Bear River

(This piece, originally posted in 2017, won First Place for Expository Writing in the 2018 Nevada County Fair.)

I drive Dog Bar Road along narrow twists and turns. I pass green, rolling hills; Victorian farm houses with blossoming trees and horses; abandoned barns that are hauntingly romantic; and ponds that are full from Springtime rainstorms.

In the distance, a group of female turkeys step out of the lush greenery and onto the road. I slow to a stop and see a male, with large plumage, chase after them. He passes behind daffodils and out of sight.

At the Bear River crossing, I pull over. With my hands on the overpass railing, I watch the water. This is the last remaining stretch of free flowing water between two dams on the Bear River. It’s hard to believe this fast-flowing section may soon become a reservoir if Nevada Irrigation District builds its proposed “Centennial Dam.”

At the end of Dog Bar, I turn left for the Bear River Campground. People gather along the river panning for gold. I see young children, teens, parents, and older folks. The stormy winter unearthed far more gold than we saw during the drought, I’m told.

I walk the entire length of Bear River Campground, listening to the river’s soothing music. When I come to a patch of Miner’s Lettuce, I sit down and eat a few leaves. The river lulls my senses as it spills over rocks and laps against the shore. Native bees add their notes to the song, pausing when they alight on wildflower petals. The wind brushes against the river and caresses my face; it feels fresh, as if it has never been sullied by man’s emissions. I place both my hands to the ground. My heart fills with dread knowing this land may be entirely underwater if the dam is built.

 

When I reach the trailhead, I see a man collecting data next to a county truck.

“Mornin,” he says.

“Howdy,” I reply.

“You picked a good time to visit the campgrounds.”

“Because it’s empty?”

“That’s right. You been here in summer?”

“No, I just moved here recently. Is it mad in summer?”

“Oh yes, lots of people camp here. It’s only $10 a night.”

“That’s the best deal in California!”

He laughs, “Aside from the free spots, I wouldn’t doubt it. Where’d you live before you moved here?”

“My last home was in San Luis Obispo.”

“Ah. I went to the Cachuma Dam a few years ago,” he says.

 

Most people call it the Chacuma Lake. In his face and see the monstrous cement wall and dead zones lining the perimeter of the reservoir, the hallmarks of a dam. “It’d be a shame to see that here,” I say.

“I’d hate to see that here,” he looks down at his spreadsheet.

“I’ll leave you to your work,” I say. “Have a good one.”

“You, too. Enjoy your walk.”

The trail follows the river at the base of a steep incline covered with ferns and wildflowers. Deer trails split off and lead to secluded nooks at the river’s edge. As a child, I would have played pretend games in these nooks, imagining a time before modernity. I wonder if these locations are where the Nisenan tribespeople continue their ceremonies with reverence to ancient traditions; the Nisenan people who were stripped of their land and hunted like animals during the gold rush.

I pass beneath a flowering tree, petals flutter to the ground — a gesture of love. Cottonwoods sprout bright green foliage on every branch.

Finding a large rock at the water’s edge, I listen to the river’s song and commune with the beauty around me. Soon, when the Spring rains subside, the river will return to a brilliant blue, and all the trees will be green again, their leaves will flutter in the wind like tiny fans; the banks will recede below the tree line, and people will enter the river on kayaks and rafts finding refuge from their busy lives.

 

I sit and think about the Nevada Irrigation District. They say the dam is a solution to climate change-driven water shortages, but don’t they know water evaporates rapidly off the top of a reservoir? Don’t they see that their other two dams on this river are never at full capacity?

I think about our Congressional Representative Doug LaMalfa. Nevada Irrigation District has requested he sell them our public land, the land I sit upon, so they can build their dam and take our water. In the past years, he has voted to pull back the EPA clean power plan, lift the moratorium on federal land coal leases, and roll back environmental regulations. I ask him regularly to share his stance on selling our land, the land I sit upon, but I have not heard back from him.

I place my hand into the cold river, the snowmelt from the Sierras. It brushes through my fingers and against my palm. I savor the moment, knowing I may not have this opportunity next year.

 

Art and the Artist

Earlier this week, while in Nevada City, I decided to visit my friends in a recording studio while they were working on an album. Located just outside of town on a large wooded property, I breathed in the mountain air as gravel crunched under my feet and I smiled to the manzanita trees. As I walked towards the studio, I noticed I felt buoyantly happy and I was eager to see my friends. I held a bag of madeleine cookies I brought to share with them. 

The moment I stepped through the door, I felt a drastic shift in energy from the healing abundance of nature just outside.

