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.

Rock Creek Wisdom

I recently purchased Hank Meal’s, The River, a local’s guide to hiking trails surrounding the Yuba River. On a rainy afternoon, my friend, Kitten, and I got cabin fever; we opened Hank’s book and chose the Rock Creek Nature Trail (located in the Tahoe National Forest) as our tonic. Once the site of a lumber mill, Hank described this one-mile loop as an easy and accessible trail that meanders beneath 11 varieties of trees and alongside Rock Creek.

“Looks like we have the place to ourselves,” I beamed when we pulled into the empty parking lot.

The ground was completely saturated — water pooled around our every footstep. Light rain floated to earth, accompanied by large, sporadic drops falling from tree branches, tapping an intricate percussion on land and water. The creek rushed past us, beckoning us onwards.

“Look at all this debris,” Kitten said. “These recent storms have been brutal!” 

“The other day, I saw a group prayer going around Facebook asking for the storms to be gentle on the forests, and I don’t know how I feel about that.”

“Why?”

“California needs water. I’m not eager to pray the rain stops.”

A stream carved its way down the hillside and onto the path, turning the path into a waterway and making us walk along its edge. Branches, leaves, and pine needles littered the area, and the Rock Creek Trail felt less like a nature walk and more like a rugged adventure, like we were the first explorers. At one point, we had to climb over a large, fallen tree.

“All this damage is from the drought,” Kitten said. “Tree roots retract closer to the trunk and become less dense. And the branches die. So when a big storm hits, it uproots trees and branches fall.”

“Makes sense.”

“Now I bet this will be a tinderbox in summer — this and every other forest in California.”

“Let’s hope not! If we get enough rain, the dead stuff will get mushy and become fertile. With fewer trees and branches blocking out the sun, new life will grow. Regeneration is one of the most incredible aspects of nature, in my opinion. Didn’t the guidebook say this land was harvested for timber not long ago? I wonder what that looked like!”

“I hope we get the rain, too, of course. Shame if it burns. I’d rather see the land heal.”

“Did you know illegal campfires start a lot, if not most, of California’s forest fires? The drought makes everything dry, but it’s singular humans messing up on top of that.”

“Hitting Nature from both sides: the macro and the micro.” 

We passed what Hank described as a relaxing welcome bench, knocked out of the ground and thrown on its back.

“I’m ready for all humans to live in harmony with Nature.”

“Now that’s a good prayer.”

We stopped to inspect a fallen tree. It made a sturdy bridge over the creek and it’s roots were exposed in an unchanged unit, still holding rocks they had grown around.

“This makes me think of my inner work,” I said, ducking beneath a branch.

“What do you mean?” Kitten asked.

“Self-reflection can sometimes hurt. After a long period of unconsciousness or trauma, like a drought, the medicine of awareness can feel destructive — it’s painful to look on all aspects of myself — lessons can be hard, truth can hurt. Guilt, disappointment, shame, and anger surface. And when that happens, it feels like I’m being destroyed. Like my guts are being ripped out or my heart torn apart.”

Water cascaded down the creek bed over rocks and debris, navigating curves, eddies and pools.

“I think the commitment,” I continued, “is to give myself sustained compassion, like rain, so that which has been knocked over can become the fertile grounds for new life — or a bridge to enlightenment. To continually give myself compassionate attention and embrace myself instead of pushing myself away — that is the way.”

“I see. If you have the painful, seemingly-destructive insight and you don’t follow it up with compassion, it’ll catch on fire and consume you when someone starts an illegal fire,” Kitten said.

“Definitely.”

We crossed a wooden bridge before we completed the loop. Birds sang from the moss-covered trees, while a soft and steady drizzle, almost a mist, enveloped the forest. 

