Featured

Slacklining the Canyons of Sedona: Calm Mind Prevails for Wilson Cutbirth

While others picnicked in Oak Creek Canyon, 23-year-old Wilson Cutbirth tightened the rigging on the a narrow, springy rope he had strung between two trees and settled into the grass with his laptop computer. We had just missed “the show,” when he traversed the line, but my curiosity was piqued. At my inquiry, he shared photos of himself, high above beautiful canyons, balanced on a line that spanned the width of each photo. I soon discovered that, driven like Ilchi Lee to experience some of the highest points of Sedona’s landscape, this young man has seen Sedona from a holistically different view. Here is the story of his exciting sport and how Wilson heard his own Call of Sedona.

Wilson Cutbirth Slacklining in Sedona

LT: Wilson, the photos you have shared are amazing! It’s difficult to imagine the breathtaking feeling of walking on a line over a canyon. Please tell us more about this fairly new extreme sport.

WC: Yes, it takes you to quite an unreal mental state! When I have the line lower to the ground it’s called Slacklining. So, Slacklining would be at ground level, like what you saw me doing at the park that day . . . . Highlining would refer more to rigging it, like the Slackline, but high off the ground.

LT: You do some outrageous climbing in addition to the Highlining. How did you get started?

WC: Highlining ties into a way to exhibit that adventurous lifestyle at a different level than climbing. I lived in Maui for 3 years after I graduated high school. I got into it there—just starting by rigging a little 50 foot long slackline [between native trees] on the beach in Hawaii, and then that grew bigger to rigging them high off the ground between valleys, enjoying the aesthetic features of the land. I was also doing it high&mash;like above waterfalls.

LT: What called you to Sedona?

WC: Since I grew up in Cornville, I knew the kind of aesthetics that are here in Sedona. Areas such as the Spires, and there are some different mountains and wild rock formations that exist around here that have perfect gaps between them to put a slackline between. They are uniquely different than anywhere else in the world. After doing it in Hawaii for a while I came back, moving into Oak Creek Canyon, to start Highlining in Sedona.

LT: When you are on the line, crossing a canyon, there’s no safety net, correct?

WC: No safety net. There’s a safety leash that attaches to you . . . a normal climbing harness with a 10 foot long leash. So if you fall, you fall 10 feet and then dangle on the line.

LT: Wow! So if you fall, you climb back up, work your way back up onto the line?

WC: Yes, stand back up on the line.

LT: Is this a really popular sport? How many people would you estimate are doing this?

WC: At this point, the population of actual Slackliners is very small compared to other extreme sports. It’s certainly growing, but it’s fairly new. It hasn’t been around for very long at all.

LT: Do you have a group that you go out with—where all of you are into doing this?

WC: Yes, I have friends, although not many local people, that I go out with. Since there is such a small community of Slackliners around the country, most of the people I do it with are from other states. We all meet in a specific location.

LT: What other locations, besides Sedona are popular for Highlining?

WC: Yosemite National Park is a popular one. Others are Moab, Utah and Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.

LT: So, what rock formations are your favorites for Highlining here in Sedona?

WC: Spires Canyon, but others too. You’re kind of looking for something that appeals to you—like two points you can go between that you’d just enjoy to be “in that space” with it.

Wilson Cutbirth highlining in Sedona AZ

LT: As if words could ever describe what it feels like to be poised high on a line, between two towering red rock formations overlooking Sedona’s magnificence, would you please tell us what it’s like?

WC: People generally assume that it’s an adrenaline based sport, but really it’s kind of the opposite. If you’re on [the] line and you get to the point where your adrenaline has kicked in, that’s the point where you lose concentration and then you fall.

It’s more of a meditative, very focused, very calm mind state. All the euphoria and adrenaline and all that, that all kicks in the moment you step off line on the other side of the gap you’re walking.

LT: Thank you, Wilson!

by Lynn A. Trombetta

Pondering Our Connection

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” – Terry Tempest Williams

connectedness of nature

In his book, The Call of Sedona, Ilchi Lee not only writes about his love of the red rocks, blue sky, and energy of Sedona. Meditations to receive the good that Sedona has to offer are also a large part of what Ilchi has chosen to share.

