Reflection 

creativity

Remember that everything is always a reflection. What needs are you rejecting yourself? Consistency in self-care and self-love inevitably leads to a world-view mirror of unconditional love and reciprocation… and you’ll be able to recognize -or find- your mirror in others of radiant beauty. Be able and willing to bend without breaking, yet always remember your roots. 

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Healing the Disconnect

Abstract Essays, Uncategorized

There are 7.5 billion inhabitants of Earth, and yet I believe it must be the loneliest planet in the Galaxy. As I sat alone examining my thoughts on a wintery night as I have most of my life, I found myself questioning my physical existence– and I am sure there are still many others out there pondering the same thing. I found myself questioning the authority of my feelings and my words- where they were going- as I was in a state of desperation and nobody would respond. If I could estimate the percentage of times my heartfelt messages of whatever form have been left unresponded to, I would estimate about 85%.

This reaction, or perhaps a lack of reaction, strung me into a state of being not only resistant– but utterly terrified to reach out to any of the connections I perceive as meaningful. So in this state, I begun searching for external signs to pave my path. I had not been following my heart out of fear, and for explainable reason: I didn’t know if my heart had authority to connect. I’d been searching for answers and meanings everywhere, and was tired of trying. There were times when I felt I’d been sent into a deathly coma in which my soul was dying. I was tired of dying. In this time, I had no other option than to quit. I could no longer manipulate the ways of the Universe to attract someone or something into my life; I could only surrender to the silence and loneliness and just be.

If you have ever been here, it is a lonely and sad place to be– and yet also a revolutionary place. It is one in which one’s heart finally breaks out of a state of numbness inside a cage and into one of recognition that you really are alone in this life, even though, “we are all one”. Finally, my heart broke lose into hard sobbing- something that hadn’t happened for awhile. I could feel the deprivation of chemicals and minerals in my body affecting my mind, with the knowing that simply being in physical contact with others would change this and I wouldn’t have to spend so much damn money on supplements and treatments if I could simply have more human contact, naturally. The word “depression” crossed my mind. But I don’t like being depressed and helpless because although sometimes I may not feel supported by others, I’m an optimist and I’m constantly in communication with the cosmos. I like to search for the answers, wherever they may be. Perhaps my tears ignited a more positive chemical reaction and caused me to draw information from the akashic records of the Earth. Maybe I was alone; but I was alone together with another body of beings who also perceive themselves to be alone.


The loneliness I was feeling was not all of myself. I knew I must have been feeling the loneliness of Earth. Mother Nature also longs for human touch. She longs to feel our caress. She longs to feel our feet upon her core. She longs to heal our wounds. The answer on that day was writing. As I found myself wishing I didn’t have to be in existence since all the people I care about most don’t have time for my words or my presence, I asked why I was still here. If I was still in existence, there must be a reason. And there must be somebody out there listening. Then I recalled a confrontation I had with a curandero in Albuquerque this fall. At the time, I couldn’t perceive any direct relevance to the words he told me, but I listened. The words that came to mind this day were, “We need you here. We need your words. You’re supposed to write about what we’re doing to each other.”

I have done nothing but perfect my physical being, taking the repeated advice from others that: “You need to learn to accept yourself, because if you don’t accept yourself, nobody else will.” Somehow I tried to turn this advice into something valid, and overtook years of spiritual growth practices with a goal to accept myself and become more confident. I was tired of trying so hard to be perfect, though. Nobody is, right? We don’t need to spend any more time worrying about what might be wrong with us. Nothing is wrong with us. We must see the sad truth about our disconnected society that we live in, and we must accept that as an answer. I physically didn’t know how to go on alone, and yet I was so terrified and anxious to reach out for help because of my past experiences

The writing revolutionary has changed my perspective on life, although I have postponed publishing this for too long. I hope my purpose is to become a person able to feel once more, and to receive and give and love like I haven’t been able to. I am worthy of unconditional love from myself and from others, and so is everyone else.

Why do I have the authority to speak to you and receive a response? The unresponse rate I receive is so high that it has sent me into a state of being not only resistant in all forms of communication, but absolute fright and extreme anxiety. I know we’re all busy, but we’re tearing each other apart. We’re clawing at the threads that bind us together, unintentionally. We’re creating an unsafe place for our fellow humans to be, one of fear and fright for simply expressing the simplest things on our minds. If there’s a reason you won’t ever be able to respond to somebody, whether they are close to your heart or not, you need to tell them precisely why that is. There needs not be fear involved; however, because some reaction and reciprocation is a better response than none, and will prove to be less detrimental to mental health.

