Day 4~ Palisade/ Downtown Grand Junction

September Retreat

My host, Poppy, prepared a breakfast of Palisade peaches, coffee, and homemade muffins. I thoroughly enjoyed every portion of this meal along with the scenic view of the vineyard and the Mesa. I couldn’t get enough of it; the sunlight pouring through this large window seemed eternal. There was something so sacred about the mesas to me… Just being present in a valley surrounded by them was enough to fulfill my spiritual desires, whatever those may have been. 

I drove up the Grand Mesa as the sun was setting the first day I pulled into this area. Driving down The Mesa Canyon along the majestic Colorado river was reviving; the magnificence of it all silenced my thoughts so that I was able to simply expand my own presence into this canyon. 

I couldn’t resist the pull of gravity to walk towards the Mesa around sunset as it turned pink. I was breath taken… The pleasantly cool air was filled with some sort of magical essence which I could not decipher, but whatever it was- it was full. Perhaps this was enhanced by the full moon that night.

As I walked and ran around the vineyard, absorbing the Grand Mesa energy in the morning air, I perceived the air as humid. I felt like I could finally breathe! According to others along the road, it was not this way. But for whatever reason, I was filled with an energy I had never been able to harness before coming to this place. 


My second place of residency for 4 nights in Palisade, CO

Unfortunately, my phone claimed to be “out of storage space” on and off for the entire day, but I managed to spend my time wisely in downtown Grand Junction without photographic evidence. I met some lovely people and made a point to carry out the conversation longer than necessary in order to acquire an unbiased opinion of this whole area. Coincidentally, every person I became friends with that day was from Southern California. 

I stalled time at a juice bar I found along the way which also offered olive oil tastings. I spent more than half an hour tasting these delicious, fine, and organically sourced oils while talking to the new employee from Southern California. It became natural for me as the day went on to introduce myself to each person, and it was simple to begin with, since normally they introduced themselves to me first. 

I was enthralled to come across an apothecary, since my mission is to find an apothecary to work or intern at. I became fast friends with the enthusiastic woman working there. It wasn’t long before we casually discovered we were both singer-songwriters but hadn’t been playing out much, because we both would rather be playing along with others! The obvious solution to our mutual dilemma was to schedule a jam session the very next day.

Eavesdropping on her conversation with the next customer, I recognized the essential oils she was referring to that were right in front of us: House of Aromatics (from my post Piñon Pine)! I exclaimed this fact, that I had spent a week where these oils are derived from with the owner, actually making them in the process. She exclaimed that the owner is a good friend of hers- and what a small world! 

I was able to meet my friend Gabe, who had been part of our six week Maya Art and Culture study abroad course in Yucatan, Mexico three summers ago. It had been this long since I’d seen him! We ate dinner at a Nepali restaraunt, satisfying my everlasting craving for Indian food.

Indian food appears to be my stable during the course of this trip, which is not the worst case scenario.

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Day 2 ~ Morrison/ Kittredge/ Golden

September Retreat, Uncategorized

On my second full day of solo exploration, I went for another bike ride along Bear Creek in Morrison. It was a vast, hilly desert– strenuous to propel upwards, but as I absorbed the atmosphere I felt renewed. Upon returning, I felt so proud I was able to stuff my bike in my car in just two pieces instead of three. I set my keys on the passenger seat as I finished buckling up my bike, and slammed both doors. However, I was thinking just a little too quickly…

I’d locked my keys inside my car, and no doors were open! What a wonderful way to start my Saturday- what I’d planned on spending as a day of leisurely shopping in my favorite town to shop in. Someone recommended I call the locksmith. There was only one locksmith number I could reach. I knew it would cost me an “arm and a leg” — but what other option did I have?

He said he would arrive in approximately 35 minutes, so I found a coffee shop to stall in. Luckily, I had my phone and my wallet on me. I ordered drip coffee and doused it with honey while I pretended to blog on my phone. Really, I was making up stories about the interesting couples who also entered the coffee shop.

What cost the man 35 minutes of driving and 35 seconds to unlock my car door, ended up costing me $178. Always think twice about whether your keys are in your hand or your car.Strolling Morrison, CO.

After Morrison, I was feeling a little frazzled. I didn’t want to stay inside, though, so I drive the opposite direction of the rocky canyon highway and made my way into Kittredge. I’d missed an Adobe Market sale by just seconds, but the owner of a local art gallery mentioned the Canyonfest taking place just down the road.

Canyonfest, Kittredge, CO

Nothing makes me feel more at home than encountering a group of hoopers dancing to live rock and roll.

