Posts Tagged ‘Earth Day’

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)



More Thoughts on Earth Day

April 27, 2015

Is establishing an international day dedicated to drawing attention to the preciousness of earth enough?  What can we do to make Earth Day an event and a reminder to bring attention to the health of the earth?


I know that collectively we can all make a difference in the health of the earth, in the preservation of vital forests, water resources and other precious limited resources. By making a concerted effort, we can all be stewards of the earth.

Hosting the Earth Day Yoga retreat at Little Renaissance is one way in which Rick and I can contribute to our mother ship, Earth. On our weekend retreat, we asked:  how can we collectively make a difference? How can we collectively influence, motivate, enlighten, and share what we know? Below are some of the answers that came forth from our discussions.

Walking the Pacific beach at Ocean Shores, WA for Earth Day 2015

Walking along the beach at Ocean Shores, WA for Earth Day 2015

  • We can cut back on car usage. We can drive less, carpool when possible, use public transportation, walk more and/or ride a bike. If you walk more or ride your bike, not only will the earth be happier, but your physical body will be leaner and healthier.
  • We can promote buying organic produce (and organic meat products, if you consume meat).  As consumers, we wield some purchase power.  And we can waste less, especially when it comes to eating out. American portions are huge. Take home what you can’t eat and enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.
Go organic!

Go organic and buy local produce whenever possible!  Plant a garden. Organic produce is good for you and good for the earth.

  • Think big! One retreat participant works for Eileen Fischer, an Eco-conscious clothing store. I learned last weekend that the clothing industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. The first most polluting industry is the oil industry. Eileen Fischer is aiming to use only 100% organic cotton, from seed to the cotton’s finished product, by 2020. The company has a store called Green Eileen, a store where clothing is re-purposed and resold. Urge other clothing stores, companies, and industries to become Eco-consciously committed. Shop at such businesses and be proud of your contribution to the health of the earth and all of humanity.
  • Practice voluntary Simplicity.  I bet more than a few of my readers grew up, like me, with parents or grandparents who lived through the depression era. They saved everything from used sheets of aluminum foil paper to rubber bands and twist ’ems. They repaired broken items rather than throwing out and purchasing something new. They patched, darned, made use of hand-me-downs, glued, and soldered things back to working order. They even turned off the water while brushing their teeth. Let’s learn from them. Reduce, reuse, recycle, renew. Spread the word.
  • Eat vegetarian (and if you are not willing to go there, how about one or two meatless meatless meals per week?) The way you eat has a huge impact on caring for the earth. Educate yourself on usage and ill effects of pesticides on your health and on the environment. Educate yourself on the ill effects of eating meat from animals who have lived in horrid conditions and treated with growth hormones, steroids, and injected with medicines to keep them alive and ready for the slaughterhouse. If you eat meat, make sure your meat comes from animals that have been raised organically and under humane conditions. Seriously think about what you put into your body.
  • Pay attention to birds! Draw attention to birds around you through your writing, drawing, painting, or other artistic expressive crafts.  Celebrate these creatures that fly and sing!  We destroy their habitats and kill them off (think of the now extinct passenger pigeon,  which was actually quite a beautiful bird!). Once these beautiful creatures are gone, there is no turning back. Extinction is terribly and tragically final. Yes, be a bird proponent.
Passenger pigeons, were literally shot out of existence.

Passenger pigeons, were literally shot out of existence.

  • Organize events! Like with our Earth Day Yoga Retreat, organize an event at which you can talk about important issues. Educate yourself. Educate one another. Learn and share what you have learned with others
  • Join in on an already organized event.  Rick and I are so proud to have taken part in the Washington Coast Savers clean up (blog post to come out tomorrow) with our friends Marc and Carrie Flexer.  What an unbelievable experience!  We felt so empowered to be able to actually do something to protect and clean one of Washington’s most beautiful beach, Shi Shi Beach on the Makah Reservation.
  • Another participant at our retreat is a Mountaineer. He often takes part in activities which are based on the preservation and conservation of the environment.  He has learned that the number one way to be a proactive environmentalist is to PAY ATTENTION. When we pay attention to the world around us, we draw conclusions, we inform ourselves, we learn, we teach others what we learn, we make sound decisions that have a great positive impact on the environment and all that the world holds.
Sunset on Sunday evening at Iron Springs, Washington, along the Olympic Peninsula.

Beautiful Earth and Sea: Sunset on Sunday evening at Iron Springs, Washington, along the Olympic Peninsula.

  • Our resident biologist, Brent Matsuda, noted that the more we advance technologically, the less we seem able to adapt to basic survival skills, such as surviving in the wilderness. He has noticed in his field work how young folks can use a GPS perfectly, but if the navigation device malfunctions, they are unable to use a compass. Sometimes people have trouble reading maps. Basic survival skills, such as building a fire to keep warm and avoid hypothermia, are lost to some of our most brilliant “techies”!  Brent’s advice is to work with “techies” or people with high technological skills. Teach them not to rely only on technology, because if it breaks down, they will have to know how to find coordinates, for example. Use a calculator, but, by all means, know your basic math and how to calculate in your head. He calls this problem of over-reliance on high technology and ignorance of basic skills “the dumbing of society”.  Know how to use technology, and of equal importance, know your basic skills.
  • Recognize that we need outside help.  This means we need to ask questions and seek answers.  We need to look deeply at issues.  The “outside” help we need is also literally “outside”!  Yes, literally, go outside and be in nature.  Let nature be your mentor.  Just as our elders, the experts,  scientists and teachers among us can be our mentors, let nature have this role as well.
Go hug a tree!

Go hug a tree!