The leader of the project, a singer-songwriter, sat on a stool near the monitors and microphones. Her eyes, usually sparkling and vibrant, drooped with sadness. She greeted me with a small, meek smile and a lifeless hug. She was not herself.

My two other friends seemed equally drained. Deep, dark circles around the producer’s eyes made him look ill; the other musician’s demeanor, though friendly, had an edge of frustration. Everyone smiled with me, but they lacked joy and enthusiasm. A faint flash of happiness crossed their faces when I showed them the cookies. They thanked me for the madeleines and played me a track.

I listened attentively, silently noting my reactions and responses. As soon as it finished they began making excuses. “It’s not complete,” they said. “It’s a different style than any other song on the album.”

To my ears, the song lacked the depth and emotion that I was accustomed to hearing from each musician individually. I paused to find delicate words before I spoke. Not only could I sense their frayed emotions, in this early stage of development, I did not want to destroy the makings of what could become an incredible song with harsh criticism. “I love the vocals and the lyrics. I love the way you’re creating a round towards the end. It’s beautiful. As your listener, I think I’m expecting some lower tones; it seems like it’s mostly in a higher range. Lower sounds might create balance.”

They all began pitching ideas of what they could add or make louder to create deeper tones. It seemed I had only pointed to what they already knew.

I felt it had to be a quick visit. “I’ll let you folks get back to work,” I said. “I have a lot of writing I’d like to get done today as well.”

They thanked me for stopping by and each of them gave me a quick hug.

Leaving their space, driving back to my aunt and uncle’s property, I couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling. I expected to find my friends excited and having fun. I thought they would be riding the high of creative expression and collaboration. Instead of leaving feeling inspired by them, I couldn’t stop thinking of the producer’s puffy eyes; the sad look on the singer’s face; and the low, heavy energy of the musician. Ultimately, I was sad and upset to see my friends struggling. How could they produce their highest work in that state? I had heard they were working 12-14 hour days, but I did not realize they were pushing way beyond their limits, not taking care of themselves as artists, and becoming artistically malnourished. Seeing them — and more importantly — feeling them completely depleted shocked me. I had to work against taking their moods personally. I wondered if giving them constructive criticism was out-of-line. They said they appreciated my feedback, but maybe the timing was wrong. I had an unpleasant feeling from the visit, I wondered if they felt that way about me, too. I reminded myself that I walked into that situation, I didn’t cause it. Even though I could talk myself off the ledge of insecurity, I still felt drained.

Having just read Julia Cameron’s concept of filling the artistic well, I wanted to do something for myself to refill my reserves before I sat down to write. I first took myself to a bead and craft store that interested me and I had passed many times, but never visited. While perusing, I found raw pieces of amethyst (my birthstone) and I bought myself a $5 chunk. I liked it because it reminded me to turn towards the rock within that is always available. I then took myself to a burger joint and got a chocolate milkshake because I rarely indulge in such a rich treat, but they’ve been a favorite of mine since childhood. I sat on the patio of the diner enjoying my shake, soaking in the late afternoon sun, and gazing at the amethyst’s brilliance. I reveled in the love and care I had shown myself — I was back to feeling buoyantly happy and I was ready to write! I took out my notebook and pen. Words on the importance of artistic care flowed onto the page; it felt effortless.

Closing my notebook, I knew what I had to do for my friends.

I arrived at the studio door with two large pizza boxes in my hands and opened the door. The songwriter, sitting on the couch across the room, touched her hand to her heart. I saw her eyes glisten with tears. I looked down at the musician sitting on the floor, his eyes watered, too. And immediately, I knew the feeling; I had been there. It’s that feeling when you’re running on empty and someone shows the smallest kindness and love — like a soft rain on parched ground, soothing the hardened surface, needed and appreciated.

They sat motionless.

“Hungry?” I asked.

“Wow, yes” the producer proclaimed.

“Let’s eat outside. It’s so stuffy in here.”

The three of them followed me into the open air. They began to brighten. Especially when they opened the pizza boxes and found gourmet toppings.

“We haven’t come outside and spent time as a group together,” the songwriter said, in between bites. “This is really nice. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“And thank you for stopping by this morning. You’re like an angel appearing at the doorway.”

“I appreciate you saying that. I wasn’t sure if I had imposed.”

“No, not at all,” the producer said.

“There’s something on my heart to express. It’s so strong that I can’t ignore it,” I said. “We have to view creativity and inspiration as a reservoir or a well. If we constantly drain the water, it will run dry. We need to consciously fill the reserves — we must practice self-care, nourish our souls and nurture ourselves. It’s just as important as showing up to create.”