I met the artist whose work I was initially intrigued by at the local gallery and purchased two pieces of wood art. Sherpa House, Golden, CO

I was elated when my cousin suggested Indian food for dinner. I ordered Chana Masala- the most satisfying salvation after any long September day, as the air begins to cool.

Meghan and Stephen- my first hosts of my solo journey.Woody’s wood-fired pizza.Walking along the river in Golden

 

 

Day 1- Idledale area

Uncategorized

I happened to remember bringing my road bike along with me, and found this magical trail in Morriosn to ride along. I had to stop in at the Cyclery, where Mark gave me lessons on putting my wheels back on after I had sabotaged my bicycle by de-wheeling it and stuffing it in a tiny car in three pieces.When I saw a sign which read “Mother Cabrini’s Shrine” on my way into Idledale, I knew it was a place I was destined to visit. I climbed 373 steps, a meditative walk, to reach the statue atop the hill. Here, the Golden area and Denver were visible.Basking in the sun in front of Jesus

Pre-Journey Revelations

September Retreat, Uncategorized

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods.” -Lord BryonI have no fear• I have only love ~Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo EmersonWalking barefoot is among the multitude of ancient arts. ~Camille M. GarciaPeering up inside a hollow tree…What all began with a journey in search of following my heart drew forth the necessity to follow my soul.Finding peace in my heart, I know that anything is possible.

Complete Liberation

September Retreat

There comes a point in one’s confused state of living in which being bold is not only the bolder option; it is the only option. You can either live with the ridiculous weight of conformity within your chest, or you can fly away from it. You can either live with twenty-one items of furniture in a very small space, or you can pass them on to others so that you can experience the clarity of mountains and rivers surrounding you.

You can either live by words others have written for you, or you can write the words with your own hand and sail through them yourself. You can either pollute the earth through the electricity you use to fuel your home after the sun has set, or you can pollute the earth in a fuel-efficient car traveling through vineyards and hot springs towns.

And if you can’t make up your mind about a certain decision that your heart not only desires, but needs, your body will surely decide for you.

There comes a point when living in fear is more dangerous than all the ten thousand things you were afraid of, because they will begin literally weighing on your entire physical being and making you ill.

Feelings not of oppression– but compression– were weighing on me as I tried to talk myself into keeping my apartment I’d rented for a year and two months. I’d made up my mind about leaving in a month on July 22nd, but retracted the notice in hopes of things working out. My life was “being pulled in a thousand different directions”, as I constantly found myself saying, and so I was constantly falling behind in all my endeavors. I was feeling the responsibility of each month’s rent, while also feeling responsible for finding the answer to Life if it would just reveal itself to me in certain objects, people, or words. For some reason, I was listening to words of advice such as, “It’s a good idea to keep your apartment”, when everything in my soul knew it wasn’t.

Eventually, after a month of all this pressure, I got sick. I was tired of trying so hard to find the answers, and practically drowning in the fears of my conditioning since birth, that I physically couldn’t take it anymore. After two weeks of mentally combating my illness, there were two options: coma, or going forward with the dream I’d held captive for an entire year.

This time, I didn’t have to make a decision. It was as though someone put me on autopilot and my body instantaneously began taking actions towards a goal I wasn’t even aware of at the time. Friday, my fingers dialed the Wyoming Tribune Eagle to put in notice of a garage sale. Next, my feet drove me to my property management to put in my 30-day notice. Saturday, running off 3 hours of sleep, I began preparing for the sale at 6am. Sold all my furniture and clothes despite the eight customers that attended. Monday, I pulled my first all-nighter of sorting through every single object in the large apartment, ascending and descending two flights of stairs in the freezing cold rain until five a.m. in preparation of my final inspection on Tuesday.

With each item I sold, donated, gifted, recycled, or threw into the landfill, I felt lighter in my heart and in body mass. Though I must have been exhausted in my dangerous lack of sleep, I had never felt more energized. It became an obsession (I mean, I had no choice but to make it an obsession– given the thirty hours I had before my final inspection). Did these items somehow represent fear? I was so overwhelmed in dealing with all of these items that eventually I couldn’t. I couldn’t make decisions about what to keep, so I eventually decided I couldn’t keep anything. I couldn’t keep clinging onto clutter that only made my life more scattered than it ever should have ever been.