Things we can do to heal the disconnect:

  1. Cut back on social media. Deactivate your Facebook or Instagram accounts for awhile. You can always get them back whenever you need them, if you do, because they never really disappear. These are not real forms of connection. Use the time you spare by reconnecting with your intuition and innate telepathy with other humans: who is it that’s calling and needs your support? Is there somebody that’s been crossing your mind that you’ve been ignoring? This is likely not a coincidence. Our minds are connected and this person is calling you from afar, but is afraid to reach out! You must reach out to this person in physical form.
  2. Take down your television. If I have ever rented a space containing a TV or a microwave, I have disconnected it from power for multiple reasons. Yes, electronic emissions are harmful to our health and disruptive to our sleep patterns. Furthermore, this is living in either a fictional world or a vamped-up negative version of our real world. What is real to you? Do you think you really have to take on the entire world’s problems and wars at once, single-handedly? Is this an excuse that you’re constantly busy? If you are taking action and consuming your time with changing multiple distant causes, this may be rewarding and bring about a multitude of positive karma. However, this may also activate more anxiety and worry for you which can consume your time, when there are others nearby who might be needing to talk.
  3. Cut back your work hours. Forty hours or more is really an extremely detrimental amount of time to spend indoors. So find another job outdoors. Seriously. You’ll figure it out; it won’t be the end of the world. We need more time to meditate and act out of a place of love rather than extreme fright that our words aren’t being received. We need one another. Mother Earth needs us. Volunteer at a garden center, or wherever it is in your particular environment that needs your attention.
  4. If this isn’t “possible” for you yet and you are unable to immediately break free of a long-term limited mindset, at least find the time to connect with nature once a day by taking a walk and contributing elements to the air, (especially walking barefoot when possible), visiting an art gallery reflective of nature and/or human spirit, and making it a priority to acknowledge and express compassion to every soul you encounter.
  5. Forget about “energy vampires”. !!! If you are one to push away those with “negative energy” (aka those who are depressed and in need of human interaction)– you are probably one yourself. You’re really not so different as you think. Instead, be kind and reciprocal. You never know. The one “energy vampire” I encountered since my move ended up being the one to clean up my new tattoo with care and give generous advice. If it’s truly becoming a problem, remember to ground yourself in every way and use healing protection in whatever form resonates most with you. Let your friends know that they are loved, and when you can’t reciprocate every word, suggest that they journal before speaking.
  6. Reconnect with long-lost friends and family. It was as though you’ve both completely thrown your memories into the void of potential nonexistence for as many years as you haven’t contacted each other OUT OF FEAR that you weren’t worth the time and the other was probably busy. Guess what? Love never dies, and you ARE worthy of friendship and time out of someone’s day– especially if your intention is only to make it brighter! Please explain to me, if you disagree, why you might be a burden in someone’s life if you dare to ask a question as simple as “How are you?” Or even better, to more deeply heal the wounds of disconnect, say exactly what’s on your mind. “I love you and miss you, and I’ve been thinking about you this week!”
  7. Just be real. Sometimes it doesn’t feel safe to express what’s in your heart because of fear that it won’t be reciprocated. Do it anyway, because this is a powerful way of healing the void and changing the world of communication we live in. Even if someone doesn’t know how to respond to something so heartfelt, perhaps this will send them on a journey to healing the numbness in their own heart in order to receive this kind of love. This is what my journey has been. We want to be real, we want to heal. “I want to live/ I want to give/ I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold… It’s these expressions I never give/ That keep me searching for a heart of gold/ And I’m getting old”/ (Neil Young)
  8. Invite a stranger to go out with you. For coffee, for dinner, to a rustic bar, to an exhibit of some sort. You can make it as weird as you want, so long as you’re serious about wanting to get to know this person, whomever they may be. Perhaps you’re sensing a serious connection for some reason you’re dying to figure out, and you should! You could have been related in a past life, be connected by several degrees of separation, share multiple passions, be living a parallel life… If this is the case, trust your intuition and speak what’s on your mind.