In his LifeParticles Energy Meditation he reminds us, “Remember that the whole universe—your body, mind, soul, and all of nature—is made of the same stuff, the energy you are feeling with your hands now. Remember that right now, in the moment you feel the energy, you are connected with the whole universe.”

Out in nature, we easily realize we are swimming in this sea of energy. If you indulge the thought, you can imagine how the very air that touches your skin and the rock that supports your body connect to each and every particle of life on the planet and beyond.

With these thoughts, not only do we come to understand our “connectedness,” but also our “oneness.” With our powerful human brains, we are able to comprehend all of this in a way that in some ways separates us from the other creatures with which we share Earth. And yet, it is this very understanding that connects us more wholly than we may ever truly fathom.

Pondering the connection is good. Living it is great.

By Lynn A. Trombetta

The Call of Sedona Came Early for Artist, Syri Hall

Sedona helped shape Syri Hall’s early art career in many ways. As it is for Ilchi Lee, Sedona continues to inspire. She shares her story in our recent interview.

Syri Hall

LT: First, Syri, please tell our readers a little about your art.

SH: I do painting, drawing, and sculpture, and I’m completely addicted to photography! And lately, I’ve been doing some plein air.

LT: When did you first experience the beauty of Sedona?

SH: My parents moved to Phoenix when I was a year old, and we immediately started coming up to Sedona, the year was 1955. We came up frequently for picnics, and then my parents decided they wanted to spend most of the summer up here. They bought a travel trailer, and we parked it at Indian Gardens. So I got to roller skate at the rink across the street, and we bought our groceries at the Indian Gardens store.

LT: It sounds like you have wonderful memories of your summers in Sedona!

SH: Yes, we got to go to the Slide Rock when I was a kid, when maybe there would be only one other couple, or no one at all. We got to go to Jerome, where there would be just a handful of people. I had the unique experience of spending a lot of time up here ever since I was one year old.

I always knew I wanted to live up here. When I was in my late teens and my freshman year in college, my parents built a house up here, in West Sedona. We spent every weekend and every holiday, and whenever we could in Sedona. And Marc, my husband now, was in on it, because I met him when I was a freshman. He and I spent tons of time here until we graduated and then we moved up here in 1977.

LT: When did you begin doing art?

SH: I was little, my parents and older brother bought paint kits at the Indian Gardens store: paint-by-numbers, and I made such a stink that they went and bought me one. It was red roses, and that’s how I started painting! I’ve always painted, drawn, and sculpted. I got my first camera when I was seven, and I’ve been addicted ever since.

After moving here, I started taking classes at the Sedona Arts Center. I took a lot of classes because I’d switched majors my junior year of college from business administration to art, and I didn’t feel like I had had enough art in those first two years. Then I started working in a bronze factory and got interested in sculpture. I took sculpture from Eugenia Everett and Ken Ottinger, and I studied stained glass and all kinds of stuff. That’s when I started sculpting—33 years ago.

LT: What projects are on the horizon for you, for your art?

SH: I want to start a woman’s plein air group as soon as it cools off. Go head out, pick a spot and people show up when they want—a very informal kind of a thing, for women. Also, I’m in touch with some people, and we’re thinking of resurrecting “Sculpture Walk.” I was involved way back, only as I was showing in it. I had little kids at the time, but now, I think I’m ready and I feel the town is ready for something like that.

LT: Your Call of Sedona came at such a tender age! How has Sedona influenced you as an artist?

SH: I look at the red rocks every single day. I’ve always considered the red rocks of Sedona to be Mother Nature’s crowning achievement! There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t admire the rocks!
Like today—with those beautiful poofy clouds; I’ve been out doing some photography, and I can’t get enough of it! I hike, I ride my horse, and I always have my camera with me. As I mentioned, I’ve been doing some plein air lately. I really haven’t painted anywhere but here, but I don’t think there’s anything quite as interesting as Sedona. I actually started plein air painting about thirteen years ago, but I realized all of a sudden I really like it: I like capturing what I see!

