A few weeks ago, I was on the west coast chasing horses. It was a dream; a magical and inspired adventure. I made new friends, I fell in love with photography as an art, and more than that... these horses. This was on private land, and they're given hay, and checked on often. But they're as wild as they can be; in a world that hunts them down by helicopter and pushes for their euthanizing. It makes me all the more grateful for rescue groups like Return to Freedom who hosted me for this photo tour.
I went out there because I am writing about the free spirit itself: the untamed, free-willed, creative magic, within all of us (though I'm writing for women). I write about the symbolism; the shamanic inspiration and medicine that these beautiful animals give us. I dreamt of them for weeks. I had a vision of two horses; one black and one white, and they showed me the simplest truths about Life. I wrote it all down, and of course it'll be in the book.
Out there, in California, we rode in a safari buggy (I forgot what they called the vehicle) and had a picnic lunch in the hills of San Luis Obispo... so it definitely wasn't jumping out of pickup trucks in the wilds of the Sierra Nevadas... but there were sacred moments, to be sure. With the animals. Inspired, beautiful, connected moments.
It was hard, for me, in general, to think about. Something so majestic, fast, intelligent, and wild... rounded up and put behind fences. For us to gawk at. When they were once so unbridled and free. I apologized for my species, mentally, as we approached them. And I asked each one for permission, with gratitude, as I took their picture. One of them will be on the cover of my book; I'm grateful that one of my new friend yelled "stop," as he spotted the great scene on top of the hill. And we all got busy snapping photos. It was a surreal and moving experience and was the perfect culmination to a year of exploration and seeking wildness. And while all my previous travels were planned and calculated, this last trip... was last minute and unplanned, which added an extra dash of magic to it.
But as with any journey, it came to an end. I found myself back in routine, back behind a desk, coming down with a virus, tending to a sick child, and my whole world slowed down and became obligation after obligation, once again. And this happens, for those of us who juggle their wild with pieces of family life and steady income. I had all but forgotten the wonder that I was so lucky to experience. Just a few weeks ago.
It was time to sit my ass down: to fine-tune, tweak, and edit Wild Horses & Mistakes. I had everything I needed... I just wasn't ready for it to be over. When I woke each morning, I'd be walking out of the mist from some dusty mountain pass, with dirt on my knees, wind tangling my hair, sun in my eyes, hawks circling overhead, and horses... running free. Stopping for just a moment, to throw me a glance. So, I wouldn't forget. And I haven't and I don't believe that I ever will. It was an experience that changed me and expanded my art. It pushed out my edges. I vowed to buy a new camera, with the right lenses, and I was already planning a trip to find some wolves upstate, and there would be more horses. Perhaps next year, I'd be one of the ones jumping out of pickup trucks to capture their real magic. I felt on fire, inspired, alive with art and creation and hope and the sheer awe of nature and wildness. But as the mundane routines churned on, the wildness waned. As it does.
So, instead of knuckling down and finishing this book, I let the allure of shiny things pull me away for a while, because it meant creating. So, I poured myself into a side project, for days, uploading, rearranging, fine-tuning, creating, writing. Making. Making something new. Being that I have laryngitis and can't sing... web-building was my next best thing. And when it was done, this little in-between thing, I saw the pages staring at me again. Finish me...
It's never easy putting a project to bed, changing gears from wild creativity to honed seriousness and minutiae. Shifting back into the narrow boxes of ego and planning and strategy and business. It's just not easy for me, but I know it's a necessity... in order to set this project free. And it will do more good out there, then stuck in this old laptop.
I look out and see the others, my kindred, the seekers, those in wanderlust: traveling, experiencing, being, doing, sharing...and I find the inspiration to dive back in. To make real my experience, through my words. It was a gift to witness these horses and I do plan to make it a more common experience... with wildlife and natural spaces, in general. That which we focus on...grows. I am a conservationist, and I'm trying to be diligent about where my energy goes.
I'd been wriggling around trying to figure out how to encapsulate and stretch that feeling, that wildness, that wonder. And the answer was so simple that I overlooked it. The answer was art. It's why we paint, draw, write, sing, dance, shoot photos, or create anything... to capture moments and stretch them out. To take that wildness, that rawness, with us. So we don't forget.
So, stay creative, out there. Stay wild. xoxo
Hi. That's me. Baby me. Toddler me. Right about the age my son is now. The seventies, man. My brother had given me a haircut, *just before* school pictures. Mom was pleased. :sarcasm font: I think it worked for me.
1970s... Avocado greens and chocolatey browns and burnt oranges and that putrid vomit-colored maize-yellow. Bell-bottoms. My Mom's disco albums. Yeah, vinyl. I learned to dance the Hot Chocolate from one of them. I learned about (and fell in love with) Donna Summer from another.
I saw my grandparents a lot. I had one grandmother who delivered Avon, knew everyone in town (and they still mention her, to this day) and she lived in house dresses (look it up, they're like mu mus..) I had another grandmother who was a NOW (National Organization for Women) cardholder, worked in the city, commuted in sneakers and changed to pumps at the office, knew all the subways, and took us to see Broadway shows once a year. One was Grandma...one was Mimi. Can you guess who was who?
I loved them both, dearly. But I associated with Mimi the most. Honest. Eye-rolling. Sharp-tongued. A riotous and often inappropriate sense of humor, behind closed doors. She was the one who'd laugh so hard that tears would stream down. I get my fire, my sass, my passion, the marinara in my veins, my joie de vivre...from that side. The Italian side.