Life can be magical when we are open and reciprocal of our truthful words and passions. Life is magical when we are compassionate. Connecting with nature instead of technology can help us all with compassion and intuition, because this is what our world truly needs right now. I feel that the world is in a lonely state of desperation. Don’t ignore her… attune yourself and be attentive to her needs. Everything is a reflection, so in doing this, I would encourage you to notice all kinds of positive karma in exchange for caring and loving the Earth.

Namaste,

Willow

“A Place I Will Call Home”

Uncategorized

I tread two thousand miles over mesa valleys, vineyards, naked mountains, the River of Lost Souls, the rugged desert, and finally, mining towns– in hopes that one of these landscapes would pull me down from the star I float upon and into a more grounded state of being. I bypassed the forest canyon on my first stop without looking back or thinking twice about it, paying no heed to its personality or character. It was a place I’d driven through inside cars before, after all– nothing too foreign. It was only 130 miles from home. Why should it ever demand my full attention?

I should know better than to ignore a living landscape and judge its level of magic by proximity to my own homeland, which is in itself magic after all – albeit a magic I’ve become too accustomed to after a number of years. I should have known all along that of all the places I was attracted to, this land would be the one to call me back if only to defy my judgemental interpretation, my underestimation. If you return, I shall give you breath. I shall give you life.

The most profound contrast of this move is the quality of breath. Not the air, necessarily, but the breath. I believe it has to do with the aromatic properties emanating from the pines, which have many healing and magical properties that have significantly reduced the inflammation of my swollen tubercles and eliminated all my sinus congestion to such a state of clarity, that I can ACTUALLY BREATHE! I had attempted to resolve my sinus inflammation through a multitude of actions for three years. Doctors could not define the origin or explanation, and could never recommend anything that didn’t worsen the issue. Some kind of magic in the air.

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The difference between breathing clearly versus shallow breathing is that you may begin to see, hear, and interpret things to an even more extreme intensity than before. Your intuition may become even stronger, and your emotions may come even closer to surface. Memories may begin to flood your mind, and you may recognize in remorse how many experiences and opportunities were shattered by your former congestion and shallow breathing, unable to process or express their significance properly in the moment.

So this change of location is not about finding myself, as I’m sure many have interpreted. I am myself and will always be; it’s more about finding oxygen and from there, remembering myself. Remembering my passions, remembering how to define myself as a true artist and how to live the creative, crazy spiritual artist lifestyle in the healthiest, most balanced way possible. It’s about starting anew and trying to make sense of all the connections and opportunities I’ve lost because of my inability to be present and process. Before breathing clearly, I was only half (or less than half) alive.

Since my ability to integrate my travel experiences and live my daily experiences with full breath, I’ve felt the true magic in the air and have noticed odd patterns which make me wonder who is responsible for writing my life as though it is a mystical fairytale fiction novel– not quite the one I’m writing with my own hand. Then I quickly remember there are, in fact, a few suspects {wink}.

The fairytale is very clever and witty. The characters are truly authentic and eccentric, involving mysticism, wizards, fairies, angels, saints, witches, dwarfs, giants, potions, apples, mushrooms, numerology, astrology, and a play on names when it comes to town names and people names (including my own). The key theme is immortality, hence the town’s name “Evergreen”– it’s definition meaning forever young, or never-aging. I assume it an effect of the landscape and perhaps the timeless fairies floating amongst the pines here which cause the inhabitants to believe in such a thing as immortality. At times I have guessed that perhaps my middle-aged protagonist, whom I portray in first person, has thrown me into this mystical place to regain my own identity separate from hers in order to reverse my age. It is one thing being an old soul… another to completely take on physical aspects of old age which nobody seems to understand.

The metaphors are deeply defined and overwhelming in number. The plot is an everlasting comical twist that ascends in deeper, more complicated bends every day and every hour. However, the setting is a bit stereotypical, taking place in a mystical forest land where time is irrelevant and which nobody seems able to place in geography… and the author, whomever she may be, has apparently experienced a block in creativity when it comes to naming characters. I plead no offense to any of the multiple unique variations of Adrian’s, Adrienne’s, and Adrianne’s; Kathy’s, Cathy’s, and Katherine’s; Valerie’s or Victoria’s; Kevin’s or KevinAnn’s; Elizabeth’s and Beth’s; and Brooke’s– this greatly simplifies the process of remembering for which I am grateful and amused, but also confused.

