Sedona Sketchbook, Sacred Journey, Freezing My Arse Off, and Why It’s All Good

Of course the behind did not actually freeze off (alas), but it got mighty cold.  And dark, a little out-there, occasionally woo-woo, at times awesome, and in the end wonderful.

Heads up: This is not a typical post, but as the dawn of a New Year is a quiet time after the storm of holiday mayhem, it seems a good time for musing about life and one’s place in it. Read on, or just scroll and enjoy the pictures.

In my last post (like ten years ago), I told you I went AWOL smack in the middle of the Christmas season, which was insane, and yet not. It was a quest to let myself off the hook, clear my head, and be in nature. Sedona, Arizona, they say, is a good place for that. Fun to sketch there, too.

Sedona, Watercolor by Frances Schultz

People come from all over to experience Sedona’s energy centers, or vortexes, that are, according to, “conducive to spiritual healing, meditation and self-exploration.” So I celebrated the winter solstice with an organized group of strangers of all stripes, lead by a local shaman named Joseph Greywolf and a spirit medium named Carissa Schumacher. (Her contact info at bottom of post) We hiked to remote and sacred Native American places…

Hiking to the Wind Caves in Sedona. Don’t look down…

…we sat, we stargazed, we froze, we steamed in a sweat lodge, we smoked a chanupa. We told our  stories, the good with the bad. We listened to sacred teachings. We marveled at the beauty of the earth and sky. A rainbow one day and a shooting star the next appeared as if right on some kind of cosmic cue.

Rainbow as seen from Shaman’s Cave

Some of us felt closer to the Divine, whatever that means to each of us.

Not that it was all kum-ba-yah, mind you, honey. Sacred journeys are not for sissies, or for cars without 4-wheel-drive.

Car stuck in Sedona

Getting un-stuck is part of the process.

I also learned that “aho” is not a garden tool, but a sort of Native American version of “amen.” It has a lovely resonance, aho.

Funnily enough, the day I was returning home, December 21, a headline in The New York Times declared The New Allure of Sacred Pilgrimages. In it, author Bruce Feiler, who hosts the PBS series Sacred Journeysstates that one in three tourists worldwide today is on a spiritual journey. Astonishing (only slightly more so than the fact that I am possibly, for once, on trend).

Sedona drive

With organized religion on the decline and religious identity more fluid than ever, Feiler  writes, “The most popular thing you hear in faith circles these days is, ‘I’m not religious–I’m spiritual.'” As people are less inclined blindly to inherit their beliefs and more determined to choose for themselves, a pilgrimage can be part of this. “At its core,” he writes, “it’s a gesture of action.”

Sedona, Watercolor by Frances Schultz

I had no idea what to expect. That the skies would open and angels descend in a Rockettes-style kick line? That I would have a profound  epiphany wherein I finally understand the appeal of the Kardashians? What, exactly? Heaven forbid I didn’t have A Goal, but I didn’t.


What happened was space. The space in which to allow the what I will call the Divine Whatever to arise; to heal a wound; to soften a hard place; to hear our heart’s song; to be and to do what fulfills us; to shine our lights and inspire others to shine as well. The space in which to be present, as Greywolf says, is right here, right now.

Sedona, Watercolor by Frances Schultz
Sedona – Cairns at the Amitabha Stupa

I need to work on painting rocks.

Sedona, Watercolor by Frances Schultz

Hell I need to work on a lot of things.

In the days I’ve been back, I discover I have not turned into Mother Theresa, nor grown feathers in my hair, nor remained calm in the presence of awful cab drivers. But I do feel more clear, more calm, more trusting of myself, of my instincts, and of the path I’m on. Perhaps most importantly I’m more conscious of subtle shifts in values and priorities that are simply part of where I am in life. More on that in the months to come. But suffice to say I feel lighter, though trust me I don’t weigh less (see paragraph 1).

My wish for you in this New Year is that you hear your heart’s song and sing it.

Namaste. A-ho.

To contact Carissa, or to inquire about her next Sedona journey, email or phone her at or 310-499-8970.

With a new friend  in the Wind Caves, Sedona, Arizona


  1. Frances you are so wonderful to take us on your travels. I will from now on have a vision of the heavenly host as the Rockette kick line!!! We all need to find our song and space.. Looking forward to your stories in 2015 !! XO Becky

  2. Frances! I so enjoyed this piece or should I say peace of writing. You seem to take with you the right attitude about an experience that could get too heavy – you kept the balance with all the joy pain and amazement and as always sprinkled it with laughter. And then blew us away with your wonderful water colors and pretty darn great words of wisdom .
    Much love joy and rainbows in The new year!

