Fragmented Family Memories

Nobody wanted my grandmother’s sewing table when they were splitting up her belongings. The table she painted sage green decades ago; the old paint chipping off in fragments. 

And so, I inherited her table by fate.

Unwavering, shapely legs lead to carved, mandala stars at its knees. A flip drawer that still contains the two buttons, eight tails of thread, fourteen pins, and two clasps — just as she left them. A ridged lip with dark freckles leads to a splotchy top that I discovered, like a secret passageway, unfolds into a workspace. Nestled inside: a heavy, black, sewing machine embellished with gilded calligraphy. The hardware and craftsmanship of a bygone quality that was made before capitalism said things could not outlast their owners.

I wonder how it came to her. Was it a gift from her mother? I never thought to ask about her sewing table, inconspicuously housed in her upstairs room, in the corner she claimed as a painting nook. Now, it is in my art studio — a yurt to myself, a room of my own. 

Her table found its way to me.

I graze my fingers across the top, scattering the flecks, and I see her. Covering over the somber wood to make it bright and cheerful. Like her paintings of fluffy clouds above pastoral landscapes; children and butterflies; daffodils, deities, and stuffed animals. 

Studying her brushstrokes, I see her hands — elegant fingers I only knew in photographs — knobbed by the time they reached my memory. I see her transforming the gloominess. Giving it a delicate, whimsical shell.

Flaking the paint with my gentle touch, I remember hearing, after her death. Uncovering. Thirty years of anti-depressants that explained why she always seemed far away.

And how could an artist be happy in the confines of conventionality? Days regimented around care for others. The dreariness of living second-class to an upstanding member of the community, high-functioning — until it came to her indigo child. For whom being locked in the windowless, brick-lined basement was better than the alternative. 

My fingers reveal more of the stoic wood underneath. And I feel her artist soul alive within mine. A creatrix of beauty. Only now our work is not of covering over, but of returning. To our truth, our power, and our freedom. 

Because I can hold it all — the antique treasure, her long brushstrokes, and the dark spots.  

The Lucky Ones – With Audio!

This is an excerpt from my Varanasi Sage collection, available in audiobook, paperback, and ebook. Originally written and published in 2017, “The Lucky Ones” was my first piece set in an art and music festival. The art that inspired this piece is “Phuture Pasture” by David Suckling for Burning Man 2017. Press the play icon below to listen!

The Lucky Ones

Twinkling lights strung around its frame, chain clicking in a dry loop, my bike created tracks on tracks in the dust, crossing tracks without pattern or reason.


The high desert mirrors the night sky; although the stars on the ground are colored, moving and spinning, careening chaotically. In the dark expanse, we put on our lights and become technicolor shooting stars.


By week’s end, the thin layer of dust on my bike will gather to look as though it had been left forgotten in the recesses of a workman’s garage. Dust on my clothes, my skin and my hair, in my nose, ears and lungs. By week’s end, I, too, caked with dust, will look old and forgotten.

A herd of cows appears. Dim lights twinkle from their insides, differentiating them from the dust and darkness. Stationary, unafraid, wooden skeletons wrapped in translucent nylon. Their twinkling lights, the same as my own.
In the darkness of the playa, amongst dust and art, these are the lucky ones. Peaceful bovines, sacred cows, bountiful goddesses of nourishment. They view passing amusements. Busses dressed like sheep and lighthouses, cars like genie lamps, golf cart abstract art, and bodies radically expressing themselves.


Our shared reality outside this city—the distortion of divine nature, the degradation of life by human command. Here, cows are not an exploitable object; a sentient being trapped in a pit of manure, in line for a violent death, never having eaten a blade of grass or stepped hoof in a meadow.

I, too, am a lucky one, in the darkness of the playa, amongst dust and art, not trapped in a war-torn city, used as a human shield.

The sadness of contrast, a melancholy inspection, thoughts and emotions rising from the depths of another’s creation. Here in the dust—in the middle of nowhere—surrounded by darkness and lights.

A Call to Vision – New Audio Track!

This previously unreleased vignette is based on an experience I had that made me feel reborn. Like all of the stories in Varanasi Sage, this one is true to my experience. At that time of my life, I was on the precipice of a new way of being. I would be forever changed, and this morning set the tone for my new beginning. The encounters with wildlife felt especially symbolic.