My other Grandmother, on my father's side (British/Dutch/Canadian)... had lessons to teach, just in her presence. In her stories. I wouldn't appreciate them until much later. They lived hard through the depression, my father's parents, and they both worked at Grumman. They had four boys, and they both worked, and rarely saw each other. They were scrappy, they had to be. They were thrifty, because they learned to be. My grandmother, boy, she could... make a dollar holler. She hit up garage sales, tag sales, thrift stores, and always gave to others the little that she could. We often got new school clothes from the rag bag (donated clothes that we got from the church in Glen Cove, cheap). So she'd often give us things to help out, even though they weren't Rockefellers, either. She wasn't a barrel of laughs or charm or high-fashion. She was a tough old broad. She got hit by a Mack truck crossing the street and broke a hip, in her... sixties? She was up an delivering Avon again, pretty soon after. That's how she was. Tough as nails. Vocal. Opinionated. In your face if you didn't submit. I get my grit and low-bullshit-meter from her.
My childhood was informed by some powerful women, although I didn't see it at the time. I won't tell you about MY mother, because, well, she's alive and well and reads this and it's just none of your business.
But my grandmothers: one was fighting the patriarchy, working, earning her worth as best as she could, trying to lift that glass ceiling up... just a bit. Caring for herself, putting herself first. She came from an Italian family that let the boys go to college and the girls... learned to cook and keep a husband happy. From the get-go, she said... "this stinks." She just knew how wrong it was, how it didn't align with who she was. My mother's side is where I get a lot of my... resistance to conform into a role. Like Becky Sharp, Scarlet O'Hara, Jo March, and so many other controversial figures of women in literature. I will hardly just go and be a wife... Because this fire burns inside... for more. For passion, for exploration, for challenge, for vibrance, for intellect, and color and travel and excitement. For a LIFE, not a sentence.
And I think, through most of her life, (I have a recording of an oral history I did with her, that I cherish), she silently stewed and let a fire grow inside, that would emerge later. And it did.
They're both gone, now, all of my grandparents are, and I feel it's okay to discuss them here.
So entwined with my current writing, Wild Horses and Mistakes, I set out on an intentional journey... call it shamanic, call it psychology, call it catharsis, call it healing the inner child, call it whatever you want... it's all the same to me, with different labels. We are but a story, and we can revisit our stories and pull meaning out, to inform the present. It's all a big spiral dance, around and around and around.
We go through childhood and collect all these stories, these ideas, that other people make up about us, and if we already feel small... we believe them. And it takes years and years of crawling out of those stories, and becoming our own people.
I can see it now, the whole pattern, as it's taught to us (of course, not everyone follows this):
birth: we're given a name, an identity, and put into the "system"
school years: our teachers teach us to memorize things, and often scold us for our originality or finding our own answers. We're often dumbed down for being resourceful or creative. It must be done their way, or we get "bad marks." So, we must get good marks, and so we conform. And often, if we're lucky, we find those one or two special teachers or counselors, that connect... and keep us going.
college: optional, but many take this route. To... fit the right mold to get the right job, to "be what they want," so they get hired to work for someone else's dream.
then...marriage, kids, two cars, vacations: and so we get out of school, we find careers, we find a partner to play this game alongside us. And for a while it's good, life is good. We played a good game, we got there! We did it! We ticked off everything on the card, look!
And then... those lost embers of glowing imagination, of magic, of dreams, of non-conformity start to bubble up through the cracks and demand change. This isn't what I thought. I did everything right, how come I'm not happy? I have a good life? Enter the mid-life crisis. Sometimes, if they're lucky and already have a healthy relationship, couples ride through it together and they both change. Often, they split because one will not change for whatever reason. Or worse, they stay together, yet grow apart, living a show within a show, for the kids, for the neighbors, and everyone is miserable.
Or... maybe you're still single, and none of that affects you at all, and you just feel like you're in a hamster wheel. Waiting for real life to start. For that ship to come in. For something to finally make sense and give you the unmistakable direction that you've been seeking. We've a got a wacky sort of society that breaks us apart and we scramble to put ourselves together again, later in life. And some of us don't make it that far, we become that system and lose our identities, altogether. (But not really, I truly believe that there is always a spark that stays lit.)
I'm not sure what I'm rambling about today, it feels a bit messy. And maybe that's the point, but it has to do with childhood, dreams, and how our fears and self-esteem are managed. I look at this little bright-faced girl and I wonder how she did it. How did she make it to now? And she can't tell me, because she had no idea. She was a child. Innocent. She just woke up and showed up. it was later that she started hiding and living in made-up worlds that made much more sense.
I've been doing this work, this self-study, this inner-journey for a few years now. And at the outset, it was about the present and the immediate stresses of life. And then it was about adulthood, in general, and then adolescence. And so on. It's like time-traveling, revisiting my life, all the way back to here... to early childhood. I think deep within each of us are these innocent children who want to play, dream, fly, sing, dance, and maybe see outer space. And it doesn't always work out that way, because we start believing in the limitations that others give us, throughout our growing up.
And this... is the mess. The bags, the burdens, the stifled dreams in our backpack, that we walk through life with. Unrealized dreams. Attention not given. Perceptions of love withheld. Mistakes, abuses, pain, trauma, fear. Carried forward, in our bones, in our minds, in our memories. Our...mess.
