Efflorescence

Shifting, bending, building her heart

Exhaling incense, honoring grace.

When efflorescence comes to Lavender’s branch,

She bows her head in devotion.

With warm fingertips, the benevolent sun

Lifts Lavender’s chin and says —

It’s your divine purpose to fully express the depths of our soul.

Passing life through bees,

Scattering seeds like words to the wind

For Gaia to choose

How she will live forever.

Aligned with My First Breath

As the earth moves to the degree that aligns with my first breath, I am whole, having learned to tend to myself as if for the world.

I journey to a reminder of my origins. Crumbling orange bluffs, salty air, and windswept cypress trees. To the mother who knows my deepest truths and cradles them in nonjudgment.

Her winter spirit redecorated with remnants of trees carried down river, turned into benches and sculptures. An unrecognizable shore, aside from the turtle back rocks, gives me permission to see.

I am the sand, shaped and molded. Done and redone, uncovered and recovered. Swept away and built again.

I am the rock who has remained through every gale. Etched and refined into tide pool homes.

I am the wave, it’s lifetime unmarked by revolutions around the sun. Returning to the sea it never left.

A Holy Instinct – with Audio

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.

fullsizeoutput_184b
Photo by JPZ Image

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.

fullsizeoutput_183b

 

 

 

Varanasi Sage NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon!

IT’S HERE!

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:

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 9.52.17 AM

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 9.52.48 AM

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 9.53.03 AM

If you’d like to read a few sample chapters from Varanasi Sage, click these links!

Awakening Depths

The Lucky Ones

Forest Song

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!

 

Awakening Depths

[This story appears in a new compilation that’s available as part of my Varanasi Sage art installation. For more information, including how to receive a copy, please click here.]

Faithful observers, large and wise; monoliths standing emphatically. Jutting from the earth in 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 cut through holes, cracks between boulders, lighting the way over bridges and up stairs. Bold and industrial gifts from the New Deal and Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Further inside, my lamp finds little white arrows painted, marking the trail. I follow and follow, deeper and deeper.

The cool, dark, deep quietude penetrates my being. The awe of sacred knowing. Completely held inside 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 depths of the earth.

To sit amongst them within their chamber, entities unfathomable, a guest in their great hall. Without sight and sound, I dissolve into the rock, the air, the empty space. She comes to me, the deepest part of me, the same part as her living body, connected. The outside world lost to her embrace. My heart turns over to hers and the feeling of oneness, endlessly present in time.

EAl2VYZ9SgSZ7Lps+RiHgQ

Now Available: the Varanasi Sage booklet!

I’m excited and proud to announce that my first, long piece, “Varanasi Sage,” is now available!

This booklet is a collection of lyrical, non-fiction short stories that compliment my art installation Varanasi Sage. It’s my best work to date, and I hope you will read it.

I’m giving it away as a gift of appreciation for donations to my art piece. Your support and readership would mean so much to me. For more information, please visit the Varanasi Sage fundraiser page.

Forest Song

[This story will appear in a collection of shorts for Varanasi Sage, due out July 1, 2019.]

I opened the door, welcomed by early morning light peeking around clouds, caressing the world. Unseen doves proclaimed the day’s arrival in trilling coos. Oaks stretched in wild formations. Brown grasses stood defiantly against their drought deaths. The distant scent of a wood-burning stove — a reminder of recent wildfires that stopped at the next ridge. Deer tracks in the dust said I was not the only one who walked the trail.

They carried a flash, a remembering from my youth, making eye contact with a doe. She led me past trees, through ferns and ivy to her fawn, chestnut with white spots, nestled in the grass. Vulnerable. The doe watched as I knelt beside her baby, as I touched its tiny head, unaware of the danger to its fragile life. 

Through oak trees, lichen drooped long from their branches, the filtered sun created irregular, glowing shapes on the forest floor. Branches and leaves formed a tapestry of life, thick with energy, magnifying their essence and intensity. I was just one small organism in the network of life.  An enormous oak whose wide-spread branches twisted and turned, defied all patterns and rules. I approached the grand dame in awe of her divine, ancient presence, and when I moved under her furthest reach, the forest suddenly went silent.

