Need quiet time during the holidays? 9 ways to get some space.


If this snowy quiet bench is beckoning you, read on!

Are you an introvert who plays an extrovert on TV?  Or are you simply a straight-up introvert?  Try these tips when you need a break from the parties, the football games, the relatives, and the crowds.  (If you’re the opposite, click here for ideas for more people time!)

1. Offer to house sit.  Then you can go to someone else’s empty home and visit with their cat or plants or whatever you’re watching.  You’ll have an oasis of quiet and you can get away any time by simply exclaiming, “Oh! I just remembered!  I need to go to _______’s house and feed their bird/cat/iguana/boa constrictor.”

2. Take a walk.  Before or after a meal, at half time, in the morning, at sunset – these are all great times to say, “I’m going out for a walk.  I’ll see y’all in about a half hour or so.” If people want to join you and you’d prefer to be completely alone, explain that you’ll be doing a silent walking meditation. Which brings us to a wonderful alone-time option:

3. Meditate.  Sometimes people understand “I’m off to do my daily meditation” better than “I really need some alone time.”  So whether you have a rich and fulfilling meditation practice or not, you can go to a room, close the door, and be by yourself, whether you’re silently chanting a mantra or just relaxing with your thoughts.

4. Nap.  Jet lag.  General holiday exhaustion.  Getting over a cold or the flu.  A late night of partying.  There are so many reasons to offer why you might need to spirit yourself away for a delicious restorative nap.  If you’re not tired but just want to be alone, you can bring a magazine or book under the covers with you. Holidays are made for napping.  Find your favorite cozy spot and prioritize the daily holiday nap.

5. Go running.  If you’re an athlete, there’s nothing like a solo run to clear your head and give you space for yourself.  Pop in your favorite tunes, put on your headphones and hustle out the door.  Or choose to take in the sounds of nature – breezes through the branches, rustling leaves, crunching frost underfoot- you’ll be restored in no time!

6. Volunteer to go to the store for the last minute grocery items/batteries/baked goods/whatever.  Sure, you’ll have to brave the crowds, but you don’t have to interact with strangers except to smile peacefully, so it’s almost like being on your own!  Then take an extra detour on the way home, stop at a park or a view– or just sit in the parking lot! – and enjoy five or ten minutes of quiet for yourself.

7. Take a long bath. Add a lot of bath salts. Light some candles.  Climb in and close your eyes.  Ahhhh.

8. Go to a museum, house of worship or other quiet indoor space.  If you’re in a place where temps are below freezing, you can get your alone time inside.  Even in the most crowded museum in New York City, you’ll find rooms and galleries where there’s hardly a soul. Relax on a bench and stare at a painting for 20 minutes.  Or go to a place of worship, light a candle and sit in silent contemplation.

9. Just stay home. There’s no rule that says you have to attend every social event that’s available.  If you’re 18 or over, even if you feel social pressure to be everywhere, know that you have all the choice in the world to do what you really want.  Take advantage of that.  Unplug your phone, disconnect your computer, make some tea or hot cocoa and curl up with a good book.  If you need to, tell folks you’ll be out of town.  Then stay put and enjoy. Ahhh.

How else do you carve out alone time for yourself during the holidays?  Share your ideas in the comments!

Do you have the opposite problem?  Are you away from family and friends, maybe in a new city? Are you feeling lonely, bored, or antsy?  Do you gain all your energy from time with people? Click here for tips when you need the company of others.

Another chance to get the message

About a week ago I hosted a walk in the park.  It was a perfect morning. The sky couldn’t have been more blue, with gorgeous puffy white clouds.

IMG_9286The green of spring was deep and the sun was making everything sparkle.

IMG_9289And no one came.  I don’t know why – it may have been post-Jazz Fest quietness, it may have been odd timing, because this particular walk is usually well attended unless it’s raining or freezing.

However, there was no one.  There had been six, then five, then three, then two, and now none.  Some changes of plans, some last-minute cancellations.