  • Be PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE.   Plant trees so you don’t look around one day and wonder why your garden has no shade.  Take on healthy eating and general stress-free living habits in order to keep illness at bay.  Just as you take measures to make sure you are safe, take measures to ensure the earth stays safe, healthy, and balanced.
  • Read Mary Oliver’s poems (or a nature poet who moves you!) again and again and again.  Mary Oliver’s poems will leave you with a deep love and reverence for nature.  You will feel as if the earth itself is a temple, a cathedral, or a holy place upon which you will want to tread lightly and with great respect.  Purchase a few of her poetry books and have them on hand to gift to people you love:


by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old?  Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?  Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be


The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on Earth Day in the comments below!!  I’d love to hear from you!  And it’s never too early to sign up for next year’s Earth Day Retreat at Little Renaissance, Ocean Shores, Washington being held on April 22-24, 2016.

Earth Day 2015

April 21, 2015

We celebrated and hosted our annual Earth Day Retreat this past weekend.  The weekend could not have been more beautiful!  Our garden was alive with rhododendrons in full bloom, the last of the tulips and primroses, and the beginnings of some roses in bloom!

We start our day right at Little Renaissance:  yoga followed by breakfast

We start our day right at Little Renaissance: yoga followed by breakfast

Brent Matsuda, our guest biologist, came for the event, as he does every year.  The group of yogis and nature enthusiasts were truly wonderful.  The weekend was filled with sunshine and long walks on the beach.  We identified many birds, seen through Brent’s fabulous scope (see our list below).  We also experienced long yoga sessions, both restorative and quite active.  Everyone had plenty of chances to do inversions with the headstand bench and the outdoor sling.  I seem to have had the theme of Italian food going and everyone was very happy with the meals.

And lucky us!  We got to eat two meals outside in the garden!

lunch outside in April!

Warm enough to have lunch outside in April!

Late one evening, Brent took us out to do owl calls!  This was very late at night and we were pretty tired from a full day of activity and it was cold out (we wrapped ourselves in wool yoga blankets), so we didn’t stay out for more than 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, we did not hear any owls respond to our owl calls or to the professional owl recordings. Brent was certain that, given more time, we would have heard the barred owls call out to us. We did, however, see the star-studded night sky and just that was breathtaking!


Here is the impressive list of birds we saw on just ONE walk on the beach at Protection Point on Saturday afternoon:

Two eagles

White-Crowned Sparrow

Lark or Bunting (we were not sure which one it was!)

Loons, two kinds: Common and Pacific


Surf Scoter

Western Grebe and Horned Grebe

Double Crested Cormorant and Pelagic Cormorant



Western Sandpiper

Black Bellied Plover


Caspian Tern

Canada Geese


Pigeon Guillemot

Song Sparrow

Many crows


Identifying birds

Identifying birds

We also saw a sea lion, a harbor seal, jumping salmon, and Brent identified the following:

brown millipede, amphipod, marine sow bug, and a bumblebee!

The cover of Brent's Field Notes notebook

The cover of Brent’s Field Notes notebook

We asked everyone to bring along a poem or a reading/passage having to do with nature or Earth Day.  We shared the readings I was quite impressed with the scope of shared readings for Earth Day Retreat 2015.  Below you will see all the sources from our readings, three of which I have written out in full.


Beloved Mother of All Things by Thich Nhat Hahn
Excerpt from Love Letter to the Earth

“Dear Mother Earth,

“I bow my head before you as I look deeply and recognize that you are present in me and that I’m a part of you. I was born from you and you are always present, offering me everything I need for my nourishment and growth. My mother, my father, and all my ancestors are also your children. We breathe your fresh air. We drink your clear water. We eat your nourishing food. Your herbs heal us when we’re sick.

“You are the mother of all beings. I call you by the human name Mother and yet I know your mothering nature is more vast and ancient than humankind. We are just one young species of your many children. All the millions of other species who live — or have lived — on Earth are also your children. You aren’t a person, but I know you are not less than a person either. You are a living breathing being in the form of a planet.

“Each species has its own language, yet as our Mother you can understand us all. That is why you can hear me today as I open my heart to you and offer you my prayer.

“Dear Mother, wherever there is soil, water, rock or air, you are there, nourishing me and giving me life. You are present in every cell of my body. My physical body is your physical body, and just as the sun and stars are present in you, they are also present in me. You are not outside of me and I am not outside of you. You are more than just my environment. You are nothing less than myself.

“I promise to keep the awareness alive that you are always in me, and I am always in you. I promise to be aware that your health and well-being is my own health and well-being. I know I need to keep this awareness alive in me for us both to be peaceful, happy, healthy, and strong.

“Sometimes I forget. Lost in the confusions and worries of daily life, I forget that my body is your body, and sometimes even forget that I have a body at all. Unaware of the presence of my body and the beautiful planet around me and within me, I’m unable to cherish and celebrate the precious gift of life you have given me. Dear Mother, my deep wish is to wake up to the miracle of life. I promise to train myself to be present for myself, my life, and for you in every moment. I know that my true presence is the best gift I can offer to you, the one I love.”

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Song of the Thrush by Harry Martinson

EcoYoga by Henryk Skolimowski

Utterance and The New Song by W. S. Merwin

Mother Earth’s Gifts by Kelly Roper

Earth Day by Jane Yolen

Earth Day By Jane Yolen

I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Each blade of grass,
Each honey tree,
Each bit of mud,
And stick and stone
Is blood and muscle,
Skin and bone.
And just as I
Need every bit
Of me to make
My body fit,
So Earth needs
Grass and stone and tree
And things that grow here
That’s why we
Celebrate this day.
That’s why across
The world we say:
As long as life,
As dear, as free,
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.L1290749

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