Death Becoming

Musty perfume rises from sage and transformation

My boot squishes red earth

Mycelium parade on storm-felled branches

Their fabric assimilates my own

Harmony in exchange

Balance in giving

Crochet lichen wave to me from leafless branches

Unified in rhythmic pulse

Ferns reach, offering bright hands after pulling back in fall

Death becoming life never dies.

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.

I Carry Him

I carry him on my back uphill. A broken pelvis, healed without intervention, disabled his body long before he was mine. Cool green manzanita leaves and prickly pine needles shake off their snow like birds in a bath. Beside them, I march; enjoying each boulder, each seed-bearing cone, each sage brush adorning snow. I slouch under dull pain in my shoulders. I had thought for years to train for backpacking, but never enough to start — until this disabled body showed up wanting the adventure as much as I. 

Behind gauzy clouds, the sun moves through a sky that morphs from bright to dark almost without warning. I check my watch. We’ve arrived at nowhere-in-particular and must return downhill. I relinquish my body from the backpack, careful not to tip him. 

His feet, wrapped in miniature booties, make miniature crunches on the snow-turned-ice. Perfectly timed to my pattering heart, evermore delighted with each mini-crunch. His steps a staccato. My strides: the baseline. Sloshing where snow and earth made mud. In one bright streak — a comet’s trail — still water reflects the sun that warms our backs, both covered in fleece. He looks back at me, checking on me, flashing his wide, toothless smile.

When I wonder too long, his mystery past roots sadness in my heart to guess. The only certainty: a guardian angel plucked him from death row. And here we are now, his steps and mine, crunching ice in booties and boots. Living our destiny.  

The Waters Who Raised Me

I appear at her door with footsteps speaking homesick words

And pour world-weary troubles into her waves.

Longing for innocent longing.

She sings to me, just as she used to — but now I understand.

Soothing indifference, pulling my words into her crashing whirlpool,

Sweeping them out with her undertow

Tumbling and polishing them with salt and sand.

And in the space of my empty wordlessness —

Now that I understand her —

She keeps my polished rock words and gives me her song.

✨ New Audiobook Now Available on Audible! ✨

It’s here!

After months of recording and fine-tuning the words, the Varanasi Sage audiobook is now available on Audible! Varanasi Sage is a series of vignettes that describe the deep connection we can feel with nature and celebrates the ordinary miracles of everyday life. Click here to check it out!

“Walk through nature’s bounty in lyrical, nonfiction prose. Each sensory, rich, hypnotic step illuminates time and place, navigating nature’s creation in contrast to man’s destruction. Written in a series of vignettes, Varanasi Sage honors our sacred existence and ancestral communications through the unseen power that connects all. Varanasi Sage explores life, death, and the ordinary miracles manifesting on earth. Journey the depths of self-discovery to find the truest self, connected and whole.”

Soon, it’ll also be on iTunes!

If you want a quick sample, click play on the icon below to hear one of my favorite chapters, A Call to Vision.