“We have been going full-on,” the musician said.

The songwriter admitted, “that’s absolutely my tendency. I don’t take breaks. I look at recording as something just to get through and I want to get it done as quickly as I can.”

“Honestly,” I continued, “it’s clear that you’re not taking care of yourselves. You’re draining your creativity and not taking the time and effort to replenish. You have to feed yourselves emotionally, mentally and physically. You have to set aside time to clear your mind. Your music is healing and nourishing — it is soul food. And you have to consider the energy and intention you’re putting into it. Let me emphasize this truth: you create from within — you can only give what you have to give. Your work will not be healing and nourishing if you are inwardly drained and malnourished. You have to be in touch with your natural rhythm and balance. In order to produce your best work, in order for your creativity and inspiration flow, you have to nourish and care for your Self — that’s where our creativity originates.”

“Gosh,” said the songwriter. “What would artistic nourishment even look like for me?”

I paused and considered the gravity of her words. Then I said, “I’d be willing to bet that in asking and answering that question you will find invaluable keys for your journey.”

Nourishing My Inner Artist by the Yuba River

 

A Voice Cries out in the Wilderness

A few days ago, I wanted to hike somewhere I had never been before. I chose the Loch Leven Trail in the Tahoe National Forest because of the picturesque lakes, waterfalls, and railroad crossing I saw online. On the drive up I eagerly anticipated the new adventure.

As soon as I arrived, however, the unfamiliar terrain made me uneasy. Eventually, I found the trail marker — an old, weather-worn, small, wooden sign nailed to a tree. It was so inconspicuous, I was surprised I saw it.

Stepping onto the trail, it took me several minutes to orient myself. I walked along boulders, often intuitively choosing the direction; many times the trail split into deer paths. I felt a growing nervousness. It would be better to do this hike with a friend. I thought of going back. But no! My glamsient life is not about limitations! It’s about freedom and adventure! Instead of turning around, I built cairns to mark my route.

As I hiked, loneliness settled deeply into my heart. With a friend, building cairns would be fun, we would laugh when they fell and see who could build a better tower; we wouldn’t be scared because we would have each other. By myself, it was a response to real fear — getting lost in the wilderness, alone.

The loneliness grew: it wasn’t just this hike, it was a continuation of loneliness I experienced since I began my glamsient journey a year ago, as if it picked up where the previous lonely day had left off, compounded by the ones before that.

Keeping to my mindfulness practice, I stopped and encountered the loneliness. The pain diminished under the light of awareness, and once it did, I meditated on feelings of love — the eternal wellspring of love.

Despite my efforts, however, the loneliness kept returning. I knew following sadness into despair was not the way; it is a pattern in my past, and I am leaving that behind. But when would the loneliness stop, so I could just enjoy myself?

I may have been climbing a mountain, but I was climbing on the inside as well. I was fighting between who I have been and who I want to be. And every internal step began to feel more and more tired.

I kept going; trying to remain present; building cairns; listening to trickling streams caress the trail, sliding down rock faces that once housed glaciers; watching tiny waterfalls cascade over tree branches; hearing the small sound of a grey frog bellyflopping into a puddle when I startled him.

Turning a corner, I came upon a snow patch! I was elated to see snow this close to summer, but then I was overcome with loneliness because I didn’t have a friend with me to share my joy. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be happy just to see it by myself?

In all this pain and conflict, I had to sit on a rock to center myself. When I did, tears came to my eyes, and I let myself cry. I stayed present with my sadness; it was joined by doubt. In my glamsient life, wasn’t I walking a new and unfamiliar path? I had chosen to become a glamsient to fulfill a deep need to self-actualize artistically, and it had since grown into a journey of deeper consciousness and spirituality. But if I was so lonely on this new life path that I couldn’t enjoy the trail under my feet and the unfolding adventure, what was the point?

Suddenly, the path I had chosen a year ago didn’t make sense. Suddenly, even though it had seemed right at the time, I felt like I should have never left my easy, comfortable, former life. I had a nice home and a large group of good friends. I hadn’t been deeply satisfied, it lacked substance and felt restrictive, but at least I never felt like this! Why would I ever leave that easy life behind?

Certainly, the past year of glamsient living gave me moments of unparalleled joy and, although I have a lot of work to do, I have grown as an artist — producing more and better work than before. Taking the time to dive into my spirituality has created greater meaning and presence in my life. Moving towards greater consciousness has helped me become aware of and break habitual attachments and patterns. But couldn’t I have done all this, couldn’t I have made the same artistic and spiritual gains, and still kept my familiar home and nearby friends? Wasn’t this new path counterproductive if I felt so miserable and conflicted in this present moment?

