A familiar face, long and narrow, levitates in the corner between tiles. Thin legs and arms drawn close, protective of her slender body. I’ve seen her here for weeks now, shielded her from downpour, and guided her to safety.
I bend to pump soap into my wet, warm hand. With my face nearer hers, I say, “hello, dear,” because she’s waving her arm at me. I reach my index finger to her and she stops waving to reach back to me. For a moment, she and I are like God and man on Michelangelo’s ceiling.
The next day, I look but cannot find the familiar face.
After months of recording and fine-tuning the words, the Varanasi Sage audiobook is now available on Audible! Varanasi Sage is a series of vignettes that describe the deep connection we can feel with nature and celebrates the ordinary miracles of everyday life. Click here to check it out!
“Walk through nature’s bounty in lyrical, nonfiction prose. Each sensory, rich, hypnotic step illuminates time and place, navigating nature’s creation in contrast to man’s destruction. Written in a series of vignettes, Varanasi Sage honors our sacred existence and ancestral communications through the unseen power that connects all. Varanasi Sage explores life, death, and the ordinary miracles manifesting on earth. Journey the depths of self-discovery to find the truest self, connected and whole.”
Soon, it’ll also be on iTunes!
If you want a quick sample, click play on the icon below to hear one of my favorite chapters, A Call to Vision.
North out of Yellowstone, a two-lane road snaked along the hillside and next to a dark blue-green river, white ripples cascading from rocks. Around a bend, traffic slowed to a stop and go. I pressed and released the break with patience born from heart full of bison, caribou, and mineral pools.
Onto a straightaway, we saw a bull elk down river, and knew the traffic jam was for him.
As we neared, we found a crowd of people only tamed by the limited parking area. We got lucky. A car put on its reverse lights as we approached. And just like the others, we left our car with camera in hand to admire and immortalize the stag in our memory.
As we focused on the bull, a man excitedly approached us to point and say, “this is the most incredible thing. There’s a mom over there and baby in the grass!”
The mother relaxed close to the river, her golden back to the crowd, wanting to enjoy the view, but her ears turned back, knowing humans could not be trusted. We walked a few steps further to find the baby behind tall grass. It stood facing us, its innocent eyes on us. Nervous, yet unafraid, knowing its father stood behind in the river, his robust, spearlike antlers facing the crowd. Ready if necessary, keeping an eye toward us as he lowered his mouth to drink.
Listening to the river and tuning out the crowd’s chatter, I remembered the last time — the first time — I found myself in the presence of elk. At an empty campsite on a rocky creek in Oregon, in the cool morning just after dawn, I walked through the mist. Moisture hung low to the earth to make the lush ferns mysterious and magical. I had left my camera in the tent, having taken many pictures the day before. I wanted to lose myself on the winding trail that followed along the creek, beneath trees adorned with moss. As I bathed in the forest, I saw a family of elk drinking. Two cows, a bull, and a few calfs. I stopped, obscuring myself behind a tree, in awe of their elusive nobility. After a few breaths, I stepped around the tree and towards the creek to get closer. They each stopped drinking to watch me. Having their peace disturbed, they backed away into the forest and mist.
We returned to the road leaving Yellowstone after taking our pictures and enjoying the elk. We drove to a campsite nestled between hills. We walked beside a meadow while the sky turned pink and purple, passing deer who leaped as we neared.
The next morning, we woke early, broke camp and continued north to Glacier. A haze had settled in over night. North of Bozeman, forcing us to abandon our plans, the air grew thick and brown.
Smoke from Oregon. Forests burning. Flames intensified by human-created climate change, taking the moss, ferns, trees, insects, and wildlife — the elk.
Under the smoke, my heart burned along with my relations, children of the earth and sky.
Dark, yet hopeful, this piece explores a personal experience during this crisis as I navigate the new reality and try to understand the modern human condition. A departure from my usual focus on Nature’s beauty, this piece recognizes and investigates the shadow as a path to integration and healing. Click the play button to read along with me:
A Holy Instinct
In my studio apartment, I’m a hoarder purchasing yet another screen to chatter alongside the others in dissonant syncopation. They drown the sound of birds singing and dancing outside with news, privileged complaining, propaganda, memes, conspiracies, and — sometimes — photos of Nature or pets or kids. I scroll and scroll and scroll and place them on top of the microwave that runs without stopping its buzzing waves, on top of the other boxes full of half-read articles. Another hairdryer, another blender, another set of lights wrapped in plastic. Photos of mass-graves and refrigerator truck morgues and the unprotected people living in Mumbai slums and. Stack it with the others. Wires and cables dangle, arranging themselves into unkempt braids covering the hardwood floor, connecting and connecting, rows of nobs and buttons and circuit boards and. Push them against the walls, pile them on the furniture. Block the windows, block the trees, block the sun. Stack and stack from floor to ceiling until there are only slim pathways through boxes and bags and bins.