I had no worries about it.  I actually started to get excited.  I exhaled.  A big relaxed sigh.  No one to introduce.  No agenda.  Nothing to do for anyone but me.  What a wonderful opportunity!  I began the most delicious most leisurely walk around the park that I had taken in a long time.  I didn’t need to do anything but what I wanted and that felt fantastic.

My angels almost always take care of me when I’ve over-scheduled myself.   And I gratefully accepted this gift.

A triplet of squirrels perched coyly atop cypress knees.  The last of the purple irises showed off their perfect blooms.

IMG_9288Crows and jays called across the treetops. Turtles plopped quickly into the water or sunned languorously on the fallen logs.  I’d seen it all before, but it was still glorious.

Then I made a big request.  I asked for an unusual animal with a message for me.  I didn’t have much hope- I’ve probably been to this park hundreds of times.  I’ve seen everything. I couldn’t imagine what could possibly appear to surprise me.

I was wrong. I walked over to the edge of the lagoon. And there, almost close enough for me to reach down and touch it, was a three-foot long spotted gar.  It rested in the dappled sunlight, in less than a foot of water, sitting as still as possible on the leafy bottom.  It took me a long time to notice its gills moving ever so slightly.  Otherwise, there was no way to even know it was alive.  All it was doing was breathing.

IMG_9298Me and the gar spent some time looking at each other.  Actually, I’m not sure if the gar noticed me or not.  I had trouble distinguishing its eye from the spattering of spots on its head.   I listened for its message, which to me seemed something like this: “All you have to do is be.  All this running around you humans do, it’s not necessary. It’s a choice.  If you crave stillness, take it.  Do it.  Be still.  All is well.  Look how long I am still.  I have nowhere to rush to.  It’s always ok to relax.  Especially when it feels good and peaceful.”

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know this is the message I struggle to receive over and over, even though it’s what I desire.  I love to watch and listen.  To wait.  To perceive.  To notice.  I love it as much or more than creating or moving or doing.  There’s so much already created.  I like to slow down to appreciate it.  I could spend every day watching the sky and the leaves moving in the breeze.  Just breathing.  And my message from the gar was, “That’s cool.  That’s enough.” 

I am so glad I could make time to bond with an ancient fish.  And that it what I did.  I made time.  I have time for anything I want to make time for.  I’m believing that more and more.  I just got a little help this time from the angels in clearing some space on my calendar!

IMG_9301If you need some permission to be still, take the message from my friend the spotted gar.  It’s been working for him and his species for 100 million years.  Step away from your screens and rest your eyes on something beautiful.  Grass, leaves, flowers, clouds, water, branches, rocks.  Just be. It’s enough.

IMG_9290And if you’re local and want to learn more about how giving yourself quiet time in nature will provide you with the energy and creativity to do what you want in the rest of your life, come to my book chat – outside! – where we’ll discuss Martha Beck’s book Finding your Way in a Wild New World.   May 24.  Details here.  RSVP via the Meetup or contact me at

Why go out in the rain?

You plan a walk or a hike and then it rains.  So you stay inside and postpone the walk until the weather’s better.

I’ve done it plenty – I’ve stayed inside because of rain.  I like dry weather and blue skies and long views.  But I’ve also learned to like fog and mist and rain and even a downpour here and there.  I’ve learned to love raindrops dripping from flowers and leaves all shiny and wet.

While I’ve never been a fan of hiking in the mud- in fact walking in mud for fourteen miles on my first day on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont made me cry – I realize that a walk in the rain can often be lovely. It shifts the perspective closer- to the moss on the trail side, or a bark-darkened tree, or a puddle adorned with fallen leaves.  Rain puts up a curtain around the long views so you notice what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes its a box turtle in the trail.  Or a squirrel fixing up a nest for the evening.