I looked out past the trees to see billowing clouds above the snow-capped mountains articulated by jagged points and crags.

“Help me,” I said through my tears, a voice crying out in the wilderness. “Let me see the Truth.”

For no reason in particular, I turned to look behind me. There I saw a small pine tree with a curved trunk growing out of a rock! I laughed through my tears. I have long identified with trees growing out of rocks; my spirit seems to me like it springs from a hard and lifeless place and it is only through the sheer power and persistence of the Creator that my soul survives and thrives. I even have a tattoo on my leg of a tree with a bend in its trunk — just like the tree I saw before me.

As if I were given an immediate answer to my cry, the Creator spoke to me through the small, bent tree: “You are never alone. I am here, watching, listening. Feel me. Feel my Love. You belong on this path — this unfamiliar, new path. The struggle you feel is your spirit breaking the chains of illusion. Your suffering is an illusion created by your mind from false ideas and parameters of happiness. Have faith in this path; I illuminated it in Truth a year ago. I led you here. Trust your creativity; it is my gift to you; it will heal you. Trust your dreams; I gave them to you and I want them to manifest. Trust that as you follow your dreams, you step closer to Me and your own divinity.”

Hearing this message with the ears of my heart, I felt a sense of comfort and strength wash over me. Without leaving my former life, I would not have gotten to this very moment on this rock to encounter the Spirit that tore through my sadness with Truth. Without leaving my former life, I could not embark upon this new journey that is filled with inspiration, expansion, meaning, and authenticity. With renewed support, I closed my eyes and allowed the air to dry my tears. I saw myself scoop the dark and painful emotions from my heart and surrender them to the Divine. In the open space a love, whole and gentle, spread outward with a vibration so complete that it softened the edges of my being.
I stood up, and with faith in myself and my journey, continued hiking the unfamiliar path.

On my way down the mountain, I passed several cairns I had made. One even helped me when I couldn’t find the trail. When I saw the parking lot, it seemed I completed an incredible journey, not just a couple miles.

Getting into my car, a half-grown pup ran over to me, smiling and wagging it’s tail.

“Hey, buddy,” I said.

His owner, wearing all khaki including a floppy hat with the chin strap pulled tight, approached us. “Finishing up?” He asked.

“Yep.”

“How was the trail?”

“Beautiful. I love hiking. I would have preferred to hike with another person, but the time alone was –.”

“Enriching?”

“Eventually. I was pretty uneasy at first.”

“Understandable. You know, there’s a lot of hiking groups in this area. They go around and hike all the peaks together. You should check it out.”

“Thanks! That’s a great idea.”

“Have a good day,” he said.

“I will,” I replied, sure of my words, “you, too.”

A Bridge on the Loch Leven Trail; Tahoe National Forest

 

The Miracle of Wildflowers 

I struggle with writer’s block. It makes me uptight, irritable, cranky; I joke to my friends that on bad days I feel “artistically constipated.” Today I woke up feeling a strong block. Instead of wallowing in front of my computer, however, I unplugged and took a walk. 

Tall trees marked the entrance of the forest. Pines and Redwoods reached for the sky. I thought of their roots simultaneously pushing down and wondered what they looked like underground. For a moment, I stood still, breathing in and out, acknowledging the exchange between myself and the trees — I breathe their air; they breathe mine — we are one.

Walking into the forest, the sounds of birds filled the air around me as the rush of traffic faded into the distance — peace grew with every step I took. 

Or did it?

As I walked, I quickly caught myself tromping unconsciously; I was literally stomping on the living, breathing being we call Earth, seeing Nature without noticing any of it. Immediately, I stopped and connected to my breath.

“Breathing in, I know that I am walking the in forest.

Breathing out, I stop to watch Nature reveal Her mystery to me.”

For no reason in particular, I looked to my right. Above the bushes I saw a bee — a longtime talisman of mine signaling the Divine presence. In this moment, I felt Nature telling me to notice the flowers. 

I continued along the path, slowing down and listening with greater awareness to the singing birds while soaking in the warmth of the sun that cascaded to the ground between the trees. Only a few steps later, I happened upon a bush with small, bell-shaped, yellow flowers. Had I not caught my unconsciousness moments before, I would have missed them. As I walked on, I noticed more flowers; I saw yellow, blue, white and purple flowers; large clumps of flowers, teeny flowers all on their own. In each flower I could see the sun, the earth, the rain, the bees, generations of flowers, and all the cosmos; a miracle to behold, a miracle that I could see! A tiny white flower with six, triangular petals gave me pause; it looked like the sacred geometry symbolizing consciousness. This flower spoke to me. It said, “you are here, now; we are here together in this now.” I smiled to the tiny flower.

