Sunday, December 20, 2015

From Darkness to Illumination

These have been the darkest days of the year, marked by a visit from a great horned owl that has been singing his songs in the middle of the night and at first morning light in the woods. It has been a gift to have him here, as well as the female that he serenaded outside of my window. One of the qualities of owl medicine is that it asks us to see through the darkness as they have excellent night vision. 
I love these dark and velvety night skies that show off beautiful sparkly Winter constellations and distant planets. 
During this time of the year I dive into the classics of the medicine and savor each word and translation. They are delicious, like morsels of something sweet and rich. I recently read a beautiful description of the Water element and its energy as it relates to the famed and revered Kunlun Mountain by Lorie Eve Decher in her book Five Spirits. As the element of Water belongs to Winter, this piece feels perfect to share on the eve of the Solstice.
"As we descend into the labyrinths at the lowest depths of mountain caves, we enter the realm of the zhi, the spirit of water. The zhi are the psychological counterpart of the thermal geysers, the fiery springs that spurt up from the darkness at the center of the underworld...The zhi open the door to the palace of the dark goddess, the place of transformation and return, where yin becomes yang and inert matter comes back to life. Thus, in the place of deepest darkness, our return journey to the light begins." 

I took this picture today on one of the shortest days of the year near Alberts Landing in Amagansett. The sky was brilliant and clear and the winds were tickeling  the Phragmites as they swayed to and fro all the while making the most amazing sounds. 
Wishing everyone a beautiful solstice!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


As I am deepening and widening my studies in trauma and somatic healing,  I am  studying nature with a fresh and keen eye. I am observing how animal and plant structures are designed to protect vital internal information and life force. 
Nature is resilient. 

I am also observing how pods protect seeds, shells protect animals, ribs protect internal organs,  and cocoons protect the transformational process of growth and the elegance of an emerging butterfly. 
This past week, a swallow tail butterfly came to my screen window at night. It stayed throughout the evening and during the early morning hours it flew away as gently as it had arrived. The wings of the butterfly were nearly transparent and the right lower wing tattered. The resilience of the butterfly is astounding. How could such thin and frayed wings move through the air effortlessly? 

For two days now I have been thinking about resilience and capacity. In my professional work I support people in the building of capacity through their nervous systems. As my clients grown in capacity they also embody their structures so that they may live more fluidly.
The ancients believed the medicine to be like water, and the ultimate goal is that we be able to move with the natural flow of life, from the depths of our soul to the heights of the heavens. Perhaps what they were really suggesting is that we live more embodied, much like the butterflies, dolphins, and whales. 

I recently came across this quote in Dr. Peter Levine's book In An Unspoken Voice,
 by D.H. Lawrence that is a beautiful description of touching into the eternal wisdom of the body. 

"My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser that the intellect. The body-uncoscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

I have recently returned from the Great South Channel where I had the great blessing of photographing whales, dolphins and pelagic birds. After a long trip in the belly of a magnificent large creaky fishing boat from Montauk, we traveled out into the feeding grounds of the Atlantic Humpback whales. Along the way, we met high swirly waves, Sei, Minke and Fin whales.

Common dolphins meeting the boat. 

Beautiful sunrises greeted us on the edge of the channel where our sleepy eyes met sorbet skies, beautiful birds and sapphire waters.

So many beautiful Humpback feeding behaviors were observed, bubble walls were made by the whales as throngs of pelagic birds flew in to share the bounty.

Elegant swaying tales, leaping dolphins, breaching whales and aqua bubbles, kept us captivated for hours and hours.

The highlight of the trip was the arrival of a pod of common dolphins that swam across the path of several traveling whales. This was a first for me and took my breath away. It almost felt like a fairy tale come true. 

Breaching for joy. 

All the while, my favorite poem came back to me as I was taking pictures…

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch
the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. 
Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats.
Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of
distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the 
beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your
reports. Review
each of your life's ten million choices.
endure moments 
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of
those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen
for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the
sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed 
with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic.
Think of all
the things you did and could have done,
treading water in the center of the still
night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into 
the black depths.

by Dan Albergotti

Thank you CRESLI volunteers, Dr. Kopelman, Dr. Safina and the crew of Viking Starship of Montauk, N.Y.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Grace in Healing Trauma

I recently had the great fortune of studying with Raja Selvam Phd. in an advanced program for healing trauma. It was a great opportunity to learn with a very accomplished practitioner and elegant teacher.
 I was deeply moved by his humor, sensitivity and intellect. Teachers like Raja are rare. They seamlessly weave decades of study, experience and compassion into a tapestry of great beauty and complexity. Being in the presence of such a teacher is a gift.  It is a great and generous teacher who can sum up an entire course in one sentence. The most radiant pearl that I came home with was this beautiful heartfelt notion:

"When the heart is vulnerable, it can see great beauty."

