Tag Archives: woman

LaTuga Packed: To Oaxaca Day One

Yesterday LaTuga and I  covered 497 miles, from Pittsboro, NC to Pell City, AL.  It’s the first time we have been in Alabama, USA, which is covered in pine forests, rolling hills, lakes and rivers — just beautiful.  Stephen gave us a send-off by doing an iPhone video of the event.


My plan was to leave at eight in the morning and spend the night in Atlanta, six hours away.  After goodbyes, last-minute loading, gassing up and hitting the road, it was nine-fifteen. (Thanks, Stephen, for finding me enough gas to get to the gas station.) So be it.  What’s the rush? I ask myself.  This is a road trip and I can do what I want.  I’m on my own schedule.

LaTugaRoadTrip1-2 LaTugaRoadTrip1-3

Maybe I was too tired from the Monday night before with the grand finale mezcal and southern buttermilk fried chicken and apple pie with homemade ice cream goodbye dinner at The Small Cafe with dear friends.



Maybe, I was procrastinating the departure, not wanting to say goodbye to KitKat, the new addition to my NC house and life.

I think I was just a little bit scared and anxious about starting out across the country by car into territory where I had never been before.  A single woman, traveling alone. I’ve traveled far by plane, but not by myself in an automobile for any great distance.  As I drove along, I saw many women at wheel going long distances.    My only disappointment?  The audible.com book I bought to listen to along the way could not be heard above the road noise.

LaTuga is a formidable vehicle.  She is not really a car, nor is she a truck, but she sits high and proud.  I’m a little person inside her ample body and I feel secure.  Once I got onto the Interstate the rhythm of the drive was soothing.  It was only three-thirty in the afternoon by the time I got through the beginnings of Atlanta rush hour traffic.  The road signs said two hundred more miles to Birmingham along I-20.


So, I kept going until dusk  As soon as I crossed the border into Alabama, I entered Central Standard Time, and gained an hour, although the sun told me differently.  I pulled into a comfy Comfort Inn, and found a local catfish and steak joint where there were the best hush puppies I’ve ever tasted and a cornmeal coated catfish that was too good to count the calories. See more photos on my Facebook page. No beer.  No wine.  Only tea.  No hot tea, that would be ice tea, ma’am.  So I opted for hot water flavored with lemon and sugar.  Went down pretty well.

Now, I’m itchy to hit to the road.  I spent time writing this instead of getting out the door.  Next stop?  Who knows! I have all the time in the world until Wednesday when I’m on an airplane to Oaxaca from Austin, TX.

Oaxaca Essay Conveys Women’s Writing Retreat Experience

Sue Spirit, a participant in our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2011, had this essay about her experience published in  “All About Women,” a High Country of North Carolina magazine.  It beautifully expresses our week together and I want to share it with you.  Published here with Sue’s permission!

Oaxaca: Bright Riches on My Plate 

Dreams of Oaxaca, Mexico, have haunted me for years: fat tacos filled with queso blanco and red mole sauce, mariachis playing sprightly tunes, Zapotec women weaving colorful  huipiles and aprons, outdoor markets overflowing with bright fruits and flowers, and rugs woven with Native American designs.

Suddenly my dream springs to life. A woman named Norma is offering what seems too good to be true: a writing workshop with yoga, massage, a cooking class, sweat lodge, meditation, and immersion in the Zapotec culture of a small village called Teotitlan del Valle, in the heart of Oaxaca. Who could resist? Give me a writing workshop any day. And in Oaxaca! Unbelievable! The rest is salsa on the enchiladas.

I enter the courtyard of Las Granadas Bed and Breakfast, a fantasy world of  pomegranates hanging from trees, bouquets of calla lilies, tortillas baking on an open-air wood fire, birds called dortolos singing sweetly, roosters crowing, doves cooing, and nearby donkeys braying.

Our writing workshop meets for three hours a day with our leader Robin. We meditate for twenty minutes in the sunny courtyard, then free-write for 45 minutes. “We should always surprise ourselves as we write,” Robin says. Indeed.  Her advice and the technicolor experiences we’re having help us produce some memorable pieces. “You’re the shepherd and words are the sheep,” Robin continues. “You call them, prod them, cajole them, protect them, feed them.”  As I bask in the sun, letting my pen move languidly across the page, a poem takes shape, oozing rich imagery.