The forest proclaimed an abundance of  miracles and I was present to witness them!

My walk today epitomizes glamsient living: enjoying more with less. The glamsient life is driven by lived experiences, not acquiring possessions. And to live our experiences deeply, we must be present — with practice it is readily available. Noticing the beauty of wildflowers is free; cultivating mindfulness is free; seeing, understanding, and being one with the forest is exquisite.  

 

Wildflowers in the Forest
 
 

Ecstatic Dance with Ryan Herr

Moving the body while clearing the mind is a great way to touch and express emotions that ultimately block us when we get stuck in them. I’ve kept a yoga practice for years, and it has been integral in helping me gain flexibility in my body and mind.

And then I tried ecstatic dance.

Based on three principles (free movement, no talking, and respect for oneself and others), ecstatic dance sounded fun when a friend described it. She said the radical self-expression and silence takes the mind-body connection deep, and with more freedom than a yoga session, it facilitates a unique healing experience.

From the moment I signed in, I found the ecstatic dance community welcoming, friendly and inclusive: the perfect antidote for the disconnected feeling I had from constant travel. While I was waiting for the session to begin, however, I felt uncomfortable and awkward. Free movement. What did that mean for me? What did that mean for everyone else? Would they look at me and judge me? Luckily, the MC guided us to “think less, feel more.” We were encouraged to start with very small movements, if any — some people sat in meditation. Closing my eyes, I was able to tune into my body more and think less about what my body was doing, I simply did what felt good in the moment.

It wasn’t long into my first session before I stopped thinking altogether and let my body flow, connected to the music.

The freedom of making shapes and dancing like nobody is watching helped me let go, yet totally express myself. Sometimes, I feel a disconnect between my body and mind, but it doesn’t take an anatomy class to know they are one. And as I am able to let go in my body, I am also able to let go in my mind. I can tell where my body is congested without judging it and I think these spots are connected to my emotions. I move through them. I move into them. Feeling deeply and fully expressing these feelings is liberating. It allows me to integrate emotions.

The best ecstatic dance sessions (in my opinion) incorporate live music in the DJ set, and just recently, I was in San Luis Obispo, California and dropped into a session with multi-instrumentalist DJ Ryan Herr.

Having played ecstatic dances for over ten years, Ryan has find-tuned his set to include a variety of tempos and styles while covering an array of world music, electronic beats, live improvisation, and original tracks. At times, Ryan layers live instruments on top of recorded music and, at other times, he completely brakes away from the computer and creates music on the spot. Ryan chooses from various instruments including a mandolin, guitar, and electronic hand drum.

When I asked him about this technique, he said he uses the pre-organized tracks to “blend and flow into something live…and unplanned.” Oftentimes, these improvisational moments allow Ryan to feel that he and the dancers have “arrived.”

“What does that mean to you?” I asked.

Ryan explained: “I’m attempting to have an interaction or conversation [with the dancers]…if you go back to indigenous cultures there was no separation between drummer and dancer. They were the same thing. One couldn’t happen without the other. I’ve always tried to keep that relationship, at least with dance music. That’s part of the reason I do something completely spontaneous because that is dropping into a direct connection that is only happening here.”

And, truly, our shared experience with ecstatic dance proves the unity between drummer and dancer. Like the dancers, Ryan is able to feel into the music and he has the freedom of I constrained expression to access the healing aspects of music to help him move through emotions.

Ryan noted that because ecstatic dance moves away from performance and convention, it allows both dancer and musician to experiment more. The lack of expectations of ecstatic dance has helped Ryan “develop as a musician. People come to be in a movement space. It’s less of all the eyes are on you as when you’re on stage, it’s more free-flowing. And that energy makes me feel like I can go off the beaten path; there I’ll stumble across awesome things and I’m able to save that on my pedal for later and I can turn that into a produced song.”

Likewise, I take the space and clarity I gain through the course of a session into my daily life.

Everything about ecstatic dance sessions combines to form a unique resource for dancers and musicians alike. It allows us to express ourselves without constraint or judgement, which leads to emotional circulation and new pathways of creation. We unwind and relax, we let go; we create space, and in the space we find freedom.

The track below showcases Ryan’s live instrumentation on top of an electronic song. For more of Ryan’s music, visit his website ryanherrmusic.com.