After Dr. Selvman spoke these words my entire being took a deep sigh. I felt a sense of coming home into my own humanness and vulnerability. 

I have returned to my private practice with a renewed reverence for the wisdom that our bodies carry and the layers grace that resides in each and every one of us. As the integration of the new material is taking hold and anchoring in my system, I am in awe of the many facets of beauty that we own. We are truly multidimensional beings. 

In writing this post, and sharing my training, I wanted to create an image that reflects the many layers   of magic that I experienced this past Spring. I took thousands of pictures of orioles, flowers, yellow finches, a flying turkey and gem filled floral collages. It is my hope that this image conveys the joy inside of my heart that I feel when I am in nature and in my practice treating patients. I feel that it is an honor and a privilege to be a part of a deeply transformational and precious process. I thank Dr. Selvam and all of the exquisite teachers and pioneers who are paving the way for many of us who are working in the field of healing trauma. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Secret Treatise of the Spiritual Orchid

One of my absolute favorite studies is of the classics of Chinese Medicine. Coming into this medicine takes time, it is a long and slow unfolding. 
Sometimes it feels like molasses. 
Dark and sweet. 
After years of study and practice, small luminescent pearls emerge and one is awe struck by the simplicity and beauty of the medicine. 
This past week, one such pearl emerged, the pearl of wisdom that spoke to the translucent nature of simplicity.

This beautiful orchid gift came to me last week and it prompted me to return to Nei jing Su wen Chapter 8. The Secret Treatise of the Spritual Orchid. I have the translation by Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee. 
As I was reading the translation, this small piece jumped off the page and begged to be shared. 

And so here it is:

"The heart is not just a pump to move blood, it is the highest entity in human life. And it is very interesting to understand that morality, virtue and so on are understood by the Chinese not just as being in the field of religion for example, but as essential to keep the quality of life. This is the reason why we have to go and see wonderful scenery, be well rested, have good food and drink and all that, in order that life will be more refined. From this digesting of essences you are then in a position to distribute them."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Isabelle May Botanicals

Before the rain came in last night, I gathered the last peonies from the garden. Their fragrance kept me company all of last night and today. If only I could replicate the sweetness of these beauties in a peony perfume!

I have been working on many custom scents for clients the past few months and making many new discoveries as I blend. I began using Palo Santo in my perfumery, a sacred oil from the rain forest, that in the past I reserved for special occasions in healing sessions. It has such a powerful and grounding scent that opens the heart as it blends with Damask rose, Jasmine or Cistus. 

The more mature my perfume making becomes, the more courageous I have become in making new combinations of scents. I am currently working on a perfume that is built around Apricot and Lemon myrtle. This is a brave experiment as lemon myrtle is very strong and has a very heady and strong lemony scent that reminds me of lemon drops. Every perfume is truly a new adventure.
A package arrived today including White rose absolute, Citron, Osmanthus and Cacao, to name a few. It is hard not to spend every waking moment with these new beauties. 

Every time a new shipment arrives, I know that my grandmother Isabelle May would have loved the experience of carefully opening every new scent and studying the properties of each bottle. I named my perfume line after her as she was such a beautiful and kind mentor to me. She introduced me to the mysterious world of plants in her gardens. While I grew up around many beautiful plants at home, it was through the eyes of my grandmother, a botanist and cultivator, that I truly felt the magic. 
In time, hopefully I will make a perfume that smells like fresh peonies and I will name it Isabelle.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Summer!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Swans

Beautiful swans at Gerard Drive, the Springs, N.Y.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

The magic of the bluebirds appeared again yesterday. 
It was only the second time that I have ever seen them and it was so deeply moving that I was brought to tears. Their song made my heart sing. 

Eastern bluebirds are quite rare. While they are making a slow comeback in population, they are rarely seen. This group of birds found water and Japanese holly berries (Ilex Crenata fruit).

