I first discovered Sabrina Ward Harrison back in 2000, after her first book came out. Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself was like no other book I had ever seen - filled with pencil sketches and inky scribbles and scraps of poems, it was like peeking into someone's diary. This was pre-blogging, before everyone posted their diaries online for all the world to see, and so it seemed intensely revelatory.
I pored over the book for hours. Sabrina’s words were often similar to my own reflections, and in some ways it felt like looking into a mirror. From Spilling Open:
"I catch myself trying to cover up parts of myself that I don't accept. It's like a mask. I use my long black skirts to cover my legs that feel thick sometimes. I put make-up on that attempts to look like I don't have make-up on just to cover any shadows of acne. Why? I want to be accepted and loved as is..."
I continued to buy her books as they came out over the years, and they joined the others in my Creative Inspiration pile.
Then, a few months ago, I found a link online to a workshop that Sabrina was giving in LA. I signed up immediately.
I had this grand idea that I'd drive down, and make it a road trip - fun, right?! - even though, honestly, I'm not much off a road trip person. Partly because my long limbs get stiff and restless after a couple of hours in the car, and partly because I get so intensely focused on GETTING THERE that I don't enjoy the journey very much. A friend of mine once said: "you're like a horse on the way back to the barn - you just can't get there fast enough." I've been on the backs of horses that have caught sight of the barn, and I know that beady-eyed focus and wild, thundering momentum, so OUCH.
But knowing these things about myself, and wanting to grow into a less-Type-A person, I thought: I’ll do better this time. I’ll get an In-N-Out Burger along the way. I’ll stop at Tejon Ranch and take pictures of the trees. I'LL ENJOY THE RIDE.
Then, two weeks before the workshop, my slipper-clad foot slipped on the stairway at 6:30 am as I was blinking the sleep out of my eyes, and I thumped down several wooden stairs on my tailbone.
Hi. My name is Jennifer, and I fall. A lot. I trip, I fumble, I tumble. I want to glide gracefully through my life, sleek and sure-footed as a dancer, but I don't. Instead, I've collected knee surgeries + bruises + scars from my falls like so many trophies. I’ve stopped being surprised when I fall, but can I just put it out there that I’d like to fall on sand or soft grass next time?
For days after the fall (and still now), I was in excruciating pain. Every time I sat down, or stood up, or shifted in my seat, or wiggled my pinkie finger – ANY MOVEMENT AT ALL – glorious waves of red-hot pain shot up my back and down my legs.
But I really wanted to go that workshop, and I figured that I could be in pain here or be in pain there, and so I got into the car as scheduled and made a beeline for LA. I did not stop at Tejon Ranch. I did not take pictures of trees. I won’t tell you how fast I got there, but I will say that I’m lucky I didn’t run anyone off the road in the process.
The workshop was held in the gorgeous home studio of artist Carol Parks. Perched on the corner of a winding street, the home is wrapped in wisteria vines and bougainvillea. It’s like a fairy tale cottage – art and beautiful objects are displayed everywhere – paintings + photographs + peeling steamer trunks + stern-faced wooden dolls. A huge outdoor patio, festooned with paper lanterns and grapevines, looks out over a park.
A place to relax into, and listen, and breathe.
This is the lovely Sabrina:
For two days, I and a dozen or so others sat with Sabrina and listened to her and each other. We talked about the creative process. We talked about our lives, and our hopes, and fears.
We painted + scribbled + sat in the park, gazing up at the purple-flowered trees.
From stillness springs understanding.
Sabrina read some favorites like The Journey by Mary Oliver, and precious words from Rilke - and introduced me to someone I had never read before: John O'Donohue. This former Catholic priest turned poet died earlier this year at the age of 52, and left behind a legacy of fearless spiritual exploration.
We listened to a podcast of him being interviewed on NPR - his words, spoken in a tumbling Irish lilt, were deep and wise. I'll be exploring his work for a long while.
"When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become." - John O'Donohue
"What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver
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+ Check out Sabrina's True Living Project
+ Read this interview with John O'Donohue
+ Be inspired.