I first got into this intentional self-development, living with my eyes and heart wide open, fully aware, life-out-loud, hoping to heal. To get there. To that place, where I healed it all. And life would be a walk in the sunshine where nothing caused me trouble anymore, because I did all my work. Yay, I'm fixed, let's go heal the world! :throws glitter in the air:
:insert ironic laugh here:
No, unfortunately. And for me, freedom, epiphany, boundless creativity, inner change and transformation comes not in my ultimate and grand healing... but in deep acceptance that I will always have this pack on my back; my mess. My stuff. That stuff can change, things go in, things come back out. New experiences and joy go in, fear and pain go out. But then with adventure comes risk, and more sometimes more pain, so in that goes. And this, I think, is Life. That pack will always be there, it's my story, it's who I am and where I've been. And stories change... I'm constantly emptying and refilling the pack. But I'm owning it. Seeing it, knowing it, being with it. And traveling along anyway, open and trusting, knowing that pack will always be there. And that's okay. Because we've all got one. And I start thinking more about... searching through each other's backpacks rather than... feigning perfection. Because it's a lie. One I won't buy anymore.
And that little girl? That young, sweet, innocent little Stacie? She's still in there and when she's scared or nervous or overly exuberant or excitable, I just carry her too, with everything else. I pick her up, hold her close, and carry her with me (symbolically, of course). Because I can keep her safe and I can do my best to bring her what she wants. I think that's what all of our anxieties are about, really. That little young boy or young girl that has fears and anxieties and doubts and worries... but also, also... big dreams and hope and resilience and magic and wildness and that wonderful, playful, beautiful optimism.
Hello, heart. I see you. I'm listening.
It's been a minute.
I've been doing lots of reflecting, writing, regrouping, lately. As I reflect over the past year, what I've done and seen, what I've learned, where I've traveled, what I've come to see and understand about myself, and about my perceptions of others... I am just blown away, at the process. At who I am now, when I look back at who I was then. I've made another lap around the circle. The absolute truths I knew then, versus the illuminated and ever-changing perspectives that I have now. Oh, these blessed spirals.
And I'm writing through all of it:
Wild Horses and Mistakes: The Year I Followed My Bliss, Accomplished Absolutely Nothing, and How it Changed My Life Forever
(Subtitle is a bit long...it's in progress, but that's the feel of things.)
Meaning, I didn't "do" anything but choose myself, my priorities, my health, my joy, my creativity. I didn't have a list to tackle or a pile of to-dos and must-haves. I followed my heart, my intuition. My wild horses. And that's a concept, in and of itself. It's never just about the horses, is it?
Anyway, I know you'll enjoy getting under the hood, peeling back my chest-plate and seeing my heart and my reassembled guts in this new sacrifice to the Gods of Creativity and Musing. I can't wait to share it and set it free, but I am deep into revisiting, mindfully, each place, chapter, and section.
The Soul writes; the ego edits.
The past year has had me up in the clouds, soaring with birds of prey as they watched the wilds below. Galloping across rugged terrain, not knowing where I was going, stopping at water holes, weathering storms and fire, and just knowing that I'd get there. Somehow. It's had me waking in new places to new faces, smelling and sensing and feeling new things, absorbing new vibrations, and healing on levels so deep that I didn't think I'd ever reach them. It's had me shatter illusions and chase new ones, only to see them disintegrate in my fingers and drip slowly out of my hands, back into the seamless expanse of energetic alchemy that surrounds us. Constantly. And it does. We are, at all turns, exactly where we need to be.
Hold out your hand, take one step, and begin. It really is that simple.
We are sublime players and doers and crafters and actors and creators...who can, at our best, move effortlessly through what may feel like a heavy minefield of pain, disappointment, shattered hopes, dramatic fears, deep loss... and we can get through, easily, with all that we need... when at our best, most true versions of who we are, as living, breathing, dynamic, sensing, beings.
The past year in question began last fall with a trip out to the east end of Long Island, the furthest trip I'd taken solely and purposefully on my own... it was an hour or so away. I stayed in a bed and breakfast and unearthed a sacred chest full of memories, pain, stories, and experienced powerful growth. And that trip began a quest, a Campbell-esque journey of my own. Because I saw that not just solitude, but the allure of the new and strange and unknown, brought the most amazing spiritual insight. In the way of facing our own demons, our most disturbing beliefs about ourselves and each other. Because it's all thought, really. Perception and response.
And I can't possibly sum up in one blog post all the truths I've witnessed, the stories I've rewritten, the deep healing, the pain. The numbing, seething, darkest pain that I never thought I'd see eye to eye again. And meeting it, head on... and surviving through it. And the freedom in that. Finding the most special souls who understood what I was experiencing, as I experienced it. Possibly keeping me in one piece and lending me their strength. Flashlights. Candles and Light and Love and symbolism and reminders and guidance and whispers and hope... and faith. Always faith. Just... keep... going. And the passing of Life before my eyes as we got rear-ended and sent back to the starting gates, at the peak of Bliss and perfection and understanding. Always, the pendulum swings. And the gratitude for those setbacks, for those life-changing illuminating moments: that remind us in such a powerful, unmistakable way... what is truly important.
Self, family, friends, community. And living through to heal. When we take that often painful, scary and tumultuous journey within, to know ourselves, deeply... we begin to heal. In healing ourselves, we heal others. But also, we heal the karmic past, the residue, the eons of pain that lingered heavy in our bones. Women who came well before me and were stricken down and cut out for their wisdom. And the gift that these times bring, in carrying that wisdom forward. In never letting that Light die.
