Explorations of the Wild Feminine, An Art Retreat.

Explorations of the Wild Feminine, an Art Retreat.

What can I say about something so moving, so life-changing as this?  It was more than an art retreat.  Even in the intense heat of August in Jaen province, tucked away within the endless mountains of olive groves is Cortijo Las Salinas, a beautiful old farmhouse, lovingly restored and with Roman origins.  Each room is carefully and thoughtfully considered, with beautiful views.

We had twice-daily circles, where we shared our truths in safety and love.  We held space for each other.  There were tears.  As a woman who has many friends, I used to think this is something I frequently do, but it is not.  Our lives are so busy and caught up in details.  We are deeply private.  Some things we never discuss.  We talked about our lives and experiences as women.  We shared so much as women's lives often contain similar patterns, themes, paths.  Terre read poetry, writings, thoughts. She held space in strength, love and vulnerability.  We all wrote, we had guided meditations led by Terre, and these meditations informed our paintings. 

Terre guided us through the process of intentional creativity.   We painted every day, so in flow and reverence, to our work and all we had assimilated through our women's circles, meditations and writings.  Steffi taught us yoga in the mornings and performed gong baths, reciting poetry before and after.  Oh my goodness, I have chills even thinking about those gong baths.  The intense power of those, within the mountains.  Steffi also held a Kundalini  yoga class, chanting Adi Shakti while the full moon rose over the mountains. 

There was so much laughter.  The vegetarian food was nutricious and delightful.   I gave a workshop of the landscape and the sacred feminine in nature.

  We walked with wonderful writer Chris Stewart, who guided us with grace, humour and knowledge in Granada, in some places I had never seen.  Mysterious places, magical places.  The home of Spanish composer Manuel de Falla was wonderful.  The day was blessedly cool as Granada in August, the heat can be fierce, but it was perfect. 

Sometimes I had to escape and walk to the top of the mountain in early morning, to the Balcon de Don Rafael.  I am a private person, and want to experience things alone sometimes, so in the cool of the early morning I made my way up to the top of the mountain in slippy sandals, as the land was so dry it was sometimes like skating.  Note to self:  bring hikng shoes and/or poles next time.

  After the retreat, many of us traveled together to Las Alpujarras mountains, slightly further south, and settled in Bubion, a high mountain white village,  with water running from fuentes everywhere.  The sound of water, the healing, life-giving vibration from it gave the village a cleansing feeling and we walked through labrynthine pathways, under tinaos, places built for shade, sat in cafes, walked up and down mountain sides.  We walked from Ferreirola to Atalbeitar, stopping to drink from the gazeosa spring, with effervescent iron-rich water.  Then to the incredible waterfall, the Salto de Paula, bathing in its freezing iron-rich waters. 

We visited the Green Tara statue at the rarefied Buddhist Temple O Sel Ling, near Soportujar.  The drive up there was hair-raisingly precipitous, on hairpin bends on narrow dirt tracks with no barriers.  We climbed further still, to the Tibetan prayer wheels and prayer flags fluttering in the breeze.  We chanted Adi Shakti together on the threshing floor (Era) at Ferreirola in front of the mountains.

Some photos of our magical women's art and exploration retreat in Andalucia in Spain are in the links above, (see Photos from Explorations of the Wild Feminine.)  For more info about the next retreat, or to be on our mailing list, please use the contact form above, or email:  alicejulietmason@gmail.com

There and Here

There exists within me some kind of urgency in both the need to make art, to travel to certain places and to walk.  To commune with the earth, by walking on it, making pathways, making tracks and connections.  I think of the songlines of the aboriginal people.  When I walk, I also imagine new paintings and sometimes the ideas are grown, like new neural pathways.  As we make new pathways in the land, we make neural pathways in the brain.  We grow ideas, paintings, poems.  Sometimes it’s like a march, and it can be quite repetitive, and I am fortunate in that where I live, I can walk out of the door, up the lane and onto the cliff path above the sea.  That horizon is like food for the soul and as I gaze out to sea, I enjoy the change in colour, and in England, it is often changeable.  It always surprises me how much traffic is passing through the English channel:  huge cargo boats, small fishing boats and on a still day, sailing boats for the pure pleasure.

Then there is this need to travel to southern Spain.  Which is also a kind of need to be alone, interspersed with connections with others.  It used to be other places:  Greece, France,  California, Arizona, Nevada, the desert, then France again.  Now it’s Spain, and has been for some time, and when I ‘found’ the Alpujarra, I felt it was perhaps the best place, or at the very least, the place that would continue to fascinate me for many years.  The sublime mystery and magic of and in those mountains is something that feels ancient, bewitching, fascinating, numinous, elemental..   I want to know about the history, the threshing floors, ancient trade routes, mysterious pathways, abandoned places, the ancient ways of life that can still be seen :  donkeys carrying firewood, people riding horses, (completely unlike the way they ride them in England which is something bourgeois, or a lifestyle thing.)  In Spain it’s for transport, humble and simple, yet proud.  I want to know what’s around the next mountain or over it.  I want to connect with the mountain, walk barefoot, meditate with it, become part of it..    I recently had a revelation, when walking alone on a pathway.  I sat on a warm rock, the sun was low in the sky, it had been a hot day.  I sat there for some time and felt a unity that I had not felt since I was a young woman, actually in Crete, again walking alone barefoot on a vast warm rock, overlooking the Mediterranean.  I felt completely and utterly present and in the moment, not thinking ahead or backwards, but here, now.  These moments are healing, and I rarely feel them in England.  Life feels too frenetic.  I can feel the energy and drive, or stress from others.  Spain is like medicine, or a lover, and a world away from the frenzied energy of the UK.

Light and space.  I love driving in Spain too.  The vast roads, taking me through the landscape.  I have a nomadic blood group.  I used to think that my favourite thing to do, was walking out of places.  Setting off..  I think it still is.  Apparently there is this thing called a nesting gene, and I often wonder if I lack this, which is quite a challenge, being a ‘wife’ and mother.  Well, I have never liked the word wife, for so many reasons.  I couldn’t be a more loving mother though, but I think my children (one is an adult,) understand their gypsy mother.  My husband is someone who definitely has the nesting gene.  What does a nesting gene even look like?  How did they find out about it?  Is it shaped like a house?  Does it even exist?

When I return from my sojourns, it takes me about three days to land.  For three days, my being is in a twilight zone between there and here.  I am here, but I am also there.  Suspended.  Sometimes at night, I’ll wake up and ‘see’ mountains all around me.  Still enchanted by mountain magic.  Everything will be coloured by a golden haze..  Landing, becoming ‘back here’ inevitably involves walking the land again.  Then I can re-find my still-point, paint, and see friends, and go out and hear live music and feel the creative buzz that England offers me, yet always planning my next trip.