What I was doing wasn’t merely decluttering; I was setting myself free. Setting myself free from all objects associated with worry and reject. Setting myself free of responsibilities that weren’t my own. Setting myself free of fears and regrets I’d absorbed from the molecules of air others exhaled in a city sometimes dense with fear. I didn’t realize the extend to which I had simply been sacrificing all of my power, freely handing it down to whichever hands happened to appear in front of me next! And I hadn’t just been doing this for a year, I’d been doing it my entire life. The things I had been holding onto were all anchors, holding onto me, causing what can only be described as an auto-immune disease: cells attacking themselves because they aren’t in alignment with the intentions of their highest selves.

And what I didn’t quite foresee, in this process, was that I would gradually dwindle my possessions down to such a light number that I had the freedom to begin anew. Material items could always come back to me if the Universe decides this is absolutely essential… but generally, new growth hinders new possessions. I also realized that the city I loved unconditionally had not truly been loving me unconditionally in return, and I musnt’t feel obligated to return.

Thursday, I completed the dauntingly impossible task of sifting through and discarding things in my room at my parents’ house since childhood in order to make room for the very few items I would store sort through whenever I return. I didn’t want to hold onto anything I had been before, and I realize what a bold statement this is; but I couldn’t possibly be clingy, fearful, or indecisive any longer.

Upon finishing these mandatory tasks in a frenzy, I packed my car with only the lightest and most necessary items I could behold. I didn’t even pack my guitar, nor my violin– because I couldn’t withstand any bulkiness on this trip if the intention was being a light traveler. Instead, I packed my guitelele and my road bike. There was no time to waste as I took off on my journey at 4:00pm sharp. Though my destination this day was only two hours away- my cousins’ woodsy stone home- I couldn’t get there fast enough. I’d waited so long to begin this venture, Time knew that I was supposed to be there much sooner, and there was nothing that would prevent me from arriving now.

By setting myself free and achieving a state of complete liberation, I have subsequently set so many others free by the threads that bind us together because everything is connected. Those threads have become much lighter and much more flexible. If you are suddenly feeling like a weight has been lifted off of you, this is not the only reason but could be one of them…

 

Touch of Teal

Magic City (of the Plains)

Whenever I used to ponder getting streaks of gray or silver in my hair, I would always hear “Touch of Grey” by Grateful Dead playing on the radio. I took this as a sure sign that this was a right move for my life path, given the fact that my spirit is approximately thirty-five years older than my physical body. I would just feel more myself. There was only one dilemma: I’m a naturalist, and I’ve never stripped my hair of anything.

The day came, however, when I simply couldn’t wait another fifty years for natural silver to appear amongst my strands. I somehow mustered the courage to make an appointment at Teal House, not quite sure if I was really going to follow through with this year-long desire by the time I arrived the next day. Did stripping my hair of its natural color and then dousing it with some kind of metallic substance really resonate with my morals?

Oh well– sometimes, even if it is once per lifetime, a creative spirit must take a risk in the name of Creativity. At least I would be following my intuition.

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So as I was sitting on the edge of the salon chair while the owner and sole stylist proceeded to brush bleach into “small” strands of hair and folded them into foil strips, I didn’t realize what I was in for. I didn’t realize, initially, that I wasn’t there to obtain “slivers of silver” and interrogate Rebecca Caswell about the origins of her self-owned salon decorated with her remodeled furniture. I was there to address the origins of all my irrational fears that have prevented me from achieving my most outrageous dreams… because she’d already lived a parallel experience relating to her own dreams.

I found it impossible to prevent myself from ranting to her all my worries about the million different directions my paths were leading me (i.e. my aspiration careers in the singing/songwriting field, becoming a best-selling author, and other side art gigs. I ranted about my loneliness, my feelings of disconnection, my anxiety about it all.

It wasn’t long before she exclaimed, “Look! You already have some natural gray coming in! You worried yourself gray– good job.” Discussing long-term visions with Rebecca shed some light on some of my own obstacles.

I told her of my greatest passions, of my travel plans, and how my travel plans would pave the way towards accomplishing my greatest passions. She listened and told me to stop asking for advice. I knew what it was wanted to do; I was just taking on the worries of ten thousand people that weren’t my own. She was one of the few people who had ever been encouraging about this subject, while I’d let the rest talk me out of my own plans. When I accidentally blurted that my last resort was flipping a penny, I quickly realized how pathetic I held my own strength. I hadn’t been strong enough to see that I was lacking willpower in my own beliefs. I came to the epiphany, in that moment, that I was the only one who would stand up for any of my best ideas.

After opening my eyes to the horror of foil bundled up in my 28-inch-long hair, I was astonished to see I wasn’t in a typical hair salon anymore. I was in a life coach/psychology session!

