Evening at For The Joy Of It!
When I first opened For The Joy Of It! to overnight guests, I had no idea what was in store for me. Isn't that how life is when we set out on some new adventure? We have an idea and take our first tentative steps aiming in the direction we want to go, then life takes us for a ride. I'm three years into this adventure, and I am completely delighted with how it has turned out so far.
The vast majority of my guests have found me on airbnb.com. I will be forever grateful to them for initiating the idea of sharing spaces with perfect strangers and the radical trust it is based upon. Mendocino is a tourist destination so by now I have had hundreds of guests. Many have returned, a few have returned again and again, making this their home away from home. Anniversaries have been celebrated, and wedding proposals have been made here. I've met babies who were not yet born when their parents first visited. So many celebrations have taken place. I'm so appreciative of each and every one who has come to stay. It has been a great gift to me. It has opened my world in such a delightful way. I thought you might like to hear a bit about what goes on here.
These three years have been a time of experiment and change. For The Joy Of It! is dedicated to "the healing power of nature and the arts" and I feel like guests are experiencing just that. My proof lies in what I call "the before and after." The faces I see when people arrive and the faces I see when they leave are testimony to the rest, relaxation, and restoration they have experienced while here. Vacations are wonderful but for me, the true test of a good vacation is that it sends me home with a fresh outlook, some awareness that can brighten my more ordinary days at home. So I always wonder how the refreshed energy guests experience here will manifest when they return home.Nature at your doorstep.
Sometimes I get to hear about the changes made. One family from London stayed for a week. They had two adorable little daughters who were calling me Nana by the end of their stay. When they returned home they moved to a new area a bit away from the center of London where their girls could have a yard and more time outdoors. I was delighted to hear that their time here is what tipped the scales toward making their move a reality.
It thrills me when guests also dip into the creative offerings on my property and increasingly that is just what is happening. Artists, writers and musicians come with an idea of what they might find and often choose to add the yurt/art studio to their stay. But it isn't just folks who know they are creative that are enjoying the creative opportunities offered here.
Businesses have discovered my place for work related retreats. Recently a young woman, whose art was discovered on etsy.com by a stationery company, came to stay in one of my upstairs rooms. She and her product manager met in the yurt for planning sessions about further projects. The yurt had everything they needed to bring the creative flair their planning required. It is a real pleasure to host these kinds of events.
I love when writers come to stay. One guest, a writing teacher, had a habit of traveling and writing. He found that moving around to different environments kept his creative juices flowing. He stayed here for several nights before moving on to his next stop. I was surprised recently, to find a piece of his writing published in The Sun magazine.Music at For The Joy Of It!
Another writer came for a five-day writing retreat. We got a good writing space set up for her and she stuck to her plan, only going out for meals now and then. Her focused energy crept down the stairs and into my living space, quieting me. I wrote a lot that week myself. Her creative energy was contagious, filling the whole house.
I have two pianos, a grand piano in the house and an upright piano in the yurt. While some guests spy the grand in my photographs and ask ahead if they can play the piano while they are here, others are more reticent. When I ask guests if they play the piano, I often get a far away look as they tell me they played as children, but haven’t touched a piano for years. If they do sit down to the piano, they are often surprised to find they remember more than they thought they would. It is a deep pleasure to watch that creative spark be rekindled as I left my own music behind in my early twenties and didn't find it again until I had small children some years later. I know something about the joy in that reunion.
Guests who have come for facilitated creative retreats find the experience deeply nurturing and profoundly supportive. They stay in the house and have the yurt available for their own personal creative exploration. Throughout their stay, they meet with me for creativity sessions aimed at enhancing their exploration and discovery. Couples have opted for creative retreats too, loving the discovery of a different way of being together.Painting at For The Joy Of It!
Not everyone comes knowing they are looking for creative pursuits but they stumble into their curiosity when they are here. I find it a special joy when guest like these step into the yurt and can’t stop them selves from trying a few things. My yurt is set up to encourage easy exploration with areas dedicated for different activities. The goal is to have fun and if you can keep that as your goal, you really can't go wrong.
Creativity is for us all. It is something we share, because we are human. We knew this as kids. I just painted with a three year old. There was no critic inside him yet, just the fun of seeing the color go on the paper. He was totally absorbed. We can find our way back, to the little one we left behind, and that child is just waiting for us to come out and play. The yurt is a great place to make that re-connection.
I love supporting creativity in a world that sometimes forgets how important it is. It is so easy to get lost in our busy schedules and never give a thought to the fact that we are, each day, creating our own lives. When we open our eyes each morning, we may think we know what is in store for us, but do we really? The fact is, anything can happen at any moment and we are called upon to respond. When life runs off the track we need our creative spark so we can improvise what happens next. My father used to say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Not possible, I say! In fact our bones, in particular are recreating themselves from moment to moment, as is the rest of our body. There is no way to step outside of creation. It is inside of us, and outside of us. We are creativity.