Last night I hosted a wordless walk – it was supposed to be to enjoy the sunset and moonrise, but clouds and rain all day made visibility of the sunset unlikely.  So people who’d planned to attend the walk mostly stayed away  – rain tends to do that.

I learned from six months hiking the Appalachian Trail that if I only hiked when it wasn’t raining, I would never finish the journey. It rains a lot in the eastern woodlands. Yesterday I had nowhere I needed to be and I could have easily stayed home and canceled the walk, knowing that people understand that you don’t go out walking in the rain.

But I’d been inside too much this week.  So I went. And I’m so glad I did.  The quality of light as day shifted to night was magical.

The rain was only a sprinkle here and there.  I really did watch a squirrel prepare its nighttime cozy spot.

And the moon peeked out from the clouds for a moment!

The breeze was the absolute perfect temperature, and I got what I’d come out for – stillness for my soul.

Here’s one more wordless video for you – raindrops on the bayou.  Watch the ripples.  So calming.

So what are your thoughts? Will you go walking in the rain?  What do you love about rain?


30 Day Challenge – Day 20 and 21 – Listen to your Soul, Rest and Play

I just spent two days and nights away on retreat.  Even though I was the host and facilitator, I had plenty of time to soak in the rejuvenating power of nature and really hear my soul speak.  She said something like this – it was telepathic so not exactly these words, but this was the feeling: “There’s abundance.  There’s always enough.  The world is full of riches and pure delight, laying them at your feet.  Love is all around you.”  She was so calm, so shining, so bright.  And I don’t think she was talking about material riches, like gold or diamonds.  It was much more about the abundance of beauty and life and love all around me.  So much to appreciate.

Would you like to hear your soul?  All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine your soul coming out of your body and manifesting itself in a way you can visualize – maybe a person, maybe a glowing light, maybe an animal  – it could be anything.  Then feel its wisdom, its pure love, its complete acceptance of you.  Feel it wash over you. Then hear what it has to tell you, as it sits or stands or floats before you.  Listen to its message, then let it come back into your body in whatever way it does – maybe straight to your heart, maybe through the top of your head, or some other way.  Then feel yourself fill up with the love and wisdom of your soul, and open your eyes and see the world from the point of view of your soul.  This is a beautiful visualization to practice over and over.  It’s one of my favorites, both for when I’m feeling stressed and when I’m feeling peaceful.

What I love about retreats like this is that it was a weekend dedicated to pure rest and play. We had lots of time alone to rest and reflect, and time together to process, share and hike and explore in nature.  I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow, but here’s one of my favorite photos from the weekend:

I’ve been drawing too – I missed my drawing time on Friday, but that’s ok – I picked up again Saturday and today.  I sat inside the small gazebo on the gorgeous grounds of the B&B where we stayed and drew the view through the lattice.

And today I played with the message from my soul, and with a somewhat green version of my wild and precious tree. Quick play sketches.

How are you?  What has your soul had to tell you lately?  What feels like rest and play to you right now?

Message me or let me know in the comments!

Calling the animals part II

In between the wild pigs and the owl, things stayed interesting.  I completely surprised a raccoon who was gorging on holly berries just two steps from the trail.  Poor thing had to splash away when I walked by, there was so much water everywhere.  I didn’t have a chance to snap a photo, but I do have evidence of his meal!

Then I strolled a little further until I encountered two squirrels crazily chasing each other along the boardwalk.  They were running at top speed toward me, completely oblivious until the first one came within about three feet of me and froze. Then the other one froze.  Where to go?  Into the water? Past me?  Back the other way?  The three of us stared at each other with quiet curiosity, the squirrels still breathing heavily from all their running.  I slowly reached down for my camera and broke the spell.  They spun around and dashed back down the boardwalk like lightning.  I laughed out loud.  It was like watching Chip and Dale.  Seemed like we’d all shared the joke without talking.  How many other ways would the universe surprise me?

