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.

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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.

 

 

 

Too Old, Too Young

Soul heartedly, Uncategorized

To my elders:

Do not fear your increasing age. Some say age is only a number. Age is not only a number; age is power. Do you remember being a young adult who lied about your age to feel like you were something more than you were; to feel more superior and accepted by the world? Do you remember feeling paralyzed by young age because, in this particular society, you weren’t allowed to have a voice? You weren’t allowed to vote for what you believed in. You weren’t even allowed to attend a show by a band you’d always wanted to see perform, because they were playing in a bar, even if you didn’t plan on drinking alcohol your entire life?

Embrace your age, because age is beauty. Your years possess so much knowledge and power and inspirational journeys within them. With each passing day, you’ve dealt through changing circumstances and travel experiences, even if they were short excursions. You’ve enhanced your personality with every pair of eyes you’ve ever peered into and every hand you’ve held, with every dance you’ve ever danced in the musty alleyways or attics with green carpet… With every year, you have both gained love and sacrificed love. Those are treasures to nourish in your memory, and in the way you live life each day. Try to remember how each new experience has changed you in some way, into a person that you should be proud to accept.

Take this advice from an old soul who has lost her voice from trying so hard to be twice the age she is, who cringes at the sound of her real age like it’s an insult, and who has hidden away from the world because she believed she wouldn’t be taken seriously if she told her secret. Increasing age means increasing freedom.

To my youth:

Age does not have to mean power. You are free to express your truest self regardless of your age. You are allowed to form friendships with any soul who is 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and maybe even 90 years older than yourself. You may treat them not as elders, but as you perceive their souls. You are never too young to begin pursuing your crazy endeavors. Your youth is, in fact, a blessing to any of your creative endeavors.

Perhaps you may not be regarded seriously when you express your powerful thoughts and ideas~ but I believe these ideas are likely just as mature as you will ever become, so do it anyway. So long as you are passionate and persistent about anything you love, your ability will only grow stronger. Begin doing what you want to do with your life NOW– not when you’re older and have more qualifications. Never dismiss any idea that tugs at your heart and causes your soul to weep tears of joy.

Take this advice from a girl who was too easily influenced by the discouraging words of others, losing her soul’s passion and motivation in the process, choosing diagonal paths in the opposite direction of her true destination. Never be humiliated by words that were written from the most authentic sincerity of your heart.

With love,

Camille

Emergency Day Trip

Cultured Narratives

“This could be a good bar joke, like when you walk into a bar and meet a girl who gives you the wrong number. Except it’s not like that: Three herbalists walk into a hot springs and exchange numbers…” I joked to a faceless stranger via text message as I tried to justify my message proclaiming my identity after receiving the ironic response, “Okay… do I know you?” I wanted to say yes, you probably do. And you definitely know the person whose number I apparently typed in wrong, given the reality that your phone numbers are one digit apart in a town with a population of just over 1,000.

We got it situated.

Ultimately, a delirious exchange of riddles and laugh-crying emoticons with God-knows-who  was the outcome of my emergency trip to the mineral hot springs in Saratoga, Wyoming. That’s not quite a bad thing. And that’s not the only outcome of this 5.5 hour round driving trip, either.

On a day when most people should be either bouncing off the wall or hungover, I was in a state best described as a manic depressive anxiety attack. This, perhaps, is also what a combination of the two latter states would look like. It turns out that on this day, the day after what is considered an auspicious birthday for most, I still had no better sense of direction towards my life purpose. Instead, my mind was scattered in a thousand different directions, leaving me in a hopeless state of despair similar to the despair I’d felt the day before, and throughout the entire week.

Too many messages to respond to, too many phone calls to make, too many children and pets and flowers to care for, too many websites to create, too many options for creative living and making entrepreneurship work… and I don’t even have a job, so why even bother with any of those things I love? Do I focus on completing my novel or making music? What was the point if I can’t be part of something bigger than myself? Should I keep my current apartment, or should I migrate to New Mexico for the winter to avoid loneliness associated with frigid air? Where would I be if I hadn’t gone to college, hadn’t gone to herbal studies school, hadn’t enrolled in any other certification courses, and had focused on art instead?

