Auntie Rosemary is the person from my childhood who comes to mind when I tap into what it means to be nurtured, unconditionally loved, and accepted. Visits to Auntie Rosemary’s crowded kitchen – with its groaning, bursting-at-the-seams cupboards; packed from wall to wall with humanity; sweet biscuits and cups of tea covering the kitchen table – were one of the consistent highlights of my childhood. Children and grown-ups sat together and the grown-ups talked about the crops, the rain, the neighbors, the cousins. And I felt a part of something bigger and more embracing than I felt anywhere else. I felt at home, and I felt loved.
Auntie Rosemary said “Love” a lot. She used Love as a proper noun, a term of endearment, a name for everyone. “Love, do you want a biscuit?” “What did you do to your knee, Love?” “We’ll see you next week, Love.” I loved being her Love. She embodied acceptance and nurturing. And, many years later, that’s what I wanted other people to feel.
In 2018 I made a pilgrimage to Esalen Institute on the cliffs at Big Sur, California to join with 70 women from the WisdomWomen community. We met to share a common vision of co-creation, sisterhood, tapping into body wisdom, community and emergence. Here, on the edge of the continent, Rosemary’s Kitchen was born anew.
Conceived many months earlier as a Sensory Lounge, I envisioned offering a communal space of nurturing that delighted the senses. Drawing on occupational therapy concepts and practices of Sensory Modulation, I wanted to find out what would happen when I simply held space for women and girls to sit around an altar of sensory delights.
The space existed as a Sensory Lounge in my mind until I was invited to share with the facilitator group before the formal program began about my offering from a heart and body place (rather than an intellectual place). As I tuned into my heart and body, this is where I found Aunty Rosemary and her kitchen. Tears welled up in me as I realized I was creating a space for myself and for others that I wished I had had more of growing up. I was creating a community hearth. As I described this to the facilitator group, my Sensory Lounge concept turned to Aunty Rosemary’s Kitchen, then very soon thereafter, simply “Rosemary’s Kitchen.”
Rosemary’s Kitchen was set up in a sunny corner of the beautiful Huxley room in the main lodge at Esalen. For much of the weekend, as WisdomWomen sessions were held across the property, I hung out at Rosemary’s Kitchen. I sat as women and girls drifted in and out to sit on the huge comfy cushions, squeezing physio putty in their hands, drawing inspiration cards from a deck, sipping cacao elixir from tiny tea cups, drawing their finger across tiny wind chimes, coloring in mandalas, and smelling essential oils. I felt truly at home keeping the space. I wanted women and girls to visit and to feel nourished. Nothing could have made me happier.
Rosemary’s Kitchen became a hearth for the weekend, a central, consistent space for women and girls to come back to again and again – like anchoring awareness in the breath during meditation, coming home again and again.
I feel so grateful for the WisdomWomen community for inviting this experiment in held communal space at the Esalen gathering. I feel as if something new has been born in me – nurturing community doesn’t need to be hard work; it can simply mean being a space-holder. And I think I can do that.
Rosemary’s Kitchen is now packed lovingly into a suitcase I purchased just for the purpose. Have Sensory Lounge, will travel! I think we’ll be visiting the kitchen at Somatic Self-Compassion events in the future. I look forward to pouring you a cup of cacao elixir there!
How are you holding space in your community and in your home? Where is your Sensory Lounge, your Rosemary’s Kitchen? Where do you go to feel nurtured and rejuvenated? I invite you to acknowledge, savor and enjoy that space and, if you feel you don’t have one, create one. Feel free to email me for ideas about how to set up your Sensory Lounge (firstname.lastname@example.org). Let’s create spaces for ourselves, our families and our communities. Let’s nurture our senses as acts of self-compassion and sit together as acts of connection and healing. Let’s slow down and remember who we are.
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