Solitude & Silence of the Winter Forest

“Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others I am beginning to discover. And for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be re-found through solitude.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

It’s January 1991. I am a young 30-year-old wife and mom of two little boys who are 10 and 7.

I am just waking up. It is barely sunrise outside; I am looking out the window from a cozy bed in a cabin with no running water or electricity; I am in blissful heaven. I am alone in the woods at a Monastery called Nova Nada. I have been here before. I see my breath in the billows of steam as I exhale into the chilly morning air, even though I am toasty warm underneath all these blankets. I finally get up the nerve to crawl out of bed to the wood-burning stove. I put a few small logs onto the now small amount of hot coals on the bottom and open the draft. I soon hear the crackling of the wood catching fire as the flames are fanned by the air blowing on the coals through the draft. Ooooh, the heat feels good on my face and hands. Soon the tiny room is warm again. I get dressed and go to the well and draw some cold crystal spring water. I had forgotten to do this last evening before I went to bed. I love the sound of the bucket as I draw it back up the well as it hits the stones on the way up. I run inside with my splashing cold water, wash up, and make myself a hot cup of herb tea and toast for breakfast.

Sitting here at this small table, I gaze out the window and watch the snow outside floating gently down to the ground; I am still mesmerized long after my tea is cold. Later, I walk through the woods along a well-worn path; If the trees could talk, they would have many tales to tell. There are some older trees here that have seen many generations in this forest. Each step feels like I am on holy ground. The ground is sacred because, first and foremost, nature is sacred no matter where I am, but secondly, it feels holy today because I am feeling the presence of God’s love everywhere. The only thing I hear on occasion is the jarring crunch when I step on some hardened snow. This stillness is settling deep inside me.

I love my family and friends dearly, yet I love time alone in silent prayer and reflection. Here at Nova Nada in the winter, stillness lends itself to a kind of silence that goes deep inside me. When it is extra cold like today, snow blankets the ground; there is no wind or sound. The hardwood trees are bare in contrast to the evergreens that are especially green in the winter against the backdrop of the snow. Most woodland creatures are tucked away in the trees or dug in the earth, snuggled in the nesting material that keeps them warm. The stillness is vibrating in my body. It may sound strange; this silence is almost deafening.

There is a silence here that opens up the heart and soul if I allow it. It was here that I began this love affair with silence. A silence that at times gave me great joy and a sense of inner peace I had never felt before. But this silence was also and can still be painful at times because I am alone with my thoughts.

“Solitude can be frightening because it invites us to meet a stranger we think we may not want to know-ourselves.” Melvyn Kinder

Sometimes it takes time and practice to be alone in our thoughts. In time though, I began to hear the song of my soul over the loudness of my “monkey mind” self-deprecating thoughts and childhood memories; that is when great healing began.

When I came home, I started to create snippets of time in silence. I would walk on the beach or in the woods for silent reflection. Some mornings I would rise before my family, even just for 15 min and later created a prayer room. Once I understood the importance of silence for me, it became a regular part of my life.

During that time of my life as a young mom, I began to voraciously read and listen to books and poetry by Mystics from different religions, spiritual teachers and inspiring everyday people from all walks of life. The first book I listened to at Nova Nada was “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. One of my favorites, the message this book left me, was life-changing. She was a young mom of six who went away to a private beach for a retreat alone. It was where she began to write this book.

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves” Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

This lesson was almost unheard of in my time as a young mom. To me, my essence is my soul song. I began to hear it in the silence of the winter forest.

I also found like-minded friends at Nova Nada who were on the journey of living ordinary lives in extraordinary love-filled ways. I am glad to say some of whom became lifelong friends. These kinds of people have lifted me, inspired me and helped me grow and quite frankly get over myself on days I need to soften my hard edges. I worked hard over the next few years as my children grew. I went into therapy for a few years, went on many group therapy Shalom retreats and later trained to become a Shadow Life Coach. These collectively taught me to let go of most of the pain of my childhood, forgive myself and those who had harmed me. I found contentment for many years long after our sons were grown and had families of their own. Life will still give us plenty of opportunities to grow, and it certainly did for me. The ebb and flow of life continues as long as we are alive.

In recent years, after coming out of my dark night of the soul, I began time in silence again with a gradual practice. I started by guided meditations and then later sitting 5 minutes in silence, and that increased over time until I could easily sit for 20 minutes. Or simply walking outside for a short distance without headphones on. By doing so, my heart expands and with it so does my eyes and ears. There is a awareness in my body that I was numb because of so much time numbing myself with food or in front of a screen. When I just stayed present on my walks, I began to see things in nature that I had not noticed in many years again. Also becoming the observer of my thoughts in the beauty of nature began a profound shift back to my soul song .

