Mountain climbing and Morning Pages

My Mountain climb began with morning pages…

What, you ask ?  What are morning pages?  And what do they have to do with climbing mountains?  I have lots of photos for you today of my hike, and a complete overview of the whole adventure, but first let me back up…

Whether it’s life or art, we are all on a journey. My journey of late has taken me to Italy, but it feels as if my creative journey has been undergoing an exponential expansion over the last 7-10 years.  Striving to live creatively and tap into that part of myself has sent me in such creative and exciting directions during this “2nd half” of my life.  I really do feel as if life is getting better as I get older.  Maybe you can say the same about your life’s journey.  I certainly wish that for everyone.  If not, then maybe tapping into your creative and expansive center could help the trajectory of your 2nd half!

Day dreaming is fundamental

I’ve come to believe that dreaming is fundamental to my life process and my artistic process.  That means taking the time to quietly be alone and tuned into listening for the “still small voice” that speaks to me in those moments.  It’s hard to do in today’s modern age.  We can’t do it on the phone or on Facebook, the noise of modern life and it’s many distractions drown out that quiet creative and spirit filled voice. Tuning out those distractions is difficult.  I know it all too well…

How often per day do YOU check your email?  How often do YOU get on Instagram or Facebook?  If you’re like me, social media usage has crept up on you.  I’d say it’s like Kudzu. and if you’re from the south you’ll know what I’m talkin’ about!  It’s a weed that gets all over everything and chokes out the good stuff.


Here’s an idea for you…even if you can’t go to Italy to get away from it all, take 3 days off from social media and note your reaction.  If you’re like me, it’ll be a reality check.  Being away from the internet, I’ve become more aware of time on my phone and the computer as a potential roadblock to better things.  Being more self-aware is never a bad idea!

The Artist’s Way

Quieting your mind is necessary to tap into your creative center.  All major theologies use silence as a spiritual practice.  Not because they agree on the nature of God, but because silence works! If you know me, you know I’m all about maximizing creativity. as I travel here on my own in Italy, I’m devoting myself to lots of silent contemplation. It’s a chance to go inward, and perhaps deeper during my time here. I’ve realized that this time is like a two week artist’s date with myself.  Giving yourself this kind of alone time is something else that “The Artists Way” recommends.

Julia Cameron wrote “The Artists Way” many years ago and it has sold millions of copies.  Creatives of all stripes; musicians, writers and wannabes all attest to the effectiveness of the methods she prescribes in her many books.   Reading this book feels like coming home.  Julia and I should have coffee one day on my couch.  We think alike!  I’ve never heard her stuff before now, but it’s as if I’m reading my words in HER book.  Her belief is that our creative center is something divine within us, and I am totally on board with that!

I’ve committed to reading and practicing The Artist’s Way for the next month.  It’s an experiment, and those of you who know me, know that I love to experiment!  I’m running a test and doing it here in Italy is my attempt to make it fun. It all begins with Morning Pages…

Morning Pages:  What are they?

i.         Quiet stream of consciousness writing on a page with your hand…not a typewriter.

ii.         Done first thing in the morning, with no agenda other than to fill 3 pages with your handwriting.

iii.         They are PRIVATE, and not to be shared.

iv.         They are a way to dial into your mental clutter and get it out of your head and onto the page, with the idea that removing that clutter will be like trimming back the Kudzu…making way for the GOOD stuff

v.         They are a way to dialogue with yourself

vi.         Writing them in the morning is supposed to lead to more improved creative flow throughout the day.

So far the time spent writing has felt good.  Is it working? Am I more creative?  I’ve certainly felt focused and productive!  That’s a good beginning…and some crazy stuff has happened.

Which Brings Me to That Mountain!

During the past few days in doing my morning pages, I’ve repeatedly mentioned climbing a mountain. Since I’m here in the Cinque Terre, there is actually something to climb. It’s odd, because I’ve never done a serious hike in the mountains.  I’ve never even followed a trail.  Living on the coast as I do, mountains are not my normal terrain. But here in Cinque Terre, they are the norm.  A flat road does not exist in these 5 towns!

After seeing the mention of a climb again on this morning’s pages, I decided to answer the call and go for a hike today.  I did a little bit of research (hampered by my lack of INTERNET!) and decided that the hike from Monteriggioni to Manarola might be something I could handle.  It is listed as a 1-hour hike, and it was not supposed to be too difficult. That was the first indication that you can’t always believe hikers!

I work out, do Pilates, and I am used to the heat, so I figured I could handle it even though I am not a hiker.  I filled my pack with a few art supplies, loaded up with fluids, and brought food. All of that was a good idea except for the art materials!

 Hear me on this one:  When Going hiking, leave art materials at home!

