Posts Tagged ‘New England’

squamlightIt has been an overcast day in Los Angeles, and I’m now sitting at LAX waiting for my flight back to Melbourne to be called.  It’s been a week since I left Squam Art Workshops and it’s only now that I’m able to write about the third Squam that I have been fortunate enough to attend.  I’ve had to sit with the experience and let it percolate through me before I could even think about finding words to describe those five days in the woods of New Hampshire.

So here it is: Squam has given me the opportunity to create, describe, celebrate and bless the basis of my beginning.  Every time I come to Squam I know that I am so, so loved and that I am seen – truly seen for who and what I am.  I am embraced for who I am right now, as well as what I might or could be.  I am accepted utterly, despite my (at times) apparently incomprehensible Australian accent.  Elizabeth’s beautiful “Write Your Own Myth” class resonated so strongly that I found it hard to believe that she hadn’t designed the class specifically for me.  I discovered my modern myth – it is yet to be written out properly, but oh so much inspiration to do so!  Susa’s gentle and loving class, “This Precious Life”, introduced me to the joy of mixed media art work and brought me closer to understanding the arc of my myth through the prompts and encouragement that Susa provided.


I had no idea that these two classes would mesh so perfectly together for me at this particular time and moment.  I truly felt as if both classes were created to help me draw together the threads of my life that until recently have seemed so disparate, and that everything I was learning and experiencing embodied the themes that I inevitably capture with my camera at Squam – the light (oh, the light!) and reflection of the trees, the lake, and the people.  The beauty of Squam is that we all take something different from it, and that it inevitably meets a need deep within us, even if we have been previously unaware of it.  Love, place, creativity, joy, writing, art, friendship, spirituality, light, reflection, home – Squam is all this and more – the basis of my beginning and the catalyst for so much more to come.

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Morning magic

It’s been over three months since I returned to Melbourne from the United States and another Squam experience.   Suddenly I find myself at the end of the year without having written this post, which has been floating around my mind since the end of September.  If I am honest, I have been struggling to find the words to describe my time at the fall Squam session and the matters that have come into focus for me subsequently.

If you are like me, there are moments in your life which you remember as perfect, golden flashes that are captured in your memory like precious photographs.  Squam in September was a continuing series of those instances, one after the other after the next.  Meeting my soul sister Camille and driving together to Squam Lake from southern New Hampshire, hearing Elizabeth calling my name through the woods as she came to greet us when we arrived at Rockywold Deephaven Camps and then enfolding me in one of her wonderful hugs.  Our full moon ceremony in the Longhouse following our skunk magic experience (about which I will let Elizabeth write in due course).  Sharing my hope of more love of all sorts entering my life, and instantly receiving love in response from Elizabeth and Camille.  Placing my favourite crystals on Eldorado’s dock in the light of the full super moon after it had risen over the lake.  Taking Tara Morris’s life affirming and exuberant photography class.  Sinking into the introspective goodness of Camille’s writing class.  Feeling all the emotions swelling up to my surface and manifesting themselves in constant tears – happy, joyful, grieving, revelatory, random, embracing.  The buttons of my camera under my fingers as I raised the viewfinder to my eye again and again.  Being told that someone wants to meet me because she’s read my blog and likes my writing (me! my writing!).  The sunlight seeping through the greenest of green woods and striking the lake water each morning and again in the evening.  Meeting new friends even though I feel that I have known them forever.


These are just a few of the shining moments that return to me over and over again.  As I said to Elizabeth in a recent email, the beautiful space that she creates for us at Squam Art Workshops is the most unexpected and perfect gift because it allows us Squammies to do whatever feels right creatively at any given moment – even if that creativity demands immediate napping or swimming or sitting by an open fire in your cottage being silent amongst the chatter.  I’ve spent the last three years or so growing so much as a person and being at Squam with such wonderful people and in such a transcendent environment feels like the reward for all the hard work that I’ve done.  Squam is the place where I am entirely me in the rawest and purest sense possible, and it is also the place where I have been the happiest and most at peace for a long time.  Each time I’ve come away from Squam with new soul sisters and a deeper knowledge of my capacity to love and to touch others.  I’m also learning that, while Squam is indeed a magical land of wonder and love, it is also something that I take with me every time I leave.  It is something that I remind myself of daily, and which I try to incorporate into my day to day life far away from that New Hampshire lake.


