandparents, who kindly bought the work day at our school fundraising auction—especially watching these rising seventh-graders hard at work pruning, shoveling gravel, and carrying heavy things.
  • Kayaking with my loves. (We need to build two skegs!)
  • Boys who wake up in the morning and play chess.
  • Beautiful, fresh-laid eggs, even if during the summer my boys don’t want to eat them.
  • Seeing old friends embrace change with camaraderie, grace, and style even while they are sad, and wishing them every happiness.
  • Handsome boys who spent the summer learning new skills, such as emptying and loading the dishwasher, and embracing (mostly) additional chores and household responsibilities to help Daddy and me.
  • Watching my boys come to understand money in a new way, realize that to have some of the things they want they must earn money and pay for these things themselves, and then actively seek jobs to earn this money (such as picking up liquidambar “spikey balls” and washing cars). They are negotiating when to spend hard-earned money and when to save. This is valuable stuff!
  • My new clothes dryer. Hallelujah for such inventions!
  • A boy who practices math during the summer with equanimity because his mama tells him to.
  • Trying to be patient with our drought, trying to use less water, trying not to cry because of dying plants, lawn, and shrubs.
  • Friends who say yes when I text them that I must get out of the house right now! Please meet me!
  • Friends who invite my children to play. You make the long summertime fun for them and I am so grateful!
  • Friends who work tirelessly to realize a shared dream. Thank you.
  • My dad’s friend George’s gorgeous, delicious tomatoes—but even better, the friendship that he and my dad share.
  • Making new friends online who do amazing things, capture spectacular moments, and share their talent with the world. I enjoy seeing their art very much.
  • Wondering what the future will bring, being patient in not knowing all answers, and trusting.

Such progress this summer!  I'm proud of my son. #summer #boys #12yearold #seventhgrade #piano #learning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepaway Camp

A little guarded and anxious this morning. Then seven of his friends arrived to go with him. It's going to be awesome.  I'm a proud mama. #summer #waldorf #camp #12yearold #seventhgrade

My sweet 12-year-old left this morning for his first sleepaway camp experience. He and six friends from his school (most from his same class) left for Camp Winthers, which is in the mountains not too far from our city. We are very excited for him and we’re sure he’s going to have a wonderful time. He had a little trouble sleeping last night because he was anxious, but I don’t think he’ll be feeling that way for long. I think he looks a little guarded in this photo.

Waiting for buddies, and for roll call. Camp Winthers,  here they come! #summer #boys #kids #waldorf #friends # camp

This is the same summer camp that Ian went to when he was a boy, and later, as a teen, he worked as a camp counselor there. He assures us that they will keep Lucas so busy with fun activities he won’t have time to be homesick. Ian has already send Lucas a care package so it will reach him before the end of the week.

He will canoe, hike, play, learn, swim, and explore all week. He’ll have no little brother or mama or dad nagging him. He’ll be with some of his best buddies for five whole days.

Lucas and some of his friends left for Camp Winthers this morning. First time at sleepaway camp! #summer #12yearold #friends #waldorf #camp

I’m very grateful that Lucas got to go on two week-long trips earlier this year with his class and teacher. They were great practice for this first opportunity to be without parents or a familiar teacher. My son is a kind, sensible, competent guy, who has great friends, and who makes friends easily. I am pleased he’s getting the chance to stretch his wings in this way.

Bon voyage, my love!

Summer Solstice Camping

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#camping #summer #boys #nature #woods

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Playing poker #7yearold #summer #boys #games #camping

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Glamping #camping #woods #friends #summer

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We visited the Tunnel Mills campground in the Tahoe National Forest over the summer solstice weekend. A bunch of friends came and we had a wonderful group campsite all to ourselves. I never managed to have my camera with me when we were playing and rock hopping down by the gorgeous creek, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: it was a truly spectacular, magical place of huge, broad leaves, water snakes, clear, cold rushing water, warm boulders, dancing sunlight, and a million shades of green.

We had our Midsummer bonfire (which I wanted so badly), plenty of relaxation, games of Magic the Gathering and poker, reading, music and singing, shared potato chips, and friendship.

It was a little too chilly at night for my taste, but the warmth that these fine people bring to our lives makes it well worth it.

My Midsummer blessing for you is that you find the people who most uplift you, inspire you to be your best self, who understand you, encourage you, and delight you … and then hang on to them. Learn to be the very best friend you can be because love and connection, joy, trust, and forgiveness is what this one perfect life is all about. And we are all still learning.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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