LT: Thank you, Syri!

By Lynn A. Trombetta

Rest Is Not Idleness

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock

chrysalis

“Rest is not idleness”… the thought bears repeating. All of life exhibits periods of activity followed by periods of rest. It is during rest that our bodies repair and our minds refresh and reset. This rebalancing cannot happen when all of our energy is “going out.”

We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to pause, and even as we spend time in nature, our “work” calls to us. Or we may simply feel restless, and unsatisfied, until we realize that the truth is we may simply need rest. And often, as we begin to sense a more urgent message from within ourselves that we do indeed need rest, we tend to think of it as needing a “big rest” or a “large chunk of time off.”

In The Call of Sedona, Ilchi Lee comments, “We are able to find true strength and rest only inside of ourselves. Our very body is a sanctuary and a generator of energy. When things are hard and confusing, go inside. The place can provide you with perfect rest.”

The truth of it is that even the smallest moments of experiencing an ongoing connection to nature offer a life-enriching respite from our thoughts and our responsibilities and an easy path inward to that place that Ilchi speaks of. This is easily discovered when we tune in and allow our energy to ebb and flow naturally.

Yes, there will be periods of less activity, just as there are in nature. There will be occasions when our energy feels too low to accomplish a desired task. These are the times to give in and give this rest fully to yourself: to your mind, your spirit, and your body. Nature has a way of magnifying the effect.
It truly is by no means a waste of time.

By Lynn A.Trombetta

Trail of the Month: Crescent Moon Creek Walk – Good Place to Practice Ilchi Lee’s “Purifying Emotions Meditation”

This pleasant, easy walk traverses the site of one of the most photographed scenes in Sedona, and is suitable for all ages. There are benches and spots along the path where you can sit and relax or meditate along the banks of Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock in the distance.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

This pleasant, easy Crescent Moon Creek walk traverses the site of one of the most photographed scenes in Sedona, and is suitable for all ages. There are benches and spots along the path where you can sit and relax or meditate along the banks of Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock in the distance. In The Call of Sedona, Ilchi Lee offers a “Purifying Emotions Meditation” that can be done from a quiet spot with the soft sound of Oak Creek’s flowing waters here.

A fee is required to enjoy this scenic area and parking is just inside. Park anywhere and from this, the west end of the park, follow the pink colored sidewalk toward the creek. It is here you will see the famous view featured in so many photographs of Sedona. Go east along the sidewalk, parallel to the creek. Take your time . . . there are benches and relaxing places to sit as you make your way in this lovely place.

After about a quarter of a mile, the sidewalk ends and a dirt path takes its place. This area is the site of the Old Chavez Ranch. From here, the trail moves closer to the creek, eventually traversing a broad, redrock shelf. There are many side trails as you go, but stay on the main trail, as they all lead to the same place, eventually ending at a big curve where the creek splits and a power line crosses.

How to Get to Crescent Moon Creek Walk
Beginning at the roundabout on Highway 179 known as the “Y” near Uptown Sedona, go southwest on Highway 89A towards Cottonwood for 4.2 miles (6.8 km), to the Upper Red Rock Loop Road. Turn left and follow the loop to the 6.0 mile (9.6 km) point and turn left on the paved road toward Crescent Moon Ranch Park. Follow this road for another 1.0 miles to the entrance booth at Crescent Moon Ranch Park, where you will pay a fee to enter.

FAQs

  • Open year round. Good all-weather hike except for very cold or very hot days.
  • Difficulty: Easy, pleasant walk
  • Usage: Moderate to heavy
  • Elevation gain: level
  • Length: Approximately 1.0 mile each way
  • Facilities: yes
  • Dogs allowed on a leash.

Special Tips

  • Hiking/walking shoes and hats are recommended.
  • This trail is recommended for all ages.
  • Always take plenty of water, especially in warmer weather, and possibly a snack, but please remember, “Leave no trace” and take what you brought along home with you.
  • Take your camera and binoculars to capture the views.
  • Parking: fee required
  • Don’t hike alone and let others know where you’re headed—just in case!