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“It’s so hard to be a creative person because the average joes aren’t going to get it,” she said, “so you have to say, ‘It’s not going to make sense to you, but it makes sense to me’ and then go do it anyway.”

She explained that the rebellious process of opening her own salon seemed an impractical task to most of her family and friends. She learned early on not to reveal her destiny’s secrets, because they wouldn’t make sense to the less creative types. Before she became licensed, her hair master/teacher had told her this was impossible; nobody does that! How many successful salons have only one stylist? According to her teacher, being employed by an already-successful salon was the only direction to go.

She had the resilience to tell her, “Well, that’s not my dream” and did it anyway.

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Teal House (Beauty Lounge and Furniture Design) was conceived on an auspicious date: January 1st, 2014, and birthed on April 1st, 2014 (Rebecca’s birthday month; making this an extra auspicious date). It wasn’t easy locating an open studio space in which she would perform solo hair styling and furniture remodeling for the next two years… But her determination was never faltered. She always maintained faith of finding the right place for her dream business, and eventually, it came along.

“When it’s right, it just comes together. It’s hard to be patient, and it’s hard to be perfect.”

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She found the perfect place here in Cheyenne, located on the intersection of Logan and 11th Street, only one month after she began her search.

 

“I don’t like small talk,” was not her first response to the question Why did you dream of opening your own hair salon without employees? but it came up in the same conversation and so we’ll leave it at that. It’s true; don’t you hate going to a hair salon and forcing small talk with the hairdresser even though you really want to know the details? When there are no other people to distract the conversation, this isn’t an issue.

Her passion for styling hair arises from the satisfaction of seeing transformation and change– a way in which she can express her creativity, similar to remodeling furniture. Her dreams for her business continue to grow; she would like to relocate to downtown  where there is higher foot traffic. In addition to the salon and furniture design, she also dreams of combining these with a clothing boutique. Her vivid visions appear to be paving the way towards reality, as she is currently considering downtown storefronts that look exactly as she’d imagined.

Throughout this motivating four hour pep talk on creativity, I was inspired to prioritize my aspirations, beginning with the greatest ones first. I was advised to define my most important value in order to go about succeeding. At first I had no idea what I valued most.  Freedom is the utmost value Rebecca has lived by, and this has lifted her to great heights. After thinking through, I acknowledge that freedom has always been on the top of my list; I’d just forgotten I’ve had it with me all along. Some of the last words of advice I was left with were:

“What you’re looking for isn’t in New Mexico or California or North Carolina… It’s within you. You already have everything you need.”

After contemplating this, I have harnessed my long-lost sense of power that I’ve held within me all these years. Somehow, I believe stripping my hair of some pigment simultaneously stripped away some of my fears so that I can now see clearly what was there all along. With a lighter color and layers that lift some weight off my head, I do feel lighter and more confident. (Who knew so much power could be directly related to highlights, red glasses, and green eyeshadow?)


 Hair can be such a metaphor. However, I attribute my change in perspective mostly to the conversation and creative atmosphere of Teal House.

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To the Lonely Artist

creativity

 

The entire Universe is being so unresponsive. You’re usually such a synchronicity magnet; everything generally falls into place at exactly the right time. You’re always bumping into your favorite people constantly, and you haven’t encountered a familiar soul in three whole days.

You can’t find solace anywhere; your friends have suddenly made plans the rest of the year. They don’t have time for you. But then they’re not really your friends, are they? You don’t have any friends—remember? You’re completely alone.

What’s wrong with you?

It’s probably because you need to lose at least fifteen pounds ASAP. Soon as in this week, otherwise you’re out of luck. Obviously, the only effective way to do this is to juice garlic and lime for seven days and drink green tea at every manageable hour. And you’ll have to fast—you mustn’t eat anything while you’re on this juice cleanse. You might find yourself regurgitating the first few days, but don’t worry about it; you’ll become accustomed soon enough.

But wait. Now you’ve lost fifteen pounds… and nobody has noticed! You’re still just as alone as you were yesterday and the week before, and the week before that!

Again, what’s wrong with you?

 

After experiencing all these symptoms of Artist’s Loneliness, I can personally tell you exactly what’s wrong with you.

Your friends aren’t being unresponsive because they don’t have time. They’re being unresponsive because YOU don’t have time.

It’s not that you don’t have good intentions. Your intentions are totally pure of heart, after all.

The thing is: you expect praise when you have no work to show for it. You haven’t really worked at your soul craft all month. How can you expect any creative magic to come across your path when you haven’t given it a reason to?