Well, what more can you expect to find when you literally throw your fate to the winds of cosmic destiny?

There are people who were born with a clear motive on how to direct their life paths, hurdling effortlessly over any obstacles; those are the people who breathe clearly and have a strong mindset that won’t let judgements of others get in their way. This is not the way I was at the time I made a “decision” to move. At this time two months ago, I wasn’t even sure when I was making decisions or when I wasn’t. I was in such a miserable state of confusion in which all my former “career paths” had fallen through, and I was so accustomed to letting others make decisions for me that I couldn’t trust my own intuition although I had greatly defined it during the course of my solo travels. I wanted the best for myself, but had no idea how to go about that at this point. I heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s voice in my head, Not this. God, not this. Anything but this. I hadn’t a clue how Cheyenne was negatively affecting my physical, emotional, and spiritual health but I knew my time here was becoming less and less purposeful. It was taking too much effort to be in sync with the flow. I couldn’t find a flow there anymore.

In a mere state of amusement and curiosity, I found myself making a list of intentions under the header, A Place I Will Call Home. Among this list of 11 intentions were: (6) Genuinely happy people (7) People to play music with (8) Able to express myself freely… (10) Always healthy. I then proceeded to brainstorm places I thought might be potential candidates for such specific qualities of change I desired in my life. Just for the fun of it. This list of towns began with the places I dreamed of most, places I thought my soul obviously belonged like Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Durango, or Grand Junction. I even included Laramie and Fort Collins just to be fair to them because I could logically pinpoint potential, though I’d lived in both cities before and couldn’t find a reason to stay. Just as I was cutting up each of these places to set into a box, I heard a voice in my head that clearly whispered, “Evergreen”.

It was a word that had been showing up in my path for about a year, so nothing compared to all my four billion North Carolina or California signs.  My first impression of Evergreen’s significance in my path was that perhaps it was a parallel town to that of my fiction novel I’ve been attempting to write for over seven years now. I thought maybe I was supposed to retreat in a log cabin for awhile to gain more experience and write. It never occurred in my mind that I would live here in official residency and work on living my own life instead of writing fiction; I wasn’t necessarily a fan of snow or hidden tourist-y mountain towns where driving a car every day is mandatory. Regardless, I jotted Evergreen onto my paper and threw it in the box with all my other fantasy town options. Asking for guidance from the highest source, I called upon my intentions and highest guides as I pulled my answer.

Evergreen.

Alright, Universe. I’d already made my intentions clear, so was it possible this could actually be the answer? I didn’t doubt it. I decided to go with it instead of fighting against it. Evergreen, Colorado is a town of less than 10,000 people. All I knew was that I needed a new, fulfilling job and a place to live asap. I began looking right away, and found some possible opportunities in Golden, Colorado so I thought perhaps the Universe had been leading me towards a town a little more realistic to thrive in. Still, I couldn’t forget that voice in my head. Why would I hear such a specific answer, albeit random and unusual? I applied for some jobs in Golden, not anticipating much to happen. While I waited for a response or some kind of clearer answer towards my life direction, I spent the week applying for jobs in Cheyenne in case that really was my only option.

A week later, I still hadn’t heard anything from any of the places I’d applied at! (Except for one in Taos, but for some reason I couldn’t make myself call back). I began searching for jobs again, following any spark of inspiration that popped into my head. My fingers led me to click after click, guided by something other than my logical mind. I found myself searching all Natural Grocers positions in Colorado. I scrolled and found multiple different cities, but there was one that stood out to me. I began applying to the Evergreen Natural Grocers, somewhat peeved I had to go through the process of applying after I’d applied for the Cheyenne location so many times and my well-thought-out responses had seemingly been lost somewhere in cyberspace, unread. I shouldn’t have to try so hard, I thought. This was a phrase that had been in my subconscious mind quite frequently.

In the middle of filling out the application, my phone rang with the caller ID reading Denver, Colorado.  I answered, inquisitively. It was the manager of the Evergreen Natural Grocers..! I was bewildered. How was this possible, when I hadn’t even submitted my application? He wanted me to come in for an interview. Though it was two hours away, I agreed to coming in three days later because what else could I do with my time while I waited for the right opportunity?  It was as though we had a psychic connection somewhere in the cosmos as the mutual agreement happened to be on a Thursday. I remembered this was also the day a popular coffee shop in town held an open mic, and began to get excited.