I could write for days about it, and I do, in this new project. I write about a lot of things, though, because really... it's about a divine and very human balance. It's about seeing energetically and intuiting and listening, but it's about using that insight to sculpt the present moment, here and now. It's about meditation and self-love, and also about using your voice and knowing when to let your tiger teeth show, just a little. it's about loving and doting and giggling and cherishing our babies and kids... and knowing that we can also plan and strategize, make the right decisions, and plant our feet firmly in soil, getting it all done, while we dance in the clouds, looking down upon it all in gratitude. It's about a healthy, grounded, free-flying balance of all things. It's about equilibrium, and what it takes to find the right balance, for each of us. Because it's different. That's the key. One doesn't suit all. That's why we do this work. It's why I do. To find what works for me, and to utilize it here, now, in my Life, in my world, for myself and for those that I love. it's about authenticity. Truth.
Wild. It's not about being reckless and obnoxious and surly and crude and promiscuous. Although it can be, without apology, but not always. For me wildness is about nature. That includes human nature. Just as a wild mare runs through a barren landscape, she knows to stop for water when she sees it. She knows to rest. She knows to protect and teach her little ones. She knows when to run and when to fight. Intrinsically, it's in her nature. It's in her wildness.
So, finding our wildness I think, is more about finding...ourselves. And listening.
In that quest, I've made a discovery. Any of you who follow me on social media have seen my fluctuating posts about health, fitness, different diets, and so on. Trying to get back to that more slender, more youthful, more exuberant "me," from my my youth. That in itself has been a journey. I had a lot of success with the Paleo diet, in losing weight and warding off sugar cravings. it was great for that. But in the process, I developed a lot of joint pain: bursitis pain in my hips, low back pain, well, I've fought that since my c-section. Knee flare-ups. And the crash over the summer, well, it set me back something fierce. All the progress that I'd made went out the window. I was grateful that we survived, that my son was okay... first and foremost. But the glimmer of that wore off and my pain got worse. Much worse. As the summer wore on, I felt crippled. Frustrated. Defeated and bit depressed. I felt, in body, like I was twice my age. I was wearing belts, taking salt baths, sleeping with special pillows.
i turned inward.
And I did get back up and back to the gym, for physical therapy, as I healed through it. But I still felt like a chronic patient, always hurting, wearing a cloak of perpetual sadness and feigning hope and joy. It was exhausting. I was depleted and felt guilty for not being able to be...me. The cheerful, light-shining, optimistic joie de vivre type of me that I can be. But I got through it. As people do.
So, here's what happened: it all caught up with me, as things do when we ignore them. I was knocked on my ass with a bug, a virus of some sort. My whole body shut down. All I could do was lay in bed. Everything hurt. I was completely out of control. And a friend recommended I... do an enema. Gross... thanks for nothing, I thought. Or... a juice fast. Hm...
I had tried the raw diet, the juicing, the vegan lifestyle, and it never, never worked. And I now know why: fat. Ten or so years ago, when I first tried to go vegan, I went low-fat vegan. And I never did processed food. So... that didn't leave me a lot to eat and I eventually went mad and started eating people on the train. No, I made that up. But I did invade a local restaurant and wolf down an entire rack of ribs, in a very not-demure fashion. I was completely deprived and starving. After that, I swore it off and kept eating the way I wanted to. I started eating seasonally: heavier in winter, lighter in summer. I tried to listen to my body, and it worked for a while. I found the Paleo diet and it promised all the solutions to my problems! Yay! Well, I don't know anymore.
I had a re-deux, with the juicing, about two weeks ago. To get my ass out of bed and healing, I lived on fresh-made vegetable and fruit juices and my old-reliable bone broth from my Paleo book, for a few days. No solid food, although I added some probiotics and supplements, too. And within days, I was up and at 'em and nearly pain-free. As of now, I haven't eaten meat in about two weeks and I've never felt better. Joint pains that have plagued me all year, are nearly gone. I can't explain what that means. To be in "chronic pain," and accept it as such, and for it to leave. It's...awe. A miracle. I'm a believer. Spiritually, I let Gaia heal me. Real-world speak: plant-based is no joke. It works. Get the sludge out, and your body will heal. Period. We are amazing, miraculous, self-healing machines.
So, for now, amid all the other changes in my life... I am living 80/20 plant-based. I indulge in some good cheeses and free-range eggs here and there. And my collagen-filled bone broth. And my raw wildflower honey with capping. So, Moby would still hate me. But... I don't. I love me. And I'm happy to say that I'm taking better care of myself than I ever have, which frees me to do so much more good in this world. And we need it. I'm just so grateful to be here, I don't what else to say. I'm just so fucking grateful, not to hurt. I'm like Oscar-speech-emotional as I write this, which sounds hokey, but for me... it's that big of a deal. I don't know if this is my forever lifestyle and way of eating. I don't make those promises anymore, because... Life. But I promise that I will listen to what my body asks for, and come through for myself. Because to let go of this... would be stupid.
So. Good things coming. Wild Horses is writing itself, and I'll not rush it. But it's coming, more every day. Writing it, living it, has changed me. It's brought me back to my natural, wise-woman-wildness in all the most beautiful ways.
