Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

Feeding a Starving Soul

I have a question for you.

What are you feeding your soul?
What are you taking in, on a regular basis, to nourish your inner being?
What stories are you reading? What songs are you listening to?
What new places are you visiting, be they near or far?
Do you even know if your soul is hungry? Do you know if it’s starved? And if you know this much, do you know what your soul is hungry for?

These are the questions that bubbled up for me, today. In recent days I have found myself surprisingly fed on a soul level – so much so that I didn’t even know I was starving…

Recently I started reading a new fiction book, a modern book about an ancient Goddess. It was recommended to me by someone I’ve known for a long time who said she reminded him of me. Not that I think myself a Goddess (nor does he), but there are some strange parallels in her story and mine – though perhaps it is the story of most women, if you look deep enough.

This story is epic in its scope; simultaneously reaching into the depths of mythology and the depths of the heart of a woman. It has been ages since a book enchanted me so. It has been so long since a book has touched my heart and sense of wonder so deeply that I actually feel closer to myself.

For the gift of this book, (entitled Circe by Madeline Miller for those of you wondering) ,I am so very grateful. For the gift of wonder and remembering, I am grateful.

This moment serves to remind you, too, please search out nourishment for your spirit, for your soul. Whatever form that takes, for it is fuel for you and you alone. You can’t create from an empty tank. Trust me. I’d been running on fumes for far too long and I didn’t even know it.
 

Creativity and Prometheus

This morning I was reading about Greek mythology, when I was struck by the myth of Prometheus. I was already quite familiar with the story, but this time, it applied to the life of an artist. Allow me to explain.

The story of Prometheus is one of a mortal, a Titan, who challenged Zeus, the chief Olympian God.

There was a feast, where the mortals came to “settle the debts” with the Gods. Prometheus tricked Zeus with his offerings, and Zeus, in a word, fell for his trick. This enraged Zeus to such a great degree that Zeus took fire from the mortals.

Fire, itself, not only represents cooking and nourishment, but it is also a symbol of creativity, of passion.

Prometheus turned around and bravely stole the secret fire back from the Gods and gave it to humanity. Zeus was outraged! The punishments were severe. Zeus, in his rage, sent Pandora to live amongst the humans, unleashing all kinds of plagues and evil upon the humans.

(Side note: Pandora did not open her jar (some say it was a box) in order to deliberately unleash evil, she opened it out of curiosity. So similar to the story of Eve, eh? It is said that she closed the jar (or box) out of compassion, but in doing so, she left Hope sealed within. I could go on, but Pandora is not the reason for this particular entry…) As I was saying. Back to Prometheus.

Prometheus’ punishment was even more severe than that unleashed upon the humans. He was bound to Mount Caucasus, where a vulture (or eagle) was to come each morning and eat away at his liver, which would grow back again at night. This torture went on for years, until eventually Prometheus was freed by Hercules. Hercules shot and killed the bird which tormented Prometheus, freeing him once and for all from his torments.

I see a great parallel between the story of Prometheus and the artist – a reflection of the creative process itself.

There is, inevitably, a time (or many times) where an artist fears they have ‘used up’ all of their creative ideas. A time when they feel tired, spent, used up, and so certain that they will never again create anything meaningful or have the ability to express the deeper yearnings of their spirit, that they decide to give it all up. They vow to quit, to take up something much easier (like a corporate job) just to ease the pain of (the fear of) never being able to create again.

Then something miraculous happens. In the dark of that night, their liver ‘grows back again’. The artist suddenly arises with a new optimism, a heart full of energy and passion, and they return to the canvas (or to the page, or the camera) and begin creating once again.

As with Prometheus, however, the cycle continues. The birth of creativity is followed by its death, as the birth of Prometheus’ liver was followed by the painful destruction of it. Suddenly, a sense of regeneration, hope and creativity flourishes. This cycle continues until a force stronger than the doubts that pluck away at us (or our liver) free us from our chains.

What is that force? The spirit of a champion? True courage? Is it someone outside ourselves? Is it inside us, the bravest part of ourselves? Could it be our rock solid resolve to end the cycle of suffering over our artistic expressions…

I don’t know the answer to that, as I too suffer from many of those dark nights. But I find comfort in the story of Prometheus, and the idea that liberation from torment is indeed possible. So keep creating, even when it feels hard or impossible. Cultivate courage, like Hercules, to free yourself.

