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.

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.

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.

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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.

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New Audio Track! Awakening Depths

After several months of false starts while I figured out how to record the Varanasi Sage audiobook, I finally have it down! Here’s a track of “Awakening Depths,” an excerpt from the collection. You may want to listen with eyes closed, but I’ve included the text if you’d like to read along. Let me know what you think of this recording in the comments! Stay tuned for more audio tracks, and the audiobook release!

Awakening Depths

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

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

The cool, dark quietude penetrates my being. The awe of sacred knowing. Completely held within 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 Nature’s depths.

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

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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:

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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!

 

Burning Intentions 2019

I’m on the road to Burning Man, and according to tradition I’m sharing my intentions to amplify them. This year I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m taking an art installation! The project, Varanasi Sage, has consumed much of my waking life over the past few months, and I’ve gladly given that time. It has been a true challenge and learning experience, but it has also given my life more meaning and purpose. Plus, it helped me finish my first booklet! It’s already been a rewarding experience to create this art, and I’m looking forward to showing it off! I’ll also be giving away a limited number of my booklets as part of the installation.

Without further ado, my Burning Intentions:

    Put my art into the hands of hearts who will love it
    Face challenges with grace and ease, trusting my experiences
    Connect with other artists in a meaningful way
    Deepen into a gratitude practice

If you’re on the playa this year, I’m teaching my workshop Meditation & Writing MWF 10-11am at my camp Namaste & Chill located at 6:15 & D. I would love to see you there!

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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.

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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.

The Lucky Ones

[First published in 2017 as “The Cows of Black Rock City,” this edition will appear along with many unpublished stories in a collection of shorts for Varanasi Sage — Due out in July!]

Twinkling lights strung around its frame, chain clicking in a dry loop, my bike created tracks on tracks in the dust, crossing tracks without pattern or reason.

In the dark of night, the high desert mirrors the sky; although the stars on the ground are colored, moving and spinning, dancing chaotically. In the dark expanse, we put on our lights and become technicolor shooting stars.

By week’s end, the thin layer of dust on my bike will gather to look as though it had been left forgotten in the recesses of a workman’s garage. Dust on my clothes, my skin and my hair, in my nose, ears and lungs. By week’s end, I, too, caked with dust, will look old and forgotten.

A herd of cows appears. Dim lights twinkle from their insides, differentiating them from the dust and darkness. Stationary, unafraid, wooden skeletons wrapped in translucent nylon. 

In the darkness of the playa, amongst dust and art, these are the lucky ones. Peaceful bovines, sacred cows, abundant goddesses of nourishment.  Their twinkling lights, the same as my own; viewing passing delights. Busses dressed like sheep and lighthouses, cars like genie lamps, golf cart abstract art, and bodies radically expressing themselves.

Our shared reality outside this city — the distortion of divine nature, the degradation of life by human command. Here they are not an exploitable object; a living, feeling being trapped in a pit of manure, in line for a violent death, never having eaten a blade of grass or stepped hoof in a meadow. I am a lucky one, in the darkness of the playa, amongst dust and art; not trapped in a war torn city, used as a human shield.

The sadness of contrast, a melancholy inspection, thoughts and emotions rising from the depths of another’s creation. Here in the dust — in the middle of nowhere — surrounded by darkness and lights.

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Phuture Pasture by David Suckling for Burning Man 2017