The month of May is beautiful in most parts of the US, and California is no exception. These photos are from a recent trip up the California coast where I took an art class at Esalen Institute. A place my cousin refers to as “that famous meditation retreat.” Followed by, “You are so lucky to be going there!” Indeed, I did feel lucky to be going there, especially because I was going for ME – for pure, personal replenishment. And replenishment was something I sorely needed. Have you heard the term “compassion burnout” at conferences lately? I was beginning to relate a bit too much to that expression, and I longed for relief.
The Esalen grounds were bursting with color, and the Gazebo Park School was there to accommodate parents attending classes. Every day I walked by the nursery school on my way to class and marveled at children playing in this unique, natural environment. There is no cell service at the retreat, and that helped me stay present. My iPhone stayed packed in my suitcase for all 5 days, imagine. That factor alone helped my eyes re-focus outward.
After a particularly good day of painting, I stopped to take pictures of the Gazebo Park School. The children had gone home for the day. I was first taken with the overall beauty and simple aesthetics of this outdoor school. Then my eye picked up several recycling ideas that I fell in love with and thought I’d share here. Like these planters made from plastic milk jugs, hanging from nylon ropes. How can I have been in so many schools over the years, and not seen this before? My eyes must have missed it, this is such an obvious and simple idea…and it’s free!
Or how about this empty picture frame set up in front of the garden? At first I thought this frame was abandoned or waiting to be trashed. Then I realized it was intentionally positioned in front of the garden, as a “view finder” so that children could position themselves and look through the frame from different angles, creating different garden “paintings” in their imaginations. How clever is that? It’s also free, and a good way to repurpose old picture frames.
The music area was created from a combination of bells and kitchen pots and pans. Are you inspired yet? I read and agreed with the school’s mission statement about the natural environment.
Simple, cheerful artwork covered the walls of the schoolhouse buildings. Don’t think you’re not artistic enough to pull something like this off, because it’s children’s work combined with some adult organization skills. Your own outdoor playhouse could look just as nice, even if you live and work in the city.
Last of all, how’s this for a clever recycling idea? It’s an old rubber tire, turned inside out and used to contain a garden hose. Who thinks of these things? Ahh….creativity. It’s so exciting to see it in action.
I do love my iPhone, my laptop, and my other tech gadgets. They make my life easier in many ways. But the more time I spend looking at a screen, the more time I need to balance my psyche with things that inspire me on a deeper human level. I feel incredibly fortunate to have taken time for myself at Esalen this spring. Are you planning something for yourself soon?
Resources: The Painting Experience
* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®
* For more ideas, visit