-Liz Huston
August 11, 2011

 

Afterword: It’s February 24, 2018, 7 years later. I just rediscovered it and wanted to share!

Observations…

I left the house in a hurry today, and in that rush, forgot to bring my headphones and a book to read on the train. The train was packed today, standing room only, so I would not have been able to read anyway. I was in the last train car, crammed in shoulder to shoulder with bikes, wheelchairs and many other commuters of all ages.

As people shuffled in and out, it was the back window I faced, standing squarely in what would be the caboose, were it not the metro. Without a book, crammed in there, the best place to rest my eyes was out that back window. And what a happy accident! The entire ride I watched, from a rare, centered vantage point, the tracks as they disappeared behind me. It had me completely mesmerized. Think about all the places trains can and have taken us – the Trans Siberian Railroad, The Orient Express, the Eurostar from Paris to London under the English Channel, even the Coast Starlight Train up the west coast! So many trains, so many destinations. There are other times in history to ponder, too; the first which came to mind was a most important railroad which wasn’t a railroad at all, the underground railroad which led so many slaves to safety.

All of these thoughts arose simply because I had time and space and had completely accepted the circumstances as they were (no book, too many people) and made the most of them. Happy, in the end to have forgotten my book, and embracing being present in the moment. It was wondrous.

I got off a stop late on purpose, partially in order to stay in my train-daydream and partially in order to take a long walk. Today the weather is beautiful, cold and windy; unusually windy for LA.

As I approached the corner of 2nd and Spring, noticed a few men gathered there waiting for the light to change. One of the men held his phone in his right hand, completely immersed in that bright screen and oblivious to the world around him, while his left hand sat palm open. I found that curious, who stands like that? At just that moment I watched as a leaf loosened itself from the tree across the street and was carried by the wind – landing squarely in his open left palm.

I think I gasped quietly, but audibly when it landed. What a completely magic moment to witness! But, as it turns out, the magic was wasted on him. He shuttered, slightly unimpressed and tossed the leaf to the ground.

I thought about picking the leaf up, but it wasn’t for me, and I knew that. The moment was for me to witness, but not to keep. How many magic moments are given to us that we don’t notice? How many leaves have landed in your palm or mine, only to be discarded without a second thought? And how many beautiful moments do we try desperately to hold onto, when they were never really ours to keep, only ours to savor once?

My anniversary…

The date on my seller’s permit is 2/15/2006.  This means that I have been a self employed artist for 12 years, today. A dozen years!

12 years ago I was happily married, raising our daughter (then 5), and working at a great job in the music industry. I had this crazy idea of becoming a full time artist, but took baby steps to realize that dream. I first began working from home and traveling the city with my traveling curiosity shoppe, bringing my husband and daughter to the weekend events, selling my photography, handmade jewelry and procured curiosities. Momentum began to build, I started to take artistic risks. Things were good; I took a deep breath and gave notice to my wonderful and safe job.

Just 3 years after that bold move, my husband, having met another woman, asked for a divorce. In that splitting I lost my job (I worked from home), my family, most of my belongings and my entire life as I knew it. I very nearly gave up on my art dream, but somehow kept it going. I lived in tiny apartments, sleeping on the couch, taking every freelance job I could find to just stay alive. Time and time again I nearly opted for the easy way out, to get a regular job, but every time when it came right down to it, I just couldn’t do it. So I kept at my art, I kept honing my craft and vision. I kept making my books and I kept submitting my art to shows. I was receiving no alimony or child support – I only had my wits and determination to keep me going.

Sometimes I marvel that I’ve been at it so long without throwing in the towel – and boy have I ever gotten close. But I can’t give up on my dream, it’s not in my makeup to give up. So I show up, even with faith runs low, I show up and I do the work, and the work has, in turn given me EVERYTHING. This art that I make, it not only saved my life, but it gave me life.

It’s not often been an easy path, that’s for sure. But it’s always been my right path – the path that holds the most heart for me.

My sincere wish is for everyone to find what their path is, the one with heart, and to follow it faithfully. And in that following, to be surrounded with the love and support of people who believe in them – especially when their own faith dims.