I was reflecting on this one morning in November when I was reminded of the word that I chose to guide me through 2014.  Of course, I had forgotten my word by around 1 March, but that sunny November morning brought it all back to me for some reason.  I chose the word “connection” because at the end of last year I felt disconnected from many of my loved ones and from myself in a visceral and concerning way.  I wanted to feel connected to the important people in my life, and connected to me – my emotions, my spirit, my self.  Even though I’d completely forgotten my word, it came tumbling back to me that morning and I realised that everything that had happened this year had moved me closer and closer to my word.  From yoga in Bali to time with friends at home, finding – remembering – new soul sisters and my tribe at Squam, allowing time for creativity and love, living as close to my essence as I dared – all of it was guided by my inherent desire for “connection” even if I wasn’t conscious of it at the time.  How lucky am I?

Squam has been such a massive part of 2014 for me.  Revelatory, embracing, kindred, family, and big, big love.  It has changed everything.  It inspires me daily.  I am counting the days until I get to return to the lake shores in June 2015.

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I had not expected to want to write here while I was at Squam, but the words keep bubbling through my mind and they need to be placed somewhere, even if I can’t do so coherently.  This Fall session of Squam is a continuation of the cracking open that started for me when I was here in June, but also finds me feeling even more introspective and contemplative than I thought possible.  It is a strange contrast – unfurling my heart while simultaneously turning inwards.  I spend the evenings processing the photos I have shot that day, or scribbling in my journal or writing here.  I watch the people in my cabin talking and I join in when I’m moved to do so.  I know I belong at the centre of this place, and that we are all at its axis.  Today I have had women come over to me purely to take me into their arms and hold me.  Last night I had women share their energy with me simply because I asked.  Gentle touches, smiles and wet eyes are integral to this magic and all these elements blend together to create this earthly heaven into which I can breathe my trust and know that it is safe to do so.

I find that my thoughts chase each other, and in Camille’s beautiful writing class today I experienced a stream of consciousness that was overwhelming with its speed and truth.  The prompt to which I was writing had nothing to do with Squam but, in the end, I realised that what I had written was precisely my reality here: the stream of consciousness – the dream of consciousness – the awakening that we find here thanks to Elizabeth’s vision and her open, open heart.

“It is music and words and my pen moving across the page.  It is the light on the water and having the eyes to see it.  It is my camera in my hands and my fingers adjusting the dials, and the dock on the lake, and the loon on the water.  It is the want and the heart and the love and the fear – my god, the fear – and the lady skunk in the woods and the spirit moving through the trees on the breeze.  It is the cliche at my lips and the knowledge in my heart and the rhythm of the words and the flow of the ink.  It is the blood in my veins and the water in my womb, and the movement of my thoughts and the poetry of this moment.  It is the struggle of the mind and the longing of my soul and the desire to be moved and the creative path which I seek.”

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I’m sitting in a cottage in the woods of New Hampshire, surrounded by women who are knitting and talking and getting to know each other.  We’ve just returned from listening to Elizabeth speak at her opening ceremony for this Fall session of Squam Art Workshops.  I am one of the lucky ones because I arrived at Lake Squam yesterday before everyone else arrived this afternoon.  I’ve had an extra 24 hours to sink into this place, and to allow myself to feel all the emotions that it triggers in me.  As I drove to pick up Camille from Londonderry, New Hampshire, I was conscious that my throat was already tightening with suppressed tears, and I knew that it would only become more intense the closer I came to Squam.  This place, which seemed like a dream before I first came here in June, only becomes more perfect and myth-like the more time I spend here.  In a way, it is confronting because my emotions are so close to the surface all the time that I am here, but I know that it is important that I let those feelings flow through me and emerge in whatever form they chose to do so – usually tears (happy, fearful, joyful, regretful, tender, intensely personal and always poignant).  I am so, so grateful to Elizabeth for creating this space where I know – I know – that not only is it safe for me to feel and cry and laugh, but that I am with my people who will support me and love me as I do so.  In the past day, I have been recognised as a soul sister, and I have met a true kindred spirit.  Even though the workshops haven’t officially started yet, I feel as though I have already found everything I could possibly have wanted from this experience.

