Our Eyes Meet

We cross into Reservation land in Northern Arizona. The desert before us, a desolate beauty with colorful streaks, glows beneath the pink hue of the setting sun.

On the outskirts of town the highway curves past hills. Gathered at their base, shanties and shacks form small a small line. Broken boards, torn roofs, tires, cars and trucks appear abandoned and disregarded. But I see there are children’s toys and someone walking into a shack and others sitting on steps and chairs out front.

We pass at 60 miles per hour. The extreme poverty fades into the rear-view mirror.

We stop at a gas station just after dusk. A man walks to the car parked next to me. He is, perhaps, ten years older than me. Our eyes meet on opposite sides of the window. A thought flashes into my mind — were his parents or grandparents among the stolen children, forced into Christian boarding schools in an attempt to decimate their culture?

The lineage of oppressors claim me as their citizen.

***

Early in the morning, a jewelry maker sits in a long line of artisans in Santa Fe’s town square; they’ve rolled out their wares and tell the tourists passing by, “feel free to handle.” The jewelry maker looks like he is sleeping, with eyes closed and arms folded around the large yellow “G” on his green sweatshirt. His porcupine quill jewelry has caught my eye, and I kneel down to look.

Amongst his jewelry, I find a feather pendant that is perfect for my niece.

“Excuse me,” I say.

His eyes open.

“Sorry to bother you.”

“No bother,” he smiles.

“How much is this one?”

He tells me the price. I say I’d like to purchase it and hand it to him.

An older white man stands above us and jokes that he would never buy from a Packers fan. “At least you’re not for the Cowboy’s,” the older man says as he continues down the block.

“Never a Cowboy’s fan,” the artisan jokes back as he places the necklace on a card, carefully stringing the chain through notches that will hold it in place. “Although my mother is probably smacking me right now for saying that.”

But the older man is too far to hear him.

“Your mother likes the Cowboys?” I ask, still kneeling, admiring the porcupine quills dangling from silver earrings.

“Oh yes,” he said. “All her life. Now she has passed and I’m sure she is angry with me for saying anything bad about them.”

Our eyes meet.

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom. I can only imagine what that feels like.”

He sighs. “She died on the fourth of July. It’s what she wanted. She was on dialysis for twelve years. My sisters convinced her to get the treatments when she first got sick. After twelve years she was tired. Every time she came home she was like this —” he rolled his eyes back, put his arms out, and swayed his chest like he was off-balance.

“That’s a long time to endure so much pain.”

“Yes, I understand her choice,” he says. He holds the little package containing the necklace in his right hand.

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I say, looking up at him.

“I miss her. I think I will miss her for the rest of my life.”

I take in what he has said. “I miss my Gramma more now than I did two years ago when she passed.”

He nods and I ask about the porcupine quills.

IMG_6286

Unmasking the Monuments

We drove in after dark. Large shadows, looming in the night like masked phantoms, lay in wait.

Half an hour before first light, wind shook the camper van. Rain urged us to stay under covers with tinny percussions. But we had come with one purpose: to witness dawn unmask the monuments.

I put on my warmest clothes with a sense of defeat and doubt. We wouldn’t have much of a sunrise in a storm.

When I stepped outside, as if on cue, the rain eased to a drizzle, merging the space between earth and sky, wrapping us in mist. Lightning flashed in the distance — dancing in bold streaks — thunder clapped to proclaim the illumination.

I sat patiently for the show. At first she was only a fleck below the clouds, but soon, a sliver of pinkish orange light at the horizon split the sky.

Black against the night sky, the monuments began to emerge, to take clearer shape, to reveal their red rock, to show they surround us near and far, to claim their land. Castles, cathedrals, ancient architecture shaped by the Artist’s hand, etched and chiseled into towers, walls, cliffs, and colorful layers.

When dawn captured the sky, we stepped through red sand in the direction of the three closest monuments, the only ones on the early morning trail. The smell of rain rose from the earth, but it was dry and quiet. Passing clouds, their softness, an ever-changing background, emphasized the stoic rocks.

Walking below, standing at their feet, staring up at their grandeur, I felt the knowing of the One far greater than I. Ancient energy, with the power to lift its own monuments and hold them in its hand as if to say, “This — is my Creation.”

Rain continued its pilgrimage to earth as we finished the trail. I looked to the monuments, a rainbow appeared momentarily, as if to say, “So are You.”

IMG_5607

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.

IMG_5645

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.

Festival Street Styles of Symbiosis Gathering

Courtney W, creator of Threaded Vibes, invited me to guest write for her blog; as a fan of her work, I eagerly agreed. Check out my guest post covering the Festival Street Styles of Symbiosis Gathering:

Symbiosis Gathering came in at the end of California’s festival season right on the heels of Burning Man. Though it cannot compare with the Burn, Symbiosis Gathering did not disappoint. Perhaps what set Symbiosis apart from most other curated festivals was the venue — located on the Woodward Reservoir, the festival grounds stretched along an amoeba-shaped patch of land surrounded by water. Each stage had its own plot utilizing the natural curvature of the water and land to create separate spaces; some stages required access by bridge. One stage, the Atoll, floated on a barge, and attendees either swam to it or arrived on a box-boat attached to a rope. Hosting world-class art, incredible day parties, and spectacular performers, Symbiosis reached the pinnacle of a curated festival experience.
My favorite aspect of the festival was engaging and interacting with new people. I loved listening to their stories and witnessing them open their hearts — despite the many festivals I attend each year, this never gets old. The outfits many festival-goers wore delighted me. Onesies, sparkles, bright colors and nuevo-tribal ran the show. Seeing people express themselves in weird and wonderful ways gave me an unparalleled joy; it harkened to the radical self-expression at Burning Man that I love so dearly.
I had the pleasure of meeting two young men who had just bought and put on their first pair of manties (men’s booty shorts), which have become wildly popular among festi-men. “Manties give me an incredible sense of freedom,” one of the men told me. The other added, “I don’t know why I didn’t try these earlier in the season.” And isn’t that the best part of festival fashion? It frees us from the confines of ordinary fashion and allows us to try new forms of expression.
Here are some of my favorite fashion statements from the weekend:

Source: Festival Street Styles of Symbiosis Gathering –

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

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