Yes, I actually said THAT!  The extra 10-12 pounds of weight quickly became a burden on the hike, and once I got up there, I didn’t want to dawdle and paint on the side of a dusty trail.  It was not an easy place to stop and smell the grapes along the way. Once again, if I can’t be a good example, then I’ll just have to be a horrible warning! Leave the sketchbooks and extras at home and paint from a photo when you get back!

 The Trek begins…

In Monteriggioni, I was reminded again of the poor signage in Italy.  The locals I asked were not too familiar with the trail, and so this was my first set of clues as to what kind of trouble I was getting into!  I was already huffing and puffing just getting to the top of town, let alone over the mountain!

I tried to stay positive, figuring that somehow I’d find my way to the trail.  After all, it was a small town and it was only supposed to be a 1-hour hike, right?!  I went up, and up, and up some more, to a castle that one local told me to look for.  Once there, I couldn’t find the trail head, so I walked DOWN the other side of town toward the BIG mountain in the direction of the next town along the coast.

Getting to the trail from Monteriggioni requires climbing up some stairs…

And even more stairs!

This is the Via Del Amore below. It is a path from Riomaggiore to Manarola that is now closed due to landslide a few years ago. It’s the easy hike you read about in articles online. Note that I’ve climbed a LOT of stairs and walked up quite a way to get to this alternative trail.

As I got closer to the base of the mountain, I noticed 3 people coming down a very slim trail straight down the incline.  I met them at the base, and sure enough, and they were trekkers…complete with the boots and the pants and the gear.  The good news was that I had found trail 153!  The bad news was that It was straight up with big irregular rocky steps.  Here’s a photo as I began my way UP.

The trail made a couple of tiny switchbacks, but not for long!  Very quickly I began to wonder what my morning pages had gotten me into!

I had  to stop and recover my breath in total exhaustion with my heart pounding out of my chest… repeatedly again and again on the way up. Abandoning the hike and going back was not going to be a piece of cake at this point, so I determined to simply rest as much as I needed and continue on.  I had lots of time.  After all, how bad could it be, right?

Along the way I met some other women climbers.  Two young women from Belarus were especially welcoming.  They were even less prepared that I was, so we banded together, taking photographs, picking berries, and commiserating along the way. I think they were worried about me.  No matter, I don’t care why they walked with me, I enjoyed their company and felt myself relax a bit having some company.  The struggle was no less real, and at moments I repeatedly doubted my decision, (especially when thunder began to rumble and we were on these rock strewn dirt paths, often without rails or ropes).

Can you tell I’m happy that the storm stayed away from us? I’m also VERY glad to be going DOWN! The scarf was not a fashion accessory, lol, I used it as additional sunscreen for my shoulders. (making my dermatologist happy 😉

Here’s a perspective lesson you don’t often have! Buildings from above!

As you can tell from the fact that I’m writing this, I lived to tell the tale.  My new friends, Anna and Lera are from Belarus and made the trip a lot of fun (seen here picking blackberries on the trail).  We had a celebratory beer, and talked about life and covered all kinds of topics.  I’ve found that when I travel by myself I meet the most interesting people!  It’s probably because I’m more open to the opportunity for connections.  These ladies definitely made my trip sunnier, despite the little bit of rainy weather.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of nurturing your creativity, you may want to read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  I’d highly recommend it.  Perhaps those of you who are my students could use it as a tool to stay in the creative groove while I’m gone.  I’d love to talk about it and compare notes when I get back.  Perhaps like me, your Morning Pages will prompt you to do something you’d never imagined possible!

Thanks for joining me with your comments and conversations.  The next time I get online, I may be able to respond. I read every one as they come in and it always makes me happy to hear from home!

If you’re interested in having an Artist’s date with yourself by taking art classes or attending a workshop in beautiful Myrtle Beach, SC, be sure to sign up for my newZletter to stay up to date on happenings in my studio.  Karlyn Holman and Rose Edin are both fantastic watercolor instructors, and they are coming to give weeklong workshops in 2017.  The talented Steve Rogers and I will both be giving workshops this fall with watercolor as an emphasis.  Seats are open so grab yourself a seat and join us!

Love and Leg cramps,


Interested in experimenting with Watercolor for a few days?  My Holiday Watercolor Workshop is coming up!

The workshop will offer all kinds of instruction on various watercolor techniques using small projects with holiday imagery.  You’ll come away with lots of holiday paintings that can be sent as cards or given as gifts.  You could even make copies of your favorites and turn them into custom greeting cards. It’s going to be a fun and festive few days spent playing in the paint.  I love this class and hope you’ll think about joining me:  Here’s a link to sign up: Holiday Watercolor Workshop with Rebecca- Oct. 20,21,22, 2016


Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at

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