And for all my readers still feeling the dark... keep walking. Please. It doesn't last, you'll get stronger, the Sun will come. The Light is everywhere, once you let the darkness fade. Let the pain through and then out of you. You can. I promise. You're okay. I see you. And woman to woman, or human to human, I love you. We're all in this together. xoxo
somewhere, out there
is a Love that is bigger
than what we Fear
bigger and broader than our
our grandiose, religious
oft' arrogant misgivings
our pointing, our preaching,
somewhere, out there
under this luminous Moon
is someone fighting the sharp knives of disillusionment, too
there are more of us, everyday
and sweeping the rest of it away
rise above the narrow rules set forth
when we were mere young fools
Great Spirit, Unconditional Love, have come through many great Ones in our time, here
to hold one over the other, to elevate idols,
to worship one and condemn another,
is to perpetuate further division
and so it goes
division begets divison
hate begets hate
arrogance begets more arrogance
when all we really ever need is Love
to be seen, accepted, acknowledged, appreciated
Indeed, Love...is all we need
if we could see beyond those surface, material ties
we are but one people, connected eternally, energetically, divided by labels and lies
if all of it were to vanish,
and we were left with
You and Me
no churches, no government
no internet feeds, no programmable TV
could we eat, play, ponder, gaze, survive, and love?
of course we could
and we have done
the way forward is with Love
the way forward
is as One
Trouble sleeping... midnight-write.
So. Here it is... My son. My love-bug.
It's been a while since I've shared some precious, divine insight from this little dude.
Every once in a while, he just comes out with something, that's so out there. Way out in left field, and at 3.5 years old, I just don't know where he gets it. But I do believe there is a thin veil that separates us from other realities, what some call the spirit world. Different planes, if you will. Dimensions, sure. Whichever. And I believe that children are closer to this magic.
So, this morning, he started talking about babies. Out of the blue. And he told me this:
"Before you were a real baby, you were a pretend baby. You weren't really here yet."
"A pretend baby?" I asked.
"Yes. You were still pretend, you were in the circle, still." My arm hair stands up.
"Uh huh. Actually it's more like a swirly hook, Mom. But before you're a real baby, you're in that big circle, see? Then... you become real again."
"Wow, buddy. I love hearing you talk, do you know that? What a beautiful way you have to see things..." He smiled, laughed, and ran off to zoom his cars around before school, after that. And just as quickly as it started, the conversation was over.
But, wow. Now, the analytical mind can take this apart and turn it into a lot of nothing. As such minds do. But I find it intriguing.
I'm just gonna riff for a minute, bear with me. It's one of those days where things happen like dominoes and say the same thing, over and over, from many sources. And it just itches inside, like you have to mention it, too. Just because. You know? Anyway. It brought all this stuff back up, from when I first started to really delve into energy work, healing, intention, manifesting, etc...
Let's just chat, here:
So, circles. I've always had this vision of the collective consciousness, right? Since I was a teenager. More on that in my next book... but for me, it's like... a galaxy. A... universe, maybe. A giant, swirling spiral of energy imprints. Memories of being, of art, of inspiration, of hope, of fear. Echoes of intangible essence of the endless multitudes, swirling in the cosmic goo, in some plane that we can't access directly, while in these bodies. Yet, when we meditate, when we create art, when we reach those peak and blessed flow states, when the analytical mind shuts off and we lose ourselves in creation... I think we tap into this spiral. This... circle. We channel, we direct energy into art, we understand deeper and deeper truths, we communicate with memories of loved ones. We step into the in-between: a foot in each world. In the middle. Perhaps, that's why they call it... medium. A conduit for energy, in the middle of two worlds.
So, cool. A recap of my view of spirituality and energy.
But to hear my son talk about pre-birth, and being part of the circle? It blew my mind. Back when he first started talking, I asked him for kicks: "what's the meaning of Life?" To which he answered, "circle."
Or...he is just closer to magic, and us? As we age, we grow cynical and creep further away from it.
Who knows. But I thought you'd enjoy the story. The whole thing filled me with some sort of connection and hope and Love. So, I thought I'd share... as I do. I think I'll doze off, now.
xoxo Goodnight, dreamers xoxo
I thought I had come to California looking for horses. That's what drew me out here; the wide open land given to these majestic creatures; throwbacks to a wilder and forgotten west. I swooned for their photos, I fell into them. The wildness that was still in these creatures, the neighing and bucking and kicking and running into the horizon, manes in the wind. Unbridled. Free. Charging mares, leading herds, tending foals. And perhaps I will still find them when that time is right.
But upon landing out here, I was taken by the water, foremost.
The Atlantic shores are beautiful, but for some reason, these waters...the Pacific...are different. The shores she touches. The stories she swallows, the secrets she holds. Oh, these waters hold so much. They have seen and felt so much. And in that, as a whole, as a body of water, a being in its own right... she is that much more calming. It's a powerful, cleansing presence. A deep healing. Not to mention the sheer majestic and aesthetic beauty of the area; it's no wonder writers and artists flock here over the decades. The vistas are unmatchable.
But Steinbeck. I was first hit as I toured Cannery Row, which is now a giant consumer-wonderland. Which is fine. I bought a souvenir or two, some t-shirts for my son. A refrigerator magnet. I'm a sucker for that stuff, within reason. My first day there, as I was walking up and down the streets, weary from a few hours in the car after leaving San Francisco, I snuck around back, behind a closed shop, to the boardwalk. Or pier, whichever. All the chairs were turned upside-down on the tables; this particular deck was empty.
