The past few months have brought several unique opportunities to share the love of nourishing others. My assistant Summer Bradley and I bravely undertook the Dream Awake retreat held deep in Matillija Canyon that lasted 7 days in early July. True to its reputation for intense heat here in the Ojai Valley, the starting day of the retreat was well over 100 degrees. The Dent house which is a historical landmark in the Matillija Canyon Ranch Sanctuary, was a very rustic time warp complete with authentic antique furnishings, no cell reception and an old mule named Bumper who roamed the property. Needless to say when we arrived we were not prepared for some of the challenges that lay ahead. Looking back we’re not sure how we survived the AC not working to cool the kitchen, refrigerators that froze half of our produce (more than once – with the nearest store being a 40 min round trip and the grim discovery made only a few hours before dinner was served) and the small space in which we cranked out over 700 meals during our stay.
In the weeks prior to an event I consulted with one of my wise, intuitive elders to help guide me in being present with any spiritual energies in the area we would be cooking in. I usually like to do some type of blessing to create an energetic container in the space we would be preparing food. This depends on the how down with shamanic activity my clients are but so far I haven’t run into any issues (this is Ojai after all). We were made aware of 3 spirits that lived in and around the property – a Chumash elder who kept an eye on things, a Grandmother from the family who originally built the house and a little girl who got lost and was eaten by coyotes during the early settlers time, so we did our best to show our respect by placing tobacco around the corners outside the house and creating a little alter above the stove.
Each morning just as the sun began to rise I ventured into the timelessness that Matillija Canyon has always embodied for me. Well over a decade of hiking, backpacking and hot spring soaking made me feel quite at home in this wild place. And although the week was exhausting and at times all-consuming; the gratitude and appreciation that was bestowed upon us as we lovingly prepared each meal, kept us going despite all the challenges.
Summer and I were amazed at the amount of vegetables that were being processed and consumed. Shredding, grating, chopping. We brought in cases of lettuce, avocados, fruit, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, dried goods (beans, seeds, quinoa), spices, herbs and teas, some of which needing to be be replenished every few days. This retreat felt like a culmination of all my years experience preparing special recipes and mastering certian processes. Without fail we produced some of the most delicious food I have ever created, and the retreat participants reflected that to us in the most beautiful heartfelt ways. It was incredibly satisfying to nourish those doing deep emotional process work. I felt the power of what was happening there and the energetic ripples of healing and awakening spreading out in all directions.
During the very small windows of downtime between meals Summer and I managed to take some much needed trips to the creek that energized us and purified us during the long hot days. One of the retreat participants had a room across from the kitchen that was filled with amazing singing bowls that allowed us to be blessed with some healing sound baths. There was another moment that stuck out for me when I received some wonderful hand massages from another participant who inspired me with his ability to be so present with people, really seeing and listening with his whole being, it brought tears to my eyes.
There were a few days where I must have worked over 12 hours straight on very little sleep, powered only by organic vegan superfoods and a desire to support the healing human journey. Every night when I returned home to tuck my little boy into bed knowing he was safe, fed, loved and cared for gave me the strength to get up each day. I know that my heart and soul are in alignment with the work I do because every time that alarm went off at 5:30 am there was no hesitation, no resistance, no reluctance. Only deep, deep gratitude, excitement and the desire to make the most amazing food I could possibly make.