I am lucky to have had the support of so many people who have purchased my art over the years, of my dear friends and family who have encouraged me in those times when the light dims.  It feels a bit weird to share this, to celebrate anything when the world seems so broken and fragile. But we must continue to find value in who we are and what we bring to the world. We absolutely must shine on.

Thank you for being here to celebrate this milestone with me.
I am truly so grateful.
Thank you for a dozen years of this magnificent art life.

With love,
LizCuriosities-Liz-2006

Photo of me, Liz Huston, circa 2006, in my home studio

On Support…

Is it hard to believe that your dreams are supported? Is it too far fetched to believe that when you lose faith in yourself, your path, that encouragement and support will arrive, gathering around like a warm blanket of comfort? Or maybe it arrives and unites to form a ladder, lifting you to a great height so that you can once more reach the thread of your vision and get back to creating?

There are times in life when it gets dark, no matter what your path, and it is hard to believe there is a benevolent universe there to help. Luckily, that is right when the support shows up – usually in the most unlikely of places.

My phases are cyclical, it seems. Times of inspiration, that fevered time of creation is seemingly always followed by periods of drought. The creative drought is one of the most painful times in an art life; that space between the created and the becoming a barren wasteland of hopelessness. I have been in one of those painful drought periods, where the ideas are not solid enough to grab onto, and the longing for them, exhausting.

I nearly gave up this morning. Reached the point where it felt that I could not drag my weary body into the shoppe for even one more day. All I wanted was a dedicated studio day, alone with my art, courting ideas, and of course complete with long walks in nature under this perfect Sunday blue sky. But I knew I could not give in to that longing – I had to rally and come in to work. The longing was winning though, and despondent and tearful, I laid on the couch not knowing what to do. That was when help arrived; he actually picked me up and drove me to work. Bless that man.

Once I got to the shoppe, I was immediately greeted by wonderful people; full of enthusiasm and spirit. I felt like the right decision had been made, and being here today was where I belonged.

I received a surprise box from the U.K. in the mail.
It was such a surprise, as I don’t know anyone there – at least, nobody who would send me an box. I opened it, and inside was a beautiful letter explaining it all – who it’s from, why these items were chosen, what they signify, and how they relate to my work and my little world. I’ve rarely felt so seen and so appreciated. It was incredibly thoughtful, and I’m still a bit awestruck that someone I met once a year and a half ago went to such great lengths. I held my breath as I read the letter, as I opened the gifts. I could feel the care and the earnestness and the appreciation for something I do day in and day out, sent with love across the Atlantic. Amazing.

A couple came in, the man out of nowhere bestowing quotes upon me.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” -Helen Keller

“You’re an artist because you see more. With that comes the responsibility of communicating what it is you see.”

I had said nothing about my trying morning, the nagging doubts, nor of the confusing desert landscape in my heart. And yet, having said nothing, still the encouragement came.

Life is beautiful and strange and full of the most wonderous poetry. You just never know what will lead where, or what will fix what…
Perhaps the point is to just keep going.

Of quiet and longing

It was a strange day in the gallery today. With so many people about and wandering in the bookstore, it should have been a lucrative day – but it was not. I imagine most of them are on vacation, and with their carefree holidays coming to an end, have no time or interest in the alternative worlds that adorn my walls.

In the absence of an attentive audience, I busied myself with the work of a business owner; balancing the budget, considering employee schedules, allocating funds for reordering supplies. Realizing I have not the funds for any of it, I turned a hopeful glance to the patrons in my space.

But I was invisible to them today, or at least it felt that way. They found my art strange and weird, a compliment on most days, today it was not. Some of them, teenagers, even giggled awkwardly. At one point, hurt in a way that I should not still hurt (doesn’t 5 years of this business of art give me thicker skin?), I attempted to take some control of the situation and closed my glass doors (with me inside) to prevent their entrance. That mattered not. The people were not there today to buy, and after the third fated, “what beautiful frames you have” comment, I closed early, walked to the train, and came home. But can one come home early on a day they are not scheduled? Why did I even go in on a day I did not have to?

Last night I ached for the earth. All I wanted was a place in nature to go – a private, quiet spot to park my car next to a natural haven to sit my weary spirit down and be with Pachamama (Mother Earth). But the parks had all closed, and there weren’t even any places to stop the car and just get out, to just be still for a moment. I drove for hours like a woman who has not had water in days looking for a well; a fevered desire for just one tree, just one tree…

I never found that spot. Returned home defeated, a little sick from the longing. My own slice of heaven, that is what I would like. Only heaven is not in the clouds, it is right here, right now. I know the original Eden is still here, it calls to me as I call to it. If I could just find it.