The outcome? “Well, we’re definitely interested. It’s just going to be difficult finding a place to live here in the middle of October, so give us a call if you find a place to live!” Both managers and all the workers possessed such genuine, humorous and lighthearted qualities I hadn’t seen in any of my previous jobs situations. I had a feeling something would work out, I just didn’t see how. I did have a cousin who lived in the area, just not ideally close. After the interview, I stopped at a crystal/metaphysical shop where I had a thorough conversation about abundance and manifestation with an intuitive witch who wore a witch hat, along with two customers named Jeannie and Jeanine. I was persuaded into purchasing citrine for better luck with abundance. All three women encouraged me that I would find the perfect place to live; they were certain I was heading in the right direction already and everything would fall into place. I believed them, and was reminded of this every time I held the golden citrine.

After I left, I knew I should have gone to explore Evergreen more thoroughly if this was a potential place of residency. For some reason, I drove in the opposite direction. In the time I had before the open mic, I drove down Highway 73 in admiration of the foothills’ golden beauty. This specific drive along 73 was so familiar with ancient beauty, and though I’d travelled this highway before, I was always seeing something new and interesting. I didn’t know where I was going. Morrison? I didn’t really feel like traveling that far before the open mic. About 7 miles down, I had a spontaneous thought to stop at the nearest park to practice with my guitalele so I would be prepared. The weather was beautiful and the sun was still shining at around 5pm. I immediately spotted Lair O the Bear wildlife lookout and park, just as soon as I had this thought. I made a sharp fork downward into the canyon floor.

There were three different paths to take as I exited my car with my guitalele in hand. I followed my intuition straight into the forest of aspens and cottonwoods, much contrasting the forest of pines, conifers, and firs that made up Evergreen just a few miles away. I stumbled upon the lively creek (Bear Creek, another recurring name I’d encountered all throughout my travel journey) where I heard bluegrass music mingling with the rushing of the creek. Two older men stood at the bank with instruments in hand, while their wives and another couple sat listening on the man-made tiers of the bank. They all greeted me with warm, amused smiles as I encroached upon their setting.

“I guess I came to join the jam,” I said.

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They were overjoyed by my presence, as I was with theirs. We jammed together for about an hour, drinking wine by the creek. These were also humorous, light-hearted people whom I felt a sense of kinship with, as though I’d already known them all before we introduced ourselves. We took pictures and exchanged numbers. All of them lived in Denver, so I felt fortunate to have met them at such a strange time! I drove back into town feeling rejuvenated by the Bear Creek air. Already my breath and my mind were a little clearer; I didn’t feel so overwhelmed. I felt at home, like I’d found a rare treasure in this landscape.

The magical witch showed up at the open mic to see me, along with her Brazilian friend and another musician friend. I connected with this other friend right away, and again we spoke of the way crystals and positive affirmations manifest abundance. She said she was excited to play music with me. “Wait, you’re not going to Cheyenne tonight, are you?” She invited me over to her home to play music afterwards. So just like that, I had a new friend to play music with. This was the highlight of my Evergreen experience that day, and we spoke of a potential cabin which might be available for me to rent around December.

However, I came back to Cheyenne the next day carrying the weight of finding a living situation if I were serious about taking this new job. For a single day, I was in a frantic frenzy over it. Then, suddenly, I remembered my new friend Jennifer was from Idaho Springs and I acted on my spontaneity to ask her if she knew anyone who might be able to rent a room. I hadn’t expected anything significant in return, but it was an idea. Jennifer gladly posted this inquiry for me on an online Facebook site, and sent me back a response the next day. This had been the only response, posted by a woman named Cathy. I called Cathy the next day, who openly stated she enjoyed talking to me. By the time our conversation ended, she concluded that she was so excited for my move as though she’d already made the decision to have me live with her although we hadn’t met.

Exactly one week later, I was settled into the magical purple room in the forest and working happily at Natural Grocers– the place I’d associated with “home” in my south-most travels explained in Day 14: I-25 NM Decisions & Conclusions. Working in a health-focused environment in the Denver-metro forest would turn out to be the perfect place of retreat and rejuvenation for my mind, body, and spirit. At first, I was moving with the flow… the flow of Bear Creek. At times, however, there are certain stones we must swim around. I couldn’t simply toil upon a stone at the edge of the bank, growing mold forever. I was taking the path of least resistance, but there has been much expansive work to do here.