I considered Steinbeck's writing, his growing up in Salinas, and his visits to this very bay and other points along the coast. And the man, the good friend Ed Ricketts, who inspired Doc. His trouble with marriage and relationships, in general. And the water! Oh, it's impressive. Overwhelming.
I had read a little bit about Steinbeck the night before, because someone in San Francisco mentioned that the area was great for writers, being that it's "Steinbeck-land." Now, of course, I knew who he was, I read Of Mice and Men in school. Grapes of Wrath. I did the assigned reading, but never delved fully into the man that he was: his motivations, his sorrows, his dreams.
As I toured the area and the Steinbeck exhibit in Salinas, and as I read more about the man... I felt such heartbreak. Disillusionment. Internal battle. Here was a man who saw great injustices and great stories and he had to get them out. He had to. And they were good stories with great themes. What I found heartbreaking, nearly tragic, was how his novel The Winter of Our Discontent was received and critiqued, as it won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But it was more than that.
John Steinbeck was a highly sensitive man, it would seem. A deep, mysterious, brooding, Piscean artist, who felt that the world was spinning off its rails, losing its morality. He saw the coming of the fifties and sixties and to him it was a breakdown in society and decent values. He felt things deeply. He felt his world crumbling and wanted to write about it. Fight it, perhaps. But at a minimum, provide a chronicle. He went out on the road with his dog, Charley, and wanted to revisit and recapture the America that he once knew, after spending time away, in New York and Long Island. he wanted to see real people, small towns, local bars, not the affluence and facade that he'd been living in.
"I nearly always write - just as I nearly always breathe..." - John Steinbeck
And later, when his novel was shunned so hard, despite praise from others, he put his pen down and never wrote another novel. And to feel that kind of pain and humiliation inside, is just heartbreaking to me. And I could feel how soothing those waters were, and must've been, to him. And to so many.
In reading Travels With Charley, just now, being that I was so taken with the man and his story and his need to see the country... I can't help but reach back and pull some lessons out...or some parallels, at a minimum. It's what I do.
Steinbeck came from a family of Republicans, and changed a bit when he saw more of the world and got out his his hometown. His perspectives on Life changed. When he'd returned home, arguments would ensue:
"Let's just be friendly and loving. No politics tonight." And ten minutes later we would be screaming at each other.
And so it was, and so it still is. Steinbeck knew he was nearing his last days. He felt his world deteriorating. I can't imagine the ache inside. Well, actually, I can. I think so many of us can, which is why he and so many writers like him are so resonant. Particularly now, in this climate, when the world feels divided and torn up, much like it did then. Those of us who truly do feel deeply want to find things to mend; to help that ache. And it's a humanity-sized ache, a global ache. There is a real and dire need to heal someone, something, anything, everything. Or a touch of madness grows in the absence of that longed-for resolution. And in that madness, oh, does distraction blossom. Numb, numb, numb the ache. With a drug, a habit, a spoon, a television, a drink, an over-zealous need to disappear into something other than what is, rather than live a healthy balanced life. And it's not easy, we've all got our things. Hopefully our addictions don't harm and make us ill.
And how did moderation become such a rogue idea?
We seem to be commanded by a world that favors extremes. Extremes in diet, in entertainment, in lifestyles, in just about everything. Nice, easy, simple living has become a lifestyle choice, something that has to be taught and remembered, rather than...just how things are. We have to be told and reminded with blips and beeps and timers and gadgets to relax and breathe and sleep and eat. I get it, John Steinbeck, I get it. The players have changed, the scenery is different, but it's the same game. And now, we have the internet. And do you know how often you're meme'd John? A lot.
I walked the coast again, and thought, in imaginary conversation with this writer I'd become enmeshed and obsessed with...
Despite the flack you got about that one book, John Steinbeck, I mean... wow, man. You did it. Didn't you? Your books are required reading in schools and libraries. Iconic. Champion of writing the proletariat. Great sense of place and giving voice to the everyman. You are part of the canon, good sir. I wish you could've seen it happen, in the flesh.
For the ladies:
I am asking for your input. I've opened a poll, with great results so far. If you can spare the time, I would greatly appreciate your feedback. If the answer is yes, then simply head on over HERE and submit your responses.
One thing I've found so far, is that we're mostly the same. We have different priorities, goals, and dreams...but the same sort of things hold us back and keep us in place.
I would love to gather as wide of a sample as I can for this; the results will be used for reference in Wild Horses and Mistakes, which is a project largely about women learning to love themselves, accept themselves, find their innate magic, and pursue their dreams with passion.
The poll will be left open through the duration of this writing trip, until about September 24.
Thank you in advance! xoxo
The link, one more time... https://goo.gl/forms/oYdsyfxN6BxMUPs23
I am changing. This is me embracing joy. Saying YES.
It would feel natural to say that I'm "improving," but really what's happening is that I am stripping away layers of nonsense. Incinerating parts of me that were never true. Unlearning things that I took on to get by when things were different.
I am ... more me.
I wrote a novel once. And I didn't feel super-driven to write another, at least not right away. What I've been doing, is working on me. I've spent a year, four seasons, diving into my fears and phobias. Traveling. Observing. Feeling. Writing. Healing. I've discovered in this year of me, that I am a singer/songwriter. This is such a huge part of who I am, and it vanished... once I entered academia and prepared for "a real job." A common tale for creatives.
