Some Thoughts from Ann Holtz -

Do you have a special place where you go to find the quiet that your soul needs? My place is the Thomas Merton Hermitage on the back side of the Valle Crucis Conference Center property near Banner Elk, NC. Since 2009, I have made an annual pilgrimage to this sacred space for solitude and renewal. Months ago, when I booked the hermitage for a week of “social isolation” I had no idea what chaos I would be stepping away from. Monday afternoon, when I first stepped on the porch to unload my provisions, I could feel my anxiety lift.
"My" hermitage
Provisions for the week
There are moments that I feel guilty about being in my safe little cocoon in the mountains. The folks I have been working with on food insecurity issues are madly getting food and sanitary items to shut-ins and at-risk families with small children. They are amazing "neighbors helping neighbors" with big hearts and incredible stamina. I am experiencing an internal tug of war – I “should” be there – no, I will be better able to help next week because I have been here this week.

So instead of fretting (well, I am still fretting a bit – I can’t help it), I am resting, reading, journaling, checking in on friends, forest bathing in these beautiful still winter woods, and eating simply . I am connecting to the source of my being in the silence of the hermitage, in the rocks and moss and trees, and in the healing sound of the waterfalls. This is critical soul work. This is building strength for the year ahead as I prepare to help my neighbors face the challenges of Covid-19, organize for (and endure) the 2020 election, and support Fran and Diana as they fight Fran’s cancer.
Sometimes all I can do is follow the path
Climbing on gnarly roots
My reward at the end of the trail
I hope and pray ... that you have a way to experience sanctuary in these crazy times.
I hope and pray ... that you can find ways to feed your soul and to gain the strength that you need for the coming months. 
I hope and pray ... that you have access to the food and supplies you need to be comfortable and that you are safe.
And, I hope and I pray ... that in the midst of all of this that you can find a way to ease the burden that someone else is carrying.
An Update on Fran McKendree -

Fran is scheduled to begin chemo this coming Monday, March 23 rd . He and Diana are in good spirits and are very optimistic about his treatment plan. Visits are obviously discouraged but well wishes are greatly appreciated. You can email Fran at and Diana at
AwakeningSoul News -

Fran and I both agree that this is not the time to do a hard sell for AwakeningSoul 2020. With that said, we want you to know that all plans for this year’s gathering are moving forward and we can’t wait to be together with our AwakeningSoul community.

We are so excited about our new banner artist. We have sent her the 2020 banner words and have been thrilled with the concept drawings that she has shared with us. Yesterday, my friend, Lynn Schmissrauter, and I ventured down the mountain to a meeting space at the Valle Crucis Conference Center to sew the banners. Next week, I will ship the banners off. Artist, words, banners – check – we are always focusing on what is next. 

We'd love to have you join us for ...

AwakeningSoul 2020
November 5-8
Lutheridge Conference Center
AwakeningSoul Is the collaborative partnership of Fran McKendree and Ann Holtz. Fran is a gifted musician based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Ann is both a spiritual director and an independent consultant. She lives in Waynesville, NC. Together they have formed AwakeningSoul to offer spiritual events to feed hungry souls. Ann can be reached at or 865-414-8509 .