Elizabeth’s hope for us as we embark on this Fall session is that we allow ourselves to be open, and alive and awake.  She blessed the session by reading from her journal her hopes for the magic we will find here, and by imploring us to open all the doors to possibility and to the present moment.  To say yes to what it is that we need from this place and this time, and to say no to self-judgment and whatever it is that doesn’t give us ease and peace and love.  I cried as her words touched that deep and secret part of me yet again, and I fell further in love with this place and these people.  I was cracked open by my time here in June, and now in September I feel myself closer again to my surface and yet so much further inward simultaneously.

I am here.  This is only the beginning.  I am saying yes.

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I’m sitting on the train and it is pulling out of South Station in Boston, taking me to the heaving metropolis that is New York City. The contrast between the last five days that I’ve spent at a lakeside idyll in New Hampshire and NYC couldn’t be more stark.

I’ve read about Squam Art Workshops for a few years now after I first became aware of the event via Susannah Conway’s stint there several years ago. The idea of secluding myself in the woods of New Hampshire for five days with like minded people sounded so blissful, but I honestly wasn’t ready to participate in Squam at that time. I was at the beginning of all the changes I’ve been through in the last few years, and not nearly far enough down that path to be able to truly appreciate what Squam could really mean.

By late last year, I knew that I needed to be at Squam in the northern spring of 2014, even if I wasn’t sure if I was ready. I wanted to find out for myself whether the magic that everyone wrote about truly existed – whether Squam involved as many unicorns as it seemed.


I arrived at Rockywold Deephaven Camps after a somewhat hair raising drive up from Boston determined to hold my mind and heart wide open to whatever the weekend may bring. In so many ways I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that some part of me was coming home. My first glimpse of the lake confirmed this as strongly as if it was tattooed on me.


After I threw my stuff down in my room in Maple Shade cabin, I opened the love letter that Elizabeth had written to all of the Squamees.

Now you are a blank slate – open and ready for this experience.

Whether this is your first trip to Squam or your sixth – you still need to breathe into THIS moment.

…And then? Follow your heart. Let it lead…. follow it wherever it wants to go. Do what feels good, what feels fun, what is exactly what you most want to do in this moment.

I wept. It was as if Elizabeth had looked into my depths and pulled out exactly what it was I needed to hear.

The next five days were a blur of tiny moments, revelations and soaring hearts. So much laughter, many tears, much love. I was touched and humbled by Narrative Truth, the photography class run by the stunning Amy Gretchen, and broken open and vulnerable by David Anthony Durham’s Story in a Day. The words “privileged” and “grateful” were my constant companions, creativity and inspiration whispering to my spirit all day and late into the night.

Despite the admonition from Elizabeth at the opening ceremony that we shouldn’t be expecting to find unicorns at Squam, in truth I was met by unicorns at every turn. Not the least of these were my beautiful cabin mates – Unicorn Cheryl, Unicorn Jen, Unicorn Christine, and Unicorn Ivy – and Unicorns Sera and Lauren. Late nights, in jokes, knitting and spinning (not me though!) were our cosy cabin evenings, as were constant calls of “No, we’re not going to talk about leaving …!”


Of course, the time came to depart. Following breakfast I introduced myself to Elizabeth so that I could thank her and say farewell. Odd, I know, but my timing was never the best. She stunned me by recognising my Instagram handle and she instantly could see how much my Squam experience had meant to me. That moment of recognising a kindred spirit is a profound one indeed.


Those brief moments with Elizabeth encapsulated Squam so precisely – connection, recognition, acknowledgment, and instant love. I drove away with yet more tears in my eyes, but also with a deep knowing that this was only the end of the beginning. Squam isn’t just a beautiful lake, nor is it merely an event or a gathering. It is a feeling and a spirit that we all bring with us to that magic place, and we take it back with us to illuminate our lives until it is time again to gather on those New Hampshire shores.

Until next year, Squam.

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