More details of the forest fairytale to be continued…

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‘We’ve all got holes to fill, and them holes are all that’s real. Some fall on you like a stone, sometimes you dig your own. The choice is yours to make, and time is yours to take. Some dive into the sea, some toil upon the stone.’ – To Live is to Fly

‘Now she stands on the forest floor, among the pines and towering firs. Rock still firm beneath her feet; bird perched high above her, singing songs of love’s betrayal. ‘I offered you my endless sky. You countered with hoods and chains. This song I sing will be the last I sing to be inspired by your memory.’ – “Rock and Bird”, Cowboy Junkies

® Camille M. Garcia, 2016

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Day 11: Truth or Consequences, Hillsboro, Kingston, Silver City

September Retreat

September 26, 2016

I did make it a point to stop in all of these places. Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, I had been scheming to relocate to Truth or Consequences or Silver City because of a vivid dream I had about the area. I thought that perhaps I’d succeed in escaping the wind, dreariness, and cold weather of Cheyenne, Wyoming for the winter.

The drive from Albuquerque to Truth or Consequences (T or C) was, in fact, very vivid although much drier and drearier than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned about the intense energies of T or C or the beautiful view over Emory Pass just beyond. Stopping in Truth or Consequences, I immediately caught onto its ghostliness. I knew from the history that many ghosts do reside here– but the people I spoke with were all genuinely happy and friendly, so I assume they are not hard to get along with. The sky was densely overcast and wind was abundant- not so divergent from any small, ghosty Wyoming town.

My first impression of this town differed drastically from that of a store owner’s first impression. Her reason for staying in this small town for over thirty-five years began with the sight of a happy dog laying carelessly on the side of the road as she first entered town, wagging its tail to greet her. Soon afterwards, she drove past a cowboy and an Indian slapping each other on the back, both with guns in their pockets, laughing gaily. This conversation also comprised of this woman’s entire life story, and I believe this was the highlight of my brief encounter with T or C. I’d been wanting to soak in one of the many hot springs there, but the suppressive weather and energy of this particular day was too strange for me to stay.

However, the blue hue of the rugged mountains was just as vivid as I’d imagined. The alternative interpretation for this dream, as I suspected, was simply that if I had not dared to venture this far, there would be consequences. What I could not have foreseen was the significance of “truth” in the name. It would only be later in my journey when I would come to an epiphany about this…

The woman I spoke with advised me, with an instinctive gleam in her eyes, to head over the mountain instead of taking the freeway so that I could stop in Hillsboro and Kingston. “Just buy a bottle of water or something so you can step out and get a sense of the culture in these towns. They’re very eccentric and worth knowing.” This reminded me of a similar, long conversation I had with a market owner in Palisade– the same instinctive gleam in her eyes. She’d even written down for me the same landmarks in these towns I was now being directed to again .

As I came over the mountain and into Hillsboro, I pulled over by the sole Post Office although I had a feeling none of these four businesses were open on Tuesdays. As soon as I opened my car door, I shrieked in astonishment at the recognition of a CHEYENNE CAR passing by me! I’m positive I would have personally known whomever may have been inside the car, as I saw them throw their hands up in similar astonishment. This town was literally in the middle of nowhere settled into a desert mountain’s foothills, total population 124, and not another car in sight. What are the odds?

The clouds had not made any reassuring moves by the time I made it to Kingston, NM- just below Emory Pass- giving the atmosphere an unsettling and wearisome vibe. The roads were windy, and though apparently there were only about 60 miles to go, it seemed at this rate like it might be never-ending. I pulled into the infamous Blackrange Lodge, a landmark both new acquaintances had suggested. I stepped inside to an eery air and creaky floors, dusty furniture and dim-light edges. A telephone rang loudly, cracking the silence and stillness.

“Oh, hi, Mom- how are you?” It was a woman’s voice, and somewhat a relief to know perhaps ghosts and dust mites were not the only inhabitants of this lodge.

I’d wanted to stay and talk, maybe acquiring some concealed answer to the mystery of why I had been directed here. I didn’t feel like interrupting the conversation, so I quietly stepped out into the cool early-afternoon air.