I hope you enjoy this audio track! Soon, I will release the entire audiobook version of Varanasi Sage. Stay tuned!

You’ll find the writing below, if you would like to read along.

A Call to Vision

Dark shadows obscured open farmland, hills and valleys. An occasional owl hoot accentuated the silence between.

The crescent moon observed from a star-filled sky as a deer path took me uphill. I enjoyed the cold air, knowing the afternoon would drive me into the shade with a fan turned high. At the top, between dry shrubs, I brushed aside small rocks and sat. 

I drank my tea with sips of intention, breathing the peace of a million minds sleeping, while night faded from black to blue, taking the stars, waking the birds. A line of color cut eastern hills in rolling silhouette.

Birds convened in the heavens, voices joined with each breath, proclaiming the ordinary miracle that sets our clocks. Old and familiar, yet always new.   

A showcase, a pastel wash on oaks and hills, hues casting themselves as bright streaks on feather clouds, colors spread by a gilded brush, each layer more brilliant than the last. Breathing deeply, my seat on the ground, I took in the oaks, chaparral, and dried grasses. All of us together in the presence of its Majesty rising. I pinned my heart to the changing sky, illuminating my being.   

A rustling uphill—a small rabbit! My smile and his sprint, light and fast, until, face to face, we looked into each other’s eyes. His nose and whiskers twitched a brief moment before he dashed. A soft, tender happiness carried water to my eyes, washing my heart, cleansing my cheeks. An awareness of golden rays behind hills, opening me to light as a soul opens her eyes, birthed into new life, connected with the One. A pleasure to exist on a hilltop in shifting light, a glory to cure afflictions.

I meandered back to the path, recognizing each step. In the lowest branch of a wide-reaching oak — a barn owl. I slowed to admire her round face, her speckled auburn overcoat, her white underdress. She leisurely stretched her wings and flew to a rancher’s post nearby, piercing my humanity before turning to the landscape, as if in her higher wisdom, she, too, admired the valley at dawn. 

Towards her mystery I crept, present to our encounter. She turned her face to mine, and after a moment, sailed on silent wings to the next post. Magnetized. I followed. She peered into my soul, drew me along the ridge, and stopped at short distances. She signaled our walk’s end by flying high into a tree.

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Burning Intentions 2019

I’m on the road to Burning Man, and according to tradition I’m sharing my intentions to amplify them. This year I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m taking an art installation! The project, Varanasi Sage, has consumed much of my waking life over the past few months, and I’ve gladly given that time. It has been a true challenge and learning experience, but it has also given my life more meaning and purpose. Plus, it helped me finish my first booklet! It’s already been a rewarding experience to create this art, and I’m looking forward to showing it off! I’ll also be giving away a limited number of my booklets as part of the installation.

Without further ado, my Burning Intentions:

    Put my art into the hands of hearts who will love it
    Face challenges with grace and ease, trusting my experiences
    Connect with other artists in a meaningful way
    Deepen into a gratitude practice

If you’re on the playa this year, I’m teaching my workshop Meditation & Writing MWF 10-11am at my camp Namaste & Chill located at 6:15 & D. I would love to see you there!

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Burning Intentions 2018

It’s time for Burning Man! The past two years, I’ve shared my intentions for the experience because writing intentions and having a witness strengthens their power. This post makes the third. Thank you for being my witness.

This year, I’m taking a new project — a meditation and lounge space I’ve been dreaming of for several years and fundraising for with many collaborators. May the Lounge be a sacred space of healing and connection; may it bring all who enter deeper into wholeness and unity.

I’m teaching my workshop, “Meditation and Writing,” three times this year: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3-4 pm at Stellar Dusty Moon 5:30 & H (in the Lounge!). May the workshop serve us in the unique way that we need for our paths; may it provide us with insight, peace, and grounding.

My favorite part of Burning Man is the art — may I meet the artists and have profound experiences with the art.

May the workshops I attend guide me in my journey and connect me with others. May I see the heart of the earth in everyone I meet!

Canyon Meditation

We chose not to look at the map and found what we believed was a path. As we walked, the forest seemed to hold us while birds sang its melody. We passed elk tracks preserved in dry mud and saw a tree that had been used as an antler scratching post. I wished I could walk without knowing our destination.