Ecstatic dance is worldwide! To find a venue near you, visit the Ecstatic Dance website.

http://soundcloud.com/eye-ry/ayla-nereo-eastern-sun-ryan

Multi-instrumentalist Ryan Herr; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com
Multi-instrumentalist Ryan Herr; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com

Of Feathers and Festivals: Lucidity 2016

When a friend encouraged me to explore the manifestation process, I quickly learned the basic premise is that we can attract our desires by entering into a meditative state and then picturing and feeling that our desire has manifested in our life. 

I heard a potent piece of advice: to build confidence in the process, manifest things that have very little consequence. In other words, you want it, but you don’t have any emotional attachments to getting it.

Following this advice, one of the first things I wanted was to find a large feather on one of my nature walks. I meditated everyday and often brought the feather to my mind; I pictured it as a large, striped feather resting on the side of the path, easy for me to see and reach — as if it were waiting for me. I would meditate and feel the happiness this feather would evoke when it appeared.

About a month later, while walking a familiar path, I found a large, striped owl feather! It was resting right side up, just off of the path, as if it was waiting for me. I literally jumped for joy. I never could have predicted the total and complete happiness I felt when I found this feather. At that moment, the feather represented a universe in dialogue with me; that my spirit and the Spirit of Creation were co-creating. In that moment, Creation told me we were in this life together!

I have found countless feathers since then, some large and some small, but all a communication from Spirit, reminding me of It’s Presence and willingness to co-create. 

Last weekend, I went to Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara, California. I love transformational festivals and Lucidity is one of my favorites because it is a small, homegrown festival and many of my friends attend every year. One of the most beautiful aspects of a transformational festival is the change that happens within revelers mirrors the transformation of the festival grounds. 

Lucidity is located on the Live Oak Campground and I love the way organizers use the oaks to display art, honor the Divine, and accentuate the beauty of the human and nature connectivity. One of my favorite villages, Lover’s Nest, seems to be built around a particularly gorgeous oak — she looks regal and majestic with her large twisted branches spreading out like arms ready to enfold us all. The organizers of Lover’s Nest filled their space with abalone shells, draping fabrics, beads, flowers, artwork and sculptures that invited love. It was the perfect melding of Nature, Spirit and humans. It showed the way that humans can co-create with Nature to evoke beauty and Spirit.

On Sunday night, the last night of the festival, I walked along the grounds with my sweetheart from our camp to hear the late-night music at Lover’s Nest. To my surprise, on our walk, I spotted a large, white feather on the ground! I picked it up and saw gold glitter adorned the top of the feather. Someone had taken the time and made the effort to glue glitter onto this feather — for their own delight and for the delight of all who would see it. My sweetheart and I joked that it was a feather off the elusive festi-bird.

I held the feather to the sky and drank its beauty with my heart and mind — a perfect symbol of the festival — glittering, sparkling, reflecting the light; natural, yet enhanced; an expression of art and love co-created by a person and Creation. I loved it immensely. I knew this feather had found its way to me, letting me know I was seen and heard by the Creator. What’s more, it almost felt like it was just for me — I’m usually wearing white and gold at a festival. 

When my sweetheart and I landed at Lover’s Nest, we put our blanket down to sit and listen to the serenade and watch the night sky. I held the feather close to my heart. Eventually, we laid down, completely smitten with the music, our surrounding environment, and each other. I placed the feather on the ground between us.   

Sadly, when we arose from our reverie, I could not find the feather! It was as if it had vanished into thin air. For a few minutes, I became sad. I felt as though I had not treasured the feather enough, perhaps I had not valued the gift enough. Why didn’t I hold onto it for dear life, or put it in my bag for safe keeping? It was a communication from the beloved Spirit and I had been careless with it. When I thought about why I was sad to lose it, however, I realized I may have lost the note, but I got the message. And really, the  spirit of the festi-feather should be known by as many as possible — passed into as many hands as possible, not just mine. Losing the feather was a reminder to me to love without attachment, and to appreciate every moment.

What’s more, attending festivals (and finding feathers) are experiences — we can’t hold onto them. Each festival is exciting and exhibits unique artwork; new and special people appear at each festival to give us important insights, laughs and friendship; each festival holds beautiful and incredible experiences as beautiful and incredible as the outlandish outfits people wear; and even though I often want to hold onto the festival, I never want them to end, the festival-goers must disband and the installations must be taken down. 

Ultimately, like my feather, festivals disappear in the wind without a trace, leaving only their treasured memory.

Below you’ll see a photo and video (of my friend Nikki and I at Lucidity) taken by my new friend, Courtney, the creator and visionary of Threaded Vibes. Naturally, we met Courtney this year at Lucidity.
 