You didn’t even do the dishes this morning because you were obsessed with running into serendipity. You forgot to shower and rode your bike right out the door, forgetting there were eight steps in front of you.

You crashed.

The first thing you must do as soon as you get up on your feet is: the dishes. But maybe you’re not lying in a heap at the bottom of the steps. Chances are, you’re lying stiff in bed, alone. Same concept. The sun is trying it’s best at peeking through the slots in your closed blinds, and you think this is the most obnoxious sight you’ve ever seen.

In this case, prioritize opening all the blinds immediately.

Now, you’re overcome with an intense craving for coffee with lots of added syrups and sugar, even though you’re very sensitive to caffeine and sugar and you are clearly aware of how this will inhibit your creativity, directly blocking your first and second chakras.

You would crash, later in the day. So, same concept.

These distractions are so tempting. This is where lime and garlic juice comes in—just make sure not to drink this concoction on an empty stomach. If you’re too drowsy to fathom piecing together the juicer on this already-late morning, maybe you’ll have the resilience to unlock the doorknob and step outside.

Take a deep inhalation of (hopefully) fresh air. Nature will revitalize your motivation and begin cleansing your airways. Absorb the sunshine. Think to yourself all the things you intended to do yesterday. What about the tasks you failed to complete last week? Last month? Last year?

Are those “goals” still engraved in your mind? What have you been waiting for all this time—an angel sent from heaven to do all the work for you? Yeah, you have a list of good intentions as tall as your pile of dishes sitting in the sink. This is why you’re such a mess. No wonder you don’t have any friends.

So go for a walk. Overdose on matcha green tea. Do whatever it takes to get oxygen flowing to your brain so that you can begin your work. Wipe down the windows and begin cleaning out your cabinets.

 

You have abundance locked up in your cabinets. Literally! Look inside your deepest, darkest cabinet. I opened mine only to reveal nine bottles of herbal hair vinegars finished with their month of infusion. NINE! That’s $270 sitting in the bottommost, most forgotten depths of my kitchen.

Determine your biggest goal and your greatest fear (they’re the same thing, aren’t they?) and do what you need to do NOW. Send a letter to your favorite duo band, pleading they take you in as a worthy third member. Thing big. And if at first you don’t receive a response, move along to your second greatest goal. You will have obtained at least some confidence in taking steps towards your craziest, most irrational dreams, dissolving a bit of your irrational fears in the process.

Get to work on what it is you really want with your life. It’s your own, after all.

After you’ve crossed even just three things off your list, you’ll be getting all sorts of invitations from lost-lost friends.

Just make sure you don’t take on too many tasks at once—stay focused on your real work. Prioritize, and don’t start with the small things. Start with your greatest endeavors. Doing so will over-qualify you for the small tasks, making them appear simple.

Please take these words of advice that have distracted me from completing my real work tonight, but please don’t be like me; finish what you need to do today.

Piñon Pine

Abstract Essays, Cultured Narratives

My sense of time had been seriously distorted that week due to sleeping in a dark room and being an opener at a coffee shop at 4am, while also subconsciously aware mold must have been seeping through the walls of that apartment and into my sinuses. I was barely breathing, in a state of minimum consciousness when my alarm screeched unpleasantly, piercing my eardrums. I didn’t open my eyes. I was nauseous and dizzy, better prepared for death than I was a road trip to Utah.

The voice telling me this would be an instant life-changing trip was the only thing propelling me to roll out of bed two minutes after I was supposed to arrive at Emery’s house to depart to Utah. A painful rush of cold blood flooded my head as I did so, but I miraculously found myself capable of throwing my five luggage items into my car, throwing clothes on my body, and driving a mile and a half all within ten minutes.

I was headed there with my class of Fort Collins herbalists to visit House of Aromatics, a essential oil distiller lab. The concept of distilling essential oils from scratch intrigued me, but Utah was the last place I planned on travelling to within my lifespan. My imagination could never quite grasp what it would feel like to be there—to drive through flat-topped sandstone hills with red dirt mountains sprouting bushy bundles of Artemisia.

The descent winding down the western Colorado-Utah border was overcome with traffic but surrounded by beautiful scenery, including majestic mountains and equally mystical ghost towns blanketed with fog. Despite the beauty, two hours of riding in the backseat made me so cold and nauseated I could have passed out. Fortunately, I was in a car full of intuitive herbalists—one of which happened to possess a homemade ginger tincture. After consuming a few drops of that, stopping for coffee, and walking briskly through the cool, mountain morning air of Georgetown, Colorado; I witnessed the healing powers of nature already reviving my health and my spirit. We were walking along a full river in search of a coffee shop, which I spotted just in time.

