Yellow Ribbons – with Audio

This piece looks back at my coming of age that coincided with the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 and took me from disconnection to understanding, West Coast to East Coast. Balancing light and dark, I reflect on my own history and see the striking difference between then and now in American solidarity to honor the dead and pay homage to the grieving. Click play on the icon below to read along with me:

Yellow Ribbons

Floating gold-leaf words, astrologists and new-age back porch philosophers say these are the birthing pains of society entering The Age of Aquarius.

Let the Sun Shine!

When do we get to the part with dancing and laughing in flower fields under clear blue skies? Not a toxic airplane trail in sight. Or is that now? Is it — now?

Maybe for me. Walking along oceanside cliffs, empty of tourists, covered in pastel green bushes with leaves like hands in praise. Intoxicating sweet and fruity perfume emanating from purple popped corn on the stem. Up and over the hillside, I’d never seen so many together and grazed my palms across theirs. I tiptoed to a clearing between their round, decorated bodies and laid back to look at the sky, perfectly blue, without a pollution-trail in sight.

Three thousand miles away, my sister, cloistered in New York City. You could say we look like twins, though her life, in some ways, is the opposite of mine. With two children at the cusp of adulthood, their grief has been once removed. A friend’s loved one. Thousands of families left behind. Unable to hold hands as they died. FaceTime for the fortunate. Keeping distance as they mourn. Concrete and planted parks for comfort.

I entered adulthood almost twenty years before this virus. At the dawning of my independence, my mother swung open my bedroom door. Gasping. I dragged myself to the living room and watched — live — as the second plane hit. And then the replay. The replay and the replay of impacts that took 2,753. It was far away. It was barely real, but my mom said it would change the world. I went back to bed. That afternoon, I got a haircut.

Under a red terror alert and below redwoods, with an ocean view, my parents moved me into the dorms. It was just before the Fall Equinox and, during orientation, they said they had grief support. But I wasn’t affected.

The next summer, years of discord in high school dissolved during road trips to Santa Cruz with my sister. Bored of familiarity, we moved to New York City into a Lower East Side apartment with a few of her friends. We went to flashy bars for table service those warm nights as the promoter’s guests. I used her passport to get past bouncers.

For convenience, I enrolled in a college just blocks from downtown chainlink fences with green fabric holding the awful scar. On the one year anniversary, the busy streets were empty aside from a howling wind and the trash it carried. I will never forget the howling. From the second story of my school, I watched barges carrying debris along the Hudson River. And my new friend told me he saw, from the school steps, a woman in a blue dress at the edge, every detail of her face, the violent wind blowing her hair. The air that could not save her as she jumped from the burning building. He was with her as she fell. Another friend, in her Brooklyn schoolyard, had thought for a moment it was snowing that morning, but holding out her hand, realized it was ash, floating and landing in her hair.

Back then, people across the country hung American flags and tied yellow ribbons around trees. They hung signs saying United we Stand. United we Stand. They chanted and chanted until it awoke the war machine.

Divided We Fall.

Today, six weeks after the first death, over 19,000 taken by the virus in New York City alone. Amidst drive-by funerals and trenches for the unclaimed, terrorists parading as patriots fly flags of our enemies and carry assault rifles into capital buildings. They call for their right to infect and be infected, carrying signs saying, “I need a haircut.”

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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

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!

 

Varanasi Sage at Burning Man!

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!

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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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

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.

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The Cows of Black Rock City

My bike, with twinkling lights strung around its frame and the chain clicking in a dry loop, glides along the dust, creating tracks on tracks, crossing tracks without pattern or reason. 

The high desert, in the dark of night, mirrors the midnight sky.  

Now, the thin layer of dust on my bike, by week’s end, will gather as though it hasn’t been ridden for decades, but instead, left old and forgotten, in the recesses of a workman’s garage. Dust on my clothes, my skin and my hair. I wear a scarf over my mouth and nose, but there must be — there has to be — dust in my lungs. By week’s end, I will also look old and forgotten.

Colored lights move and spin and dance chaotically. We become our lights in the dark expanse; nothing else to differentiate between us and the nothingness, we put on our lights and become technicolor shooting stars.

A herd of cows appears out of the dust and darkness, dim lights twinkle from their insides, the only thing differentiating them from the nothingness. I ride up to them. Stationary and unafraid, metal skeletons wrapped in translucent nylon.

Sadness wells in my heart.

Peaceful bovines, sacred cows. An object. Not a living, breathing, feeling creature. Yet these are the lucky ones, in the darkness of the playa, amongst the dust and the art; they are not trapped in a pit of manure, in line to die never having eaten a blade of grass or stepped foot in a meadow.

Their twinkling lights are the same as my own. 

Our shared reality — the degradation of life, the distortion of our divine nature. Yet I am one of the lucky ones, in the darkness of the playa, amongst the dust and the art; I am not trapped in a war torn city, used as a human shield.

I remember feeling this way last year — or was it the year before? The sadness of contrast, a melancholy inspection, sudden thoughts and emotions inspired by the depths of creation. Here in the dust — the critique of modern industry, modern society, modern greed — in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by darkness and lights.

The Herd of Cows in the morning