Side-note: higher ed can be great and I have no regrets. It got me to now, which is great. But it's not everything. If you feel a calling, answer it. Honor it. Hone it. You may wake up one day and wonder why you spent all that time and money for paper and memorized jargon. This is common. On the flip-side, pursuing higher education is a saving grace for some people, it's the perfect recipe to provide growth, independence, freedom, and validation of Self. Follow YOUR path.
I have a new new trunk full of originals, they pour out of me now. I'm addicted to it again. But there was that lingering monster... stage fright.
I am baby-stepping it. I sang an original for my mother, to the delight of positive feedback. But that's my MOTHER. Then, I had a coaching appointment this morning and I schlepped my guitar across the parking lot, feeling quite strange the whole way. And I played/sang my newest for her: it's an ode to the dreamers who are also parents, and it's got 💯 of my heart and soul in it. My coach nearly wept as I finished it, and something happened inside... listen... it's not about me and my nerves. Although my fingers quivered and my feet shook uncontrollably and my voice cracked a few times and I felt my neck starting to gather sweat... my heart also cracked wide open. Wow. What magic was this? Yes magic.
It's about sharing what I've been given.
Indeed. It's about purpose. Again, the world seems newer. Brighter. Beautiful.
Hoping to start recording these little nuggets of deep feels and stories and moments for you. A two week travel/writing adventure starts on Thursday and I should be close to a finished first draft of Wild Horses and Mistakes. I'm so freakin' excited about this. Like, feet-shaking-knee-knocking-excited.
That must be good...
More soon... xoxo
With so much love,
It's a lazy Sunday.
It rained most of the morning. We stayed in, played with cars, danced to the ukulele, we sang. Threw in some laundry. We ate a quick lunch; leftovers. Don't feel bad, they were delicious. And now we're sitting in the living room. Some sort of golf is on.
And a commentator said something that just...resonated.
They were discussing Dell's $36m contribution to help support recovery efforts down in Houston. They all wore ribbons, for solidarity. #IStandWithTexas And this man spoke, after the razzle-dazzle they had to do (I'm paraphrasing, here, it's not verbatim):
"Americans are amazing. We may seem to have our divisions and difficulties, we seem to be divided on so many issues. But when disaster hits, when things like this happen, we pull together like nothing you've seen. Strings of experience and emotion that resonate within all of us. And tragedy and hardship bind us together."
I found myself agreeing with him. Nodding. "Yes," I said to the television screen, as if it could nod back.
These strings. These things, that bind us together. Even from the golf channel guy, this is just a truth. And a beautiful one.
And I can't help but reminisce; remember those weeks during and after Superstorm Sandy.
The fear, the uncontrollable and unknown that loomed, the anger, the petty violence when the gas ran out. The impatience, just... all the ugly things we saw. But also, the beautiful things we saw in each other. The way we all came together when we needed to. All of my friends that now bicker back and forth on FB about Trump and so on, back then, all equally chipped in and donated and cared and worked to help friends or strangers empty out basements. Provide blankets and gloves and jackets and clothing and soap and toothbrushes and anything else that you could think of...to the closest and hardest hit areas: for us, the Rockaways. The south shore had a lot of damage. Jersey Shore. There was a lot. And it took a while, for sure. I still run into families who haven't quite made it to even, financially, since the storm hit.
But, beyond that...in those moments...the Love that came through in the darkest times.
I began a novel that I've yet to really write, during that storm. When I had done what I could to get some useful goods to the Rockaways, via local friends with big trucks... and I couldn't find anything else to organize within my own space... and there were no more candles to assemble or devices to charge up, driving in circles...
I became still. So still. And how still my little sphere of the world was. Outside.
I was moved to tears when we lost power for days. It was autumn, and after the storm moved out, I sat outside and marveled at the sky. At the neighborhood. Others around were scurrying about, stocking up on water, reading by flashlight, praying together, feeding their neighbors, or anything to just keep warm and busy... but I was awe-struck with the night sky. The Northeast was dark and I couldn't believe how many stars were really up there. They were just pouring down on me, layers upon layers of them, billions of flashes light. They're up there and we just don't see it, beyond the haze of artificial light pollution.
I glanced up and down the street. And for a few moments, I was back in time. A past, before electricity. I could see, in my mind's eye, horses tied up and drinking water. A saloon, down the way. Lanterns, instead of streetlights. The scenery and the technology was different, but people...were the same. We're all sort of the same, deep down, at the core of things. Work, rest, eat, sleep, play, love. Repeat.
And in those same moments, I flashed forward. Looking back is easy. But what if our future looked like this? Seeing how a few days' inconvenience had rattled and disturbed people, so deeply, I began to wonder how truly prepared we'd be if we had to take care of ourselves. How dependent we'd become on technology. Our computers, phones, automobiles, all of it. How dependent. How disrupted we'd be.
Anyway. Always the artist...always finding the beautiful moments to boil down and take with me.
But I can't help but think back to how a-light I was, being among people-helping-people. Giving to give, and how that felt. The strength in numbers, the unity, the hope, the bounce-back, the community. It changed me. Naysayers and the dooms-dayers were running in circles with their hands in the air and bibles in their pockets, saying that we had it coming. 2012, this was THE STORM. We were done for. End of days. REPENT. No. Wasn't true then, and it's not now. That's all fear and nonsense and they are very convenient ways to take your money; from my perspective. Weather happens, it's part of life on this planet, but it doesn't target anyone over anyone else. I think most of us understand this simple concept. But then, many didn't, with all the Mayan calendar hullabaloo.