Too many decisions, too many mistakes. I was tired of trying. At this point, I didn’t care about whether making the drive was safe considering my sole three hours of sleep the night before, and extreme dehydration, and the time restraint (being already middle of the afternoon). I had absolutely no other option other than to drive west and soak up these so-called healing waters, something I’d only done twice before at a hot springs that smelled so strongly of sulfur I became nauseated. If I didn’t do it now, my heart would still be racing, my head would still be spinning, and my hands would still be shaking. I was just going to have trust my instincts and take a risk before anyone could change my mind.

Whizzing past I80’s familiar dry landscape, my mind began to settle. I was able to amuse myself by gazing across the open plains while communicating with the radio; absorbing the words as though these artists were speaking directly to me. Talking to the radio, as I see it, is a skill well-mastered amongst the rare spiritually inclined only-children. This skill is sometimes the secret motive behind decision making, and it will sometimes drive you crazy. I tried to ignore it– I didn’t need any more words influencing the clutter in my mind– but as I was pulling into town, Carly Simon still made me laugh as she sang, “Well I hear you went up to Saratoga, and your heart naturally won… You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you, don’t you?”

The entrance was beautiful: cattle grazing near mineral ponds, a glistening lake to the left of the road, and elegant Western archways to ranches on the right. I couldn’t recall ever entering this magical town before, though my family says I have. I swerved into the nearest parking spot on what appeared to be the most ‘bustling’ street of downtown. I got out to stretch my legs and walked into a bar, because, firstly, why not? Secondly, I was automatically attracted to the large, brightly-colored sign which read “LIVE MUSIC” above the doorway.

There were only two people in this bar, including the bartender. They told me a man comes to sing here every night but Sundays and Mondays. I was compelled to come back when it started, but it was Monday. The man sitting at the bar described his style of music– an East coast country folk vibe– which sounded very intriguing and similar to my own style. I noted that I was also a musician, and they invited me to casually sit in with this singer sometime. Sure, I would come back for that.

I could practically feel the hot springs pulsating from there, drawing me near. Even better, I couldn’t smell them. I continued my journey along the river and followed signs to the Hot Springs. I dismounted my car and walked along the river path, bordered by aspen trees. Now I could smell the springs. There they were, populated with smiling people washing away their own worries. For free. However, I didn’t feel the need to socialize on this particular day, which was a rare occasion. I chose the smaller, cooler spring, which at the time only two people were dipping their feet into.

The late afternoon sun was still warm upon my shoulders. I waded into the clear blue water up to my neck. Immediately I felt a surge of something nourishing rushing through my pores. I was floating in a warm blanket of comfort and hope, one with the Water, one with Earth. I tuned out the conversation between the couple and simply soaked up the healing warmth, listening carefully to what the water had to say to me. Feeling with every cell what the Earth and the Sky were giving to me. I was realizing that the combination of sunshine and mineral water could probably cure anything.

Soon, two more hot springs soakers arrived, saying they were from New York. I couldn’t resist conversation if we were sharing the circle with practical foreigners. I have too much Wyoming pride to do that; I wanted to know why they were drawn here. We learned that the New Yorker ladies were boho elementary teachers, enjoying their seventh week of wanderlust. They asked the woman across from me what she did; she was an herbalist! I chimed in that technically I shared that common title, but couldn’t call it a profession. I explained I was a “foundational herbalist”. Within five minutes, five more people had entered the pool. Was it my willingness for conversation drawing in the entire surrounding area? These new people were locals and Boulderites.

The woman next to me overhead this as she walked in, saying, “For the record, I’m an herbalist too! An herbalist of personal study for twenty-seven years.”

The New Yorkers were astounded. How was this possible, that three unacquainted herbalists could end up in a hot springs on the same August afternoon? Well, this IS a hot springs, the local acknowledged, regarding the ancient magic. We rambled off the benefits of cayenne pepper, the dangers of essential oils, and common immune boosters. They were delighted when I shared the basics of making flower essences. Aspen bark is not only an analgesic and coagulant duo, as they mentioned; the flower essence is a courage and anxiety remedy. We shared the common herbal mantra, “When in doubt, use nettle!” The local shared the Saratoga hot springs history and what it is, exactly, that makes the water healing.

