Annapurna Woman: Michelle Gardella

Portrait of the Annapurna Woman is an ongoing series featuring divine women who embody the nurturing spirit of Annapurna Living. Today we are so honored to present wife, mother and world-renowned photographer, Michelle Gardella.
All photos copyright Michelle Gardella. Used with express permission.

All photos copyright Michelle Gardella. Used with express permission.

How do you start your day?

As a co-sleeping Mama, I begin my day with little toes squished in my face, or a small hand tangled in my hair. As we greet the morning together, there are lots of snuggles and giggles and I am always smelling their hair. There is something about my children’s bedhead, a mix of last night’s shampoo and wild dreams, that is so soothing and intoxicating to me. 

What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?

As long as I am granting myself the time for regular yoga, meditation, creative expression and nature connection, I am OK. I can breathe through the ebbs and flows of overwhelm and stress, which are inevitable as a successful working Mother. It is only when I forget my needs, and forget to nourish my own self, that I get off center. So, for me, it’s not so much how do I treat the discomfort, but how can I make the sacred space to prevent it. 

What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?

The river waters. Without question. When I am collarbone deep in the waters, photographing divine women, with my family playing on the shores, I am on my highest vibration. Art, creation, nature, family; when all of these come together, that’s just magic for me.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading two books: Waking the Tiger and Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions. While I do not label myself as a pagan, the latter has truly been liberating for my Mama heart.

What are you listening to right now?

I am basking in silence, every single second I can get. In this season of my life it is all about me and the birds and the waters running. The sound of my own pulse after a good hike. The breathing of my children while they sleep. My husband’s laughter…

What is your go-to simple recipe?

I make this every single day! It’s SO easy and it’s so great to have on hand for sandwiches, salads, quesadillas… 

  • 1 Trader Joes organic whole chicken

  • 1 bag organic carrots

  • 3 organic celery stalks

  • 2 organic yellow onions

  • Organic olive oil

  • Himalayan Salts

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Line the bottom of one large cast-iron pan with olive oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Place the whole chicken in the pan and cover that with oil and salt. Add the veggies all around the chicken and sprinkle some more apple cider vinegar over those with more oil as well. Cook on 425 until the chicken’s temperature is at 165-170. 

There are so many variations to try! If you are in the mood for something sweet, drizzle some honey over the top of the chicken. It will look burned when you take it out, but it will taste like a yummy treat! I also often add cinnamon over the top of everything, mostly because it makes the whole house smell divine. 

We use the roasted bones in our nightly bone broth, too! 

What are some simple things you do for self-care?

I grant myself moments of stillness, quiet and being totally alone. I love lavender soaps. I have not been out to eat in over 3 years and truly love feeding myself only organic, clean foods that nourish my body and soul. 

What does nourishment look like to you? 

When I close my eyes with “nourishment” in mind, I see a well-rested woman, who is glowing from the inside out. I see her hair so shiny and healthy from eating well, and her breasts a big saggy from feeding her children. I see sun kissed cheeks and eyes bright with possibility. I see warm foods on a table, prepared with love. 

How do you make space for play?

Living room dance parties, and cannon balls into the pool, and dressing up for silly photoshoots with my soul sisters (like the time we filled a tub up with milk!) 

What are some favorite mantras you cling to?

“You are safe, you are strong, you are brave,” is one I have been practicing lately. “You are loved,” is another one I need a lot. 

Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.

1. Grant yourself the space to unplug, be silent, and listen. Everything you need is waiting for you in the space of sacred solitude. Also, 2. love people right up close. Hug your soul sisters. Send them love notes. Let your children brush your hair or read you their favorite joke book. Being an awake, sensitive woman can feel terrible sometimes, but I have found by doing these two things without apology, I am able to keep my heart open, and my focus, true. 

About Michelle

Michelle Gardella is a photographer and writer living in Austin, TX with her little family and a camper in the driveway, always ready for their next adventure. While many know her as a photographer, she has been a professional writer behind the scenes for over a decade. Her lyrical and soul­-filled prose has graced some of the industry’s most beloved and prestigious pages and blogs. Michelle and her images and words have been featured in the Columnist for The Tribune Publishing Group, WellWed magazine, and Utterly Engaged magazine. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN, and Vh1 as well as blogs such as Grey Likes WeddingsOnce WedWedding ChicksEmmaline Bride100 Layer Cake and Green Wedding Shoes.

In 2013 she was selected as one of the Top 30 Rising Stars of Photography by Rangefinder magazine, and her book River Story is available by clicking here. Visit Michelle at