Upon hearing human voices speaking languages from all over the world, we knew we were close — and suddenly — the forest opened.

A magnetic pull from my heart led me to the canyon rim as though I were under enchantment. My body shook with adrenaline. Before me, a chasm ripped the earth and rocky, layered peaks formed colorful monuments, temples, pyramids, and fortresses. Spires and pillars rose from the ground like giants. Greater and larger than Stonehenge, than Chichen Itza, than man could ever be.

Nature’s chisel wielded by the Great Artist etched walls with shadowy crags and adornement. Creation coalescing into wonder from nearly two billion years of both violent and gradual evolution written in the rock. Lava and mud spreading and widening the canyon carved by wind and water, plateaus rising, glaciers melting, the continent crashing into volcanoes and making mountains. Erosion — pushing, pulling, forming megaliths and smiles that become wings of expanded freedom. A testament to my limited, human experience.

The river deepens the canyon as she moves to the sea — her former grandeur evidenced in decorated cliffs — she is now a mere trickle of what she must have been before dams and reservoirs closed her veins like tourniquets.

The Artist exhibits the freedom to transform, to shift — to evolve into beauty, into living inspiration.

Even with their loud voices, the other tourists don’t bother me. The vastness is large enough for us all. So large that I sense I can give all the heaviness of my heart to the canyon. All the pain of memories and attachments can release. And my heart will become expansive; my heart and the canyon will merge into one, magnetized like the continent and crashing into volcanoes. If I let it fall, it will tumble into the river and be swept away to the ocean. I can let it go — I can give it all to the One who is capable of transfiguration.

I hear the wind before I feel her. She comes up from the canyon depths and brushes my face. I feel the coolness of her touch. She is a whispering echo saying, “hush.”

Crows fly with feathers straight and light in the space between earth and sky. Above the canyon, below stars. Small, yet fearless. As we must be.

