Zion Transformation

Alone at 6:00 am, watching the sunrise over rock formations, climbing natural staircases, feeling smooth buttresses with the palm of my hand, I come to sit on the top of a earth-made spier — I feel like the uppermost piece of a cairn. I sit patiently, open to a message from the landscape.

A sparrow flies in circles around me. Scat below my feet tell me deer enjoyed this view not long ago. I recalled the joy I felt seeing the hot and thirsty doe near Angel’s Landing the day before, and my surprise to see her at high altitude. A tree grows from a crack in the rock behind me — most of the trees and plants I see here seem to force their way through hard, impossible places. The sun’s rays pass by clouds, creating beams of majestic light that illuminate the red, yellow and orange striped rocks around me. Only birdsong breaks the silence of the dawning day.

I look upon the earth before me. It is almost impossible to believe, sitting on a rock perch, that 275 million years ago this region was a flat sea basin. But it’s true: The iconic Zion landscape in Utah is the result of millions of years and five geological processes: sedimentation, lithification, uplift, erosion and volcanic activity. I look upon a working transformation — geological processes that continue today.

The resulting transformation is an unparalleled beauty that speaks to the soul of an unseen power. Several times while hiking I had to sit and pause in stillness and quietude to fathom the power of the rivers and the earth’s movements that created the structures and forced the earth towards the sky in vast towers and points.

I wondered, would the flat basin give home to the many plants and animals I had seen? Would the flat basin draw tens of thousands of visitors in a day with its grandeur? Could it provide the same inspiration to artists, have the power to pierce your heart, and take away your breath?

The spirit of Zion revealed itself to me with insight into myself.

I am a creature of change. I actively pursue transformation of my consciousness to become a more radiant reflection of human possibility — an instrument of equanimity, love and peace. I long to be transformed, to allow the processes within and without mold me and sculpt me into the shapes that I am destined to become.

The work of authentic transformation is ongoing and multifaceted: Zion is still changing. The rocks tell me to be humble, relax into the processes, accept and surrender to the unseen power. Growing pains must not be resisted or feared, but rather, seen as an effect of personal evolution. Life provides limitless opportunities for inner refinement; being present to reflect my true nature requires a Zion-like patience.

Sunrise; Zion National Park
Doe near Angel’s Landing
Orange Rocks
Yellow rocks
Once a flat sea basin
A tenacious tree
Virgin River; a major force in Zion’s transformation
Trees growing out of striped rock
Narrow Canyon

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

 

Bourgeois Picnic with Linney

This morning, Linney invited me to her mountain retreat in Carmel Valley, California. On such a beautiful day as today, of course I accepted.

When I arrived, I walked the path to the main house and saw purple wild flowers and yellow dandelions had made their springtime debut. The mountainside was green and the air was warm. Birds sang and danced on the beautifully twisted oak trees and new, vibrant leaves sprouted from bare branches.

Once inside, Linney and I got straight to catching up on our latest glamsient adventures, and most importantly, making a bourgeois picnic.

A bourgeois picnic is any smattering of fine foods like gourmet cheeses and herbed crackers, tapenade and berries, bell peppers and humus, fruits and champagne. Personally, a bourgeois picnic is my favorite part of glamsienting. No matter where I find myself, a bourgeois picnic makes me happy; it can make even a run down wharf feel fresh!

Today, Linney had heirloom tomatoes, basil and mozzarella so we made a quick caprese salad. When we finished, we were still hungry, and so we put together a plate of assorted cheeses, rosemary crackers, blueberries, honey and fig jam.

“Aren’t we lucky to live where all this food is locally available?” She asked.

“Absolutely,” I said, looking out over Carmel Valley to the Pacific Ocean. The sun was setting, casting a soft light across the landscape. “This bourgeois picnic is divine.”

“We do pretty well for a couple of ratchets,” she laughed.

As night fell, a symphony of frogs serenaded us while we watched the lights turn on in Monterey and the stars fill the sky.

 

Caprese Salad
  
Assorted Cheeses, Blueberries, Honey and Fig Jam
 

Linney

Linney, now the media director for her local NORML chapter and no longer homefree, introduced me to the glamsient lifestyle. We met at my friend James’ Lightning in a Bottle pre-party.

When I walked onto the property, she was sitting with James and a few others next to the salt-water pool. Everyone was in festi-attire. Each unique, yet typical: cat ears, gypsy pants, leggings, crop tops, tie dye, faux fur. 

Linney stood out. She wore a crown made with large pieces of smokey quartz crystal and a see-through little black dress. Gold jewelry sparkled on her ears, neck and wrists; a diamond ring on her right hand glittered in the sun. A long, pashmina scarf draped from her shoulders. She poured a glass of red wine.

James gave me a bear hug when I walked up, but he was mostly preoccupied with his mirror, so I sat down next to Linney.

“Hello!” she smiled. Her teeth glittered like her diamond ring. “Want some wine?”

“I’d love some.”

“Here,” she handed me the glass she had just filled. “I’m Linney.”

“Chelsea,” I said.

“How do you connect with us?” she poured herself a glass of wine.

“I know James. He gave me a ticket.”

“Me too! I think he’s bringing most of us here. He gave his favorite broke friends tickets. Cause he wants us to be there with him.”

“Seriously?” I couldn’t believe it. “How many of us?”

“Maybe, like, ten or fifteen.”

I did the math in my head — more than $3,000 on tickets for his friends. Damn. Wow. Here I was thinking I was special.

Linney laughed, “he’s the best kind of eccentric rich guy: generous.”

“Indeed… To James,” I said, raising my glass.

“To James!” she tapped my glass with hers. “The only reason we’re here.”

“So, you’re broke, too? Hard to believe.”

Linney laughed. “Yep. I’m a hobo!”  

“No way! Me, too!” I laughed along with her.

“You are?! Oh em gee. James finds all the bohemian strays and gives us homes.”

“That’s so funny. I thought I was the only one who lived on his land.”

“Almost everyone here lives on one of his properties. He has so many. You can tell the ones who don’t because they are his rich friends.”

“I would’ve thought you were one of his rich friends!”

“Really?” She looked earnestly into my eyes. 

“Yes! Absolutely!”

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and laughed at the sky, “I’m rich in fun!” 

Cairns at Lightning in a Bottle

Destination: Unknown

Nine months ago I began my life as a glamsient, although I didn’t know it at the time. The lifestyle wasn’t on my radar; I didn’t know it existed. Of course, people were living as glamsients, but I didn’t know any. To my knowledge, they weren’t calling themselves glamsients either — when it came out of the ether and into my mind I googled it and nothing! (Not even urban dictionary!)

Yet here I am, nine months later, living as a glamsient.

The glamsient life hasn’t been easy; living on the road (I’m homefree, not homeless) came with emotional difficulties. Unexpected twists and turns could make life feel erratic and unstable, but the highs of glamsient life — from wine tasting in Carmel to lounging fireside in the Sierras — kept me going. Now that I’ve settled in, the twists and turns no longer make me road-sick; now I feel a sense of unfettered adventure.

What could be more glamsient than that?

 

Unexpected travel to the Muyil ruins, Mexico, January 2016