Today because of my knees, I can’t walk very far or sit on the ground, but each day I once again find much of my day is in silence again, even doing my daily chores. I love listening to a summer rain or the songbirds in the morning or simply gazing at the trees as they sway back and forth in the wind while at the table eating my meals. Silence and nature have helped me remember what I had forgotten and has brought me peace of mind once again.

“The earth is our origin and destination. The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows. When we emerge from our offices, rooms and houses, we enter our natural element. We are children of the earth: people to whom the outdoors is home. Nothing can separate us from the vigor and vibrancy of this inheritance. In contrast to our frenetic, saturated lives, the earth offers a calming stillness. Movement and growth in nature takes time. The patience of nature enjoys the ease of trust and hope. There is something in our clay nature that needs to continually experience this ancient, outer ease of the world. It helps us remember who we are and why we are here.” John O’Donohue

This magical property is no longer a monastery but is now known as Birchdale. You can still walk this sacred ground of large older forest and quaint cabins, for more information visit

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Part 2: After the Hurricane

“The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, but vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage” Brene Brown. Learning to ask for help Then it happened…… A slip and fall permanently injuring one of … Continue reading

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Part 1: A Hurricane is Coming

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change and how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be” Elizabeth Lesser 

It’s July 4, 2014, and hurricane Arthur is heading toward Nova Scotia.

I love my time alone these days.

This month is my birthday. In recent years I tend to feel reflective throughout my birthday month. I will be 52 this year. I feel so content in my life these days.

I’m up early this morning before the sunrise, as I often am. I am sitting outside on a blanket on the ground. I look up and see the remaining stars with merely a hint of light of the coming dawn. I am listening to the sounds of nature. I hear the little river bubbling as it rushes through the landscape: the refreshing sound stills my body. As the sun sends rays of light from behind the trees, the songbirds sing extra loud just minutes before the sun appears as though to give thanks for the coming day. Finally, the sun is peeking through the mist and the treetops in the valley below. The scent in the air is so clean and fresh, unlike any other time of the day. I take a few more deep breaths; my body relaxes into the ground. It’s a perfect time to reflect on my summer so far. My thoughts also reflect on the past year;

I have a part-time job that I love. I enjoy being in my body more with consistent yoga and qigong practices. I have danced more days this year. I have much to be grateful for. I have spent a lot of time outside this summer. I’ve gathered a lot of wild herbs, created beautiful tinctures, and infused oils. I love making my own herbal medicine, skincare and cleaning products. I no longer have a large garden; instead, I have a couple of raised beds and a hothouse where I grow organic herbs & vegetables.

I come back to the present moment on the ground; I softly sing a mantra, “Be Still and know that I am God, be still and know that I am, Be still and know, Be still, Be,” I say a prayer and go in for breakfast. My soul is calm; my spirit is awakened and excited for the day.

However, calm the wind felt early this morning; it’s now late morning; I hear the waves picking up momentum as the hurricane sends out its strength in the ocean ahead of the storm. I can hear them crashing on the shore from my home. The hurricane is coming.

I decide to take a long walk on our dirt road before the many chores I need to do before the storm comes. The road is beautifully surrounded on both sides by forest. They are full of tall majestic hardwood trees. Maple, beech, and white birch are some of my favourites. There are also aromatic softwood pines, balsam firs and my favourite hackmatack trees. There are magical thorny wild hawthorn (which makes good heart medicine) and rugged long-forgotten wild apple trees which grow unattended. As I walk up and down large hills, I feel significant strength in my legs and body; as my heart pumps quicker, I feel so alive. There is a delicious earthy scent this time of year. It comes from the plants and trees being in their full glory and is carried in the gentle warm wind. As I walk, I talk to the trees. I like to believe that they understand me. I tell them my stories; they are great listeners. They seem to wave a comforting hello with their branches gently swaying with the soft breezes. I chuckle as I become surrounded by a damn horse fly that is biting hard, my walk is cut short. 

As the morning runs into the early afternoon, there is a lot to do to prepare for the coming storm as I make a checklist in my mind. I hurry now to get the housework and yard work done. Now I must get gas in my vehicle and fill the gas cans for the generator. I’m ready in time as the wind picks up. I snuggle up on the couch and watch TV.