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The Inside Joke

After a full day building camp, several friends formed a group to go out. Of course I wanted to join! I grabbed my necessities (headlamp, toilet paper, goggles, emergency champagne) and hopped on my bike. As we turned onto the esplanade, art installations rose from the dust as far as I could see. I lagged to catch glimpses of them as we passed. Art or friends? Art or friends? Curiosity pulled at me. 
And then — we approached a pier. 
Group mission be damned! This was the emptiest the playa would be for the rest of the week, and soon the pier would be crammed with tourists.
I stopped and put my feet onto the dust. I pulled the scarf off my mouth and called to my friends: “Guys! I’m stopping to look at art!” Either they didn’t hear me or didn’t care.
Except for Kitten, my faithful companion.
“I can’t keep passing art installations. It’s our first night out,” I looked towards our group; they had already blended in with the other blinking lights.
“We have all week to find music, but we only have a week to look at art,” Kitten dismounted his bike.
We stepped onto the pier. Nets and ropes hung between posts, hammocks swayed beneath the boardwalk. A long string of lights romanced me. I hooked my arm into Kitten’s.
The boards creaked under our footsteps — just like the old boardwalks I’ve wandered along in seaside towns. And for a moment, when I relaxed my eyes and looked up, it felt like we were at the sea. But looking down, seeing the dry lake bed below us, I thought of the sheer genius and manpower it must have taken to build this dock — from the concept to the design to bringing the materials and assembling them in the middle of nowhere without basic amenities like running water. 
We arrived at the midway tower. We leaned in to view its inner intricacies. Some people were gathered on the upper level; I’d be willing to bet they were drinking whiskey.
“Want to go up?” Kitten asked.
“Not particularly.” I felt content looking inside the tower at the details that made it seem more like a relic than a modern piece of art. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time I knew only in turn-of-the-century novels. Antique photographs, compasses, hourglasses, bound books, and glass bottles — in all colors, sizes and shapes — the scene piqued my curiosity to touch and pick up the items. Every detail existed for exploration, a mystery to be revealed, a reverie in which to lose oneself. It was a living, breathing piece of art that transported us to a different time and place. The curiosity, the wonder of it all, put me back into the frame of mind of a child: everything was new and strange and deeply interesting.
On the other side of the tower, we found an antique desk — the kind in which the door to the main compartment folds down to become the writing surface. My literary heart skipped a beat. 
“And what could be inside?” My curiosity whispered with glee. 
When I opened it, I found the cubbies, that once may have organized papers and mail, were filled with antique glass bottles. How odd. I touched a few, pulling them out of the compartments and examining their details, trying to understand their riddle. And then — I found one that contained a piece of paper.
“A message in a bottle!” I gasped. I lifted it with awe. The bottle’s long, skinny neck was jagged at the top. “What kind of message do you think it is? Profound wisdom?” 
Kitten shrugged.
I slowly put my index finger into the bottle, careful not to touch the toothlike edge, but my fingertip barely reached the paper. I pushed in a little more until the base of my finger rested against the pointed teeth. I could only move the paper around in circles along the side of the bottle. The shape of the neck made it impossible to drag the paper out.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Kitten warned. “We are in the middle of nowhere and it’s dirty. You’ll want a working hand for the rest of the week.”
I sighed and pulled my finger out. “I’m just too curious.” I turned the bottle over and around, trying to see if I could read the message from the outside, but the paper was folded in half. Even more mysterious. I inverted the bottle and shook it, but the paper wouldn’t fall out.
“Oh well, let’s go,” Kitten said. “Slicing your finger is a bad way to start your Burn.”
“Let me try one more thing.”
I held the bottle so the paper was at the very base of the neck. I put my finger back in and pressed the paper firmly against the glass. It slid along the edge, I almost got it passed the base of the neck, but it slipped back. 
“Leave it, come on, there’s a lot more to look at,” Kitten said. “There’s bottles everywhere. Just look at all these bottles over here.” He motioned to a couple of antique suitcases behind us with bottles on top of them.
 “I have to know what it says!” I insisted. “I can’t just find a message in a bottle in a desk on the dock in the middle of the desert and just — walk away without knowing what it says! A message in a bottle at Burning Man. Who knows what it says? Maybe it’s written by the artist.”
I turned the bottle a little more, got my hand on the side with the shortest teeth and finally — I had the paper sliding up the neck and out of the bottle! I held it in my hand like it was a golden scroll of truth. “Yes!” I said to Kitten, my eyes wild with excitement.
I unfurled the paper and paused. I was hungry for the message I worked so hard to receive, but needed a deep breath. Delayed gratification.
“Come on, open it,” Kitten said.
I opened the paper. 
I read it aloud: “Go Fuck Yourself.”
Kitten and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Oh that is good,” I said as I caught my breath.
“We should’ve seen that coming,” Kitten smiled.
“A special message from the artist,” I joyfully mocked myself as I folded the message and rolled it back up. “A message just for me! How absurd.” I laughed as I placed the paper back in the bottle, making sure it was all the way in for the next person.“Well worth the effort, I say.”
“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Kitten agreed.
I put the bottle back exactly where I found it and closed the desk.
Kitten and I continued our walk along the creaking pier to the very end. I looked out at the playa — illuminated art installations dotted the landscape — and I realized this pier was on an endless sea of wonder.

“The Pier” by Gurps Chawla

Burning Intentions 2017

It’s late and I’m watching the newly-waxing moon set in the west. I’m driving through the mountains, en route to Black Rock City for Burning Man. This will be my third time participating in the art and music festival. 
Last year, I set intentions that mainly focused on my interactions with other people. And although they were extremely elevated, I saw and felt my intentions manifest in some of my experiences.
I’ve been humbled and challenged this past year — especially recently — and my intentions reflect my need for deep nourishment and reflection.
To share our intentions is to empower them. Please read mine below:
I intend to reestablish my relationship with my creativity; to fully engage with the art installations at the festival and allow myself to be inspired and motivated by them. I need to reset my relationship with my creativity in order to create for creation’s sake without the desire to be seen, popular or make money. This will afford me the freedom I need in my artistic pursuits. I must reconnect with my truth that God’s gift to me is my creativity and my gift back to God is using it.
I intend to be open to receiving the keys I need to enhance my productivity and fulfillment.
I intend to continue the process of letting go of the pain and hurt I hold onto by releasing the people and events from my heart that continue to cause me suffering.
This year, I would like to feel and witness the expansive love that is my true essence, so that I will know who I am.


Photo by Juan P. Zapeda last year at Burning Man.