    1. Hi Julia! So glad to hear from you and happy to sign you up! Love your Bouves, btw, and am a breast cancer survivor myself 🙂 Blessings, Frances

  3. Hi Frances! I spied you and “His Grace” for a fleeting moment!!!

    I spied you very quickly at Hutton and Ruthie’s DIVINE party for Hutton’s birthday!

    You do not need to practice on rocks! They could not be better!

    You go, girl!

    I have to say, with all honesty; your article you wrote on my dear friends Brooke and Steve’s house in Ojai brought me to tears. I had to stop reading it a couple of times.
    You completely understand them; empathize with them….and also appreciate the understated and elegant oasis they have created there for themselves and their darling family.

    Honestly; I am hoping that their house will be a beacon to people; and bring a a recognition to others about what “home” means……and that “Heart” is what belongs there!

    Thank you!


    1. Darlin’ Penelope, Thank you so much for your kind words and for the shout out for the Veranda story on Brooke and Steve Gianetti’s wondrous Patina Farm. I’m gearing up for a post on it myself – which you have practically written for me. How lucky we all are to have you and your heart in our lives. Love to you, Frances

  4. Oh, Frances, thank you! My mantra for 2015: “Hear your heart’s song and sing it!” Wishing you the best for 2015!

  5. Wow, that second photo looks kind of treacherous. Learning to put your faith in the Divine, I suppose. This journey seems a most appropriate way to contemplate the Advent season and connect your mind with your soul. As always, thanks for sharing and Happy 2015!

    1. Some of it was a little scary, to be honest. Fortunately there were two Special Forces vets and other brave souls along who had our backs, and our fronts! 😉 Thank you Alison, and Happy ’15 to you, too, Frances

  6. Frances…nice to have a visit with you this morning..really good piece. The “song in your heart” idea reminds me of a favorite line from C King: “I’m going to wake up every morning with a smile on my face and show the world all the love in my heart”. Memrie

    1. Ooooh, thank you, Memrie, and thanks for the reminder of that wonderful Carol King song. Reminds me I want to se the play “Beautiful,” while it’s still on. A date? Love to you, Frances

  7. Since I seem to be an arm chair traveler these days, I’ve decided to make make pilgrimage right here. I loved your thoughts and sketchbook paintings. Who cares about rocks, when you paint all other things so well. (-; XO and HNY! Leslie

    1. Always so good to hear from you, Leslie, and arm chair travels can be very gratifying, not to mention fuel efficient. Blessings to you in the New Year, and all good wishes, xo Frances

  8. Frances,
    Thank you for the reminder that the best gift we can give to ourselves, and to others, is to take care of ourselves. Getting away from all of the outer trappings, expectations, and obligations at such a frenzied, competitive time of year, seems to be the move of
    a wise soul. It is truly refreshing to do something as completely different as a gift to
    yourself. I have spent many years, of weeks at a time, in Arizona and in New Mexico, on
    such special journeys. I always felt that my spirit was lighter afterward. There are so many different dimensions to living and loving, and reminders that we must carry on and do our best, no matter what the painful moment may be. It is the wisdom and light that come with the quiet meditations that keep our hearts and spirits whole. Wishing you a Happy New Year, Peace, and Many Blessings, Patti

    1. Patti, thank you for so beautifully expressing this important truth. May we all take it to heart and hold it there. Blessings and all good wishes to you and yours. I am always so happy to hear from you. Love, Frances

  9. Oh, my, this is one of your BEST posts, Ms. Frances (and I love each and every one). To hear your heart’s song and sing it, fits right in with my one and only New Year’s resolution for 2015, which is to “lean into the light.” Got that from a documentary on modern-day nuns. A Happy, Healthy 2015 to you and yours filled with wonderful adventures and posts about them!

    1. Thank you so much Miss EB. Glad you are leaning into the light and reminding us to do the same. But to me, you ARE a light. Happy ’15. Love, Frances

  10. What a wonderful way to commence the New Year: more light, more space, more song and laughter. Sedona inspired paintings, too. Thank you Fabulous Frances for making it so!
    When you have time to spare ‘would love to learn of any updates on the timeline for your next book?

    1. You are so welcome Fabulous Jan! And thank you for asking about the book. It is being laid out as we speak and is due out this summer. I will keep you updated! All good wishes to you, Frances

  11. I enjoyed following all of your Sedona posts on instagram but this was my first moment of quiet after the busy holidays to read the actual post. Thank you for the peace I feel from reading the beautiful post. And I love somehow that in all the beauty of both the paintings, pictures and experiences you had to get “un-stuck” with your car. The symbolism was the best reminder that there are all sorts of obstacles amid the beauty of life and getting through them with laughter is certainly the best way! Thank you for this post.

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