Love will find a way; photo by Courtney W; threadedvibes.com/blog
 

The Gill Tract Farm: Glamsient at its Finest

Helping homeless people is particularly close to my heart since I, myself, have been homefree for the past year. Earlier this month, I heard about this community farm that supports the homeless with organic food — and I felt compelled to help.

When I was there, I learned the farm does more than just give away food. Jon, the Gill Tract Farm manager, told me many ways the farm helps its community: it acts as an open-air research facility through which researchers have found sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternatives to pesticides and herbicides; it has a medicinal herb garden with over 150 medicinal herbs available; they’ve hosted over 100 free workshops to teach and inspire; neurology patients use the farm for physical therapy; preschool through university students take experiential farming and gardening classes; women’s painting groups paint at the farm; and since June 2014, they’ve harvested over 30,000 pounds of organic produce and distributed that for free throughout the community. The ways in which Gill Tract gives to the community is as boundless as the earth.

I loved volunteering at the farm because I knew I was making a sustainable difference in the community, especially for the homeless population. The plants I put in the ground would continue to give to the farm (with bees) and the community (with harvest).

I felt invigorated to create change for a noble organization, but the joy in my heart was soon replaced with anger and frustration when I learned the Farm is under serious risk of closure.

The rich agricultural land that makes up Gill Tract is also prime real estate. UC Berkeley (the owner of the property) has been trying to close the farm and sell the land for commercial “development.” Though UC Berkeley has owned the land since 1945, UC’s recent and hostile stance against the farm has stirred community outrage. Astonishingly, the university has locked the farm gates numerous times, disrupted research, cut down orchards, thrown out honey bee hives, and kicked out community members with riot police. Thousands of community activists have taken drastic measures — including occupation farming — to save their beloved Gill Tract Farm. The controversy even inspired the documentary “Occupy the Farm.”

According to Jon, the farm manager, the fight isn’t over: “the farm was once about 100 acres…the university has sold the majority of it and wants to take the last 20 acres and pave it over in cement and make it into a giant parking lot to have a grocery store, a shopping center and to tear out all this agricultural land.”

It’s hard for me to believe that UC Berkeley would shut down the Gill Tract Farm when it provides multifaceted benefits to the community, but the farm doesn’t generate money; perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised since public universities are strapped for funding and routinely mismanage what they do receive.

Now, with almost zero funding from UC Berkeley, the farm needs help more than ever. Jon explains “there are a lot of ways that you can plug in or lend support to the farm. We are open Sunday through Thursday for volunteering, workshops and activities. Get down here, get your hands in the soil for a couple hours and I can guarantee you, you’ll leave here with a smile on your face. It’s a way to revive yourself physically and emotionally. And it’s a way to help out the community.”

If you’re not interested in getting your hands dirty or you’re not in the area, but you want to help the cause, Jon says, “people can call the UC and tell them to rethink their position on the farm; email the governor, the board of regents president Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks, Sprouts Market (the linchpin of the shopping mall). We really need support.”

Our community is only as strong as all our members and we can help each other significantly, but only with organizations like The Gill Tract Farm. Not only does the farm give the homeless population organic food, but progressive research on the grounds can (and has!) provided the larger community with sustainable agricultural processes. Plus, the farm inspires people to create food sovereignty, learn about plants, and retain a connection to the earth. People in the Gill Tract community don’t have to own a piece of agricultural land or have all the know how to reap the benefits of an established, thriving organic farm. This makes it vital to helping community members live well without a lot of funds — the very backbone of glamsient living!

For more information, check out the Gill Tract Farm Facebook Page.

Welcome to Gill Tract; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com

 

 

Happy Farmers; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com

 

Experiential Learning; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com

 

Gifts of the Earth; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com

 

Stop to Enjoy the Flowers; photo by Mollie Hull; seenimagery.com

My True Home

Glamsient living brings gloriously beautiful highs like last week’s spontaneous adventure to Carmel Valley for a bourgeois picnic with Linney.

Yet with all the fun times, perpetual travel can be tough; insecurity, loneliness, doubt, and fear can all creep in at a moment’s notice. Even when I’m with friends and family, without the comfort of my own bed and my own home night after night, glamsient living can be (and has been!) emotionally exhausting.

Last month, for example, I stayed at a cabin for a week, which was fantastic; however, I thought I would be there much longer and was ready to be stationary for a spell. I brought little things to make me feel at home: crystals, crafts, magnets, stationary and extra books. I felt so happy to decorate and enjoy the place with my special little things. Then, unexpectedly, when I was packing up to leave, I stopped as I took the magnets from the fridge. I burst into tears. In that moment, the magnets became a symbol of home, and taking them down made me feel displaced, like I didn’t belong anywhere.

