In 2012, recently returned from years of living in Europe, in hopes of attracting a publisher for my manuscript, I launched the Soul Artist Journal along with the Riverspeak podcast (now defunct, despite ongoing requests to bring it back).
What began as merely a means to an end—establishing an author’s platform to help promote my work—steadily shifted and drew me in; the journal, in particular, became a weekly discipline that changed me for the better, not simply for what I offered to the world from my heart but the practice of writing itself.
My preference has always leaned to longer-style narratives but, in the early years, for many SAJ readers, what I offered was too much and too often. Possibly a bit self-indulgent. Over time, the content, tone, and length of these posts evolved and, in a natural cycle of maturing, the column finally found its authentic voice, “celebrating a life for the senses” (though I didn’t actually adopt that as a logo or tagline until recently).
“How easy it is to lose touch with the tactile goodness of our days, especially when beauty seems distant, or mostly ignored and forgotten in a harried rush. Yet beauty exists everywhere. Most of us are simply not paying attention. And in both the heart and senses, too many of us are closed like a fist, rather than a hand held open in giving.
Daily, I am seduced by moments of ordinary, heart-fluttering beauty that I love to offer forward, just as I would something from my kitchen, passed to you on a simple, handmade plate.
Be open, my friend.”
In 2015, I reluctantly ventured deeper into social media to leverage my newly printed book, and spent six months writing weekly articles as a featured contributor for a couple of online publications (elephant journal and the Good Men Project), where I learned that shorter pieces are shared more widely and help build readership. Gradually, I trimmed the length of my own posts—for a weekly column, this certainly made life easier—and, sure enough, found them flying far and wide. Yet I wrestled with whether I was being true to my vision or somehow selling out (though certainly I will never be “mainstream”).
The SAJ has seldom focused on the material in The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine and the Wild Soul, partly because my role in the world is larger than “men’s work” (valuable as I believe that to be). Truthfully, I wanted to reach a bigger audience, and there are multiple aspects to what I teach and share in life—like the fact that for more than two decades I have been a bodyworker and healer, and I’m also a French-trained chef who employs Ayurvedic and healthy principles. Thus I cast the net wide and attracted both women and men as readers while reflecting on what it means to be a Soul Artist (a theme drawn from my forthcoming follow-up book).
“… despite the occasional temptation to settle in comfortably and simply write about being in the kitchen, to exalt the rustic, local, seasonal fare that I love to prepare, I figure that the world doesn’t need another food blogger—probably not even a French-trained, barefoot, nature-boy attuned to the subtle art of nourishing the soul.“
Instead, as described on the “About the Journal” page:
“The SAJ articles offer reflections on those little, ordinary human moments of the day: a cup of tea, a fading flower in the garden, puttering in the kitchen, a stroll through the neighborhood or along a wild riverbank. In differing ways, each entry extols the importance of opening our senses and heart to the living field of intelligence in which we are continually steeped. How does the moment feel? What is on our plate to share? How can we nurture and befriend the body as ecstatic resource for a life of vitality and well-being? What is ours to bring to this multidimensional relationship—with place, humans, earth’s denizens, and planet? What is the Deep Imagination? And how do we heal and evolve?”
Those who read this journal at all regularly know that I’m an old-fashioned, mostly quiet fellow who repeatedly encourages others to slow down and unplug from a wired existence, to take a deep breath and dilate their senses. Taste. See. Listen. Smell. Feel. I remind people (myself, included) to relish the pleasures of life with a heart steeped in gratitude, urging us all to savour the precious gifts of being fully human, even amid the challenges. Especially then.
“Life is not always art, but certainly there exists an art and soul to living—to cooking, writing, eating, walking and sitting, dancing, friendship, telling stories, making love—and it is a worthy goal to live gracefully, both in abundance and in need.”
In 2015, while visiting Paris en route to my beloved Provence, in a million-to-one chance, I met the Marlena de Blasi, internationally best-selling author of A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany, while seated outdoors at a famous café, Les Deux Magots. An American chef who moved to Italy to marry a Venetian, and then later relocated to Tuscany followed by rustic Umbria, her lushly gilded memoirs inspired and comforted me when I too was an expat living abroad, finding solace in the kitchen or at the market. After our serendipitous meeting on the Left Bank, not only did we forge a long-distance friendship but, as she dove into the archives of the Soul Artist Journal, she repeatedly wrote to me with accolades for these posts.
What a further delight and affirmation when Nigel Slater, Britain’s foremost food writer (also a cookbook author and television personality) on Twitter praised one of my posts as “life enriching words…” I was, as the Brits say, “chuffed to bits.”
Life moves on. As we spiral forward into 2017, four and a half years (more than two hundred and twenty five posts) after beginning this weekly venture, I am closing the cover on the Soul Artist Journal. It is time for a change, to turn my energies elsewhere—more precisely, to focus on the facet of my work that most loudly calls to me, which is the healer’s journey, and to write from the heart and soul about that.
In the days ahead, my new site and column (I’ve never cared for the word “blog”) will go live: TendingSacred
Unlike the SAJ, the posts will not be tethered to any set schedule, and I predict only one or perhaps two a month will emerge, inclined towards the longer narrative that I prefer. These days I am less concerned about my work being shared widely, and am more interested in creating only the most authentic, evocative writing that I can manage—strumming soft chords of resonance in the soul with words that dart and hover on bright, golden wings.
New Year, new directions. To thine own self be true.
By default, current subscribers to the SAJ will automatically receive posts from TendingSacred, with the option to update their preferences or unsubscribe entirely, for I realize that my new venture likely won’t appeal to everyone who follows the Soul Artist Journal.
For all of you who have discovered my writing, particularly those that have subscribed and read it for years, and for sharing the posts with others, I give wholehearted thanks. Your readership has been a hugely important part of my journey, and those kind, appreciative comments are deeply welcomed. The painted gypsy caravan rolls on. I do hope that at least some of you will continue to ride along with me as we venture off the familiar path into wilds of the heart, embracing transformation for body and soul, as well as exploring shamanic realms with sacred plant medicines and Nature’s intelligence. Likely there will be some recipes, too, healing concoctions from a chef and Green Man turned kitchen witch.
My intention is that this site remains active, an archive of sorts.
Now onward to TendingSacred, a heart ajar and hands outstretched, with grace and wild blessings for all.