Archive for the ‘Little Renaissance’ Category

Long Dark Nights of Winter

December 6, 2016

Winter Solstice comes early to Little Renaissance.  Every year, we celebrate a Hatha Yoga Winter Solstice Retreat on the first weekend of December at Little Renaissance.   We celebrate early before the busy-ness of the holiday season takes hold.

Winter Solstice is a time of quiet firelight, a time to nurture dreams.  The dark clear nights reveal the bright stars.  Late at night, I can sit quietly in the hot tub and see shooting stars trailing across the  sky.  I celebrate the shortest day and the longest night of the year with a wonderful group of yogis.  We anticipate the rebirth of the sun and contemplate our own spiritual rebirth.  We see this time of year as a turning point and a time of year to renew energy.

I look out the window and see the garden boxes through sheets of rain.  The garden boxes look spent from having produced so generously all summer long.  Gratefully, the soil lies resting, patiently waiting for the warmer and brighter days of spring.   The resting soil of the cold winter days and nights reminds me that the future holds promise, always.  Come spring, seeds will germinate and take root.  Likewise, I believe the future will manifest our visions and dreams.

For now, while we wait for the rebirth of the sun, we stand still.  Winter Solstice is a time of repose, a time to light the wood stove, stoke up the heat, soak in the hot tub, sit quietly surrounded by lit candles, delve into a good novel, and dream.

Below are photos from our past weekend’s Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat.  This group of yogis has been coming to Ocean Shores biannually for 10 years running!

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Ready for winter winds: Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Pretty driftwood log

Pretty driftwood log

Vast Ocean Beach

Vast Ocean Beach  (Skye and Dan)

Remnants of an old boardwalk

Remnants of an old dock

Group Shot I

Group Shot I

Group Shot II

Group Shot II

A Forest Takes Root in the House

A Forest Takes Root in the House

Collage I put together from Skye's photos

Collage I put together from Skye’s photos

Second collage I put together using Skye's photos

Second collage I put together using Skye’s photos

Living Your Yoga

August 17, 2016

Mostly I’d like you to enjoy these photos.  I believe these photos give you a good sense of the feel of Yoga on the Beach Retreat at our home and sanctuary, Little Renaissance on the Washington coast.


The weekend yoga retreat at Little Renaissance is always held in August.  It is an annual event, one we have run every year since 1999! Generally, the weather is warm enough for us to enjoy at least one session of yoga on the beach.  While it was in the 90s in Seattle, it only hit a high of 70 at the coast.  In the morning, when we would generally go to the beach to do yoga, it was 49 degrees one morning and the second morning, we were immersed in the beach fog that covers this area much of the summer.  Beach fog and drizzles made for indoor yoga. Even so, a 70 degree high at midday on the beach is very nice and we got to enjoy a long walk on Saturday.

We enjoyed our walks on the beach and we had lovely retreat participants!  Good company, our organic garden produce used as ingredients for the meals, music, lots of yoga and lots of exploring of yoga toys/props including inverting on a sling, long walks on the beach, fair weather, hot tub, lots of visiting deer, bucks, and fawns, AND whale sightings on Sunday made for a very special weekend!

Mark your calendars for next year’s annual Yoga on the Beach (never too early to sign up!):

The Next Yoga on the Beach Retreat: August 11-13, 2017

Walking on the beach

Walking on the beach

Rick soaking up the rays

Rick soaking up the rays

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Reaching for the sky

Reaching for the sky

Hanging out!

Isaac:  Hanging out on the outdoor sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!



Triangles on the beach (was too cool this year to do a yoga session on the beach in the morning)

Triangles on the beach

Pure Energy!

Pure Energy!

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the legs

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the feet!



Stewards of the Earth

April 27, 2016

We had our 15th annual Earth Day Retreat last weekend!  We have been running Earth Day Retreats every year since April 2000.  Since April 2000, there was one year in which I took a hiatus from holding yoga retreats at our coastal home and sanctuary Little Renaissance and that was when my mother was very ill and at the end of her life.  Other than that time, we have held steady since the first retreat we held in the autumn of 1999.

Brent Matsuda has come to Little Renaissance year after year, all the way from Vancouver, BC, Canada, to serve as our resident biologist for the Earth Day Retreats.  He is a great asset to our annual Earth Day Retreat.  We met Brent in the early ’90s while trekking in Nepal and have been friends with him since that time.

Below you will see photos from our lovely lively weekend, as well as poems the retreat participants wrote, inspired by Haiku writer, Rick Clark!