Just one more thing— just a petty thing — I crammed it into my studio apartment. And without warning, I turn the nobs on the stove, and let it seep. Racing through drawers, flinging rubber bands, nails, twist ties, plastic baggies, my fingers find the slim cardboard box and open it with joy at the sight of sticks with red heads. In one spark, fury burns the space too small for all it holds.
I would have burned myself with it, but somehow I escape. A holy instinct.
I gasp for breath, inhaling the putrid stench of my own burned hair.
Three weeks since I last turned on my car, and it greets me by saying it can’t go on without a fix. Armed with a disinfectant wipe and bank card, afraid of other hands, I encase my index finger to enter my pin. I swear I’m not a germ-freak. Or, at least, I wasn’t a month ago. But now I have people to protect. Even though I can barely breathe. I drape the wipe around the handle, lifting the nozzle into my car to fill it with dark, processed blood sucked from the Earth. As much as I love my Mother, I’m forced to tap Her veins.
My car speeds north onto the concrete slabs divided by a wildlife-catcher. When they get there, in a panic, they try to run back. And maybe they make it, but we see their bodies destroyed — disfigured, ripped apart by humans wielding rubber and steel. Their flesh and blood won’t continue as life in another. It sits on top of the concrete to decay, unless it’s picked up like trash because it’s large enough to be a hazard.
Off the freeway, I drive past rows of vines still naked. The ground beneath them covered in grass.
As the road curves between oaks, under their wild branches, I unroll my window just an inch. Fresh air brushes the top of my head the way my mom used to stroke my hair. Turning west, my airways unclog. I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with green stretching, cascading peaks. Jet black heifers lazily dot the hills. Oak forests in the north, gorges carved below undulations. To the south, a golden crescent — miles long — met with white foam waves and the deep blue mystery. The east in my rearview mirror. And to the west, the winding road.
After several months of false starts while I figured out how to record the Varanasi Sage audiobook, I finally have it down! Here’s a track of “Awakening Depths,” an excerpt from the collection. You may want to listen with eyes closed, but I’ve included the text if you’d like to read along. Let me know what you think of this recording in the comments! Stay tuned for more audio tracks, and the audiobook release!
Faithful observers, large and wise; monoliths standing emphatically. Jutting from the earth, rising balconies and towers, watching, witnessing. Boulders looming, rocks piled, guardians of the cave. Trees flourish in crevices with cool mineral moisture. The trail, meek, between giants. My body even smaller.
A large metal gate at the entrance. “Flashlights Required.” I pull out my headlamp. I crouch and squeeze between rock bodies, layered and etched with the Sculptor’s tools; rigid, yet crumbling. Gentle giants summoned by the earth’s heart, set into place. Darkening. Light cuts through holes, cracks between boulders, lighting the way over bridges and up stairs. Bold and industrial gifts from the New Deal.
Further inside, my lamp finds little white arrows painted, marking the trail. I follow and follow, deeper and deeper.
The cool, dark quietude penetrates my being. The awe of sacred knowing. Completely held within the earth’s body—her smooth touch embraces me like a wounded bird in caring hands. With only my breath and the rock, I sit and turn off my headlamp. Surrounded, supported, my body soft and humble, yet unafraid to share space with titans arranged into impossible shapes, moved like pebbles. Spirits born from the Nature’s depths.
To sit amongst them, entities unfathomable, a guest in their great hall. Without sight and sound, I dissolve into the rock, the air, the empty space. And she comes to me, the truest part of me, the same as her living heart. The outside world lost to her embrace. My heart turns over to hers and the feeling of oneness, endlessly present in time.
My debut collection, Varanasi Sage, is now available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon!
I am overjoyed to share this work with you! Years in the making, I put my heart onto the pages of this collection. I hope my heart touches yours as you read my words. I would love nothing more than for you to check it out. CLICK HERE!
Here are a few reviews I’ve gotten so far:
If you’d like to read a few sample chapters from Varanasi Sage, click these links!
During the process of writing, revising, and releasing this work, I encountered so much self-doubt and fear. Pushing through these emotions has been incredibly rewarding, and it still amazes me that I have a physical manifestation of my inner work. I hope you will join me in celebrating this milestone!