To honor Earth Day, this year I am sharing two poems to show the beautiful and devastating reality of being a human on this planet right now. Both of these poems are remixed excerpts from my book Varanasi Sage.
As the reclining sun made dense fog glow, I walked the path I had walked like a thread through my years. Memories returned a child, in these same feet, on this same path to the bus stop, imitating the red-winged black bird’s melody with her newly-developed whistle.
With my first steps, I realized my pocket computer remained on the nightstand. Breathing the mist that merged land and sky, I didn’t miss a step. I didn’t need it — that taker of presence — I knew this path by heart.
Along the creek, where we made movies with my father’s camcorder, and across the highway that never was this busy, I entered the forest. Owls lived in those trees, but now, only morning birds sang. Their notes brushed past the silver, camphor-scented leaves. Our mother accompanied them from a quarter mile away. Her watery voice now hushed; her soul now quiet.
A narrow trail of sand through sap spikes took me from the forest to the cliff’s edge. The sun, unable to break the clouds, allowed the sky to hug me beside the Pacific’s expanse. Water and heaven: indistinguishable at the horizon. Ferocity made soft.
Nothing between us, no dark window in my palm to disconnect my heart, nothing to take me away. In the salt air, I slowed to enjoy my solitary humanness and my awareness of each now.
My eyes embraced the world.
I stopped for a sparkle. With dew in diamond beads set symmetrically along each finger, a lupin leaf extended its palm to touch the day. Color called out and my eyes drifted to magenta muffin cup petals. Inside, on the yellow puff pillow, a bumble bee dozed.
I reached for my pocket to document the sight, immortalize the memory, grasp and clasp at this now. To share it with my friends and receive heart-eyed emojis — each one a chemical thrill. I shook my head at the addict within and her insistence to go back and fetch the screen.
Instead, with nothing between us, I sat and observed the bee’s bottom rise and fall as it napped in its flower bed. Royal palms stretched to me, asking me to stay beside the ocean, held, as mist strung glittering beads in my hair.
I carry him on my back uphill. A broken pelvis, healed without intervention, disabled his body long before he was mine. Cool green manzanita leaves and prickly pine needles shake off their snow like birds in a bath. Beside them, I march; enjoying each boulder, each seed-bearing cone, each sage brush adorning snow. I slouch under dull pain in my shoulders. I had thought for years to train for backpacking, but never enough to start — until this disabled body showed up wanting the adventure as much as I.
Behind gauzy clouds, the sun moves through a sky that morphs from bright to dark almost without warning. I check my watch. We’ve arrived at nowhere-in-particular and must return downhill. I relinquish my body from the backpack, careful not to tip him.
His feet, wrapped in miniature booties, make miniature crunches on the snow-turned-ice. Perfectly timed to my pattering heart, evermore delighted with each mini-crunch. His steps a staccato. My strides: the baseline. Sloshing where snow and earth made mud. In one bright streak — a comet’s trail — still water reflects the sun that warms our backs, both covered in fleece. He looks back at me, checking on me, flashing his wide, toothless smile.
When I wonder too long, his mystery past roots sadness in my heart to guess. The only certainty: a guardian angel plucked him from death row. And here we are now, his steps and mine, crunching ice in booties and boots. Living our destiny.
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.
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.
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!