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Travel Philosophy with Bathtub

Fun with Photoshop: Silly Illustrations!
I was recently asked to share my travel philosophy. I couldn’t remember ever having articulated one. For years, the closest I came was a maxim I’d heard from a friend: “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”
I followed that advice as best I could, even though for many pre-smart phone years I traveled without a camera. Thankfully, I took notes. Then I started sketching and painting.  My souvenir rule for most of my 20s: whatever I brought home had to fit in the pages of my journal.
But that maxim only addresses the moments of being in a place, and I realized that if I have a philosophy of travel, it starts well before I leave home. So I decided to borrow another friend’s idea, one she passed on to me in the form of the John O’Donohue poem, “For the Traveler.” Here’s my favorite part:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life…

The whole poem is beautiful, but I found myself drawn to this section about preparing for the journey. As someone who loves to plan, I’m not surprised this resonated with me. And it’s good advice whether you’re heading to the new coffee shop around the corner or to the ancient medina of Fez.
There is no one way to travel—as evidenced by the diversity of our seatmates on an airplane or the camels carrying us across sand dunes. But the beauty of taking time to bless our journey before we go is that we’ll have grace to deal with those seatmates, whether they have bad breath or bump around a lot (which applies to both plane passengers and camels, come to think of it). Preparing our hearts opens us up to discoveries that can get lost when we haul the ballast of our hearts around with us, leaving no room for treasures.
I have several pre-departure rituals. One is to take a bath before a long journey, even if that means turning on the tap at 4 am. The bath helps me to do several things: to choose to make moments of stillness in the busiest times in my life. To metaphorically wash away any anxieties and limiting mindsets I don’t want to bring with me. To literally be as clean as I can before hours or days of airports and unreliable hot water. And to bless the journey so that when I return home and next sink into my claw-foot tub, I’ll be a kinder and wiser traveler than when I left. Ideally, I’ll have changed my own world to better love the wider world.
Many grand quotes turn into clichés (what a wonderful problem for a truth to become familiar, right?). So I’ll end by borrowing yet another travel philosophy for daily living, this one from Proust. You’ve heard it before, but then you’ve also bathed before—some things are worth repeating on a regular basis!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Bon voyage to all our comings & goings, near & far!

The Art of Adventure

[I] look out on a land of mists and mysteries; a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets, mighty towers and ramparts of flushed stone, hot palm groves and Atlas snows, peer and disappear at the will of the Atlantic cloud drifts.—Edith Wharton, In Morocco

We have one last spot on the upcoming Deep Travel Morocco trip! Join us from March 22-29:

Come experience sensory-rich Morocco with travel writing guru Larry Habegger. Larry co-founded Travelers’ Tales books and edits the Best Travel Writing anthologies. He is also known for skillfully coaching many novice writers from first draft to their first publication. We will begin our writing workshop in the Fez Medina—a UNESCO World Heritage Site of over 9,000 byways. From there, we will venture into the Middle Atlas for some retreat time in the mountain village of Moulay Idriss. While in Moulay, we will visit the 2000-year-old Roman ruins of Volubilis, tour Morocco’s wine country, and enjoy daily life in this small, enchanting city before returning to Fez. Along the way, we will meet local artists, restaurateurs, change-makers, and traditional storytellers. An adventure awaits you!

More info at or email [email protected]

Poets & Painters & Cakes!

Hello, Southern Oregon friends!
This soggy January day seemed a good time to think of something sweet on the near horizon & so…Mindy Carpenter & I are happy to announce another

 Poets & Painters workshop at Pennington Farms

…this time featuring their decadent cakes! At our last workshop at Pennington’s, we spied some swanky cakes beneath glass cloches & decided that we wanted to paint (& eat!) them, too.
Here’s one of Mindy’s delightful cake paintings:

In addition to your spacious painting time, I will give you an easy prompt for crafting a poem inspired by the confections. Zero pressure! And you do not have to read anything aloud. This workshop is more like a “playshop”; it’s all about having fun 🙂
So grab a friend (or a Valentine!) and come play with us:
When: Saturday, February 10 from 11-3 pm
Where: Pennington Farms | 11341 Williams Highway | Grants Pass, OR 97527
Cost: $95 per person (includes all painting & writing supplies, coffee, & plenty of cake! Savory treats will be available for purchase)
Register: Email me at [email protected], let me know how many people you’re bringing, & I’ll send you payment info.
You’ll leave the workshop with a finished 8″ x 10″ painting, a poem & a satisfied sweet tooth 😉
Space is limited, so register soon!
PS: If you’re looking for an original Valentine’s gift, you can create one during the workshop…or give the workshop itself as a gift!
anna elkins
art word spirit


