Category Archives: press coverage

Closure On A Missing Hiker’s Journey, Healing Through Art


Into the Light, Elise Okrend, pastel, 24×20

Closure On A Missing Hiker’s Journey, Healing Through Art

Sometimes there is a divine intervention that leads us to find what we need in that moment. Here is a story about how Elise’s art and the book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth brought a sense of healing and peace to one family that recently gathered in Asheville to grieve and celebrate the life of  a woman, Geraldine Largay.  Geraldine had been missing for over 2 years after embarking on a hike along the Appalachian Trail.  She was feared dead, and after  extensive searches, her body was finally located along with her journal in the Maine woods in October, 2015.

In mid May 2016, Geraldine’s sister and close friends gathered in Asheville to remember and celebrate her life.  Just before leaving to return home, they stopped into the River Arts District and visited the Wedge Building. They came into Elise’s studio, and the sister was immediately struck by one of Elise’s giclee prints, “Into the Light”.  The art reminded her of her sister’s journey and she immediately felt a connection to her sister through the art.  While Elise was speaking with the sister, her friends were looking and reading passages from the book, Messages to the Heart.  The book and its healing passages spoke to them.  One friend purchased books for each of their group to take home. Geraldine’s sister purchased the “Into The Light” print. Geraldine’s sister told Elise that she was now part of this story and that her art brought peace and closure to this emotional journey.

Geraldine’s Story In National Media

A few days after Geraldine’s sister and freinds unexpectedly came into Elise’s studio, articles appeared in the New York Times, CNN and other National Media about Geraldine’s journey on the Appalchian Trail.

AUGUSTA, Me. — She was afraid of being alone and prone to anxiety, a diminutive 66-year-old woman with a poor sense of direction, hiking the Appalachian Trail by herself, who wandered into terrain so wild, it is used for military training. She waited nearly a month in the Maine woods for help that never came.

Geraldine A. Largay chronicled her journey in a black-covered notebook that summer of 2013, and she kept writing after she lost her way, even as her food supply dwindled along with her hopes of being found. Her last entry reflected a strikingly graceful acceptance of what was coming.  Read The Full Article.

What is striking also is that Geraldine’s last journal entry was August 18, 2013. August 18th is Phil’s birthday.  A coincidence? a sign?  What we are taking from this is that there truly is a divine light that shines, that heals, that comforts. We are humbled and grateful that this art, that these words are serving a higher purpose to help others.

Elise and Phil Okrend,
May 27, 2016

Living Well Radio Show Interview

Living Well Radio Show 

Messages to the Heart

We really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about Messages to the Heart during a November 2014 radio interview with Dr.Bob Hanna on Asheville Free Radio.  Dr. Bob asked some very insightful questions about how we came to our individual paths in life, Elise as an artist and me as a writer and life coach.  We also discussed how as a couple we evolved to living from what creatively inspired us, from building a greeting card company to writing the book, Messages to the Heart.  We read passages from our book, talked about art, philosophy and how we see our mission as helping and inspiring others to connect to the inherent truth and beauty in their own lives. We hope you enjoy this one-hour podcast.

Phil & Elise Okrend

Listen Here!

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A Tool For Healing And Growth, Review In Choice Magazine

A Tool For Healing and Growth

It was our intention for Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth to be not only designed as a beautiful art book, but as a tool readers could use to pull themselves through life challenges and find inspiration. We are grateful that the product reviewer for Choice, The Magazine of Professional Coaching agrees, and has recommended Messages to the Heart as a tool for healing and growth to be used by life coaches and readers alike.

Here is an excerpt from the Choice review written by Marcy Nelson-Garrison, MA, LP, CPCC

Shift Your Internal State

Inspiration is like breathing, we all need it… I love Messages to the Heart… there is grace, softness, and a sacred invitation to pause, reflect and open to a new perspective to shift your internal state… a beautiful reminder on your coffee table…

Inspiration for Journaling

Messages to the Heart can be an inspiration for journaling, used as part of a daily meditation practice or as a simple and beautiful reminder on your coffee table to pause, to open up and to breathe in a moment of inspiration.

A special thanks to Marcy and Choice Magazine. 

Elise and Phil Okrend


In The Spirit – Interview with Elise and Phil Okrend

1621828_417492958380867_1989983975_nThis interview with us was featured in the In The Spirit column of the Asheville Mountain Xpress on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. By Jordan Foltz.

WHAT: Messages to the Heart: Reflections of Beauty and Truth reading, book signing and art show with authors Phil and Elise Okrend.

WHEN/WHERE: Book reading and signing at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café, Sunday Feb. 9, 3-5 p.m. Art display at Hotel Indigo, Wednesday Feb. 12, 5-7 p.m.

WHY: Compiled by Asheville couple Phil and Elise Okrend, Messages to the Heart combines Elise’s pastel paintings with Phil’s poetic passages inspired by his years as a life coach. The Okrends spoke with Xpress about the book’s creation:

Mountain Xpress: What have you found that this book is able to convey through the combination of prose and imagery that your individual works were unable to carry on their own?

Elise: When my art is paired with Phil’s passages, we are asking the reader to go deeper. We allow them to have a feeling about the art, but we ask them to reflect about a part of themselves through the passage. How does it make them feel? How can they allow themselves to have a different perspective? How are they inspired? We consciously tried to match the passages to the paintings by sensing what feeling or emotion the art was calling forth.

Phil: If you think about a memorable song, the lyrics and the melody may stand on their own as an artistic piece of work, but it is the joining of those media that creates something lasting with more impact to the listener. … Together, the art and words carry more impact than if just left by themselves. I also love the idea of having my words not just as a book to read, but as an object of design and beauty that can be a part of someone’s home.

For more information, go to Messages to the Heart.


Sharing Our Story Behind Messages to the Heart


Here’s a great story, just released in the Asheville Citizen-Times about the creation of Messages to the Heart.  The book is an organic pairing of our different forms of creative self expression through art and words, and our desire to inspire and help others find their own authentic path.  We are so excited to have the opportunity to share our story and read from the book at two upcoming events in Asheville during Valentine’s Day Week.

Messages to the Heart events

•  Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe, 55 Haywood St., downtown Asheville, 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9th, for an author reading and book signing.
• Hotel Indigo, 151 Haywood St., downtown Asheville, will host a Valentine’s Day themed reception, book signing and art display with music, 5-7 p.m. Feb. 12.


Elise and Phil Okrend