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I savored the taste of comfort; a sweet, warm soy latte while walking back along the river lined with vivid green grass and medicinal plants that our Mother Herbalist pointed out to us. That crisp, cold and rainy air flowed through my veins, allowing me to breathe a little more clearly. Our next stop was also by a river that I walked downhill towards… and my soul shouted for joy at the view of yet another element I clearly didn’t visualize enough: water. Water, earth, fire, wood, air. It occurred to me indirectly along this journey that I hadn’t been surrounding myself with the essential life elements, so it was no wonder I was experiencing so many ailments such as respiratory issues, fatigue, and infections.

Now nearing our destination as we wound up the mountain, I was feeling the most enlivened of the entire group. I was transfixed by the pink reflection of the setting sun illuminating the valley with cirrostratus clouds overhead, casting contrasts of pink and indigo upon the plateaus. I had never seen a more expansive sky than this one. The expansiveness allowed me to breathe in the atmosphere, appreciating the journey. I almost choked on my water when I suddenly spotted a formation of white sandstones perfectly shaped like a guitar, right there on the hill! It was a large formation, obviously natural. I shouted at the other passengers my revelation, but we’d already passed the hill and they’d been oblivious.

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Though this caused me to double-take on dreams versus reality, I knew I was not mistaken. Guitars were engraved in these hills, playing music to the sky and the valley. I felt instantly at home. The trees were smiling at me.

We were there for the Wood and the Earth, but I was astounded to recognize that the wood and the earth were there for us, before anything. The entire time, we wore the scent of the trees upon our skin in the form of hydrosols derived from piñon pine’s essential oil. This way, we absorbed that aroma both internally and externally while emitting Piñon’s scent from our own pores so that we could better connect with all of nature. Especially the trees. After collecting pines from the forest, walking barefoot, and sniffing flowers, we stuffed the pines into a large barrel that would sit, generating heat, for days.

I believe it was the trees, out of all elements, which transmitted a wonderful idea to my soul whilst I was amongst them. They made me believe that all of my aspirations are beautiful and magical, surely possible to achieve. Don’t give up, they said. Everything is always okay. Nothing is a mistake; only part of the plan. They shed light upon the fact that not only had I been so out of touch with the elements- I was out of touch with the entire Universal cycle and it was making me crazy and forgetful and depressed. But spending time with a multitude of trees twenty-five times older than myself rooted some ancient wisdom within me. One being: we are part of them. We are part of a living, breathing organism and our personal health influences the entire body of the ecosystem.

Another forgotten “element” I rapidly remembered along this trip was space. Is it an element, or all the elements? Our existence is something else compared to space—something quite small and seemingly irrelevant to the entirety of the Universe and beyond… yet somehow, each one of Us is actually composed of all the elements that our Universe is composed of. Though we’re merely “atoms in the hind leg of a dog on some foreign galaxy”, according to Eryl, we are also God to one of our living cells.

 

So it’s no wonder the six of us found ourselves laughing nonstop in the oil distiller’s kitchen for four hours that night while everyone else sat outside drumming around the fire and searching for the spiritual truth. The spiritual truth sometimes means nothing more than laughter—the kind of laughter that is so relentless it hurts. The kind of laughter that ignites smiles to every one of the cells forming your body—all the atoms spinning around at the speed of light, holding you together in one piece. The kind of laughter that causes you to gasp for oxygen because your muscles are uncontrollable in the moment. The kind which causes you such shortness of breath you don’t take heed the very real possibility of death, because the overwhelming load of serotonin rushing to your brain makes you forget everything. It makes sense that laughter creates a higher vibration when your entire organ system vibrates with the untamable action.

Sometimes, stillness and silence may also lead to the most serendipitous moments. While I was lost in silent wonder, staring up at the sand hills basking in the golden evening sun, I met Jackie from Florida and Nora from Switzerland outside of a barn party in the small town of Boulder, Utah (population 150). How either of them ended up at this particular barn party was a mystery to me, until I wandered inside the barn and was confronted with the most passionate, lively energy I’d experienced… ever. A marble dancing stage sat at the south entrance, and hanging lights of all colors lighted the north stage. The sound coming from the stage was one that would instantly bring to life even the most lethargic of souls, such as myself at the time. I came to life, fully, as I became one with all the other colorful dancing spirits from all over the world in this middle-of-nowhere-Ute barn.