I opened my arms to the expansiveness of the Gila National Forest when I mounted the viewing point of Emory Pass, exiting my car for a moment to do so. The remaining drive was downward and windy, passing the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the City of Rocks. Mysteriously, hauntingly beautiful.

This was not what I’d been expecting. What I’d been expecting, perhaps, was more of a tourists’ appeal. More color, more amenities, more people. What I received instead was a sense of realness of this southern New Mexico land: a brutal honesty was nestled in the ancient pines and cliff dwellings. I’d heard word of various wild hot springs littering the entire forest, which was enticing to me and I would have attended them alone had it not been for pressed time and poor sense of direction into the unknown wilderness.

My sense of direction was actually improving with uncanny accuracy throughout the course of the venture so far, but I’d been too far away from my homeland to notice any such changes.

Eternity rolled around before I finally set tires on the city limit I’d been so intent upon visiting for the entire year. I still had hills to climb yet after reaching the limit, and couldn’t see the city. When it became visible, it was not anything I’d imagined. The clouds were even darker, the air was even more intense and unwelcoming. I came to realize this was in part because of the minerals of St. Rita’s Mining Site blowing around in the wind. In all honesty but with no disrespect to the city, it was not beautiful like I’d heard from many references. Already I did not meld with the flow of this city; it had more of a frazzling effect on my spirit and body.

Or so I thought. I felt exhausted when I arrived at my host’s house. I drove back and forth past it at least four times before finally recognizing the entrance down a gravel path. I walked up the steps, trembling with angst from the drive. The door flung open as I mounted the porch, and a woman with long silver hair greeted me with a  warm smile and a bow, “Welcome, Camille. Namaste. My other guests are also writers and musicians who are looking forward to meeting you.”

I walked in to meet Rob, a writer, who was on the same path as mine (originally, anyway): on a mission to complete his novel which takes place in New Mexico. We talked for awhile about the parallelism of this, and the process of writing. He was working and traveling with his wife, Laura, who was a professional jazz singer I would meet later. One of my unspoken, lost dreams is to be a jazz singer.

Lora, our host, talked to me about my journey and also brought up the Black Range Lodge. “Did you meet Catherine?” She mentioned Catherine is always looking for help and that Lora herself worked at this lodge for a few months. This lonely lodge could have been a job opportunity for me had I not been so unimpressed by the area’s solitude and overcast skies. I did contact Catherine about work options and live music, and she agreed that sometimes crowds of guests would like to hear live music if I was interested in performing that weekend. I wasn’t able to, but I was beginning to see the formation of a future music tour through New Mexico.

I rested in my room until nearly 6pm, then headed up to Pinos Altos for open mic night at the Buckhorn. This is something I’d researched the day before in Albuquerque and was excited to see I would be able to attend on a Monday night. While everyone else in the world was absorbed in the first 2016 Presidential Debate, I was in the highlands of a desert mountain town at a historic bar with eccentric paintings covering every square inch of its walls. It was raining, nearly freezing.

Classic country music was reverberating from the man in the corner as I walked inside- Johnny Cash and other old classics. I sat at the bar and ordered a bowl of green chili. Green chili is something to savor at any location in New Mexico, especially when one is shivering from the cold of late September. The two characters a couple seats down on either side of me at the bar were questionable conversationalists, making me feel a little on edge of my barstool. I was grateful when, after half an hour, the host and previous performer of open mic sat down next to me. He reminded me of two people I know from my mother’s hometown, making me feel more at home.

We watched the next performer, Gene Booth, apparently coined as “New Mexico’s Country Music Legend”, take his place on stage. His music was reminiscent of what I imagine the old Spanish polka-folk songs my New Mexico family used to dance to must have sounded like. Maybe that was just my imagination at first impression… he did also sound very similar to Johnny Cash and George Jones. It was a rare treat and comedy to watch him perform.

When I began singing my set, I watched all the customers of this restaurant and bar set down their forks and glasses to listen. I was in awe of their intent observation of my fingerpicking style and my voice. I watched positive gossip circle each table, some describing the range of my voice in hand motions. Some made eye contact with me and smiled, nodding their heads. It was a special moment, as they had not done this for the previous musicians (likely because these two were regulars). I felt accomplished after this short set, though the crowd was diminished more than usual this particular night.