My adventure last night was a striking parallel to the realities of our harsh modern life. We move too fast, going nowhere in particular, and without a natural place to rest and regroup.

Constant motion, distraction, busy busy. Perpetually pushed forward in a fevered dream of commerce and commodity.

The elite buy up the land and lock it away from the rest of us, charging admission, creating hours of operation for a thing that is, by its essence, free and wild. In the suburbs, where does one escape the cold modernity for the wildness of nature?

On the train home today I started thinking about that search last night which led to a question of pleasure, of joy, of happiness. What gives me pleasure? I feel so little of it in this constricting life I’ve created. I’m suffocated by the pressure to do do do, to go go go. What is the thing that feeds my spirit and heart like nothing else?

Venice.

That is my first and perhaps, truest answer.

I can no longer remember the details of what it was like to live steps away from the pacific shore, even though it was nearly 7 years, off and on. Perhaps I am protecting myself from the memories. I loved living in Venice so completely and was utterly heartbroken when I had to leave (which I did for my daughter, and only her, but that is a story for another time…)

My heart remembers Venice though, in the way only a heart can. It has some precious details, like the sharpness of the paint that was peeling off my fire escape perch. Or the rattling sound the fire escape made when someone walked up it.
Sometimes the memories are all about my neighbor, how we would talk for hours from our respective perches (my fire escape, his balcony); smoking cigarettes and tossing each other books to read into the wee hours of the night – night after night after night. Sometimes it’s remembering the early morning sunrise walks, when the sand was so cold I thought my toes would freeze right off. Or the way I always kept the windows open, hearing the ocean, smelling the saltwater, sometimes letting in magical creatures like a hummingbird or a dragonfly.
It’s the laughter of the women across the hall, so dear and precious friends, their laughter like gold. All of these moments and so much more, live inside a feeling in my heart. Tucked safely in a tiny space I rarely ever open anymore, for it just hurts too much.

There are times when the memories surface unsolicited. When the air is cool, and the sky is blanketed with thin clouds, I feel the person I was when I lived a life I loved, in a city I loved.

The memory-feeling goes as quickly as it came. Exhale heavily. What would bring pleasure in this moment, right now?

A book. I want to be taken by words carefully crafted by another that weave a tale of some extraordinary, yet ordinary life. I have books to read already, so many of them, hundreds even- but none of them are right. They are all so informative, which I enjoy, but am so tired of learning. Right now, I want to be seduced. And then I remember my plight, there is no budget for a new book…

The library is still open. I found 4 books that piqued my interest, plus a book on how to paint watercolors like Turner (I am a good student, after all).

The sun has gone down now. The air is crisp, cool and a little bit moist, which is strange for this desert. I look up and see that the clouds have obscured the stars.

Through the gate, walk under the overgrowth, up the steps, books in hand, I turn the key and step inside my warm and empty home.

It is empty from the lack of another body, but warm from the presence of something familiar.
What is this feeling?
What is this presence?

It is myself.

That life I loved in a city I loved? It’s still alive in me. The feeling arose and greeted me tonight in the silence of this pink room.

And I said aloud, “hello old friend…”

I danced

From my journals, post trip:

I’ve been home from Greece for a few days now. It’s 3am, and I have still only slept in fits and starts. The jet lag is so much worse than ever. Every night, if I can sleep at all, I wake up every two hours confused, looking desperately for the Libyan Sea or some other now familiar landmark. I am glad to be in my house with a purring cat on my lap – but it all feels different. I feel different. There has been a deepening in me, and there has been a wounding and a profound healing.

The world is full of terrors, I feel shallow and selfish being so preoccupied with this feeling. I should be doing something more productive with my time, something to help others, but what can I do when I my heart is howling? I found that place in my soul that has been calling me for a lifetime – and now I weep from the feeling that I left it all behind.  It is a sad, frightening feeling when I wake up at 3am looking for the sea. Where is the sea? Where is my heart?

There is work, there are art shows and deadlines, collectors and ideas pushing me forward to get back into the work. Of that, I am so very thankful. I use that lifeline to re-enter my life. I lived something mythic in Crete, honoring it with making new artwork is my gift back.

