[gallery columns="1"] "The more you strive to reach the place of Splendor, The more the invisible angels will help you." ~Rumi

It is what I do just after or just before a new project - a day long studio purge.  The requirements for these purges are straightforward and purposeful:  every shelf is dusted, a vacuum cleaner finds its way into every crack and crevice, and all of my supplies, books and baubles are either put back where they originally existed, put in a new location or donated.  This latest purge helped me unload eight bags filled with goodies that will be delivered to new homes in the coming weeks.  The top of my studio shelves - which once held two huge paintings and an assortment of more than a dozen other items - now seems a vast expanse of emptiness with only four objects.  Artwork on my walls has been re-arranged and stacks of creations have been neatly stored under our bed.  I look around and feel lighter, as if I've just created a wealth of new space that needs only my imagination to be filled.

I try my best not to go on trips with big expectations.  I expect to have an adventure, to see new things - the basics - but as far as going with specific agendas, I try to keep that to a minimum.  When I left for New Zealand exactly two weeks ago, I boarded the plane with a secret wish for clarity - on many issues - and this felt a little like cheating, like I was setting myself up for a big disappointment.  Knowing things rarely turn out the way I think they will, I kept reminding myself that my journey to New Zealand might not offer me any great epiphanies, answers, or realizations, that it was not outside the realm of possibility that I would return home more confused than ever.  Still, I headed across the Pacific with a collection of tiny eggs in my pocket, hoping I could crack them open somewhere far away and find some of the answers I was seeking.

It just so happens that sometimes our secret wishes are evidence of our intuition in action.  While they feel like wishes in the beginning, it soon becomes evident that they were prophetic whispers - tiny glimmers of what lay before us if we pay close attention.  I realize now that the wishes I carried with me to the other side of the world were not mere wishes, but inklings of what was possible as long as I was willing to invite a significant amount of solitude and quiet on this journey.  I was in a new country with much to see and one of my dearest friends to spend time with, but I went there knowing this trip could not be one of constant motion, that there had to be time for me to sit still on a beach, walk quietly through a forest, and write for hours on end in a tiny pink house.  I honored these wishes, and in doing so I was given that gift that so often feels painfully, maddeningly elusive:  clarity.

So when I got back home and walked into my studio, I knew it was time to take part in this ritual of mine, to scrub my studio top to bottom in preparation for my next big project.  In New Zealand, on a train ride from Paekakariki to Wellington last Thursday, the direction for my next book came to me like a bolt of lightening.  It was an idea I had been pondering for a while, and then suddenly I knew without a doubt that this was the answer.  It was like this the entire time I was there - where all those little eggs were cracked open one by one, and, after revealing the answers I had been seeking, the little birds inside fluttered away gently, carrying all my questions, angst and anxiety away with them.

{I have pulled out my favorite shots from my first three days in New Zealand, and you can see them here.}