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I danced with the crazy locals to a cover of Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy”. My body flowed with the rhythm, inspired by the reckless, carefree dance moves of everybody in the front crowd including my Mother Herbalist and the owner of the field on which we were camping. Absorbed in the band’s sound, I was astonished when the reckless, dancing local woman with whom I was barely acquainted suddenly turned around to face me and placed her palms on mine, hands still in midair.

“You know what’s crazy?” she looked gravely into my eyes, staring straight into my soul. If I hadn’t learned anything about magic and synchronicity within that past year, I would have merely thought she was drunk. She was, but I knew she had turned towards me, specifically, to make an significant point worthy of permanent remembrance. “The world we live in, where we’re so afraid of being what we really are.” I agreed that it is a crazy world. “But now is the time to break through society and just be our crazy selves. Right? Just let go of everything. Be free. That’s what we really need in our world.” The guitarist kept rocking a riff while repeating “Crazy… crazy… crazy…” and the crowd roared under a hundred multi-colored lights. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to just be you.” The woman with brown eyes squeezed my hands before letting go, then turned back around to dance facing the performers.

I lost myself in the music as the song transitioned into “Moonage Daydream” and two free-spirited young girls reenacted a 1980s David Bowie rage. I allowed my entire body to move freely, synchronized with the rest of the audience who felt as much. I let go of everything and just felt. (I did not get up on stage with the girls and rage.)

The sky was densely lit with mysteries clearly visible in the open field throughout those nights: beaming stars, galaxies, and the Milky Way. The sky was also looking at us during those Central Utah nights while we made music by the fire, danced carelessly in a barn, made friends from across the world, drank wine, and gossiped about the stars. The galaxies would undoubtedly remember us, the Herbalists, simply trying to shed light upon other living beings united in our system as a whole. And I believe it was a success, especially there in a land where we, the plants and the plant-lovers, could view what was happening up there on a tangible level.

On the last day, we gathered in a circle around the barrel of pines and lifted the cover off the top. A multitude of three whole trees– or more– had created a mere five ounces of essential oil. Steam emanated from the barrel and into my sinuses; it was lovely and sweet, but also powerful and healing. It was as though a blast of clarity hit me directly in the face. I could breathe. My heart was open. No one said a word; we were all suddenly still. Tears were shed around the circle. We had co-created this substance with the Earth, asking her permission, and now she was thanking us. This steam carried more with it than its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, and anti-viral properties… it carried the Spirit of Piñon Pine.

We gave the remains of Piñon Pine back to the Earth. I was feeling light, like weight had been lifted from my heart and mind. The golden sun paved the road home, shining past our sunglasses, igniting some kind of hidden light within our souls that evaporated any doubtful parts of us, replacing those parts with hope and wonder. I took with tools of healing and wholeness derived from a variety of sources, silently thanking each source.I experienced a newfound appreciation of the layered sandstone canyon walls surrounding us, and mountains freckled with sparse bright green trees contrasting with vividly red dirt.We drove under tunnels holding our breaths, and I was reminded of the ancient concept of emerging from underground caves with a new perspective of life. We emerged from the tunnels every time in bursts of laughter.

 

 

Susto

Abstract Essays

Susto is a common ailment in Mexican and southwestern United States traditional medicine or curanderismo, referring to the loss of one’s soul due to extreme fright.

I first became acquainted with this term three years ago when I apprenticed with a Mayan herbalist in Yucatán, Mexico for six weeks. There, it is more commonly referred to as nervios. Nervousness, loss of soul… same thing. Por ejemplo, he said, it is common to lose one’s soul if you become frightened by the appearance of a snake. I associated this idea with the instinctive thought of death—being so scared for a single moment that the soul leaps from one’s body so as not to be harmed.

Those who are diagnosed with susto experience symptoms such as loneliness, emptiness, nervousness, anxiety, and panic. In severe cases, they are unable to breathe due to feelings of constriction and heaviness in the chest. Some are unable to speak. The longer one’s condition remains untreated, the more physical ailments will progress such as serious ongoing infections, particularly in the sinuses. Long-term cases will inevitably lead to death.

Nervios, for a reason nobody in the village could fathom, was most commonly detected in infants. Various herbal and shamanic remedies could be prescribed to cure this, each one different depending on the chosen practitioner, and the baby or the client would be on their way to resume daily life. The thing that boggled my mind the most was how frequent this ailment, if you could call it something so minor, occurred amongst villagers here. Many Westerners would probably conclude that it was ‘a mental thing’.