A covey of quail (dressed in fancy spots, stripes and bobbling headpieces) whistled as they ran on speeding legs. A crinkling — Towhee kicking up leaves, flying in unison on purring wings when I approached. Acorn Woodpeckers squawked, perched on tree trunks — wearing tuxedos and red caps — drilling holes, stuffing them. Their gleeful chucking like happiness on the wind. I passed a giant oak, split at it’s lowest, thickest branch — down the middle. The top half on the ground, the trunk standing a jagged obelisk, rotted at the split.

Around a bend, a rhythmic cascade, almost like dropping water. I stopped to listen, but couldn’t make out the sound.

Slowly and quietly I walked, listening without seeing the source. At the crest, down the shaded hill, 5 or 6 deer chased each other, leaping between trees. They moved in s-curves, criss-crossing, creating figure eights with narrow hooves, playing like children in the forest. Nearer and nearer, they were so absorbed in their chase they didn’t notice me. Closer and closer, astonished by the sight, as close as I could get on the trail.

Overzealous, I stepped off the path and my human feet crunched leaves. Without showing signs of seeing me, they bounded away in perfect time through the meadow. At the edge of the forest, an antlered male turned back to look at me — knowing me, beckoning me on. 

On the other side of the meadow, the deer had left no trace.

A thick oak with a large horizontal branch, an arm reaching, pulled me off the trail. I hoisted myself up, stretched my legs and reclined back. Cradled in her arm, I gazed past the canopy to the sky. Rustling, fluttering, croaking, squeaking, laughing, whistling, chattering, calling. Each voice joined in one abundant song.

I could have lounged for hours, held by the tree and listening; yet, the forest did not sing for me. Symphonies without need for an audience. A true artist: creating for herself. 

“Show me the way,” I whispered. “How can I create like you?”

Close your eyes.

Moments passed, my ears opened to subtle layers of the song. Singers unashamed of their sound they received at birth. Each day a new score created without doubt or self-consciousness. Each voice accepted exactly as it was — knowing it had a welcomed part.

Sierra Hot Springs

The edge of a summer storm passed overhead breaking the monotony of blue sky. Patches of clouds cast temporary shade as they moved, releasing a misting drizzle, which fell upon us like a celestial blessing. Birds sang the glory of the day.

Stephanie and I relaxed in the large pool. She rested her head against the cement lip and closed her eyes; I faced away to look beyond the deck and view the Sierraville Valley.

People populated reclining chairs, others floated and bobbed in the pool. Stephanie and I were the only ones wearing bathing suits. 

Stephanie hadn’t spoken much since we left the silent dome and the hot pool it contained, but it didn’t bother me. I remembered my first time in the dome and the reverent silence that settled into my heart and mind as I slipped into a profoundly easy meditation facilitated by the heat of the tub, the arhythmic sound of water dripping into the two cold plunges, and the stained glass window — a woman resembling at once the Virgin Mary and Venus de Milo, pouring light into the waters through her outstretched hands. 

I looked to Stephanie; her face, perfectly serene, took on an ancient quality as if her soul had known this place years ago. 

Her visage made me want to rest my head against the cement lip, too, so I turned around. Just as I did, I saw a woman, floating on foam noodles — one under her shoulders, the other under her knees — as if she were in a chair. The woman’s eyes were closed, and like Stephanie, she hadn’t a care in the world. She could not see that her legs, spread in blissful comfort, moved towards the edge of the pool putting her naked groin on a direct trajectory for Stephanie’s face.

I poked Stephanie. She opened her eyes slowly until she realized a woman’s crotch was heading for her. 

With only a few giggles, Stephanie moved out of the way, and broke her silence: “want to check out the meadow pool you were telling me about?”

“Sure!”

We got our towels and walked onto the path. Pine trees filtered the sunlight into complex patterns on the ground.

“I love it here,” Stephanie said.

“Natural beauty and healing waters. What’s not to love?”

“Well,” she emphasized, “there is only so much hoochie coochie in my face that I can take.”

I laughed and then saw two porcelain tubs, just off the trail, nestled in the grass. They each had their own stream of hot water flowing into them from the ground. “Look at these, Steff! Here’s your solution!”

“We have to get in them,” she exclaimed. “How is this real?”

“Real magic,” I said.