I meant to write about Mexico, having just returned from a few weeks of sun, sand, and cerveza (I was working, really). But what I returned to was a deep joy at deep winter. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Montana. Maybe it’s because, to the best of my knowledge, most of my ancestors roamed northern climes. Or maybe it’s because there is something about owning the cold and bare and dark seasons. About not running from them but burrowing into them and learning how to warm and clothe oneself and how to seek the light. I mean coats and scarves. I mean joy and love.  
Around the time I turned forty, I was talking with a friend about love and how we so often wait and want for someone to love us. We want to say “he loves me” or “she loves me.” At one point in the conversation, I laughed and surprised myself by blurting out, “I love me!” I used to teach English; I know it should be “I love myself.” But I think wanted to hear aloud the words I thought were only true if they started with someone else.
In an interview, Michael Bernard Beckwith said: “And when you can fall in love with yourself and like yourself when you’re by yourself…you can be with others.” If not, we’re essentially relying on others for our joy. No bueno. 
I think I love this particular winter because it’s the first one that’s found me, myself, and I completely content with ourselves and therefore far more able to be content with others. Of course, contentment isn’t a synonym for complacency. As my wise mom says: we can be content while contending.
From this new place of contentment, I’d like to contend for loving ourselves—just because but also because we will better love each other.
May winter clouds be filled with hidden blessings for you.



The Daily & the Doing

I started to write a list of the year’s highlights—a fun gratitude practice. But I discovered that the entire list could—like a good caramel sauce—be reduced down to this one, sweet dollop from Julia Cameron: “Creativity lies not in the done but in doing.”
I first read that line seventeen years ago, and it has taken me all of these years to begin to learn it. In fact, as I was fiddling with the now-defunct list and getting annoyed at my inability to get it to flow, I took a break for gingerbread and cloud-watching. This little post and yours truly are both the better for it. 
And so, in this season of celebration and on this shortest day of the year, here’s to celebrating each short moment of our days—whether writing a to-do list or a cycle of poems, warming leftovers or concocting a five-course feast, sketching a poinsettia or painting a twenty-canvas series, sitting still for five breaths or walking five miles. Even beyond any good outcome, let the daily and the doing be our creative delight.  

Bells & Angels

The Guardian Angel of Mount Angel Abbey
As I begin to write, the bells begin to ring across the monastery courtyard. Between the bell tower and my window, a statue of a guardian angel stands in the rainy courtyard. I woke to bells ringing at 5:20. They have names, which I’ve already forgotten.
I came here on a mini-retreat, bringing my own bag of coffee and zero expectations. As a Protestant visiting a realm of Catholicism and monasticism, this feels more observational than participatory. I am partly here because I read Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk, about her seasons spent at a Benedictine monastery in the Midwest. I made this reservation after finishing the book this past summer when I imagined the weather being exactly what it is at this moment: rainy and gray.
Earlier this month, I thought I knew the reason I was coming here, but that morphed to the real reason: to not need a reason. To simply take time away to rest for no other purpose: no multitasking, not even the justification of a tax-deductible tripas most of my freelance artist-writer life is. I logged no miles driving here, even though I will spend this morning in the curvilinear, mid-century library looking through books on Saint Teresa for a current writing project. Therein the happy problem when your work is your love: what does rest look like?
The guardian angel stands, implacable, in the rain. I write like I’m trying to rest: with no purpose. I see the angel. I hear the bells. I drink my coffee. I stare at my socked feet, propped up on the squeaky bed I slept fitfully in. Soon, the library will open. Before long, I’ll start craving not just spirit food but food for this body. Maybe I’ll eat the kale-beet salad I brought. Maybe I’ll walk into town and treat myself to spaetzle at the German restaurant. Maybe I’ll fill myself with bells. I have learned to live with hunger.
The angel keeps watch. The bells will ring again soon.

Reminder: Poets & Painters Workshop Nov 11 - Register Now!!

Hello creative friend!
I hope this finds you very well on this cozy fall day. 🍁🍂

I'm writing today to let you know that the next Poets & Painters (& Pie) Workshop 
is coming up right around the corner. Last one of 2017...hope you can join us! 
This time it's at the charming historic Pennington Farms Bakery in the Applegate. 

This is a fun inspiring day of writing & painting, pie indulging & coffee sipping. 
Anna Elkins leads you through a freestyle writing & poetry exercise (hint: it will 
involve pie) & I will guide us through a still life painting guessed it, 
pie, seasonal flora & vintage props. If you haven't been to Pennington Farms, 
the entire surrounding is a painting waiting to happen. Inspiration everywhere! 
And workshop promise: you will leave with a finished painting. ❤️🎨

Please email: [email protected] to hold your spot.
Treat yourself to a Saturday afternoon of poetry, prose, painting & pie. 
Poets & Painters & Pie workshop with Anna Elkins and Mindy Carpenter at Pennington Farms, Applegate Vallte Valley, November 11, 2017Poets & Painters & Pie workshop with Anna Elkins and Mindy Carpenter at Pennington Farms, Applegate Vallte Valley, November 11, 2017

Yummy Alliteration: Poets & Painters & Pie at Pennington Farms!