Save Bear River

I drive down Dog Bar Road along narrow twists and turns. I pass green, rolling hills; Victorian farm houses with blossoming trees and horses out front; abandoned barns that are hauntingly romantic; and ponds that are full from recent rainstorms. 
In the distance, a group of female turkeys step out of the lush greenery and onto the road. I slow to a stop and see a male, with large plumage, chase after them. He passes behind daffodils and out of sight.
I arrive at the Bear River crossing and pull over. With my hands on the railing, I watch the water, knowing that 75% comes redirected from the Yuba. It’s hard to believe this fast-flowing river may soon become a reservoir if Nevada Irrigation District builds its proposed “Centennial Dam.” With two other dams on the Bear River, this is the last remaining stretch of free flowing water.
At the end of Dog Bar, I turn left for the Bear River Campground. 
People gather along the river panning for gold. I see young children, teens, parents, and older folks. The stormy winter unearthed far more gold than we saw during the drought, I’m told.
I walk the entire length of Bear River Campground, listening to the river’s soothing music. When I come to a patch of Miner’s Lettuce, I sit down and eat a few leaves. The river lulls my senses as it spill over rocks and laps against the shore. Native bees add their notes to the song, pausing when they alight on wildflower petals. The wind brushes against the river and caresses my face; it feels fresh, as if it has never been sullied by man’s emissions. I place both my hands to the ground. My heart fills with dread thinking this land will be entirely underwater if the dam is build.
When I reach the trailhead, I see a man collecting data next to a county truck.
“Mornin,” he says.
“Howdy.”
“You picked a good time to visit the campgrounds.”
“Because it’s empty?”
“That’s right. You been here in summer?”
“No, I just moved here recently. Is it a madhouse in summer?”
“Oh yes, lots of people camp here. It’s only $10 a night.”
“Wow! That’s the best deal in California.”
He laughs, “I wouldn’t doubt it. Where’d you live before you moved here?”
“My last home was in San Luis Obispo.”
“Ah. I went to Cachuma Dam a few years ago,” he says.
I look in his face and see the monstrous cement wall and dead zones lining the perimeter of the reservoir, the hallmarks of a dam. “It’d be a shame to see that here.”
“I’d hate to see that here,” he looks down at his spreadsheet.
“I’ll leave you to your work,” I say. “Have a good one.”
“You, too. Enjoy your walk.”
The trail follows the river closely at the base of a steep incline covered with ferns and wildflowers. Deer trails split off and lead to secluded nooks at the river’s edge. As a child, I would have played pretend in these nooks, imagining a time before modern development. I wonder if these are the locations where the indigenous Nisenan tribespeople continue their ceremonies with reverence to ancient traditions; I remember learning the Nisenan people in our area were stripped of their land and hunted like animals during the gold rush.
I pass beneath a flowering tree, petals flutter to the ground like a gesture of love. Cottonwoods sprout bright green foliage on every branch. 
Finding a large rock at the water’s edge, I listen to the river’s song and commune with the beauty around me. Soon, when the rain subsides, the river will return to a brilliant blue, all the trees will be green again, their leaves will flutter in the wind like tiny fans; the banks will recede below the tree line, and people will enter the river on kayaks and rafts finding refuge from their busy lives.
I think about the Nevada Irrigation District. They say the dam is a solution to climate change-driven water shortages, but don’t they know water evaporates rapidly off the top of a reservoir? Don’t they see that their other two dams on this river are never at full capacity?
I think about our Congressional Representative Doug LaMalfa. Nevada Irrigation District has requested he sell them our public land, the land I sit upon, so they can build the dam. He has already voted to pull back the EPA clean power plan, lift the moratorium on federal land coal leases, and roll back environmental regulations. I ask him regularly to share his stance on selling our land, the land I sit upon, but I have not heard back from him. I can only guess at his intentions.
I place my hand into the cold river, the snowmelt. It brushes through my fingers and against my palm. I savor the moment, knowing I may not have this opportunity next year.  

Gratitude: An Ode to the Rain

A severe drought — the worst in recorded history — has plagued California for years. Wildfires ravage the state, lakes receded to shocking levels, creeks and rivers ran dry. But this year, the rainstorms started early. One real storm blessed us in August, a few graced us in September, and this months we’ve had several large storms. I remember in 2013 we were ecstatic to have our first rain on Halloween — but that’s also when the rainy season ended.
At home, I am thankful even though the rain sends ants scurrying inside through every unsealed crack. The sweet, musty smell of wet earth makes up for it with each breath I take. I love turning to see my cat sit on our bench under our awning to watch the showers. Turning off the drip irrigation brought a smile to my face as do the seedlings propagated from flowers I planted in summer. Now I have an entire garden filled with baby plants. The world around me looks clean and vibrantly fresh.
Driving southwest, I am thankful for the rain even though I hate driving in the rain. At times, the downpour is heavy and my fastest wiper setting can’t clear the windshield; yet, I am grateful to slow down. As I pass vineyards and orchards, I praise grass between the rows, amazed to see green just south of Sacramento. I listen to drops beat a percussion on my windshield — I love them all, from the daintiest mist to the wildest splotches. The grey sky brightens my vision; clouds part and sunlight shines onto the earth in heavenly beams.
Just west of the San Luis Resevoir, I am grateful to see a soft dusting of green on brown hills — miraculous grass in a region that, lately, has been brown all year.
Stopping at a CVS in Carmel, I meet a transient man playing didgeridoo. We speak about his recent travels and experiences at Rainbow Gathering where he felt deep connections with strangers and realized the best of humanity is found when a society existed with a gifting economy and emphasized creation. Kneeling at his feet, I know I had so much more to be grateful for than I could ever count. I bring him food and shake his hand. I wish I could give him more, but I know he appreciated my gift by the way he smiles and waves goodbye.
As I drive into the hills of Carmel Valley to visit Linney at her mountain retreat, my heart grows at the site of last year’s Tassajara fire. Only a few months ago it looked post-apocalyptic, but now I see new life. This year, the Sobranas fire, which came within a mile of Linney’s retreat, burned for three months and decimated over 100,000 acres of the Los Padres National Forest. I am grateful for the rain, knowing it will act as a salve on the parched earth to bring healing and restore life to the land.

My thoughts turn to prayers of safety, which I send to those at Standing Rock protecting our healer, our medicine, our mother. As they honor our sacred earth, I pray our communities will gather in unity to defeat corporate greed that aims to destroy our precious home; I pray that understanding rain into the hearts and minds of the violent oppressors; I pray the water within all life glows with truth and righteousness to respect and defend that which gives us life. 

 

Cows and the green-dusted hills
A sign in Carmel Valley Village

New life in the burned area

The dirt road to Linney’s retreat looking vibrantly fresh