Easing Back into Life

I’ve been home for almost two weeks, and am just starting to feel like myself again. Jet lag after a month in Europe and days of walking seven to 10 miles each day definitely took their toll! But I absolutely loved every minute of our travels, and especially my 10 days in Tuscany with my colleague Helena Hill and the 11 women we took on our writing and painting retreat. (See my previous posts for more on our retreat and my subsequent travels through Italy. I will post more photos from our time in Spain, as well.)

One of the things I realized once I got home is I want to do it again! So I am looking into leading a writing retreat to southern Spain in 2020, and Helena and I are talking about another writing and painting retreat in Tuscany in 2021. Stay tuned for more details, but if you’re interested, take a look at this trip’s itinerary, and let me know if you are interested in a future retreat. And if you would like to get my Weeping Willow Books newsletter, sign up here.

Meanwhile, here are more images from our time at Casa Fiori in Tuscany:

Painting our ceramic plates at the watercolor studio of Katinka Kielstra near Lucca, Italy

Painting our ceramic plates at the watercolor studio of Katinka Kielstra near Lucca, Italy

Lunch at Katinka’s

Lunch at Katinka’s

Cooking class with Karolina

Cooking class with Karolina

Helena with a typical lunch at Casa Fiori

Helena with a typical lunch at Casa Fiori

Celebrating a successful shopping expedition into Lucca

Celebrating a successful shopping expedition into Lucca

Ciao, Casa Fiori. See you again soon!

Ciao, Casa Fiori. See you again soon!

Ciao from Lucca, Italia!

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Greetings from beautiful (and, today, rainy) Tuscany. My colleague, Helena Hill, and I arrived two days ago with one of the eleven women joining us on this writing and painting adventure for the next ten days. All but one of the rest of the group are expected within the hour. 

We are at a 400-year-old villa run by the inimitable Karolina Lenart, a fabulous chef, and her husband and family. We were welcomed warmly with a lovely pasta lunch and wine. 

Yesterday morning I walked down from our rented flat in Lucca (we came two days before the retreat) to the cafe below to be greeted by Boris the bulldog and the friendly, and, thankfully, English-speaking staff.  I gobbled a sticky and sweet rice pastry with my cappuccino as I wrote. Boris was friendly but not so much that you were assured he liked you. Coincidentally we encountered another bulldog this afternoon at the villa— Bonito. See if you can guess which is which.

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The overnight flight from LAX was uneventful and I even managed to sleep about five hours, though fitfully. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had the entire row of three seats to myself. I also watched two movies and listened to almost four hours of my audio books—Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow and Pam Houston’s new memoir, Deep Creek, Finding Hope in the High Country. I finished Pam’s book early this morning when I awoke at 2:30 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Honestly, every human being who cares about the natural world—and perhaps more importantly those who don’t—needs to read this book. It is a lovely treatise on the value of hard work amid the reality of nature and death and grief and loss, humanity and animals and the environment, human folly and hope and despair. It’s funny how someone whose life experiences are so vastly different from your own nevertheless can feel like a deeply connected sister or best friend. 

Our flat in Lucca was vast by European standards—three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the heart of Lucca town. Lucca is a medieval walled city filled with colorful buildings, fine leather shops, boutique clothing and pottery shops, restaurants and gelateria. Oh, and churches, towers and cathedrals. 

Tomorrow—Casa Fiori, painting and writing, on our Call to Adventure.  

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Wishing You a Wondrous Holiday Season

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Haven’t written much on this blog this year. My only excuse is work and life have taken more of my attention. But I didn’t want to let this season of love and peace go by without expressing my gratitude for all of you who are (or have been) clients, family and friends. You sustain me throughout the year.

I will be taking on new projects in the new year, and I’m excited about what will come into my life. I am so grateful for the clients I have had over the years, and especially those who have become friends, as well. If you have a book you’ve been working on that’s ready for an experienced development editor, or you would like the little nudge that comes from working with a writing coach, I would love to hear from you. May the peace and promise of this season settle upon you. May the love of family and friends surround you. May the abundance of the natural world visit upon you the nurture of nature. May you feel the love of the people who hold you in their hearts. Happy Holidays.

Last Night in Greece

We spent one last night in Athens before catching our home-bound flights to London and LA. Rob and I had dinner at Orizontes, atop Mount Lycabettus overlooking the whole city. It was stunning at night, with views of the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis. Here are some photos from the restaurant and our hotel.

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The colossal Temple of Zeus, which took more than six hundred years to build. There are only sixteen columns left of the original 104. It's more than impressive when you see how enormous the columns are. 

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I'll write more in coming days about the Greek island of Rhodes, and our visit to the Monastery of Saint Nicolas, the Sanctuary of the Cats, on Cyprus. I left my tzedakah dollar at the sanctuary, where nuns continue hundreds of years of taking in stray cats. The dollar was given to me by my dear friend Arthur Gross Schaefer, a rabbi. In the Jewish tradition, one writes a Jewish blessing for safe travels on the dollar, and at the furthest point of the journey, the traveler gives the dollar to someone in need or a charitable cause. The cats were first brought to Cyprus and the monastery in 326 AD to control venomous snakes, and they continue in that role today. 

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The mosaic above the entrance to the Monastery of Saint Nicolas.  

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Two of the residents. They do not necessarily have an easy life. One of the cats we saw was missing half of her face, no doubt from an encounter with a snake.  

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Crete's Chania and Red Beach Near Matala

Rob and I spent five nights on Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. We flew into Heraklion, then rented a car to drive to the charming harbor town of Chania. Our hotel, Domus Renier, was exquisite and the owner, Litsa Paraskevaki, was warm and welcoming. She spent three years renovating a very old building, and it is beautiful with attention to every detail.  

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The harbor at Chania.  

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Domus Renier is the building with the green and brown exterior.

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Yup.  

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A BIG beer.  

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Chania lighthouse.  

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A detail--exposed original wall at Domus Renier.  

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Rob with Litsa, the owner of Domus Renier.  

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Original details were retained or re-created.  

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Red Beach, near Matala in southern Crete.  

A New Year's Reflection

Things I am grateful for:

·      my love

·      my friends and family, especially my precious daughter

·      writers who share their lives, loves and words

·      my work and the people who entrust me with their books and dreams

·      my sweet dog, Chevella, who turns 14 next summer

·      the ability to read and think and appreciate ideas

·      meaningful conversation with interesting people

·      the wonder and blessings of travel

·      my home and the ability to share it with clients and friends

·      the possibilities of the future

·      my own writing projects, which feed my soul

·      wise women friends who provide support and succor when I need it (and you know who you are!)

·      the opportunity to live in a beautiful corner of the world

·      walking on the beach with my dog

·      mentors who guide and encourage me

·      good health

·      deep, intimate relationships with people I love and care about

For these things and many more, I am profoundly grateful.

May your 2017 be filled with meaningful work and relationships, may you experience all good things, and may your loftiest dreams come true.

Happy New Year.