By Melanie Lee
Author, “A Year In Sedona~Meeting The Muse At Wisdom’s Edge”
(January 1, 2018)
Soon after moving to Sedona, we had a surprising and instructive encounter that proved just how different life could become after meeting the muse. No longer spring chickens at 65+, my husband and I prepared to settle into the second half of life with what we assumed was a pretty good sense of what living in a small mountain town would be like. Little did we know that an annual neighborhood garage sale would be the deus ex machina for removing some major obstacles to our first meeting with the muse.
The garage sale was an eagerly anticipated yearly celebratory festival, massively attended by townsfolk and tourists alike, a not-to-be missed social swap meet with hundreds of hot to trot bargain hunters showing up in waves throughout the weekend. Arriving Friday morning at 7 a.m. sharp, hordes of merry shoppers ebbed and flowed over three days’ time as we slowly but surely divested of mounds of old trinkets and erstwhile treasures now destined for their own second life. I’ll bet we met probably over a hundred people in three days and by twilight Sunday evening, we’d netted a tidy sum and struck up several new friendships, including a sweet neighbor who volunteered to be our cat sitter when we traveled.
When it was done, we surveyed our now almost empty garage, and a sense of release and relief washed over us. We’d let go of mountains of old dishes, dusty furniture, ratty textiles and clothing and sagging banker’s boxes full of moldy papers, musty documents, wrinkled up certificates and faded pictures of people we didn’t even remember. What might have ended up an overwhelming descent into a morass of grieving and regret as we let go of our past life, became instead a kind of epiphany and resurrection. What was left was only what still mattered most: Several shelves of cherished books, a stash of art supplies, heirlooms from children and family, a few photographs, and small gifts from longtime friends. From this new emptiness and stillness our muse made its presence known. In a clear, sweet voice, a shining, fearless and friendly eternity thanked us for not only banishing used up household chattel, but for also releasing outworn ideas that had rigidly defined and limited both identity and purpose in the first half of life.
Hostage no longer to the nonessential and armed with new purpose, we could now breathe a little easier, a little deeper. We promptly went a little giddy with the discovery of what freedom from the past could really mean, floundering and wondering how best to nurture this new found sense of liberation, emptiness, and stillness. What do you do with freedom, now that you don’t have all those memories and stuff to look after, remember, fret about? Before long it became clear that a simple mindfulness in the present moment would be the new intention, a path now eminently desirable, possible and achievable. We invited the spirit of creativity and contemplation to be present, and in the stillness, our own breath became our guide and muse.
We began using ancient breathing meditation practices, once a day at the same time every day, starting slow and easy, five minutes max. After a couple of weeks we notched it up, practicing in jots and tittles throughout the day, noticing a couple of breaths for just a minute or two at a time. In the middle of a discussion, while driving, walking down the street, brushing teeth, cooking…notice the feelings, notice the breath; notice the body, notice the breath; notice the thoughts, notice the breath. In time we understood what it actually felt like to live the old heartfelt admonition from the Sixties, ‘be here now.’ Honoring our old (oldest?) friend, the breath, became second nature.
Now we look back on that little garage sale with a sense of extraordinary gratitude. My husband, who has an abiding love for ritual and ceremony, still refers to it as our Festival of Emptying & Resurrection. And why not? It had been liberating and rejuvenating in a way no other similar event had ever been, allowing us to make not only wonderful new friends, but also to meet our the muse as we set out on the road to wisdom’s edge.
Melanie Lee is an award-winning writer, editor, artist and author. Growing up in Texas, she read mostly biography and autobiography and dreamed of being a writer who could help inspire others to meet their muse by honoring beauty in everyday life. She holds degrees in languages and journalism and was a features editor and columnist, writing everything from lifestyle stories and business news to profiles of entrepreneurs, artists and inventors engaged in the creative pursuit of right livelihood. She lived for ten years in Northern New Mexico where she was creator and director of Sojourns Writing Workshops of Santa Fe.
At the second half of life she moved to Sedona with her husband Louis Michalski. She met her muse anew, took up painting, became a yoga teacher and avid hiker and wrote “A Year in Sedona~Meeting the Muse at Wisdom’s Edge“, available on Amazon.com or from the author. She can be contacted at
P.O. Box 1419 Sedona, AZ 86339 or firstname.lastname@example.org