We wander through the open-air market at Tlacolula tasting just-ground chocolate with cinnamon and buying some for hot chocolate. We purchase perfect small clay pots with spoons for serving salsa. We have lunch at Mary’s Comedor, ladling salsa from several pots over our enchiladas and chiles rellenos.

We experience a temescal, a Zapotec sweat lodge, three of us at a time crawling naked into a sauna-hot hut to be doused with hot water and beaten with eucalyptus branches by an old Zapotec woman tending the fire.

We go for a cooking lesson with Reina, queen of Oaxacan chefs. First we drift through the local market with baskets on our arms, collecting offerings of peppers, garlic, Oaxaca cheese, and all the ingredients needed for our cooking spree. Over an open fire in Reina’s courtyard we toast hot peppers and herbs, then grind them in a molcajete  (mortar and pestle) and on a metate (indented stone surface with rolling pin),  mash them with tomatoes to make a rich red mole sauce. We sit down to the best meal ever: cactus salad, enchiladas mole, and raspberry ice cream.

How amazing and precious is a small taste of another culture! The time goes by slowly as I savor every moment, recording it all in my journal.  Jacaranda and bougainvilla blossoms,  plates of neon-bright mango and papaya, ancient cobblestone streets,  a molinillo (a little twirly wooden mill) for making our hot chocolate light and frothy, looms in every home for weaving ancient Zapotec designs: all these disappear into my journal day by day,  to appear later in poems and essays that surprise even me. Oaxaca writing workshop: what a gift for the spirit!

–Sue Spirit


Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2012

All About Women of the High Country

Oaxaca, Mexico Women’s Yoga Retreat

Oaxaca Women’s Yoga Retreat with Beth Miller, July 5-11, 2011 — for beginners and all levels of yoga practice

Deepen your awareness and expand your perspective as you join us for this 6-night, 7-day retreat based in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.  This women-only program is perfect for mothers and daughters, sisters by birth, marriage, friendship and relationship, and any woman who wants a magical getaway to reconnect with self and others while exploring the majestic beauty of southern Mexico’s high-desert.

During the retreat we will explore the two complimentary modes of spiritual awareness — “mukti” and “bhukti.”   “Mukti,” or liberation, is the upward flowing consciousness that releases us from worries, plans, fears, fantasies, and limited identities … until we become space itself.  This is the experience of the seeker on the mountain top: transcendent and blissful.  “Bhukti,” or enjoyment, is a rooted state of fully embodied presence that allows us to take pleasure in the life of the senses. We allow ourselves to feel and become solid on the earth as the unique beings we are. We welcome the complexity of emotion and the dualities of physical existence, while cultivating the refinement of our senses. Oaxaca, with its potent sights, sounds and scents, is an ideal location in which to celebrate and explore.

Our morning practice will focus on yoga asana and movement. It will be a strong and grounding physical practice, and variations will be offered for practitioners with different levels of experience and ability. Alignment, presence, and breath consciousness will guide and anchor us.  Afternoon practices will invite play, as we explore partner yoga exercises. This will be an opportunity to observe our patterns in relationship to others and to have fun together!  Evening practice will be more restorative and will include sonic/vocal meditations and breath work.

All levels are welcome–individual consultations will be scheduled for those of you who would like feedback on your practice and yogic journey.

Additional activities are included in the cost. During the week,  a variety of additional activities planned that are included in your registration fee:  a visit to a local permaculture farm with yoga session under the palapa followed by lunch, yoga on the mountain top at the ancient archeological site of Yagul followed by a guided discussion with a renowned anthropologist, a day at the famed regional Tlacolula market (no yoga here!), and visits to local artists and artisans.

We are offering options to partake of a traditional temescal women’s sweat lodge, a one-hour Zapotec massage with a local bodyworker, study Spanish with a local teacher and to stay a day longer to immerse yourself in the local cuisine with a traditional Zapotec cooking class taught by Reyna Mendoza Ruiz.

Location is in family-centered Teotitlan del Valle. We will be here during the annual village saint’s day celebration. A highlight of this festival is the “Dance of the Feather” or “Danza de la Pluma” which is held on July 5 and July 6 in the church courtyard.  A troupe of local dancers who have practiced together during the year will re-enact the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, performing for 10-hours straight in traditional regalia.

Our bed and breakfast/retreat space is located within walking distance of the church, the village market, hiking trails, and some of the best weavers and artisans in the world.  The food is delicious and prepared fresh each day.