“You’re absorbing essential minerals directly through the pores of your skin, so it’s like taking a multi-vitamin. Magnesium, zinc, copper, etc.” I continued the conversation with the newest member while the herbalist and her husband from Denver and the New Yorkers carried on about cultural and climate differences. Soon, I revealed to the local herbalist, Tasha, my profession as a singer-songwriter and my interest in playing somewhere in town. She was elated; she was going to a meeting in forty minutes where I could meet the town’s music booking agent! She was adamant about me meeting them there ten minutes before the meeting began. When I introduced myself, she repeated my name in such a suave way that my entire perspective of introducing myself was transformed.

“So that must be the reason you’re here today, right? You didn’t just drive 128 miles for nothing.”

Well, there are other reasons. But, yes– that’s really what I was looking for. To imagine playing at The Yard, a music venue overlooking the river, during Ladies Night where other solo female singer-songwriters performed… that’s one destination I knew I belonged to. How did I never know about this location only twenty miles west off the interstate I traveled biannually? How did the world not know about this hidden, magical location? I was going to have to exit the spring before my face turned purple. There was just one issue: my face was still going to be red as a tomato by the time I met this booking agent, and I hadn’t brought any makeup with me.

The inspiring words came to mind: With creativity, I can solve any problem. I was back at my car, dressed in a maxi dress I’d luckily not had time to donate to a thrift store that day. Otherwise, I would have been out of dry clothes and out of luck. Frantically, I searched for some sort of pale concealer or powder that might have fallen under a seat three years ago. I found none. I stood at the door in distress when one of the boho teachers came walking towards me. We officially introduced ourselves. I told her about the meeting I’d been invited to. In desperation and embarrassment, I asked her if she had any concealer. To my dismay, she replied, “Concealer? No… I’m sorry. I don’t own any makeup at all. But I don’t think you look red. You look great– you look tan.”

Then, even more surprisingly, she pulled down her sunglasses and exclaimed, “Why are you standing like that? Don’t cross your arms. Have you heard of power poses?” She landed a pose with hands on her hips. “Studies show that if you do this for two minutes a day, it will boost your confidence. It’s what animals and men do naturally. Expand yourself; be expansive.” She demonstrated a few more poses. I was humiliated. Of course she didn’t own makeup; she didn’t shave her armpits or tweeze her eyebrows, either. Those were only traits of pure confidence, though, and I was also grateful for this encouraging advice. She concluded with, “Google it! You look great.”

In exchange for my tip about making nettle powder with a mortar and pestle, she’d given me a confidence resource. I thanked her as she walked away. And as I peered at my reflection in my mirror once again, I acknowledged that this is one good reason to travel. No one I know personally would ever tell me they don’t like the way I’m standing, but this new acquaintance from New York did so because she cared about my future– and she might not ever see me again.

I met Tasha at the top of the hill across from the local greenhouse, where the meeting was supposed to be held. She informed me that it was canceled, but called the ill director and made sure I would at least be booked for next year’s music events at The Yard. I was given various sites to drive past while still in town, which I did. Every car I passed waved to me, like I was one of them. I could live here to soak in the springs every day and wave to all the locals who pass by, I thought.

I drove back home off the beaten path, past the infamous mountain and the lake my existence is based upon (due to my parent’s wedding twenty-five years ago). I hadn’t dared to venture anywhere this beautiful in too long, perhaps for years. In my closed mind, I hadn’t realized 128 miles was so close. I drove with confidence and appreciation of this entire experience, beauty surrounding me in all directions. For the first time since childhood, my mind was rid of fear and anxiety, overflowing instead with a sense of peace.

This is only way I could have ever mustered the courage to finally upgrade this secret, four year old blog into a website. There was just no other option. I was also able to cross a couple other decisions off my decision-making list: I can rent my apartment while traveling for a month. and finishing my novel. Maybe the reason I bothered interning with a Mayan healed through my college study abroad and attending a separate 7-month intensive herbal studies course was to be able to converse with two other herbalists in a hot springs. Who knows?

When in doubt, use nettle… Or if you’re too anxious to even think about brewing a cup of tea, go to a hot springs. Just make sure it isn’t infested with brain-eating amoeba like what was just detected in Kelly Warm Springs this week.  Glad I didn’t go there.

 

 

 

 

 

Flutter

Soul heartedly

But isn’t it hard to leave the disorganized disaster of your first apartment and your only hometown? Isn’t it heartbreaking to abandon all ten thousand of your soulmates whom make up one sixth of this city’s population, even if only for a month? Isn’t it frightening to not know your destination?