By Lynn A. Trombetta

Let Nature Teach You Stillness

“Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.” – Eckhart Tolle

Courthouse Butte, Sedona AZ

In his book, The Call of Sedona author Ilchi Lee comments, “The Sedona spirit is the spirit of interacting with the earth. The sky that opens so wide and deep above the red rocks, the juniper trees and cacti that emanate vital power, the golden full moon that cuts through the desert night . . . All these environments help us to feel the earth as a life form and have energetic and spiritual interactions with the earth. The experience of interacting with the earth connects us with a greater and more permanent power beyond the limited and finite self, to bring us spiritual fulfillment and a sense of unity.”

The energetic and spiritual interactions that Tolle and Lee call upon us to experience in Nature are the very paths that lead to the inner space of consciousness itself. Nature opens a door when we bring our awareness to her; when we set aside our daily thoughts and concerns. Our gaze falls upon a pleasant scene, our breathing slows. Our mind empties out, and we begin to notice the gap between things: between our thoughts, between each breath, until, at last there is just “awareness.”

It is here where wonder, inner peace, and “oneness” reside.

By Lynn A. Trombetta

Canyon Fire – A Reminder of Impermanence

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Rachel Carson, American biologist and writer

Slide Fire

We citizens stand by, nearly helpless, as fire burns in the canyons and forests of Sedona, the land that Ilchi Lee so lovingly speaks of in The Call of Sedona. In fact, it is Oak Creek Canyon where he suggests a contemplative “Water-Sound Self-Healing Meditation” in his book.

So now these canyon lands will offer another kind of contemplation: one that inspires us to share healing energy with the earth, the water, the birds and animals, the humans, and the air that are all affected by the fire.

And perhaps, the fire will offer a contemplation of the impermanence of things as well: We can drive by a place a hundred times, believing it has always been there, and will always be there, just as it is. But impermanence is our constant companion as we travel through life, and any perceived loss can serve as a reminder to look with eyes that “see” and to feel gratitude for all that life on this beautiful planet offers.

In these contemplations, and during this time of dismay, may we each find the “reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

By Lynn A. Trombetta

Trail of the Month: An Easy Walk in Any Weather – Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Here’s an easy hike that’s a favorite walking trail of local area residents. Just 45 minutes round trip, Lower Chimney Rock Trail is close to town and can be enjoyed for a good walk in nearly any type of weather. Not a lot of great views here, but a pleasant trail that affords an up close look at Chimney Rock and Thunder Mountain.

Area-of-Lower-Chimney-Rock-Trail-1-web

This trail is designated on a map to be found in the parking area when you arrive. Follow the main trail and when you reach the trail junction at 0.1 miles (0.16 km), go straight. (The adjoining trail to the right is the Thunder Mountain Trail.)

Area-of-Lower-Chimney-Rock-Trail-2-web

At the top of a little pass, 0.35 miles (0.56 km), you will reach a second trail junction which overlooks homes in the Dry Creek Road area. You’ll be traveling a pass that is a saddle between Little Sugarloaf on the left and Chimney Rock to the right. At this junction, the Chimney Rock Loop Trail heads off to the right, while the ‘Lower Chimney Rock Trail continues straight ahead, down the north side of the ridge into a flat area below.

As you descend, the impressive Chimney Rock comes into view. To your right is Thunder Mountain. This large butte has also been known as Grey Mountain, Capitol Butte, and Shadow Mountain. (After you leave the area, you may be able to pick out Thunder Mountain from different locations around Sedona, since its greyish coloration and sheer size stands out against the red rocks.) Just ahead and slightly to the right you will see another well-known landmark, Lizard Head, in the white-colored layers.

Area-of-Lower-Chimney-Rock-Trail-3-web

Once on the valley floor, you will be walking through a juniper forest. To your left is Dry Creek Road, which the trail will angle toward. At 0.6 miles (1.0 km), the trail turns left. At 0.75 miles (1.2 km), you’ll come to a trail junction. Ignore the one on the right (a private drive), and take the left fork.
As you proceed around the west and south faces of Little Sugarloaf, at 1.5 miles (2.4 km) you return to the parking lot.