And yet, the sadness. My priorities have shifted ahead of my life. I dream of going back there to Crete. And yet somewhere inside I believe that once you have left, you can never return. The pain is tremendous. What am I mourning?

I explore the contrast, which serves to give shape to everything. The night gives way to the day, the hot to the cold, the happy to the sad, the deep to the shallow. We receive tremendous benefit from experiencing the contrasts, they clarify and refine all the edges, sharp and blurred.

Looking to the contrast of this extreme feeling, I realize that even though I have worked very hard to make something of myself as an artist, that in so doing I have been isolating myself to the point of danger. I don’t think I am actually meant to be alone. I don’t think I actually want to be alone. This revelation blows my mind.

In Lentas, I grew close with a small group of medicine women who gathered there from around the US and Greece. We were looking for healing, community and sisterhood. We each brought a unique piece to the puzzle, sharing our gifts with the group, and in our close communing, were prompted to see our shadows and our light. The support in those moments was overwhelming in its vastness, its wisdom. I was at home with these women, we became a family of sorts.

I had the sea, beautiful and bountiful food, the support of a community, all in the lands and the ruins of a culture that venerated the Goddess. If I had a religion, it would be of the ancient Goddess cults, that has always been where my heart knows itself. In the sweetness of all those experiences, what else was a single woman to do but fall for the handsome stranger at the local tavern?

Our moonlit encounters on the beach were the archetype of every beautiful and trashy romance novel. I was utterly smitten. For his part, for what he felt, I do not really know. I want to believe the same of him, but perhaps that is naive. Our ending was a bit tragic, full of miscommunications and missed opportunities. So many evenings together and in the end, we never even said goodbye. There are no pictures, he has no presence online. That part of the story is done, and I feel I cheated myself there. Was it fear and old stories that kept me from truly finishing what we had started? Or did it just go as far as it could? I will never know.

Yet, because life is generous, on my last night, despite that abrupt ending, my heart was expanded even greater, and into more joy than I had ever known!

There was food and community and an incredible Cretan band played who played for hours upon hours (five hours or so, I think). Their music stirred me profoundly. I danced and danced and danced! Tried to learn the traditional dances, which were fun and centered around community. I was not great at them, but with a heart as overflowing as mine, they didn’t seem to care. They welcomed me anyway! The band bought me drinks, the other patrons bought me drinks, and we danced some more. When the others were tired of dancing, I kept going, my body could not stop!

In my dance, I was following the ecstatic spirit of the music, my heart, the sacred land and the magic sea. I danced for the joys that were revealed to me in that week, and I danced for the sorrows at leaving it all behind. I danced for the beauty that is yet to come and I danced for all that is strange and frightening in the world. I danced for the sisters I had found, and the love we all shared. I danced for the man in the tavern who was not there, and I danced for the man who would come next. I danced for my heart coming home to herself, and I danced a prayer that this would please please please come around in some form, again.

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This is me. Happiest I’ve ever been in all my life, on the last night I spent in Crete, as the band played on. October, 2017. (Photo by Demeter)

Day Three. Lentas, Crete.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
(from my journals)

It is already morning. Not sleeping a lot here, which is unusual. I love to sleep! Watched the sun come up again from my bed. My sleepless nights are not out of melancholy or stress, or even from the romantic rendezvous. Deep down, I stay awake because I know my time here is short and want to take it all in – I really can’t get enough of this place. I love it so.

Why? Why do I love it so? There is not any one thing; it’s the combination of it all. It’s the moon, the sea, the land herself. It’s the ruins, the wind, the rocks, the herbs, the goats with the little bells around their necks, the lion shaped mountain standing guard, the elephant rock in the water. It’s the people, it’s the food, the history – it is everything. People talk of their spirit animals, this feels like my spirit land. How am I so connected to this place? I feel it in places within my being that I never even knew existed. As if this land opened up a new room in my soul.

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The wind is so strong this morning, I imagine it is carrying stories. I listen, but I cannot hear. How do I catch the stories? Yesterday, as I swam in the waters at the gorge, I laid on my back, relaxed deeply, and let the water carry me. It was quite effortless, the waves are so gentle. For once in my life, it was easy to let go. Ah, let go. Why are we so reluctant to let go? No matter the thing. So reluctant.