We couldn’t resist! Join us for a fun afternoon of playing with words & paints & Pennington’s signature “cutie pies.” You’ll leave with a finished 8″ x 10″ painting, a poem, and a tummy full of goodness. $95 for all supplies & pie & instruction. Email me to register: [email protected]

Anna Elkins – Goodness: Past, Present and Future

Anna Elkins

Goodness: Past, Present & Future

Autumn is about to officially begin. I look forward to it—not just because it’s my favorite season, but because this has been a summer full of opportunities to remind myself that joy transcends circumstance. My season started with getting a gum graft along all of my lower teeth in June, and it ended with most of my home state of Oregon covered in hazardous smoke from raging forest fires that are finally being doused with rain. But my joy was not in my gums or the air quality, thank goodness! I was grateful when I could chew again, and I looked for a way to support Oregon’s valiant firefighters.

Gratitude and action are my solutions to such seasons. So I thought I’d share a bit of both—celebrating a few points of goodness: past, present, and future.

Past: La Via Poetica 

Two years ago, I traveled to Chile to visit the three former homes of poet Pablo Neruda. I wrote about how a poem was born on that pilgrimage. In August, I was delighted to have the essay published in Hidden Compass. Thanks again to the wonderful editors!

A few lines from activist-poet Neruda himself:

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience

The Honeylicker Angel by Anna Elkins

The Honeylicker Angel: Second Edition

Today, I’m happy to announce the second edition of my novel, The Honeylicker Angel—spiffy new cover and all. As Kirkus Reviews wrote, it is “the nuanced story of a woman who finally sets out to face her fears and maybe—just maybe—reach for her dreams, too.” And since so many people’s dreams were affected by the wildfires this year, I’m donating profits from the book’s sales this first month of its second edition to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.


And in addition to gratitude and action, there is anticipation. Want something to look forward to? Deep Travel Workshops is thrilled to announce writing retreats to Mexico, Spain, and Morocco in the winter/spring lineup for 2018:

The Art of Tranquilo
January 2-7: Tim Cahill in Yelapa, Mexico
January 11-17: Dot Fisher-Smith in Yelapa, Mexico
Enjoy this car-free paradiso on the Bay of Banderas where you stay in open-air casitas…

In Search of Duende
March 11-17: Erin Byrne in Granada Spain
Practice flamenco, savor paella, and dive into Lorca’s theory of duende while staying in swanky caves…

The Art of Adventure
March 22-29: Larry Habegger in Fez & Moulay Idriss, Morocco
Explore both the lively byways of ancient medinas and the centered peace of a zellij fountain in the courtyard of your riad

Want more info on any of the trips? Visit
Want to register? Email [email protected].

Good things are in store!

I’ll close with another line from Neruda: “Every day you play with the light of the universe.”

Here’s to playing with light,



Here are some events & workshops on the horizon (more info for each on the events page of my website):

Vignettes in the Vineyard: A writing workshop, 13 October 2017, 2-4 pm at Red Lily Vineyards (Jacksonville, OR) Limited spots…email me to register:[email protected]

The Pilgrimage of Poetry at the Writer’s Forum, 21 October 2017, 10:30am-12:30pm (Redding, CA) More info here.

Eyes of the Heart: Prophetic Art Workshop at CCFC (Crescent City, CA). Register here.

Winter Blessings: Paintings by Anna Elkins at Weisinger’s Family Winery (Ashland, OR) Reception on First Friday, 3 November 2017, 5-7 pm. Enter a drawing to win a free painting! Paintings will be up through December 28.

Copyright © 2017 Anna Elkins, All rights reserved.
*ae newsletter*

My mailing address is:
PO Box 509, Jacksonville, OR 97530

Vignettes in the Vineyard with Anna Elkins

My favorite season is almost here, & I decided to celebrate by offering a writing workshop at Red Lily Vineyards. In this accessible class, you’ll craft a vignette—a short, impressionistic passage of poetry or prose.


Time: Friday, 13 October 2017, 2-4 pm

Place: Red Lily Vineyards:  11777 Highway 238, Jacksonville, OR 97530 (We’ll be meeting in their event barn)

Price: $35: includes a little set of Take Heart greeting cards



~No experience required

~No pressure to read

~No worries!

~Yes to bringing a journal/notebook & a favorite writing pen

~Yes to discovering your inner wordsmith in a casual & caring space

~Yes to getting yourself a glass of Red Lily’s award-winning wine to enjoy the writing time!



Space is limited & registering in advance is a must. Email me at: [email protected] & I’ll let you know how to proceed with payment (check or PayPal).


Let’s play with words together during the peak of autumn colors!