How to Get to Lower Chimney Rock Trail
Beginning at the roundabout in Highway 179 known as the “Y” near Uptown Sedona, travel southwest on Highway 89A toward Cottonwood for 3.2 miles (5.1 km) to Dry Creek Road. Turn right and proceed to Thunder Mountain Road, at 3.78miles (5.9 km). Turn right on Thunder Mountain Road and drive 0.6 miles (0.96 km) and turn left into the parking lot. (Total driving distance is 4.3 miles (6.9 km). Total travel time is 10 minutes from the “Y”.)

FAQs

  • Open year round. Good all-weather hike.
  • Difficulty: Easy, pleasant walking trail, but it can be hot at midday, especially during the summer.
  • Usage: Light to moderate
  • Elevation gain: 50 feet
  • Length: Approximately 1.5 mi each way
  • Dogs allowed on a leash.

Special Tips:

  • Hiking shoes or boots and hats are recommended.
  • This trail is recommended for older children.
  • Always take plenty of water, especially in warmer weather, and possibly a snack, but please remember, “Leave no trace” and take what you brought along home with you.
  • Take your camera to capture the views.
  • Parking: Just a short drive in from the Thunder Mountain Trailhead Sign.
  • Don’t hike alone and let others know where you’re headed—just in case! Remember, the responsibility for good health and safety while hiking is yours!

Inspiration from Nature: Your Spirit Is Nature’s Spirit

“All things share the same breath—the beast, the tree, the man . . . the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” – Chief Seattle

dragonfly spirit

In The Call of Sedona, Ilchi Lee spoke of his enlightenment as he sat atop a hill in Korea. It was there that he came to understand this shared spirit.” He wrote, “This energy that fills the universe is me.” He continued, “The music of the universe reverberated in my heart and the breath of nature went in and out through my skin. The universe and I were not separate, and nature and myself were not two.”

Have you sat atop a hill, near a stream, or even in your own backyard recently to contemplate this feeling of connection that begins to permeate your thoughts? It is wonderful to recognize yourself in Nature! But the message that is being delivered is even grander than this!

It is time we fully understand the ripples our actions and thoughts create in this magnificent, interconnected universe! Sensing the connection is the very first step. Living the connection is what comes next.

Each and every one of us has the power to make a difference. We have the power to create as equally as the power to destroy.

With a feeling of connection to all, our thoughts and actions will reflect a caring spirit for all life and our planet. Today is the day to begin!

By Lynn A.Trombetta

Featured Artist Lea Gracer: Weaving a Life of Color

Lea GracerFollowing a brief tour of three decades worth of work in the home of Sedona artist and Wellness Coach, Lea Gracer, we settled in for our interview and the story of what brought this fascinating, vibrant woman to Sedona. Lea’s story of her beginnings as a textile artist evokes images full of color and texture woven together and illustrates how in her current life work she is still weaving tapestry, only now, it is without fabric.

Lynn Trombetta: Your art covers so much ground, please tell us how you became so versatile in so many expressions of your creativity.

Lea Gracer: My father was a very special man. He had many interests, and art was one of them. So there was an emphasis of art. I went to a camp called Appel Farm that was a performing and visual arts camp where I was exposed to music theatre, poetry writing, photography, weaving, and batik, and I wanted to pursue them all. He would always tell me, “Just pick one!” But, I could not imagine living without the others.

In high school we moved to Phoenix from Long Island. My father had been very sick, and they did not expect him to live. But he did, and my parents bought property in Sedona planning to build our house. But it wasn’t to be. He had a heart attack, and it took him a long time to get better. My father had had a long history in the fashion business, and while I was in college in Santa Cruz they began to make [designer] sweaters.

Meanwhile I graduated in the pre-med program. Out of money, I started making things for their clothing line. I studied textile design at the Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts in Berkeley. I’d batik on velveteen and then quilt it, and my parents put them on chenille jackets.