To meet and transmute these negative emotions I have to return, over and over, to the present moment — and let me tell you, it is the perfect antidote to what ails me. As zen master Thich Nhat Hahn writes: “Your true home is in the here and the now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea; it is something you can touch and live in every moment. With mindfulness and concentration, the energies of the Buddha, you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment.”

When I quiet and calm my body and mind, when I move into the present moment, I feel my heart opening to my true home that is always available. It provides the greatest comfort.

In my experience, glamsienting requires presence of mind. I practice meditation consistently to return home over and over again no matter where I am located. Of course, I still feel a wide range of emotions and sometimes I get swept away by them, but meditation is — hands down — the best way I can take care of myself. It is a practice I will take into every season of my life whether or not it includes glamsience.

And therein lies the silver lining. Ultimately, the benefits I get from practicing meditation everyday to remain happy makes me happier (go figure!) and more peaceful; it also gives meaning and value to difficult emotions when they arise.

Coming home to the present moment has opened the door to the sweetest, most wonderful home I’ve ever had, and better still, it goes with me wherever I go!

Beach Buddha on Isla Holbox, Mexico, January 2016

Bourgeois Picnic with Linney

This morning, Linney invited me to her mountain retreat in Carmel Valley, California. On such a beautiful day as today, of course I accepted.

When I arrived, I walked the path to the main house and saw purple wild flowers and yellow dandelions had made their springtime debut. The mountainside was green and the air was warm. Birds sang and danced on the beautifully twisted oak trees and new, vibrant leaves sprouted from bare branches.

Once inside, Linney and I got straight to catching up on our latest glamsient adventures, and most importantly, making a bourgeois picnic.

A bourgeois picnic is any smattering of fine foods like gourmet cheeses and herbed crackers, tapenade and berries, bell peppers and humus, fruits and champagne. Personally, a bourgeois picnic is my favorite part of glamsienting. No matter where I find myself, a bourgeois picnic makes me happy; it can make even a run down wharf feel fresh!

Today, Linney had heirloom tomatoes, basil and mozzarella so we made a quick caprese salad. When we finished, we were still hungry, and so we put together a plate of assorted cheeses, rosemary crackers, blueberries, honey and fig jam.

“Aren’t we lucky to live where all this food is locally available?” She asked.

“Absolutely,” I said, looking out over Carmel Valley to the Pacific Ocean. The sun was setting, casting a soft light across the landscape. “This bourgeois picnic is divine.”

“We do pretty well for a couple of ratchets,” she laughed.

As night fell, a symphony of frogs serenaded us while we watched the lights turn on in Monterey and the stars fill the sky.

 

Caprese Salad
  
Assorted Cheeses, Blueberries, Honey and Fig Jam
 

Torin Plays the Palace

Tonight I am in the palace hotel marveling at the crystal chandeliers; marble pillars; candelabras; and high, stained glass, arched ceiling. I sit in the corner of a comfortable, blue banquet couch; I touch it’s soft, yet strong fabric and notice golden rivets adorn the borders. I feel natural on this couch. I am wearing leather boots that I bought in Spain, and a long shawl. My hair is shiny and my makeup is soft. Looking at me, nobody would imagine that last week I slept in a friend’s van. 

The waitress brings me Organic Emperor’s Jasmine tea in white set. The silver utensils are polished to perfection — I see the stained glass ceiling reflected in the curvature. A revolving tea strainer rests in the cup. It is so ingenious that I’m surprised I haven’t seen one before.  

I love the grandeur and luxury of the hotel; the orchids and gold moldings; the yellow stone walls; the tall, mirrored doors. I would live in the Palace Hotel if I could. (I’ll start with one night — when I have the budget!)

Most of all, I love my longtime friend, Torin Martinez, who is finger picking his amplified acoustic guitar in the middle of the salon. Just a moment ago, he was improvising on the piano and singing — all while the guitar played harmony. The sound is rich and layered, and without looking, I’d think there were at least two or three people playing. But Torin performs solo; he uses pedals to record the guitar and then plays over the loop. With this technique, Torin turns himself into a one-man band.   

And his voice — it’s silky and smooth like a fine chocolate.

Artistic patronage is as old as history, and Torin finds himself in a fruitful situation similar to many of the greatest artists (and glamsients!) of all time. Although he is not directly funded by a nobleman, the Palace Hotel supports Torin, allowing him the resources to pursue his own musical career composing and producing R&B and Hip-Hop. 

If you’re in San Francisco, the palace hotel is worth a visit, especially when you can catch Torin play there every weekday from 5-9.