Buying flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle! Part I

Tulips: Buying flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle for the retreat, Part I

Buying flowers for the retreat in Pike Place Market, Part II

Peonies: Buying flowers in Pike Place Market in Seattle for the retreat, Part II

I'd say my lilacs are fully matured and enjoying spring!

I’d say my lilacs are fully matured and enjoying spring!  You can almost smell them in the photo!

Silent night
Owls calling –
Who cooks for you?

-Brent Matsuda

Of course, the inevitable rain at Ocean Shores! Spring equals rain, sunshine, and flowers!

Of course, the inevitable warm (sometimes cold) spring rain at Ocean Shores! Spring equals rain, sunshine, and flowers!

dedicated to Rick Clark:

The old alder trees
Grounded firmly in the earth
Give yogis Balance

-Brenda Seith

Firmly rooted on the deck

Firmly rooted on the deck (our traditional goodbye pose)

The following was written by Katy Hanson, inspired by a Neil Young Concert she attended:


Written by Kay Hartzog:


Breakfast at Little Renaissance

Breakfast at Little Renaissance (scones still in the oven!)

By Butch Hartzog:


All the garden sculptures got a flower hat!

To further celebrate Earth Day, all the garden sculptures got a rhododendron flower hat!

Four haiku by Lena Hanson:

Green retreat


Warm souls


Blooming yogis

Stretch away

Souls deepen


Sweet stillness


wisps of clouds


Green leaves

alight in fire

the dragon’s mouth


Mr. Frog happy to wear his flower hat

Mr. Frog reverently wears his flower hat

Otter wearing her flower hat

Otter happy to wear her flower hat

Chris Hanson read the inspirational essay, We Were Made For These Times, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  Estes is the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, which is really about the healing power of stories. The essay  starts out with, “Do not lose heart.  We were made for these times.”  It is a letter written to a young activist during troubled times.  It is so appropriate for all of us during the times of Climate Change.  What can I do?  The question and the answers are so bewildering, but Estes gives us a great foundation in which we gain courage to move forward and do our part in becoming stewards of the earth!  You can read the complete essay on this link.

St. Francis sporting his flower hat

St. Francis sporting his flower hat

Serene, he did not seem to mind his flower hat at all.

Serene, he did not seem to mind his flower hat nor the insect on his chest.

And lastly, Ann Fraser read We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners by Hafiz (born in Shiraz, Persia in 1320 AD).  I have included the poem below. Ann recently completed a yoga course, Yoga Behind Bars, a program which brings yoga to prisons across the country.

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world

to hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and

After the retreat, Rick and I headed to Iron Springs to visit friends Gail and Dave and to see a beautiful Earth Day Sunset!

After the retreat, Rick and I headed to Iron Springs to visit and have dinner with our friends Gail and Dave and to see a beautiful Earth Day Sunset!

Sweet ending to a perfect Earth Day Weekend (Iron Springs)

Sweet ending to a perfect Earth Day Weekend (Iron Springs)


Winter’s Long Shadows

January 11, 2016

Once upon a time not so long ago, we gave living at Ocean Shores a go.  The plan didn’t work so well for me.  I missed my Seattle life.  My heart and soul ached for my friends.  I missed teaching yoga on a full-time basis and I yearned for the cultural heartbeat of the city.   So we returned to life in the city and I gradually took up most of my classes again.  In the process, I started up and discovered a new aspect of yoga that I feel passionate about: teaching Adaptive Yoga for Special Needs Children.

In the move back to Seattle, we took up one apartment after another until we found one that suited us both quite well. And now, my Seattle week days are once again filled with teaching yoga, enjoying time with friends, and diving into all the interesting aspects of city life.  Through this process, once again, I rediscovered the preciousness of our home at the coast, Little Renaissance, and our weekends spent there.  Whereas I cannot live there full time, I deeply enjoy the quiet weekends our light-filled home and green wildlife-protected property offer us.

Little Renaissance is a sanctuary, una casa di salute, as my parents called it:  a house of health.  It is a healing place where nature and home are inseparable.  When I do yoga in the great living room, it is as if I am in a tree house, looking out at beach forest.  As I reach my arms across the room in Warrior II, I see birds flitting their way across the green corridor of bird-wilderness.  After a week in the city, the pristine air of the ocean greets us.  I marvel at this quiet peaceful house my husband built.  I admire the winter garden in its winter-resting stage and the wildlife traipsing or flying across our land.  I seemingly breathe in the constant lull of ocean waves and the night sky, void of light pollution, scintillating with stars and distant planets on clear nights.