I ended up back in Phoenix, running that business for about twelve years. That was a huge experience because when I arrived, there were 300 employees, and I was now in charge of the whole thing at the age of 26! I was around all these yarns and we made bed throws that had sumptuous fringe. I thought, ‘I’m going to make gigantic fringe and put it on a dowel.’ I sold many of those. And then I started to incorporate that into weavings. I got a loom and I would weave with the ribbons, and then I would paint on them. This was a big part of my artistic life. I love combining things. I’m sure I made over a hundred, and there’s even a piece at the Sky Harbor Airport in their VIP room. That was the 80’s, early 90’s.

Lea Gracer and her textiles

LT: What then called you to Sedona?

LG: When I was 35, I met Dr. Lester Adler. He had just come back from Europe, teaching and practicing energy healing. That is his “super passion”—when he can work on that level it uses his heart and his soul, his whole being, and he is very good at it. He was living here in Sedona, and we would go back and forth weekends.

It took me a couple of years until I could sell the business to move to Sedona. I got involved in running Les’ newly opened clinic. I went from running my mother’s operation, to running his operation. I thought that was a smart way to go. Was it really smart for me, personally and expressing my own talents? No, it was not. It would take Les insisting that I leave the office to create a turning point for me for the better, because I then had time. We can either have control of our life, or we can have what we want. Does that make any sense? We can spend so much time controlling things so all these bad things don’t ‘maybe’ happen, but then we’re drained. I’m not saying that’s true all the time, but there is a lesson there.

That was a big emancipation. I got a call saying I’d got a fantastic part in the Vagina Monologues. I just felt, ‘my life is going to change.’ and I delved into that part, which was a highlight of my little acting career. Then, at some point I got into making mosaics for a friend’s upcoming open studios tour. I sold a ton of work, and I went into that. So, I’m always going with the flow! That was great until 9-11, when art sales just sank.

Fortunately, my nutrition business was building for weight loss. My emphasis is wellness coaching right now, and it’s been fantastic! It’s a completely different way of working than giving people advice. Every time I have an opportunity to work with somebody—wow, it’s extremely creative in the moment!

LT: Please explain that creative experience for our readers.

LG: You have to work with what’s presented to you in the moment. In coaching you have to flow with where that person is coming from, in an artful way, to get them in touch with what their life is really about: the direction they really would love to be moving in. It is connecting the dots between the best in their life, their passions, while really understanding the obstacles, so that the person can be transformed.

And it’s not really about necessarily getting to the goal, because that would be treating a person like a problem to be solved. It’s more about the process of unfolding a truer perspective. Where they can see just a little bit more about the paradigms they’re living in (of their own creation).

Coaching conversations are so meaningful to people, and you can feel it in the room. For me, that’s what makes life worth living; having these moments of real connection, of living and vibrancy—even within sadness, within pain there can be vibrancy and connection. It’s hard to describe it with words.

LT: You’ve done well. As you may know, Dahn Yoga and founder Ilchi Lee have a website called ChangeYourEnergy.com for people to be thinking about these things: How do you tap into your best self? How do you change your energy and not allow negativity to interfere?

LG: I bring this conversation to discussions with people about their health. Very often people say “I don’t know why I’m not doing this, I know better. Well, it’s saying something and we need to start a little bit earlier in the “change” trajectory.

LT: In what ways has living in Sedona contributed or influenced your work?

LG: When you asked me that question I got a very warm feeling. Sitting in this living room, looking at all of this art that I have created while I’m here, I feel as if Sedona is a palette. I’m living in a palette! Everywhere you look is inspiration and beauty. When I’m out in my backyard I’m right in nature!

It’s a very warm and nurturing place. I like the fact that it’s small, because you can feel the community more than any other place that I’ve lived and I can make a bigger difference. For years I was very active with the Sedona Artists Coalition, and I produced many art shows through them and got to bring all kinds of people together and create experiences. There’s just so much you can do here, and yet, there’s a peacefulness. I have found the city and the community supportive. The Sedona Art Center has played very strongly in my artistic development. I’ve taken so many classes there and at Yavapai, and really grew. I feel like Sedona has really given me wonderful opportunities, and I hope I’ve given back!

LT: Thank you, Lea.

By Lynn A. Trombetta