We sat for a while, breathing in the novelty of relaxing in a bathtub on a mountainside, but we wanted to sit together and talk, so we continued our quest for the meadow pool. 

“I’m glad we sat in the secret tubs. The secret-not-secret tubs. They’re just right off the path, but they’re easy to miss,” I said.

“Everyone walks by, but not everyone sees,” Stephanie said. “I prefer that kind privacy, like the dome because nobody talks.”

“I was here one night and people were talking in there. I didn’t like that because it affected the depth of my meditation.”

Our feet crunched the path, adding a layer to the birds’ song.

“The big pool was a little extreme for me. I’ve never really been around that much nudity.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.” 

“It was too much at once — naked people almost running into me with their parts. It happened twice. Once was a hoochie coochie and the other was titties.”

“Every time you close your eyes they come for ya, huh?” I joked.

“Seemed like it.”

We passed the white, Victorian Lodge built in 1870. Red poppies brightened the hillside.

“That hot pool, though,” Stephanie said. “It’s hard to explain what I felt. It was like pure energy. I felt a pulse — like a vibration.” 

“Because it’s so hot and the bottom is sand, I close my eyes and lose the feeling of having a body. It’s like my body becomes the water. Must be the closest thing to being in the womb.”

“It did feel like that! And that’s exactly how I felt when we were looking at the grass earlier. I had an out-of-body experience — a supreme oneness, like I was the wind.”

“Wow. Transcendental,” I looked to my left over the wide valley and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range. “You’re so zen you don’t even need the dome.”

“A lady was crying in there.”

“I didn’t notice.”

“She was standing in one of the cold tubs with her face to the wall when we went in.”

“Oh, did she have her hand on the wall?”

“Yes. The dome felt like a place to…” 

“Open and release?”

“That’s how I felt. Completely safe. It was powerful. Every detail. The tiles, the wood, the stained glass. So natural and peaceful and somehow familiar.”

“I felt a release, too,” I said. “Before we walked in there I was angry about what was going on with work. I was thinking about it a lot.”

“I could tell you were trying not to, but you really were lost in thought.”

“But after going in the hot water and spending time in the dome, I feel like I released everything. Now I’m just kinda…dancing on the inside. Like I’m free.”

“Freedom is dancing on the inside. That could be your new motto,” she said as she looked at the trees who grew above us like guardians. “I like all the moss that’s growing.”

“I love mossy trees. And all the tall, lush grass,” I paused my step. “You know, earlier, when we were looking at the grass?”

“Yeah.”

“I was definitely lost in thought, thinking about that email. And you pointed to look out at the valley and the grass in the wind and there was a blue jay on a branch. That brought me back to the present moment and helped me let go.”

“That was it. ‘Come back. Come back,’ I was saying. I had that moment of oneness, but I knew how you were feeling, so I was like ‘hey, don’t forget to look around you and be here.’”

I breathed deeply, “next time I’m having a bad day I’m just going to come here.”

“Seriously. It’s so important to walk out. I feel the same in a lot of ways. You’re not alone.”

We approached the meadow pool and to our surprise, found we had the space to ourselves. A small tree grew behind boulders at the edge of the meadow. Purple irises bloomed in stately elegance. Flowers and leaves floated on the surface of the clear, blue water; we stepped in like queens. Our toes pressed into the soft, sandy floor.  

“I think I’m in the most beautiful place in the world,” Stephanie whispered.

“We’re in Faerlyland,” I said. “You know you’ve fully arrived in Faeryland when you come to the meadow pool and there’s mint and flowers floating in its waters.” 

“You described it like heaven when we were driving up here. And it really is.”

A wooden totem pole watched over the glistening water, speaking without words of the wildlife and civilization that lived in the valley before it was named Sierraville.  

“I love this aspen tree right here and the way the leaves flutter in the wind,” I said. “It reminds me of a wind chime my grandma had in her backyard. It was made out of thin, round, pearlescent shells. She had a lot of wind chimes, but I loved that one the most when I was a kid.”

“I know what you’re saying. Your grandma-angel is here. The Great Spirit is here.” 

I caressed the top of the water with my fingertips, creating swirling ripples. Birds sang from the trees in high tweets and whistles, forming the cadences and melodies of an unplanned symphony while clouds continued their slow and easy migration across the sky.