But I do know my destination. My destination is to release all of my fear, all of my doubts, all of my skepticism out the windows, flying at eighty miles per hour so that they are free to roam the wilderness and foreign grounds, but they may never latch onto the high plains again.

All I know is that if I do not do this, I will be succumbed to a twenty-one year long pattern of high plains lifestyle; where words are stated but not acted upon, where unreliability is the anticipated outcome, where love is timid and limited. Another thing I know is that my imagination cannot fathom another frigid Antarctic season, in which limbs freeze and inflexibility is a custom trait, and fog resides heavily atop the mind.

My imagination can, however, foresee the colorful culture of the unknown and un-acted upon possibilities. Those possibilities are not timid, are not limited. Those possibilities are sculpted from love alone. Love from a higher source, love derived from intuition.

5/5: Big Magic

Abstract Essays, Numerology, Small Miracles, Soul heartedly

Two weeks ago, I bought a fairly expensive ticket to see my favorite author and one of my biggest inspirations, Elizabeth Gilbert, speak about her newest book Big Magic. I assumed I wouldn’t find anyone to go with me, because who else would be so ecstatic to drive 100 miles for a motivational speech on Creativity? I knew it wasn’t rational to spend so much money on such an event that would last a maximum of two hours– especially when I am in an insecure job situation, especially when I am risking the possibility of getting lost in a city 100 miles away and four times the size of my own… basically, I was “risking my life” [for the selfish purpose of creative motivation] as my mother warned.

As the event date drew closer to reality, I hadn’t been thinking too much about it. It wasn’t until a couple days before that I realized it the event occurred on May 5, or Cinco de Mayo, aka 5/5– a possibly dangerous day in numerology due to the superstition that multiple 5’s indicate a huge life changing event. Perhaps I’d already talked myself out of it, which is why I wasn’t too worried. No one would go with me, I didn’t have anywhere to stay the night in an area that would likely be dense with drunk drivers, my little car might not have been completely reliable (even though my car-expert of an uncle told me it was just fine last week), etc, etc.   I could  have simply canceled or sold my tickets, regaining my money to be that much more wealthy once again.

These fears came just an inch close of directing the course of how I spent my Thursday, May 5th, 2016. These fears almost cornered me in my room that night, almost spending it safely and soundly in the comfort of my own home… as well as in the regretful distress of my mind. They almost had their way with me… but fortunately, I had more voices telling me, “You’ll be fine” with consoling smiles than the voice that told me, “This is the most dangerous thing you could even THINK of doing– why would you do it?! And in rush hour traffic!”

As I read a few more pages of Big Magic the afternoon of the event, my heart grew full of possibility and wonder. Fireworks were sparking.  It was like Elizabeth Gilbert herself was smiling at me, saying, “You’ll be fine. Just do it! THIS is your life-changing event! This is BIG MAGIC!”

And so it was: my fear was outweighed by not only curiosity, but MAGIC. I was more driven by the very alive force of magic working amongst the Universe as I read those pages about overcoming fear.

I used my magical powers to divert traffic away from my car on the highway and into Denver city, creating a bubble of protection. There was fear, but I pushed it to the distance. When it came time to park in the parking garage, I had to circle around a few times in desperation before finally entering and finding a spot… and memorizing it. I have been known for getting lost in parking garages. Shaking as I walked downtown, I took some deep breaths of the polluted city air and tried to collect myself. What magic was possible here, Universe?

Well, as I was walking, I remembered it was one of my long-lost best friend’s birthday. I messaged her to wish her well and inquired about her plans. She had none! On this party girl’s 21st birthday, she had no plans! I almost didn’t even attempt to contact this friend since I never knew where she was living or how to contact her anymore, but she responded. She was living in a Denver suburb and gave me her address so I could stop by later to catch up… she only lived 9.3 miles away from downtown, according to my GPS. This was much safer than 97.3 miles… and how magical it would be to spend time with a best friend I hadn’t seen in a whole year!

Still, I had the entire hour to spare in downtown Denver before I needed to arrive at the theater. I meandered the sidewalks packed with a variety of people strolling down them, together. On the other side of the street, a music duo caught my ear. One was playing guitar and the other ukulele. I crossed the street to get a closer listen… they were playing folky Grateful Dead covers. The familiar-looking girl with red dreads took a break and talked to me. We instantly became friends when I told her I was also a singer-songwriter/ guitar player, and she went on further to explain her wanderlust journeys with her travel partner. Their van had broken down somewhere in New Mexico so they were planning on spending the summer in Manitou Springs.