Well, with bunnies.  Adorable bunnies who were rather damp as they had probably been swimming or at least wading.  One watched me calmly as it munched on poison ivy.  I guess bunnies can eat it without harm.
And then there were the sunbathing squirrels.  I mean, wouldn’t you lay out on the boardwalk if your fur was wet from swimming?  I so hated to disturb them (I saw two!) so I walked very slowly to give them time to find a tree to hop to and skip leaping back into the water.

I breathed deeply and smiled.  And then I drove home with gratitude in my heart, looking forward to returning the very next day for more wild, precious, utterly free gifts.

Calling the animals part 1

The animals I called for my wordless walks two months ago were the deer, and it’s funny – while I rarely used to see deer when I went to the swamp, now they come.  Almost every time.  I saw six or seven two days ago.  I still don’t really believe it works, but it’s a fun game and I enjoy making “oneness” connections with the animals, even if it could all be chalked up to coincidence.

This time, I didn’t call anyone in particular.  I sort of sent a “surprise me” sentiment out to the universe.  And almost immediately a great blue heron lifted off and flew gracefully through the trees.  I whooshed in a breath of wonder.  Then as I walked a little further, I heard what sounded like dragons.  I am not kidding.  Turns out that they were a passel of young wild pigs, some all black and some tan with black spots, like something out of a children’s’ story. They ran off too quickly for me to get a photo, but I heard and saw them twice, snuffling and grunting and snorting and splashing through the flooded forest.  What a cool surprise – I’ve never ever seen pigs at the swamp!

I waded through shin-deep water for over a mile, relishing my Amazon-like adventure, and noting that I’d need to choose a different trail for my wordless walk the next day. I wondered where the armadillos had gone – there was so much water and so little high ground.  I’m sure they know what to do and had taken refuge somewhere.

Eventually, I headed to a less remote, far more civilized, fully boardwalked trail, and even a small portion of it was under water!  I walked amidst myriad lizards and snakes.  I surprised two small alligators who splashed off the boardwalk- I don’t know who scared who, it happened so fast!

On the way back, I thought – ok – I would love to see an owl.  I sent a request for an owl, wordlessly.  I don’t even know quite what I did.  And then I dropped attachment and kept walking.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was my owl.  As I crept closer, she glided silently away through the cypresses further up the trail.  But when I quietly rounded the next bend, there she was, perched and watching me, then turning to gaze down into the water.  I did my best barred owl call and I can only describe the owl’s expression as bemused – like, “Really?  You expect me to believe you are an owl??” But she didn’t fly away.  The owl ignored me and stared down into the water, perhaps eying her next meal.

She stared at me while I called to her, then went back to watching the water below.

Whether the heron, pigs, deer and owl came for me or for themselves doesn’t really matter — I’m just so glad I had the gift of a moment to enjoy watching them. Give it a try next time you’re outside.  Call the animals and see if they come.  You can read more about wordlessness and oneness and techniques to connect to the natural world in Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  And watch for announcements- I’m going to start up a new Wild World virtual book club soon!

Also coming soon: More animal calling stories and shared wordless walks from some of you!  It’s not too late to send me stories or pictures from your own wordless walk – I’d love to hear!  Email me at .

Lastly, tomorrow (Monday) this blog is going to move to self-hosted so I have a little more ability to do some cool things with it.  My only worry is that I won’t know how to do said cool things, so if anything seems a little wonky for the next while, you’ll know why.  I’m hoping for a super-smooth transition, but I know I have some skills to learn too.  Wish me luck and I’ll hopefully be checking in again very soon!

Wild, wonderful wordless walk

The deer came.  The woodpeckers came.  An armadillo surprised us. We were quiet for a couple of hours, but the woods around us were full of sound.  Robins, doves, frogs, hawks, chickadees, creaking trees, whooshing wind and skittering skinks provided an almost musical backdrop for our stroll, and the peaceful greens and browns of the winter swamp soothed our eyes.  For a little while we didn’t have to do anything but be present and enjoy, and it was lovely.