Pinnacles National Park: California’s Well-Kept Secret

Keeping my vow, the day I left work, I headed straight to Pinnacles National Park. Luckily for me, a glamsient friend had the day off and agreed to join me. We started at the visitor center on the east entrance where I saw a sign announcing the arrival of a California Condor.”A new baby! How exciting,” I said to the ranger behind the counter.
“Yes, a girl. We are thrilled,” she said. “It’s from the only nest in the park!”
“Do you have any camping available for tonight?” I asked. Knowing that many California parks fill up months in advance during summer, I braced myself for her answer.
“Oh yes, there’s plenty.” She handed me a map of the campground. “Pick out an empty space, come back and let us know which one you want.”
We drove towards the back of the campground — it was virtually empty! With so much availability, we found exactly what we wanted: a site surrounded by trees and bushes to give us privacy and shade.
High Peaks Trail via Bear Gulch Cave
For our first hike, we chose the High Peaks Trail by way of Bear Gulch Cave. My glamsient friend informed me this is the most popular trail in the park.
The first section guided us to Bear Gulch Cave, a rare talus cave thought to be formed in the ice age. The canopy of trees made this hike gentle and pleasant even in the middle of the afternoon. Created by large boulders that had fallen and wedged into narrow canyons, the cave was easy to navigate — sunlight made its way into the cave through open spaces to illuminate the path. We walked over bridges and up stairs created in the 1930s; part of the way, we had to crouch to pass underneath boulders.
“Wouldn’t want to be here during an earthquake,” my friend remarked. “The San Andreas fault is pretty close.”
For a popular destination at the park, the cave was by no means crowded; we saw only a few groups of people.
Leaving the cave, the trail led us to a small reservoir; that’s where the strenuous climb began to the High Peaks. Without the tree cover, under the blazing sun, every step moved me further uphill and every step told me that I am out of shape! I quickly realized this section of the trail would be much more enjoyable in cooler weather — either early morning in summer or a cooler time of year altogether!
(That being said, we saw many groups with children. They seemed fine. Hot, but fine.)
Ultimately, our effort paid off — the trail took us to an incredible peak revealing far reaching vistas of valleys, rock formations and mountain ranges to the east and west. The High Peaks trail showcases prehistoric rock formations; volcanic activity created these rocks 23 million years ago and erosion formed them into what we see today. It surprised me to learn seismic activity moved the solid, massive boulders over 195 miles northwest from the time of their creation.
At the crux, we walked up and over boulders that created a long ridge — in many places, the trail was carved by dynamite into footholds and steps. We stopped to catch our breath, but lost it when a Condor flew overhead! One of only 36 wild in the park, we knew we were in the right place at the right time.
Shortly after we made our descent, we saw a couple on the trail.
“Is the peak much farther?” The young man asked. He sat in shade created by chaparral, his face was red and dripping with sweat. “We are thinking of going back.”
“You’re so close,” I told him. “Keep going.”
“It’s worth it,” my friend said. “The views and everything — you don’t want to turn back.”
“And there’s a cave on the other side,” I said.
Halfway down, we found a spot to rest and wait for the full moon. Despite my aching feet and jelly knees, seeing the moon — large and pink — rise over the mountains at sunset was a glory to behold.
It was dark when we returned to camp for dinner. Eating that night, I noticed a sense of vitality within me. My blood pumped through my veins, fresh air emboldened my lungs and my muscles felt active and alive!
Balconies Trail
The next morning, my fellow glamsient left early for work. Part of me wanted to head home, but I quickly recognized that desire as my old habit of rushing to the destination. The Balconies Cave enticed me and, remembering to slow down and savor the journey, I chose to stay in the park.
Driving to the trailhead I saw quail, turkeys, and a doe with her fawn. The parking lot was empty apart from my car, and only the sound of birds accompanied me onto the path.
Meandering through trees, the Balconies trail is mostly flat — a perfect companion to yesterday’s strenuous hike. Yellow swallowtail butterflies greeted me as if to say I had made the right choice. I breathed deeply, enjoying the time to myself.
When I came to the entrance of the talus cave, I saw a large, metal gate. “Flashlights Required,” a sign read. Having seen a similar warning at the trailhead I had my headlamp — and thank goodness for that! The cave was pitch black; only little white painted arrows marked the trail.
Cool and dark, the deep quietude of the cave penetrated my being. I was completely alone, and instead of steadily moving through to the other side, I sat and turned off my headlamp. Surrounded by rock, my small, vulnerable body felt soft and humble, but I was not afraid. I felt held and supported. I seemed to dissolve, as if I were part of the rock, the air, the empty space. In perfect stillness, I tuned to the deepest part of me — connected and endless.
When I was ready, I moved forward through the cave. As soon as the first rays of sun beckoned me out I wanted to go back into the dark, cool, quiet chamber. It had given me a thrill unlike any other.
Hiking the next section of the trail — a moderate stretch with views of rock formations jutting out of the earth like balconies — my mind returned to my experience in the cave. Wholly grounding, yet also uplifting, I longed to return to the cave and the feeling of oneness.

Rock Formations
Small and humble
A shady, gentle, empty stretch of trail
Footholds in the trail
Rocky trail
Rock formations over the trail
Entering the cave
Exiting the cave
Taking in the view from the high peaks

 

Tiny Homes for the Homefree

In the days after I talked with my friends about using self-care to enhance their creativity, I saw them internalize the message by eating more fresh foods, meditating as a group, and taking an afternoon off to swim in the Yuba river. In just a short time they were vibrant and joyous as if they had never fallen into a slump; more importantly, after they dedicated themselves to self-care, they accessed crucial, nuanced elements that brought completion to several songs. When they played me a few tracks I was spellbound by the gravity and emotion of the music; one song even brought me to tears.

Witnessing my friends gain immediate, fruitful vitality and accomplishment spurred me to nourish my inner artist with greater depth.

I began by writing a list of fun, compelling, and invigorating activities to feed my soul and refill my creative well (as Julia Cameron would call it). To my surprise, as I reviewed my list, I found many hobbies like gardening, juicing and playing piano that I couldn’t do often — or at all — while living on the road. I realized I missed them like long-lost friends.

I turned my inner eye to the loneliness, uncertainty, and aimlessness I’ve felt in the past year from living homefree. I thought of the time and energy I’ve lost from worrying about where I would go, which friend could host me, where to write, and how I could shift the moving parts to make it happen.

For the last few weeks I’ve taken a break from constant travel and have stayed in a cottage on my aunt and uncle’s property. It’s the longest I have stayed in any one place for the last year! But could I call it home?

Despite the difficulties of homelessness, I love the thrill and adventure of transience. I love the way it’s forced me to grow and stabilize in the present moment. Settling into one place felt like it could end my carefree, rolling stone lifestyle.

But what does my inner artist want?

I walked out of the cottage to a nearby pond. Standing beneath pines amongst lupine I felt the beauty of the landscape seep into my bones. I breathed deeply listening to the freedom of birds singing from the trees. Still water reflected clouds, and looking into its depths, my mind became quiet.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a home again? I thought of all the comforts a home would provide: a grounding place to go back to; a sacred space for meditation, prayer and writing; my own bed. I love domestic activities; they enrich my life and nourish me. With a home I could cuddle my cat, play my piano, plant some flowers, and create a space and momentum for words to flow. A home would make self-care easier and diminish my greatest stressors. It didn’t have to mean an end to my glamsient ways; if I wanted, it could make glamsienting more sustainable.

I turned back to look at the cottage — yes, I would make this my artist’s home.

Clouds Reflected in the Pond

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