“I was thinking about moving to Manitou Springs this fall because of a job opportunity!” I exclaimed. So we agreed to run into each other there. So now if I move to this foreign town, I will at least be acquainted with other musicians of exactly my style.

I found my way to the theater in plenty of time before Liz began, only to collect myself. I’d been hoping to make a connection with whomever sat next to me so I didn’t quite have to say I was “alone” at this event. 15 minutes later, my seat partner did arrive. I hung up a phone call and attempted to spark a conversation with her, hoping she would be somewhat responsive and not think I was a weirdo for my interest in meeting people. This woman also looked very familiar to me and I wondered if I’d crossed paths with her before.  We did have a connection; speaking easily about traffic and parking garages and where we lived… but nothing too colorful. We talked until the speech began.

Throughout the entirety of Liz Gilbert’s speech, I was smiling to my cheekbones while tears rained down my cheeks, mostly for the reason that every word she spoke about creativity and synchronicity was so true to my soul. The very first thing she said was the largest reason I was there. It would have been enough had I gone for the sole purpose of hearing her say, Your life will become a work of art in itself if you lead a life driven more by curiosity than fear.

I almost regretted that I didn’t write my question down for the Q&A session afterward… but I had a feeling whatever questions I had would be answered through her speech. And of course, they were. She asked a question that made me think deeply in a couple of different areas:

What is it that excites you the most? What ignites you enough to bring you to life each day?

This made me question all of my creative endeavors I’m currently trying to pursue and make a living out of: (1) singing/ writing songs (2) writing stories/ essays (3) practicing reiki  (4) making herbal remedies and (5) making vintage button jewelry. Which one brings me to life the most? This was probably the hardest question for me to answer. It seems that all of these passions coming together at once have been more destructive to me than igniting.

But then she said something else– that she wanted to fully meet people, everyone she encountered throughout her book tour, and ask them this question.

This concept is very parallel to an idea I once had about crossing paths with people persistently. I thought that perhaps I should actually meet these people and get to the bottom of WHY we happened to cross paths so often, and then write about these connections. But for what? Would the answer to meeting recurring people resolve the mysteries of the Universe? What would happen if they thought I was a stalker?

Well, she had an answer for that too. Because disaster really means ‘exploding star’. If your creative ambitions lead to a disaster, which is very possible, at least you participated in the way of the Universe: making something out of nothing. Besides, it’s not like I would be killing anybody by writing about them. Right? And if I didn’t write about these experiences, at least I would have satisfied my spell of curiosity. This applies to every single one of my creative aspirations listed above, but a thought came to me for a moment:

Is crossing paths with new people and making soul connections the thing that excites me the most?

Ridiculous. I don’t have time for that. Singing has always been the top of my list, so I really should go after that (after I resolve my sinus inflammation issue) . But is my favorite part of singing that act of singing… or meeting people afterward? I can think of plenty stories.

Little did I know that by the end of the most impactful speech to my personal life I came out to witness, my favorite author would be having us singing! Explaining that singing in groups (karaoke!) is her most important routine ritual, she asked us to sing a song no other than the one that has always been a form of unity in my Wyoming community: “Country Roads” by John Denver. The vibration of the theater raised a couple hundred kilohertz as the entire audience sang in unison to our hearts’ content. How could I ever have almost missed this magical occurrence of union and feeling at home in an unfamiliar city with my favorite author and my new friend, Jen?

My heart was sobbing with exuberance afterward. As I exited, walking with Jen, I decided to ask her an important question. “What is it that excites you the most?”

This question led to a conversation about the exhilaration of traveling alone, a mutual gluten sensitivity, and… of course, a mutual love for meeting new people. We stood on the corner of bustling 16th Street talking about our passions for awhile before we departed, and decided to keep in touch.

I am grateful to the big magic which paved my way to this event. To think that I almost missed forming some new friendships, having a spontaneous sleepover with a childhood friend, and singing “Country Roads” with my favorite author!

5/5 did turn out to be a completely life-changing date, as prophesied. I learned  to accept my fears without allowing them to overcome me on my solo adventure, all the while doing the thing that excites me most: making connections.