My latest project is a collection of festival stories that take a fun and, sometimes, frightening journey into the fringe! All the stories are based on my true, lived experience. I’ve been compiling these for a few years, and I’m loving the way they’re coming together as a whole. I can’t wait to share some of these wild writings with you!
This collection is my second, coming after Varanasi Sage, which is comprised of true stories that honor our sacred existence and the ordinary miracles manifesting on earth. Varanasi Sage is available in audiobook, paperback, and ebook. Click here for more info!
Now that the dust has settled, I’m excited to share the experience of installing Varanasi Sage at Burning Man. From concept to installation, the entire project took one year, and what a year!
I went through my own metamorphoses during this experience. Doing everything for the first time, the processes of building, funding, and installing taught me like no other teacher. I found great rewards in the process: I felt supported in my art, I felt my art was received, I connected with people in new ways, and continually encountered the best of humanity.
A hidden gift in the process was creating the Varanasi Sage companion booklet, which I didn’t know was going to manifest until a few months before the installation was complete. This booklet is a culmination of my writing over the past several years, and something I desired for a long time, but needed the framework of the Varanasi Sage installation to create. I will offer the companion booklet as an e-book and audio book soon! Stay tuned!
I am thrilled to introduce my first art installation that I have been designing, registering, and creating for Burning Man 2019! Check it out!
Custom-printed prayer flags create a pyramid around a fawn resting in a lotus flower, on a platform decorated with glyphs that convey a message: True wisdom belongs to the natural, non-human world. Each flag helps the participant dive deeper into the meaning of the piece, and one even has a guide to decode the glyphs. Lights illuminate the space and lights behind the lotus make the petals glow. A speaker within the platform plays sacred sounds. On the platform, a red button reads “Do Not Press.” A suggestion box below the fawn asks: “Why are you here?” A door in the back of the platform opens to reveal a zine stand, filled with zines written by me. These elements deepen communication and facilitates interaction with the curious.
A fawn does not belong in the desert, nor does it lay in lotus flowers, so it must be a magical, enlightened creature! And it’s smallness and vulnerability in a harsh environment make the participant feel compassion for the creature. Humans must choose not to destroy the natural, non-human world and instead revere it as the divine. These contradictions jar the participant, creating a sense of vulnerability, which encourage authenticity, tenderness, and the wisdom inherent compassion, harmony and gentleness.
In the spirit of this year’s theme, Varanasi Sage explores the reality that deep transformation can come from a place of peace. Even in the chaos of the playa, one can find peace. Varanasi Sage provides participants with a beautiful, peaceful place. People may feel overwhelmed or lost in deep playa — this is a refuge. It provides comfort and calm and shows that peace is always available.
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.”
When a friend encouraged me to explore the manifestation process, I quickly learned the basic premise is that we can attract our desires by entering into a meditative state and then picturing and feeling that our desire has manifested in our life.
I heard a potent piece of advice: to build confidence in the process, manifest things that have very little consequence. In other words, you want it, but you don’t have any emotional attachments to getting it.
Following this advice, one of the first things I wanted was to find a large feather on one of my nature walks. I meditated everyday and often brought the feather to my mind; I pictured it as a large, striped feather resting on the side of the path, easy for me to see and reach — as if it were waiting for me. I would meditate and feel the happiness this feather would evoke when it appeared.
About a month later, while walking a familiar path, I found a large, striped owl feather! It was resting right side up, just off of the path, as if it was waiting for me. I literally jumped for joy. I never could have predicted the total and complete happiness I felt when I found this feather. At that moment, the feather represented a universe in dialogue with me; that my spirit and the Spirit of Creation were co-creating. In that moment, Creation told me we were in this life together!
I have found countless feathers since then, some large and some small, but all a communication from Spirit, reminding me of It’s Presence and willingness to co-create.
Last weekend, I went to Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara, California. I love transformational festivals and Lucidity is one of my favorites because it is a small, homegrown festival and many of my friends attend every year. One of the most beautiful aspects of a transformational festival is the change that happens within revelers mirrors the transformation of the festival grounds.
Lucidity is located on the Live Oak Campground and I love the way organizers use the oaks to display art, honor the Divine, and accentuate the beauty of the human and nature connectivity. One of my favorite villages, Lover’s Nest, seems to be built around a particularly gorgeous oak — she looks regal and majestic with her large twisted branches spreading out like arms ready to enfold us all. The organizers of Lover’s Nest filled their space with abalone shells, draping fabrics, beads, flowers, artwork and sculptures that invited love. It was the perfect melding of Nature, Spirit and humans. It showed the way that humans can co-create with Nature to evoke beauty and Spirit.
On Sunday night, the last night of the festival, I walked along the grounds with my sweetheart from our camp to hear the late-night music at Lover’s Nest. To my surprise, on our walk, I spotted a large, white feather on the ground! I picked it up and saw gold glitter adorned the top of the feather. Someone had taken the time and made the effort to glue glitter onto this feather — for their own delight and for the delight of all who would see it. My sweetheart and I joked that it was a feather off the elusive festi-bird.
I held the feather to the sky and drank its beauty with my heart and mind — a perfect symbol of the festival — glittering, sparkling, reflecting the light; natural, yet enhanced; an expression of art and love co-created by a person and Creation. I loved it immensely. I knew this feather had found its way to me, letting me know I was seen and heard by the Creator. What’s more, it almost felt like it was just for me — I’m usually wearing white and gold at a festival.
When my sweetheart and I landed at Lover’s Nest, we put our blanket down to sit and listen to the serenade and watch the night sky. I held the feather close to my heart. Eventually, we laid down, completely smitten with the music, our surrounding environment, and each other. I placed the feather on the ground between us.
Sadly, when we arose from our reverie, I could not find the feather! It was as if it had vanished into thin air. For a few minutes, I became sad. I felt as though I had not treasured the feather enough, perhaps I had not valued the gift enough. Why didn’t I hold onto it for dear life, or put it in my bag for safe keeping? It was a communication from the beloved Spirit and I had been careless with it. When I thought about why I was sad to lose it, however, I realized I may have lost the note, but I got the message. And really, the spirit of the festi-feather should be known by as many as possible — passed into as many hands as possible, not just mine. Losing the feather was a reminder to me to love without attachment, and to appreciate every moment.
What’s more, attending festivals (and finding feathers) are experiences — we can’t hold onto them. Each festival is exciting and exhibits unique artwork; new and special people appear at each festival to give us important insights, laughs and friendship; each festival holds beautiful and incredible experiences as beautiful and incredible as the outlandish outfits people wear; and even though I often want to hold onto the festival, I never want them to end, the festival-goers must disband and the installations must be taken down.
Ultimately, like my feather, festivals disappear in the wind without a trace, leaving only their treasured memory.
Below you’ll see a photo and video (of my friend Nikki and I at Lucidity) taken by my new friend, Courtney, the creator and visionary of Threaded Vibes. Naturally, we met Courtney this year at Lucidity.