Because I have am back to my full life in Seattle, I have a new-found appreciation of Little Renaissance, our home and sanctuary at the coast. After a week of intensive teaching and being with so many wonderful people (my life is very people intensive), it is a joy to spend quiet time at the coast.  I find my equilibrium at Ocean Shores.  I am renewed there.  It is a place where we offer retreats, but also a cherished place for us to retreat on weekends, a home away from home.  Many times we considered selling the property to consolidate living in one place.  We don’t feel that need anymore.  Our sanctuary at Ocean Shores has been in our lives for so long.  We will continue to beautify it and give the property all the loving care and respect it deserves.  Little Renaissance lives on!

This past weekend, we shared our home with some friends from our Yogi Culinary Group.   We have some fantastic cooks in our group and the theme this time around was Mexican.  Our menu?  Guacamole and chips, Mexican lasagna, Shrimp Diablo and Mexican rice,  baked beans,  and cabbage salad/slaw with lime dressing, punctuated by a plum almond tart served with a plum compote and chocolate sables. Needless to say, the meal required a postprandial one-mile walk around the block, our flashlights safely revealing the path along the otherwise pitch-black road.

We meet about once a season and this is the first time we had the group out at Little Renaissance.  It was great, just sad that two from our culinary group were unable to make it due to work-related travel conflicts. Ours was a weekend of laughter, wonderful conversations, bird watching, shared stories, cooking and great meals, yoga, and beach walking under the vast clear sky, chased by Winter’s Long Shadows.

Winter's Long Shadows

Winter’s Long Shadows

Zooey, our wind-blown guest of honor this past weekend

Zooey, our wind-blown Westie guest of honor this past weekend

Lively group

Lively group

Laughter on the Beach

Laughter on the Beach

Driftwood I

Driftwood I

Driftwood II

Driftwood II


Taking it in






So Much Gratitude

January 3, 2016

I meant to send this blog post out on the last day of 2015. However, I had the stomach flu! This seems to happen when I am in Mexico or always around the holidays. (And, yes, I had my flu shot!)

So here it is, already the New Year 2016 and I am sending out a collage/retrospective from last year 2015. My heart is filled with so much gratitude for all the people in my life. The photos do not include everyone dear to my heart and I wish I could include more more photos! However, the photos capture some peak moments from last year, mostly yoga events I organized or took part in.

Love and Thanks for helping make 2015 unforgettable! My heart is filled with gratitude for 2015. Thank you for being a part of it!

Happy New Year! May 2016 be a year filled with love, good health, dreams fulfilled, creativity, and happiness!

Turn up your speakers and take in the fun, excitement, and fullness of living life (darn it if this collage cut off some lovely faces…sorry!):

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Storms, Coyotes, and Bucks

November 7, 2015

Last week, we had another houseful of yogis at Little Renaissance for our Sicilian Heritage and Yoga Weekend Retreat.  Imagine a weekend of homemade Sicilian vegetarian meals,  Hatha Yoga sessions, beach walks on the west edge of the continental USA, and immersing yourself into a natural setting where you are surrounded by various shades of green.

Feet and Ocean Froth

Feet and Ocean Froth

We practiced yoga in a space warmed by the wood stove my parents gifted us, a woodstove that keeps us warm all winter long, and surrounded by windows looking out onto Pacific Northwest low beach forest.  Surrounded by trees, it feels as if we practice our yoga in a lofty tree house.

Storms, gusts of wind that woke us up at night, sideways rain, rainbows, large hail stones that fell and accumulated like a premature snow fall, and bright bursts of sunshine kept us on our toes all weekend. It was one of those weekends filled with the unexpected:

  • We saw a full grown buck casually grazing near us on the property, separated from us only by a window pane.
  • We saw a fat well-groomed raccoon, sitting on its hind legs on the deck next to the sliding glass door, begging for a handout.  When he didn’t get any food, he started sniffing around the outside cooler, trying to figure out how to open it.  Rick placed a heavy potted plant on the cooler.  The cooler quickly became raccoon-proof as well as Fran-proof.
  • One morning, while leading a yoga session, I spotted the most beautiful coyote traipsing down the path leading from the meadow to our house.  We all stood by the window as this healthy coyote approached the house.  Unaware of us, he sniffed at the salal and allowed us to observe him up close.  We all marveled at him (her?).  Someone said, “Are you sure that isn’t a dog?”  We all said, “NO!  That’s definitely a coyote!”  How do we know these things?  Not sure how to explain it, but there was not an inkling of a doubt it was a coyote we were observing.  Following is something I found on the symbolism of the coyote: The coyote symbolizes playfulness, nonsense, intelligence, cunning and joy. Coyote people form strong family bonds and have strong preferences. They are highly adaptable, opportunistic, and versatile.
  • In the afternoon yoga session,  a blue jay flew from branch to branch while a winter wren danced around the potted plants on the deck. Later while walking on the beach, we saw two eagles flying over head.   I was half thinking we would see a whale with all the great animal sightings, but that did not happen.

Joyce led us in Laughter Yoga!  Ho ho! Ha ha ha!  It really works.  In seconds, you feel intoxicated and silly, loose and giddy.  So much fun!  Joyce has put me in touch with her Laughter Yoga Guru, Dr. Kataria, from Mumbai.  I hope he will be able to meet with my yoga group in Mumbai, India next spring when we are there.  Wouldn’t that be a blast to be led into Laughter Yoga with him?  Got to meet this guy! Here is a very short you tube video of Dr. Kataria doing Laughter Yoga with 7000 people in Russia:  

Another topic discussed over the weekend was Heart Consciousness.  There are some very exciting research findings on the heart:

“Heart Consciousness” explained …….

Inner-G Fields

Basic research at the Institute of HeartMath shows that information pertaining to a person’s emotional state is also communicated throughout the body via the heart’s electromagnetic field. The rhythmic beating patterns of the heart change significantly as we experience different emotions. Negative emotions, such as anger or frustration, are associated with an erratic, disordered, incoherent pattern in the heart’s rhythms. In contrast, positive emotions, such as love or appreciation, are associated with a smooth, ordered, coherent pattern in the heart’s rhythmic activity. In turn, these changes in the heart’s beating patterns create corresponding changes in the structure of the electromagnetic field radiated by the heart, measurable by a technique called spectral analysis.

Experiments conducted at the Institute of HeartMath have found remarkable evidence that the heart’s electromagnetic field can transmit information between people. We have been able to measure an exchange of heart energy between individuals up to 5 feet apart. We have also found that one person’s brain waves can actually synchronize to another person’s heart. Furthermore, when an individual is generating a coherent heart rhythm, synchronization between that person’s brain waves and another person’s heartbeat is more likely to occur. These findings have intriguing implications, suggesting that individuals in a psycho-physiologically coherent state become more aware of the information encoded in the heart fields of those around them.

The results of these experiments have led us to infer that the nervous system acts as an “antenna,” which is tuned to and responds to the electromagnetic fields produced by the hearts of other individuals. We believe this capacity for exchange of energetic information is an innate ability that heightens awareness and mediates important aspects of true empathy and sensitivity to others Furthermore, we have observed that this energetic communication ability can be intentionally enhanced, producing a much deeper level of nonverbal communication, understanding, and connection between people. There is also intriguing evidence that heart field interactions can occur between people and animals.

In short, energetic communication via the heart field facilitates development of an expanded consciousness in relation to our social world.

Another topic discussed was Super Brain Yoga!  It is a very interesting concept, a simple practice to enhance brain function.  I have yet to give it a try, but here is the link, in case you are interested:

The clearing after the heavy rain storms.

The clearing after the heavy rain storms.

A frame beckons us

A frame beckons us

Beach Half Moons (impromptu driftwood props)

Beach Half Moons (impromptu driftwood props)

Yoga Chairs are backless and make for great backbends!

Yoga Chairs are backless and make for great backbends as Joyce demonstrates!

Mothers and Daughters

October 19, 2015

This past weekend, we hosted a Mother Daughter Yoga Retreat at Little Renaissance.  We had three generations present and, yet, we never felt any sort of generational gap.  The inter-generational aspect of the retreat was so fun and all interactions were meaningful.  I observed that the one grandmother present was gleaning wisdom from her grandchild as well as from the other younger retreat participants.  I love how the interactions transcended age and went into the arena of wisdom, love, and deepening relationships.

Circle of Love

Circle of Love

At one point, after a yoga session, I asked everyone to share with one another their ideas on the following: What I admire about you or What I can learn from you.  Everyone freely and openly shared their admiration for one another.  What I have to comment on is how impressed I was with the three youngest present.  They were fun, age-appropriate mature, not glued to social media, and into human interaction which included heart to heart connection with each person present!