I talked with the remaining performers and friends of performers. One described Silver City as “the melting pot of misfits”. The people I met here were all truly unique, from all walks of life. Not many people, I learned, were originally from the town. They’d come in from a variety of different locations for different reasons. They are the ones who make this location an authentic, artistic, and open-minded place to live.

It was interesting, but not what I’d expected out of a place that had been calling for a few months. Maybe I wasn’t giving myself enough time, but it was initially clear to me that my life path did not require the immediate relocation to southern New Mexico.

Day 9: Leaving Durango to Albuquerque

September Retreat

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I told my host I would wake up at 6am, so Gregg was up at 6am starting a fire to spark my departure to Albuquerque. I hadn’t given myself the chance to explore Durango much at all besides the short evening after spending 6 hours on the train and 3 hours in Silverton, which had come as a surprise to me. This trip hadn’t gone as expected in terms of exploring and learning about towns, but what I had gained instead was a vast variety of unique friendships that would never diminish.

Though there was snow on the ground and atop the tipi, I was provided with enough thick blankets to keep warm. It wasn’t as though I had been the only one not checking the weather forecast; nobody had expected snow to stick to the ground this early. While I slept, the cries of elk sounded somewhere in the near distance.

I met both Gregg and Kathy officially the next morning due to my late arrival the night before. I enjoyed their company and hospitality; it was hard for me to leave so early as I had planned. After playing one song on my guitelele for them, they insisted on showing me around town briefly since Durango is such a great music scene. They invited me to join them for breakfast at Lone Spur Cafe. Our waitress’s name was Michele, which was only memorable to me since I had now become acquainted with three Michele’s in less than two days.

Though I had spent, in total, less than a full day in Durango, I experienced the crossing path connection more here than any place I’d spent over three days so far. After breakfast, we stopped in the Strater Hotel where an intense board game competition was occurring. We then walked to the farmer’s market– the most lively, artistic market I had ever been to. If I needed any more reasons to move to Durango, I would use the excuse of the farmer’s market itself. I was feeling antsy about getting to Albuquerque, but I was able to meet a few new acquaintances within thirty minutes by the crossing path connection.

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Strater Hotel, Durango, CO

When I finally did force myself to depart Durango, a place I could have probably stayed forever despite the cold (which says a lot about its welcoming nature, considering escaping the cold was my original intention) I still felt I was being pulled in the right direction. I was finally making it to my original destination: New Mexico! It was only by chance so many magical things had happened in western Colorado, where I least expected to find it. Without having exited the car, New Mexico was already drawing me in.

All my favorite songs played on the radio during this three-hour drive, pointing to good signs ahead. What a relief to be in a state that would always feel like home to me no matter how infrequently I visited- it is the state in which half my ancestry dwelled within for hundreds of years.

Upon arriving at my dad’s cousin’s house, whom I had never personally met before, I was greeted warmly. Fortunately, I arrived in the early afternoon in time to explore the portion of Albuquerque I had written down on a piece of paper. My cousin was gracious enough to show me around to these places:

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The Herb Shop, Albuquerque, NM

During this three hour excursion, I experienced enough New Mexico magic to send me into culture shock– but fortunately, I didn’t feel that way. I was shocked to witness the open honesty and lovingness of every soul I encountered, but it was more refreshing to me. One of my unspoken, old dreams of traveling to New Mexico was to meet a curandero/a. Since I’d shorted my trip by fifteen days, I had forgotten about this dream and had assumed it would be impossible. This was one of our first stops in town.

All I can really account right now of these experiences- talking with both my cousin and someone considered a true curandero-  is that somehow it was enough to reconnect me to my innate senses of intuition and truth in those three hours. It was throughout my time in Albuquerque that I realized everyone possesses these qualities. Everyone, whether they live in this state or not. It’s just a matter of being surrounded by a culture that accepts, cherishes, and relies on such qualities in daily life. I was fortunate enough to experience more than I could have asked of New Mexico in three hours, but that wasn’t even the beginning of it.

 

 

I also quickly caught on to the inclusive, familial aspects of New Mexico culture as I was surrounded by new friends and family for dinner. I played songs on the guitelele, which was proving to be the right travel instrument choice for this trip. My style of music had been changing since before the trip begun, and my experiences were only enhancing how far I’d come.

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.