 

It took me three years to unearth a few mysteries behind susto. Just because it isn’t typically spoken of in this culture doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist in this culture, disguised behind masks of peculiar words in the English vocabulary. Unfortunately, western medical vocabulary doesn’t normally relay the root of any disease within the word itself, so we are often left without the simplest tools to detect the most obvious counteraction to the cause. Linguistic anthropology classes can tell you that, but so can common sense. (Though I do give us credit for keeping malaria– bad air.)

It took me even more time to finally accept that maybe there was a reason as to how one contracted this disease, and why babies were the regular victims. What IS shyness, and why was I shy as an infant? Why, when I’d never lived any experiences of my own, would I escape from the womb still acting like a prisoner of worry?

 

My father once revealed a hidden belief of his, in explanation of my strange déjà vu encounter with Colorado’s oldest town, San Luis. When I first passed through this town on a road trip with two of my aunts, years ago, I exclaimed, “I WROTE about this town in a segment of my novel!!!” My two aunts were a little wary of this sudden exclamation, more likely to assume I’d gone overboard with the definition of ‘fiction’ than to come up with any spiritual explanation. His response was unexpected and I could have perceived it as sarcastic, like many of his jokes, but I knew it was serious:

We have generational memories still engraved in our brains from all of our New Mexican ancestors. Maybe that’s why.

             We didn’t discuss generational diseases.

I’d been attending doctor’s offices for ten years, coming in with strange dilemmas nobody could diagnose. Hm, that’s an interesting one, they would say. I really can’t say why that is. Eventually, I gave up. There was no point of being prescribed birth control to counteract odd symptoms of anxiety. When a doctor inquires about your family’s history of disease, he or she isn’t normally referring to emotional distress passed down to the offspring from ancient ancestors, causing seemingly physical illnesses in the living generations. Doctors aren’t about to diagnose, say, generational fright as a chronic disease.

Were my ancestors really so terrified of following their heart’s passion that their souls left their bodies, only to come back in the form of me, still carrying all that fright? And why, of all things, did this have to include love? Life goals and love stories all have had two trending commonalties: hopelessness and failure. I could reveal ancient secrets I’ve exclusively been told, but I can’t do that here. All I need mention is that generational curses do exist, and it doesn’t help any to be indirectly discouraged since infant years from conquering the thing you’ve been trying to overcome throughout the course of generations and past lives. It doesn’t help to be told by any alternative medicine practitioner that if I don’t achieve what it is I’m trying to overcome, my body will continue to wither up and die.

 

At home amongst the Colorado-Wyoming border, I turned to such alternative healing methods—the closest we have to traditional herbalism and curanderismo– in search of possible root causes. I became certified in such professions myself, in hopes that doing so would cure me of all my issues. On the contrary, I ended these certification courses with even more confusion and anxiety, taking too long to integrate the true meaning of these practices within myself. I was experiencing life but not actually living it. I was living not from the heart but out of obligation to ensure the peace of mind for those who cared for my wellbeing.

I couldn’t have foreseen the true beginning of my transformative healing, if I had to pinpoint a day since birth, on July 28th when I decided I should attend the Indian Pow Wow. I dragged along the first familiar soul I randomly encountered that day to accompany me, whether he liked it or not. I was afraid to get out and dance freely with everyone at the event—of course I was; I was afraid of everything. But this compulsion was too strong, and I was tired of being afraid. I followed the lead of a young-spirited grandmother wearing a sunhat out to the “dance floor”, the grass stage, forcing my friend to trail along. We danced in a circle to the beat of a drum, the sound that signifies the heartbeat in Native American tradition.

They say the drum is nurturing to a broken heart; it should be able to beat life back into one’s body when played in rhythm. It is the first sound we hear in the womb, the sound that literally brings us to life. Tradition has it that this sound can heal any disease associated with lack of life. I didn’t realize at the time that it would also efficiently beat the life back into my soul.

The grand finale of my healing came crashing down on my birthday exactly a week later, as my downstairs neighbor’s antlers simultaneously came crashing down off the wall. My party of eight had been stomping too loud, he claimed—stomping to the beat of 50s music, stomping the fear out of our souls. We all do it. He wouldn’t be the one to complain, after all, when just hours ago my rooftop sunbathing session had been interrupted by his metal band blasting music through the roof. A hardcore metal band knows the importance of release. Their excuse for loudness is the loudest instrument: the drums.

This time, there were no rituals or herbal remedies involved– only drums, dancing, 50s hop, and wine. Since the drum, I have had hope to continue living life from the heart. Since dancing, I have had courage to pursue endeavors that spark fireworks in core of my being. So, there exist alternative remedies even to typical alternative medicine.

Whatever you must release, do so.