An Open Love Letter to Julia Fehrenbacher

coming home, painting by Julia

I have struggled to begin and write this post, kind and gentle reader. There is so much I want to tell you about Julia–blogger, poet, painter, author, friend–and I simply didn’t know where to start.

Do I focus on telling you about her new book of poetry, On the Other Side of Fear, urge you to go buy a copy immediately because it’s just that gorgeous, that moving?

Or do I tell you about her blog, Painted Path, and recommend that you go read it, discover for yourself how it can open you up, remind you of your possibility and worth, crack you open and comfort you all at once?

Or do I insist that you check out her paintings at her Etsy store, see for yourself the gentle and vibrant colors, the message of her visual work?

Or do I tell you how wonderful it was to finally meet her in person last week? That she glows, radiates warmth and kindness?

Instead of deciding, choosing one thing, I will concede failure, surrender to the impossibility and simply tell you about her in a way that might somehow begin to explain it, the wonder and gratitude, some measure of how amazing she is, how important her work, the kindness, the wisdom, the power.

*deep breath*

be you, painting by Julia

I tried to remember how I first found Julia’s blog, but I can’t. It’s somehow connected to Judy Clement Wall’s work on her blog, A Human Thing, maybe starting with their collaborative project, 41 6-word Days. Whatever it was, however it happened, I fell in love immediately. What I adore about Julia’s blog is what I love so much about her new book, her art, her self. Julia (and the book, her blog, her art) is creative, wise, generous, authentic, warm, curious, brave, and kind.

Creation is one of Julia’s superpowers. It infuses all of her work, her art, her life, her interactions with others, in a way that inspires any creative who encounters it.

Julia’s wisdom permeates all of the writing she does, including her book. She knows what it means to get stuck, to be afraid, to suffer, but she also knows the way out, and gladly offers up that understanding, that magic to anyone who finds themselves lost or frozen

Julia’s generosity is not only time, material, or wisdom. She is openly fearless (feeling the fear but showing up anyway), helping others feel comfortable in their own skins and confident in their own worth.

Julia is authentic. She doesn’t hide behind a mask, a safe or acceptable version of a self, but rather shows up with her whole heart open, meeting you right where you are, just as she is.

Julia is warm. Being in her physical presence made this so clear. Standing near her, the sound of her voice, the glow of her skin, the way she would reach out from time to time and touch my arm, made it impossible not to soften, to surrender.

Julia is brave. Don’t misunderstand, she knows fear. But through love and gentleness, wisdom and a particular kind of power, she’s moved forward, heart open.

One thing that Julia said while we walked on the beach that I can’t stop thinking about is how you can trace the origin of every fear, distill each one down to a fear of “what they will think of me.” There are specifics underneath that which are more complicated, individual and contextual outcomes, like “if I say that, she’ll think I’m weird and not like my anymore, won’t be my friend, which will lead to me being alone and lonely,” but can always be summed up by I’m afraid of what they’ll think. This oftentimes makes us not only uncomfortable or judgmental, but keeps us from acting, from being our true self. I keep trying to stump this wisdom, disprove it, but I haven’t been able to, and can’t stop thinking about it.

Julia is curious. She wants to know, wants to understand, wants to hear your story, to know who you are and what’s in your heart, to connect.

Julia is kindness embodied and manifested. While you might not be lucky enough to ever meet her in person, to be directly in the light of her full self, her complete presence, you can read her blog, listen to her Soul Talks, gaze at her paintings and read her book. You are so lucky, we all are, that SHE showed up.

Julia wrote, crafted, and published her book, lines straight from her gut, artwork magic and present, the whole thing vulnerable and shivery, raw and honest, and she offers it with love. The book’s pages open and spread like wings, Julia’s open mind and open heart inviting the reader to take flight, to move beyond fear and live the life previously only dreamed. My most favorite poem is this:


If only we could be as brave
as that tall growing oak
rooted deeply to the warm earth
It reaches its naked branches
up to the sun
and drops its leaves
one by one
never once stopping
to cling or hold on
or question
or long

Just a tree
being a tree
being a tree

I think, just like Julia herself, this book is sweet and small, but don’t be fooled–there is great power lurking there. I have returned to this book again and again, rereading my favorite lines and discovering something new, and at other moments, I find that specific lines pop into my head, reminding me gently of some deep, important truth.

More about On the Other Side of Fear:

4 thoughts on “An Open Love Letter to Julia Fehrenbacher

  1. Julia Fehrenbacher

    I am so deeply, deeply humbled, Jill. There really aren’t words that can express my gratitude. You’ve given me such a gift today, the gift of seeing myself in your gorgeous light. I will wrap these words around me like a blanket, to come back to again and again.

    From every part of me, thank you.

  2. j

    This: “Julia is authentic. She doesn’t hide behind a mask, a safe or acceptable version of a self, but rather shows up with her whole heart open, meeting you right where you are, just as she is.”

    That’s my absolute favorite thing about Julia. Well said (my equally warm and generous friend), and a beautiful post.


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