About Your Retreat Leaders

Beth Miller of Boulder, Colorado, is our yoga instructor who specializes in Vinyasa-Hatha yogic traditions.  She employs sonorous yoga practices as an approach to help women of all ages to give voice to their lives.  Beth is an experienced workshop leader and meditator who combines yogic practice and philosophy with creative expression through sound.  She has a background in Holistic-Health Counseling, working primarily with teen girls and young women to inspire healthy lifestyle habits.  In addition, Beth is a vocal artist, performer and teacher of Western classical and sacred music.  She holds a B.A. in music from Westminster Choir College, is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, and completed the chef training program from the Institute for Culinary Education.

What Past Participants Say About Beth Miller:

“Beth is a wonderful and supportive teacher.”

“It was deep and delicious work in a very supportive environment.  The yoga was extremely rich.”

What a wonderful opportunity to be surrounded by such an inspiring, intelligent, centered, supportive and eclectic bunch of women.  Thank you.”

“Beth gave me tools for greater contemplation and a way to honor myself.  Excellent.”

“The community of creative women was extremely supportive and inspiring.”

“This was an amazing experience.  Beth is a beautiful, beautiful teacher.”

Norma Hawthorne has produced arts and educational programs in Oaxaca, Mexico, through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC since 2006.  She has offered creative writing, tapestry weaving, natural dyeing, painting, documentary filmmaking, and photography workshops that have been attended by participants from throughout the U.S., Canada and from as far as Australia.  During her 25-year career in higher education, Norma has organized national award-winning continuing education programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, and George Washington University, and has raised more than $20 million for The University of North Carolina School of Nursing.  She holds the B.A. from California State University-Northridge and the M.S. from the University of Notre Dame.

What Past Participants Say About Norma Hawthorne:

“We got tons of helpful info from Norma before the retreat, and all during the retreat Norma was busy shepherding us, explaining life in Oaxaca, and seeing that all our needs were met.”

“Norma’s knowledge of the culture as well as her generosity of spirit are remarkable.  Not replicable, I think!”

What Past Participants Say About Questions of Personal Safety

“I would say you are often as safe as you think you are and that bad media, amongst other things are only trying to feed your fears.  That safety is not a concern in Oaxaca, just to be wise, as you would anywhere and trust your gut, come well-informed and open your arms and heart to the beauty of the incredible place.”

“Not a problem.  We felt perfectly safe in Teotitlan del Valle.”

“There are some simple precautions to take regarding food, but I have always felt safe here and that the people are very helpful.”

“I would say – ‘you are missing an awesome (in the real, not slang sense of the word) experience.’ ”

“It’s a wonderful place.  I did not feel threatened in any way.  It was safe and people were kind, patient, friendly.”

“I felt more safe here than in many U.S. cities.  I saw and heard no violence, no drunkenness, no homelessness.”

Lodging/Accommodations. To keep this experience affordable, we have selected accommodations that are clean and basic.  If you prefer luxury accommodations, please consider a different program.

Cost:  The basic cost for the retreat is $1,095. USD. This includes six nights lodging double occupancy with shared bath, six breakfasts, four lunches, six dinners, local transportation associated with the retreat, and all instruction.  Most programs of this type, length and quality cost more than twice as much! The cost does NOT include airfare, taxes, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals, entry fees, and transportation to/from the airport.

For the base price of the trip, $1,095, you will share a double room with shared bath.  Please indicate your preferences on your registration form.

Option 1: Double room with shared bath; $1,095 each. Deposit to reserve: $550.

Option 2: Double room with private bath; $1,295 each. Deposit to reserve: $650.

Option 3:  Single room with private bath;  $1,495 each.  Deposit to reserve: $750.

Option 4:  Add one night lodging on July 4, $40 each.

Option 5:  Add one night lodging on July 11, $40 each.

Option 6:  Add cooking class on July 11 with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz, $65 (includes lunch).

Option 7:  Add temescal women’s traditional evening sweat lodge, $45

Option 8:  Add on-hour traditional Zapotec massage with local bodyworker, $40

Reservations and Cancellations. A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any optional supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by May 31, 2011.  Payment may be made by check or PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

Please understand that we make lodging and transportation arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After May 31, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before May 30, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

Questions and to Register:  normahawthorne@mac.com or call (919) 274-6194.