Nothing makes me happier than hearing that guests have gone home and gotten out their old music, have gone to the art supply store and stocked up on paint or other art supplies, or have started collaging again. Some have returned home and signed up for the piano lessons or that special art class they have wanted to enroll in. I have received poems inspired by guest’s time here and heard songs, newly created here. I have been treated to many concerts in my living room. One guest left me a book and a CD of music he had composed.
The creative spark is contagious. Once it lights up, it goes with you everywhere you go, work, play, family, even when you are alone. It is the quickest way I know to bring sparkle to a life that has become too much the same. When guests take that spark home, I know I’m living up to my business name, For The Joy Of It!, because I know joy will be the outcome.
These three years have gone by in a flash. If you had asked me five years ago what I would be doing today, I would never have guessed that my life would have headed in this direction. Isn't that how life goes if we listen to that still small voice within. It will send us this way and that. One step leads to another and suddenly we find ourselves on a whole new path in a whole new world. I trust this creative journey that is life and enjoy letting it take me where it will. I can't wait to see what happens next.
What a surprise when Chris Peters arrived to stay in my yurt, and announced that he was a theramin player. I had never heard of the theramin so when I expressed my curiosity he promised a demonstration. After dinner he brought all of his equipment into my livingroom and began to set it up. Once he had everything arranged, he explained that the instrument was played using our own energy field. Then he planted his feet and began to wave his arms around two stainless steel poles. He didn't touch a thing but out came an eerie sound familiar to me from old science fiction movies. My first thought was that it was joke, that he had something behind him or in his pocket that was making that sound. Was this some kind of magic trick? When he proceeded to play some common melodies, I was amazed! It looked like he was pulling the sound out of the thin air.
Then he offered for me to step up and give it a try. He explained that one pole regulated the pitch and the other the volume. Changes were made by moving your hands closer or further away from the poles. I believed his rational explanations but what I had observed looked more like he was channeling sound out of the universe. I planted my feet as I had watched him do, thinking maybe I might receive some kind of a jolt I guess. He showed me how to move my hands closer and further from the rods and sure enough I could do it too.
Admittedly, I'd have to practice to learn to play songs but this instrument seemed tailor made for wild improvisation, really wild improvisation, in which everything sounded interesting. I found myself in an experience of pure exploration. There could be no mistakes, what freedom! But there was more. Musicians always want to get inside of their music, to somehow bridge the gap between their instrument and themselves, to get inside the sound they are making. Here, I was having the experience that there was nothing to get "inside of." Indeed, we are already there! The sound, me, the energy field, all were one.
The experience left me giddy. I found it hysterically funny. So much so that it was hard to keep playing. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Every movement was a surprise, echoed in sound. It was a powerful feeling of connection and it was pure fun!
It wasn't until the next day that I got the biggest surprise of all. I woke up and started to go about my day as usual but very soon noticed that something was really different. I was suddenly very aware of my hands. It was as if I had new ones! They felt strong, powerful and very, very competent. They moved through space as if the air was thick.There was a feeling that maybe I could move that space around and create whatever I wanted to create. It was completely empowering. All things seemed possible.
We all know that "practice makes perfect," that there is virtue in having the discipline that moves us towards mastery but sometimes we need to learn just the opposite. We need to learn that things can be effortless, that we don't have to work so hard, all the time, that sometimes things fall into place by themselves. We have all had the experience of finding our way to mastery through practicing something but to dedicate ourselves to the radical surrender that "lets thing happen" is much harder to come by. If we can do it, we enter that magic place from which true creation springs.
That night with Chris and the theramin, I found that place. I reflect on it now but that night, it wasn't a thought but rather, a body experience and the the body doesn't forget as easily as the mind. Now, even weeks later, when I remember that night, my "magic hands" live again. When I sit down to the piano, I call on them. Passages that were difficult have taken new wings. I feel new freedom and relaxation. It is thrilling to hear the music take flight.
It is even more thrilling to feel the reverberations of that night in the bigger picture of my life. In the spirit of M.C. Richards who wrote, "All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life," I always bring my explorations in the arts back into the context of my life. This experience of my energy field as not separate from what is all around me, that I can with intention bring things into manifestation because of that connection is a deep lesson. The realization that I could relax more and let things unfold from that space is truly something I want to know from the inside out. I know how to practice. I know how to work hard to make things happen. Those skills are important. But I'm curious to see what happens when I let myself step into this other kind of magic. What will be possible for me then? How about you?
Expressive Arts Experience
Let your imagination wander. Make a drawing of that mysterious place from where, you imagine, creation springs. Put yourself in the picture. Put your picture somewhere where you will see it each day. Write about the times, you feel you entered there. What did you manifest from that space? In your art? In your music? In your writing? In your life?
This blog is dedicated to the healing power of nature and the arts. It encourages a different way of looking at the purpose of the arts in our lives. While we can all appreciate well known artists, musicians and writers, it is good to remember that expressing ourselves through the arts belongs to all of us. It is part of being human. The arts and time in nature take us out of our small selves into something so much bigger. We need this larger perspective to guide our daily lives. I have a Masters Degree in Psychology, am a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist and am owner and founder of For The Joy Of It! Creative Retreat in Mendocino CA.