The phone rings; it’s Bernie, my hubby; his voice is so reassuring. He reminds me that we have hurricane-force winds often in the wintertime. He tells me I will be fine; we chat a bit more, then we hang up.

I stay up a little later than usual and then bed around midnight. Just before dawn, the storm is starting over our home. I hear the roof making loud snapping and cracking noises as the hurricane clips on our roof do their job.

In just a short time, I hear pounding rain and wind. It is howling through the trees. The wind is blowing so hard that the little 7-foot maple tree we planted on our front lawn is almost bent over but is holding. This is unusual; we don’t usually see a hurricane this early summer when the trees have all their foliage. Because of this, small sticks and leaves are flying across the yard. I hear a crack in the backyard as an apple tree falls over. Mid-morning, a flash and the power is out. I wait for a couple of hours for things to settle a little before I go out of the shed to start the generator.

It’s mid-afternoon, and the rain is still pounding; I decide to make my way to the shed to start the generator. It takes a bit of time, but it’s finally going so I can go back in the house. It’s still pouring buckets of rain, so I run as fast as back to the house.

As I run across the wet lawn, my rubber boots start to slip and slide. I catch myself and keep running onto the patio full out. 

Suddenly, my feet slip out from underneath me, and I can’t stop myself; OMG, I’m falling forward with the full force of my body slamming onto my knees. The pain is excruciating. I am unaware that one of my knees is permanently injured. My life changed in that instance. The universe has brought me to my knees. Even though I am in the third of my life, some of the most valuable life lessons are yet to come. But this time I don’t surrender and accept “what is” as I had learned to do these past years. This time I get angry and resist hard.

The hurricane has arrived. 

The following year, a perfect storm of several other painful events, including my brother’s death, together became the catalyst that sent me into a depression. It was after the Hurricane that another journey began, one that taught me some of the most important lessons I had not embraced before. One that was huge for me was embracing vulnerability. Part 2 “After the Hurricane”” will be posted soon

Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living” Rachel Marie Martin

Hurricane Arthur

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Mystic Sunrise Memoirs

“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life- It gave me me. It provided the time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my life… I not only get along with me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my side” Anne Lamott.

Our lives are like the ocean; there is an ebb and flow that can be a stormy wild ride filled with chaos, doubt, loss, struggles, and pain; other times, it can be a calm and beautiful journey filled with joy, love, confidence and contentment.

Life can change in an instant, and what comes next is sometimes not easy, but it can start an inner transformation that is a powerful reminder of the resilience of our Spirit. This blog is a collection of short stories about both the ebb and flow of my life and occasionally everyday people who have taught me life lessons along the way. I also share the many inspirational quotes and books that have, without exaggeration, helped form who I am today.

I call this Blog Mystic Sunrise. Every day is a new beginning, a chance to start all over again. If any resonates, join me on the journey and share, we can learn from each other. The one thing that has sustained me over the years has been hearing peoples stories, and through this, I discovered that I was not alone. So many amazing souls have shared their stories with me either through their books or in person. These stories seemed to show up at the exact right time when I needed them the most. This is dedicated to those people who created a path for me to follow and gave me the support I needed to find my own.

For as long as I can remember, even as a child, I have been on a quest, especially in my adulthood. To learn about life’s deeper meaning, spirituality and connection to a Higher Power I call God. Although I am a Christian, I have found inspiration from many spiritualities and religions. For I believe there are many paths to God. Our Higher Power is a profoundly personal journey and is called many different names. I respect and honor all, no matter what that looks like.

I still have shitty days; some lessons I still need to re-learn repeatedly, but I also share why I am way gentler with myself when I do; I share these in the hope that more people will learn these lessons sooner than I did. I finally like who I am most days. All of me, the dark and the light, I have learned to forgive myself and others along the way, and as Anne Lamott says “I am militantly and maternally on my side.” Age has given me the privilege of living long enough to figure some of this shit out and I am grateful.

Dates are factual as much as my memory remembers; the essence of what I share is all true. At the heart of these stories are lessons I learned along the way as I was and still am “broken open” at times. This quote sums up this journey; it’s from one of my favorite books.

“The promise of being broken open and possibly of being opened are written into the contract of human life. Certainly, this tumultuous journey on the waves can be tiresome. When the sea is rough, and when we are sufferings, we may want to give up hope and give into despair. But brave pilgrims have gone before us. They tell us to venture forth with faith and vision.” Elisabeth Lessor in Broken Open


This one of my favorite places to be in Nova Scotia, Boulder Cove Cottages. Every year a women’s group I have been a part of for over 25 years goes here on a retreat weekend.

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