In the water yesterday, there were stories too. The beach is full of pebbles and rocks and as I laid on my back, ears submerged in the water, body relaxed and receptive, those rocks sounded like a thousand tiny voices.

I attempted to focus on one voice, but it is not possible. I am distracted by my mind, but it is the heart who has the ears to hear. My mind knows these sounds are only the motion of the ocean waves moving the rocks. My mind tells my heart to stop with this silly nonsense. But my heart is still listening intently, convinced there are messages for her.

The heart is clever and she wonders, “is it not the vocal chords that produce the sound of our voice with their vibration? Then is it not possible that it is the motion of the waves that gives voice to the ocean?”

My mind has lost patience with my heart.

I wanted to write about what happened today. There is so much to write! Everything has a deepening. My words feel softer, more purposeful.

We walked silently in a line up the hill to the ancient site. The Sanctuary of Asklepios, in Ancient Lebena, was a sanctuary of healing. He is the father of Hygeia, Goddess of Health, Cleanliness. What am I here to heal? What in my heart needs to be cleaned? I am faraway again, listening to something deep within that I cannot seem to really hear. Why am I so desperately wanting to hear a message?

We walk some more in silence. A tourist walks by me, says hello, and I break the silence by saying hello to him. I am disappointed in myself for that. Always so polite, Liz? This is a sacred, silent moment. Then I remember I had been trying so hard to hear something, and I heard something! Hello! I giggle. The sacred need not be boring. Lighten up, I tell myself.

We walk. Until now, I have only seen this path in the moonlight, as I excitedly walk to meet him. Him. I can’t think of him too much, I’ll get lost. I notice how pretty the path is in the day, though much less exciting. As I walk, I keep having this sense that I must think of something quite big and profound to ask for at the Sanctuary, but what? Wait. Am I to be listening or speaking?

I arrive at the sacred site. They give us instructions that I don’t hear because I’m thinking too loudly. I follow their lead and witness a bit of the mystery in expression. Memories surface. How is it that as a young girl I pretended at all the things I do now? When I was quite small, I remember practicing slow processionals on the long walkway to the porch. I was some kind of priestess, on my way somewhere important. I was 4, and suddenly it is one of my earliest memories. Am I having a life review? Where are these new memories coming from? Maybe I did have a secret room in my soul open. Another memory surfaces; I used to draw a woman, over and over and over again. Just one woman in the center of the page, wearing the most incredible clothing. I was 7 years old in this memory. She is remarkably similar to the woman I still make, in the center of the page. At 9, I pretended to be a shopkeeper, selling my drawings of the woman – until my little brother told me they weren’t very good (as little brothers are wont to do).

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Is it that life has a way of orchestrating itself so you are always at the right place and time gathering just the right knowledge in order to advance to the next place? Or is it that we are organizing it from within?

The memories stop. All is quiet in my mind, for once.

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In that timeless space, I make an offering at the Sanctuary and say a prayer.

My prayer is unique in that there are no words. All that thinking, all those words clouded around me as I proceeded up the hill to this place, and now my prayer is silent? It has never been silent. In this place, I pray to a feeling, a sensation of peace and knowing that lies beyond words. I take that feeling, picture everyone I love – there are so many of them! I love so much. I recall lovers, friends, family, strangers. All manner of people who have touched my heart in some way. There are those I loved once, and those I still do. There are streets, and houses I lived in and passed by. I wrap everything in this prayer of peace. It feels like a gift and a witnessing.

I hold everyone close in my heart.
And then I let it go.

Day Two. Lentas, Crete

From my journal:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 (before dinner)

I have learned some things about this land which answer the riddle of why it feels so intrinsically special to me. According to an archeologist, this very spot I am staying at, (which is now a modern yoga resort a 5 minute walk from the village), was a cemetery in the ancient days before christ. (I love that there are things people discuss in the wide open, where they date them to a period ‘before christ’! But I digress.)

I knew this land was sacred! She said the bones have been moved to a new museum, which is expected to open in the next 5 years. I would like to return for that opening celebration.

In ancient Hellenic times, it is my understanding that the town was a port town, but was also a healing site, complete with a Temple to Asclepius, the Grecian God of Medicine. The other women and I will visit the ruins of that Temple tomorrow and hold a small ceremony. I can’t wait.