Their blue feathers stood out against the incoming snow.

A rare and special gift.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Winter wisdom.

The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.

Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few.

Lao Tsu
Tao Te Ching

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nourishing Jing Essence

In Chinese medicine, the winter season is governed by the Water element. The associated organs are the Kidneys and the Bladder. It is within the Kidneys that our Jing or Essence resides. I view our Essence as our true nature and the supreme residence of our life force. 
I have returned once again to the Claude Larre and Elisath Rochat de la Valee translation of the Su Wen. I love these texts with all of my heart. Each season I dive into their wisdom and discover something new that I had not read before. The texts are poetic descriptions of our intimate relationships with the cycles of nature. 
It is during this time that Yin predominates, we move more slowly and we go deeper inside of ourselves as the darkness of Winter settles upon us.
While reading these beautiful words I have been taking great care to nourish my own Essence by researching, and preparing delicious and warming foods. My dishes have included ginger, beets, zucchini, artichokes, squash, pumpkin and a variety of beans and warming spices. 

The Su Wen chapter 2 states that in the winter season, heaven and earth are like strangers without any communication between the two. The direction of the North is the season of the cold. Water and soil are separated, it is the period to keep seed safe for germination. During this time, there is an underlying understanding that we are suppose to return to the energy of the North, the true unity of the heavens. 
During this time, we may reconnect with our spiritual practices at a deeper level by going inward.
We may also feel the need to live more in retreat, at home, by the fire or preparing nourishing foods with friends and family members.

Root vegetables, meats, bone marrow broth, onions, chicken, saltier, bitter and heavier foods that require longer periods of preparation and digestion are suggested during this time. 
The Kidneys govern the lower parts of the body and are responsible for warming the system. They represent the state of Yin and Yang in the body. 
The color associated with the Kidneys is black, the number six and the sound is a groaning. When there is a separation of the Yin and Yang energies of the Kidneys, there may also be the emotion of fear. 
While considering foods that nourish Jing, I have been studying how each food may support and provide longevity and productivity while also nourishing the Earth element and digestion. We need a strong capacity to digest nutrients so that they may intern feed the Kidneys as well as nourish the blood.


This soup above was made from beets and other root vegetables. It was topped with creme fraiche and crushed pistachios and the remaining frozen parsley from the garden. I have also made beet soups with other roasted vegetables. The soup below was made with carrots, onions, garlic, a potato and topped with creme fraiche again and fresh dill.

 Each batch is unique and feels fortifying and warming to the core. Beets, as all red foods in Chinese dietary medicine, nourish the blood.

The soup below was made with kidney beans. Between the soaking and simmering, this soup took almost two days to make. In the end, this was worth every second. There is the following philosophy in Chinese food preparation and cooking, that the longer it may take to create, the more potent the medicine of the food. 

Much of my Winter cooking and food choices have been inspired by Stefanie Sack's MS, CNS, CDN new book What the Fork Are you Eating  published by Tarcher/Penguin. This is one of the most insightful books that I have ever read. She includes important information that we all need to be aware of, not only as consumers but also with regards to our nutritional choices. 
Stefanie has included pages of meaningful resources that simplify definitions and terms that are used in the regulations of the food industry.
Great care and attention to detail was given to this important book. We want to take the time to nourish ourselves with the best ingredients possible but this can often be confusing in a world with so many choices. Stefanie graciously presents us with many truths and alternatives in our day to day culinary choices.

I especially love Stefanie's recipes. The zucchini latkes above were inspired by her recipe found in the book. I have made them several times and they are always easy and delicious. 
To learn more about Stefanie and her amazing work please visit her site:

Thank you Stefanie!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter Beauty From Accabonac Harbor

Winter is upon us and it has brought a familiar chill and simple austere beauty. 

This January morning, I took these pictures as the Old Squaw sea ducks sang their unusual songs in the channel of the harbor.

Two beautiful swans also appeared, gracing us with their presence. 

I have been creating little collages from treasures that I find on my morning walks, cooking rich and warming foods, resting as much as possible between sessions with patients and nourishing Essence through stillness as the days slowly grow longer but are cold and windy. 

Winter beauties.

My next post will include my latest creations of beautiful foods that nourish Jing as also known as the Yuan Qi or Essence to the Kidneys in Chinese medicine.