Yes– today I hosted the my first monthly Wordless Wetland Walk on a beautiful woodland trail in Jean Lafitte National Park.  Before we even began, the deer came. This seemed special to me, because I’d asked the deer to please come. They weren’t close–  way down the road actually, but one stood a long time watching, then eventually walked away, its white tail flicking coyly side to side.

Our walk was wordless to help us be present.  We wouldn’t be chatting or making small talk, or even trying to find out the name of that bird or the species of this tree.  We wouldn’t be talking about how pretty the woods looked or how good the wind felt. We would just be quiet, and look for the stillness in our own souls.  We’d use our senses to help us stay in the moment.

We walked to the base of one of my favorite trees and sat for a while, perched or nestled among its moss-covered roots.

We gazed up at the Spanish moss swaying in the wind.

We peered close up at leaves, acorns and dropped maple flowers,

We looked far at clouds and sky and treetops full of birds.

We didn’t speak, take photos, or even gesture much.  We just walked quietly, looked, and sometimes stopped or sat.  (These photos are from my scouting walk yesterday.) We spread out for most of the time, so each of us had our own space in the woods. Toward the end of the walk we clumped up and watched an armadillo for quite a while – they don’t see or hear very well, so I don’t think this one even knew we were all about 6 feet from it.

We softened our gaze, slowed our steps, and breathed.  We forgot concerns or worries, at least for part of the time.  We marveled, noticed, appreciated, and most importantly, just existed.  Sound good?  Want to try it yourself?  Tomorrow I’ll be writing some tips on enjoying a wordless walk anywhere.  And if you’re in the NOLA area, check the Happenings tab above to see when I’m hosting the next wordless walk!

May as well give up now; try again in 2013…

This is where I was on New Year's Day. Explains why I sort of forgot about the resolution thing.

Wow.  We’re halfway through the first month of 2012.  Half way!  If you’re like me, it feels like perhaps someone put you in a time machine on New Year’s Day and you emerged two weeks later, dazed and confused.  Perhaps you’re a little freaked out because that’s 1/24th of the year already gone, GONE!!!  And such a long list of things that were going to be different or fantastic about this year – what’s been checked off? – what’s been accomplished? – what new habits are fully in place, little stickers on the calendar marking their completion?  Yoga, breathing, eating, exercising, being nice, not cursing, going to bed at a decent hour, no more time-wasting on YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Hulu.

No yelling, instead being like the Dalai Lama, a walking paragon of peace and equanimity, never even thinking an angry thought.  Magically having time to live, work, make healthy and delicious meals full of fruits and vegetables, plus enjoy quality time with spouses/friends/family/children/neighbors/pets.  While we knit/sew/draw/photograph/paint beautiful creative pieces.  And keep the place clean – don’t forget that!

Do you- on this holiday to honor a wise and fabulous man who saw the big picture, even if he was still a human with his own foibles – do you look around and wonder where the heck January went?  Did your stickers fall to the wayside on January 4th? (Or 3rd, or 2nd?)  Are there dust bunnies lurking in the corner?  Have you had fast food?  Or an angry thought? Or perhaps a screaming match with a loved one?  Do you want to throw up your hands, dive back under the covers and say, forget it – I’ll try again in 2013?

Well, I’m here to tell you (and myself) to settle down.  Take a breath.  Look out the window.  Even better, go outside.  Even if it’s cold.  Just step out there and breathe the air and remind yourself that you’re alive.  Drop your plans.  Ask the little part inside you, the one that maybe doesn’t get to weigh in often enough, what one thing you’d most like to do today.  And just do that.

Me?  I didn’t make any resolutions this year.  I was too immersed in wordlessness and oneness.  My plan’s been to approach things a little more openly this year.  Stay present.  I know I’ll get things done – I always do!  And I have a lot more energy to make things happen if I’m not beating myself up for the 37 items on a too-long list of goals and plans that didn’t get done.  I’ll keep you posted about how it goes.  So far, so good!