The thing that really strikes me about being here is the feeling of submergence in the mythic. I am quite comfortable in the mythic, it is my favorite place to reside. LA isn’t particularly mythic by nature, except maybe in Hollywood studios, now that I think of it. That might be the modern equivalent? At any rate, I just love that it’s perfectly natural to visit the platanus tree in Gortyna where Zeus, disguised as a bull, impregnated the abducted Europa! (This is the tree)

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I am starting to really like these women, a lot. At first I was shy and unsure of myself. But now I am starting to feel a part of it. It’s a small group, I think 9 of us? They are all remarkable in their own ways, and I have this deep sense that there is so much we can teach and learn from each other.  I want to take down the walls I have built around my heart and allow myself to get close to these wise women. They are just so special, every single one of them. It’s funny, they are all older than me, which makes me laugh because I was feeling old before I came here. It’s all relative, I suppose. The one woman, my favorite of the group, has taken to calling me Persephone. It makes my heart sing when she does that.

Oh, this is interesting. In Gortyna, there was a wall of ancient Greek laws in the walls lining the theatre. Conveniently located in the center of town, if you had a dispute with someone, you could both together visit the wall with the laws inscribed and resolve the issue immediately. No need for lawyers or interpreters. It was an empowered and informed citizenry, and how I wish we had more of that now. Knowledge truly is power.

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After Gortyna, we visited Phaistos (location of the famed Phaistos Disk). I wish I had taken better notes. The archaeologist leading the tour was a wealth of information that I did not seem to capture. What a shame. I just remember the feeling there; I kept holding my hands in an almost prayerful pose, feeling reverence and calm, curiosity and wonder. I wrote almost nothing down, instead I was just experiencing it.

We ended the day with a swim in the Libyan Sea by way of the Agiofarago Gorge, (Gorge of Saints), which we reached by walking through an area that was once home to hundreds of hermits. The archeologist told us that they believe that for thousands of years hermits lived here in complete isolation in these cliffside caves. They would gather one time every year and that was it.

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I have long romanticized the notion of a hermetic life, devoting existence to meditation, art, and pondering the nature of the universe. Something in me is shifting, though, for looking at these caves and being with these women full of life and heart, I am not so sure I want a solitary life any longer. After a couple short days in this little community of wise women, I want more community, sharing, support. I want to bring the experience of sharing back to where I live. How do I do that? Do I start a women’s circle?

J (my friend who is on this trip too) is having a hard time, a family member is in the hospital fighting for his life. I do not know how to comfort her. I put my hand on her back in support and she asked me not to touch her, as that makes her cry. I feel bad for not knowing how to comfort my friend. Having space to think and reflect in this precious time in Crete, I notice myself feeling rejection. If I am not careful, I will pull away from her when she needs support the most. Or maybe she needs to be left alone? Who am I to know what another person needs? How do I support my friend and not give into my ego who is feeling embarrassed and ashamed at not knowing how to comfort her? How can I have lived so long and still have so much to learn about being a good friend?

~

Later that night, around 8pm

We had a mighty, delicious feast of epic proportions for dinner in a tiny remote village. I think the first ingredient in each of the many dishes that we ate family style was love. I don’t feel so sad right now, I feel nourished and full of energy. Realizing how little I can do from here, I have pulled myself out of the suffering spiral and back into the moment. This beautiful moment, which leads me to think about him…

I do not want to be a stereotype. In fact, I have rebelled against any kind of label my entire life. You expect me to go right, I must go left. Even still, I think I might be a stereotype right now.

I have gone on vacation and fallen in love. Can I call it love? It was all so fast, just last night! I’m definitely falling in something…for a beautiful, handsome man in a village far away from where I live. We met for the first time late last night in a tavern under the waxing moon. We talked and talked at the table of Goddesses and got swept away together. I am not so naive as to think this is nearly as special to him as it is to me, but I allow myself to dream a bit that maybe I am wrong, and perhaps it is special to him too. I brush aside the reality check that this is probably something he does, and I allow my self to tumble on in to the feeling.

We share a birthdate, and I joked that we share a home in the stars. I hope something was lost in translation because that was the most ridiculous thing I have said to him yet! Yikes! Of course I said something so silly. I am scared.