Abi and Jen

Abi and Jen

We did a shared reading on Saturday night and here are some of the readings or sources of readings.

Rick read The Waking, a self-reflective poem that describes waking up from sleep by Theodore Roethke.  Rick was quite animated as he read and Cecilia was moved to film him doing his exuberant reading.  Towards the last line, he was so expressive that Ruah spontaneously laughed so hard with delight that she hit her head on her water glass.  She didn’t cut herself, but we had to ice the hummingbird-sized egg on her forehead:

The Waking

By Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke, “The Waking” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright 1953 by Theodore Roethke.

Harmony and Ruah diligently doing their Spanish homework!

Harmony and Ruah diligently taking time out to complete their Spanish homework!

Other readings included:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (you can view it being read by Anthony Hopkins on youtube).  Abi read this dramatic poem which calls for total sensory involvement as the reader observes with the mind’s eye the  many scenes of sensory images.

The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we had pleasant weather for this time of year. We walked the beach and did not get wet.

The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we had pleasant weather for this time of year. We walked the beach and did not get wet.

Cecilia read from Journey to the Heart:  Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie.  She chose the reading from October 11th in the book.  I do not have the book so cannot include the reading, but I did find another quote from the book:

“You don’t need to limit yourself anymore. You’ve opened your heart. Now open your mind. Look around. See all the possibilities. The universe is teaming with them. It will lead and guide you into this abundance if you ask it for help and then allow that to happen. Open to life’s abundance. Open to all its possibilities. The more open you become, the more creative you’ll be—in work, in play, in love, in life. The more creative you are, the more possibilities you’ll see.”

From shared readings, I discover great books.  Jen read from Calling in “The One”, 7 Weeks to Attract Your Soulmate by Katherine Woodward Thomas.  The book is great for people ready to find their soulmate.  The chapters focus on internal change and appeared to offer powerful tools for attracting one’s soulmate.

The whole group (minus Rick who is taking the photo)

The whole group (minus Rick who is taking the photo)

Saturday’s Shared Readings took place around 10pm and I think I was too tired to take note or to remember what everyone read.  The last one I remember is the poem Tiffany read from We’Moon.  We’Moon is an astrological data book and calendar filled with poems and beautiful artwork.  Tiffany read a poem called Trucker’s Language and is about women using words and expressive forms of communication which are actually words of empowerment!  The title really captures your attention and the poem does so even more.  Tiffany will send me the poem and I can come back and include it in this blog entry.

Enjoy the remainder of photos from the weekend retreat at Little Renaissance on Washington’s wild coast.

Trees sprouting from driftwood

Trees sprouting from driftwood

multi-armed goddesses

multi-armed goddesses

Abi meditates under the Bodhi tree

Abi meditates under the Bodhi trees

back at Little Renaissance, Weather so mild in late October that we have lunch outside!

Back at Little Renaissance, the weather is so mild in late October that we have lunch outside!

Yes, that would be Harmony walking on Rick's back!

Yes, that would be Harmony walking on Rick’s back!  That’s it…She’s hired!

Summer Solstice

June 15, 2015

We are fast approaching Summer Solstice.  This is my favorite time of the year.  I love the light, the sunshine, the warmth, and the late sunsets.  Little Renaissance is alive with climbing roses in full bloom.  The garden appears to thrive on neglect and I marvel at how lush the greenery is.  It has been so warm out that the plums look like they might be ready to harvest in a week or two!

Dragon Driftwood

Dragon Driftwood

The days are long this time of year.  This past weekend has been filled with sun drenched days.  There is a lovely group who comes out to Little Renaissance twice a year for a yoga retreat weekend filled with creative yoga sessions, lunch out in the garden, long walks on the beach, great company, and lively conversations.  This was the weekend we shared with them.  So much fun!  Such a great tradition.  (Just ask me about booking a weekend with us!.)



Rick using his magnificent telephoto lens to capture the two bald eagles on the driftwood!

Rick using his magnificent telephoto lens camera to capture the two bald eagles on the driftwood! (My camera is quite limited, having not much of a telephoto lens.)

Double header-headstands.  Skye brought her headstand bench, too!

Double header-headstands. Skye brought her headstand bench, too!

Skye Kickin' Air

Beautiful Sky, Ocean, and Skye!

Sand Crab Shell

Sand Crab Shell

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