I am so scared. I feel deeply, that’s my way. And because of that, I have locked my heart away for far too long.  I witness the intensity of my feelings, as irrational as they are. I just met him! I have fought the urge to write about him all day long, but I cannot resist any longer. I am drunk on the moon and on him. It has been so long since I heard the sound of my own longing being answered. It is so rare to be in that moment of mutual attraction that I am lost in it. Will we meet again tonight? Oh my, what am I doing here? This was supposed to be a meditation retreat, not a secret lovers tryst. What am I doing?

~

Day One. Lentas, Crete

It took me 26 hours, door to door, to get here, to this very spot. I traveled from Los Angeles to this small village of Lentas, with the elephant rock off the coast, the waters of the Libyan Sea lapping at its base. When I saw this place with my eyes, there was a resonance in my soul, for I had seen it months before, in a meditation (long before I knew of this trip or this place). I howled silently, a deep recognition in the center of my soul, which felt like descending into the depths of the mystery itself.

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I slept with the doors and the blinds open, tonight, falling asleep to the stars, and waking up with them too. The coastal winds are howling, carrying the voices of an ancient people. I do not yet know anything about the history of this place. I was called here, a sudden call to come on a women’s retreat, with only 3 weeks to plan. I may not intellectually know the history, but I feel it. I hear it. Though I have not seen any ruins, this must be a very ancient place.

Concerns of the world I left behind tug at me, they woke me at 3am. I feel I must work, but the sun has not yet risen. I gather my sketchbook and I draw, I contemplate. Do I know how not to work?

I contemplate my Tarot deck. There are 4 cards left in the major arcana I don’t yet understand; The Empress, The Emperor, The Devil, The Hierophant. In this land, I can more clearly see and feel. The Empress, Goddess of the land, she is the bountiful earth. She is generosity personified – she provides a good life for her people, long as they don’t take advantage or abuse the privilege by taking more than they need. She is powerful in and from love, not force. It is her great gift, this giving of life and sustenance.

At last I understand the Empress.

Something is awakening in me as I watch the sky illuminate, the sun is rising. I am in Crete!

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This is what it feels like to have enough. This is what it feels like to be content in the knowing that you are loved and provided for. I am crying now, the tears are washing away the words in my journal. I have never known such sustenance before. There is water, air, food, companionship, shelter. I would like to feel more of this when I return to my house. I very nearly said home, but right now, this is home. Being here in Crete I feel at home. The land welcomes me as if I have walked it thousands of times before.

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I know very little about the resort I am staying at, but looking around, I believe it was built by a good man. I see the fruits of labor from a man with a vision and resources, who used both wisely. I think that is the gift of the Emperor. A truly just and good Emperor has a vision, and builds it in the strongest way he can, in harmony with nature, yet also reinforced, knowing that storms do come.

I have never understood Him this way. How amazing that in the land of the Goddess, I can finally appreciate the God? I can finally see him and be grateful for his contributions. I am surprised by this revelation. I am not a man hater, but having been subjected to various forms of abuse at the hands of men who “loved me”, I lived my life in fear of men. Here, I do not feel that same way. Here, I appreciate Him, as much as I appreciate Her. The balance of the divine, where the masculine and feminine truly meet.

Is this because coming from a place so skewed to the force of the masculine, just by being in a land where She is still alive, there is no longer anything to fight for, there is only an integration of the two?

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Today I will gather with the women in ceremony and celebration, and there will be free time to explore the village in the afternoon and evening. I do not know what I am most excited for, the sisterhood or something greater? I feel as if I am stepping into a grand adventure of heart and soul. There is no script, only a sense that something big is about to happen. Am I up for the challenge? Already I am wondering how I can ever leave such a beautiful place. There are so many days ahead of me here, yet already I am lamenting my fate at having to leave. It would do me well to learn how to be here now. I have often felt the sensation of being in the wrong place and time – longing for something I could never name. Is the key in just accepting now? THIS now is easy to accept. It is beautiful and peaceful. I feel at home and full of life. But NOW is so transitory. You can’t catch it. Even as I wrote the word now, that now vanished and gave way to the next – and on it goes.

It is probably better I do not know the script, or if I do, that I do not remember it. I will be brave in the improvisation. I will do my best to recognize the gifts when they come and to not fear what comes next.

Thank you, Lentas, for calling me here. I remember you. I know you in my heart. I am so excited for what lies ahead.

~Liz Huston, from my Crete journals, Monday, October 2, 2017