The only real change I'd seen was a change in consciousness. That, I believe in.
I just find myself feeling so invested in what Houston is going through, because we were so close to it, here. it brings a lot back. It's devastating to witness, even if you aren't directly impacted in a big way. To just be close to it, near enough to it, to feel all of that pain, suffering, cold, and fear. It's an ominous sort of can't sleep tonight feeling, that lingers. A wariness. A haunting sadness and grief, for so many. It felt crippling, for days.
I've been there. I remember. But I got by, back then, by doing what I could in my immediate circle. Finding bits of solitude, away from the noise. Finding hope and lightness again.
So many of us wish that we could do more, so we do what we can: we donate goods, we share information, we invest in benefit concerts, we help each other, we pray, we send love and light and peaceful blankets of energetic obliviousness to sleep beneath. We do what we can. It's a lot to feel. It's just, a lot to feel and process at once. But it settles. Water recedes. Economies adjust in some way, and people adjust. Big storms like this leave a huge imprint. They can be tragic and heartbreaking, but also incredibly inspiring, as they bring out the very best of humanity, as they follow their hearts to give and help, however they can.
Because people, in general, love each other. That's the deep-down truth. We just care about each other. And I wish I could do more. But I've done what I can. Donated where I can. And will always continue to. <3
Sending Love and Peace, Texas. xoxo
It's been a week since I attended a half-day women's retreat with the lovely ladies at The Life Detox Retreats. This is the sort of event that I always push back, make excuses about, or try to work around. I mean it's half a day! But I promised myself that I'd show up. For starters. I'm so glad that I did, here's why:
I say this a lot...that magical things happen when women gather together, with like intentions. A synergy, a web of interconnectivity, is born that never existed before.
We began around 8 am, which for me, on a Saturday...is ridiculous. I wanted to stay in bed. Lounge, indulge, snooze, and stay in my luscious dreaming. But I promised, and this was, after all, the year of choosing ME (the premise of Wild Horses and Mistakes.)
I rushed a bit, but made it on time. The grass was still cool and damp with dew, the sun was still low. There was a peaceful quiet: a crispness, a clean-ness...about the energy in the air. I remember thinking... this is why people wake up early. For the stillness. Wow. It was beautiful. (Not making promises to become an early bird...)
I wandered in and found the women, chatting, standing, sitting, assembling around yoga mats. We started the day with some quick greetings and introductions from the facilitators and then eased into a gentle yoga routine. It was just lovely, being outdoors on a sprawling and lush estate, surrounded by green, at the foot of the harbor. Hearing the birds overhead in the canopy, feeling the fresh morning breeze on my skin, opening to the whole experience. It was blissful.
As the day went on, and we nibbled on wholesome foods, and moved into different areas for different methods of inner-work, like EFT (tapping), I found that I was surrounded by women from all places in the circle. Some were a few laps ahead of me, and had deeper, richer stories to tell, and deeper, more painful wounds to carry forward. Some were a few rounds behind me. We were all different, we lived different lives. We felt different levels of stress or worry or pain or sadness... and also different levels of motivation, dreaming, goal-setting, and challenge busting. Because there is both, there will always be both.
Dream and envision, while overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears and pain. And the scale of these things will vary; our best looks different at different times in our lives.
There is a balance.
I remembered and brought so much more to the surface that day, and in the days after. How beautiful it is to share our stories, to gain perspective, and to connect with each other. To observe. To listen. To see pieces of myself, in all of these women. How grateful I was just to be there. To witness. I gained a great deal of gratitude and perspective. It was a perfect little reset.
it was solidarity.
But also, the number one thing that kept bubbling up for me, all week... was exploration. Curiosity. Imagination, dreaming, creativity. All of this involved exploration. I had been in a bit of a tug-of-war, for a while, neck-deep in paradox, while writing more of my current project, which is probably the most honest and vulnerable piece of writing I've worked on, thus far. Even in that, there is challenge, a battle, a charge forward and a rush of resistance. It's all part of the experience. The give and take.
I'd thought for so long, and really took to heart, that to be spiritual... was to be silent, obedient, and stoic. Receiving, only. Just be still and grateful, and all I need will come to me. Ohm... OK. Let's get real for a minute, beyond the bullshit and chatter. I have less and less time for it.
Here's the thing with that... in real life: if I were to sit still, in blind gratitude and acceptance of what my life was and never got off my rump to see or do anything new...well, then nothing would ever change. My life would always be as it was, I wouldn't see or do anything different, nor would my son, and I would spend a lifetime limiting myself. Or him. No. Something has to move. Change. Shift. Always.
Writing my first book wasn't so much about the finished product, it was about who I got to be, as I wrote it. As I finished it. And made room for more to flow through. Chasing wild horses, or pursuing our dreams, isn't about what we catch, it's about who we get to be, what we see, how we grow and evolve...as we journey toward them. It's about adventure, the unknown, the other side of fear, the magic and mystery of encountering something new. It's about moments of awe and wonder and magic. To be still and unmoving, is to avoid change. It's safe. Simple. Less threatening, for sure. But to avoid and hide from change is to miss out on growth opportunities, as well as, oh...those simple little things like... bliss, joy, fun, excitement, passion, pleasure, meaning, and magic. All the things that make Life worth living. For me, spirituality is about embracing humanity, not hiding from it, and living in the Mind, alone. It's about coming fully into my body, from my soft stomach, to my head, and all the way out to my finger tips and toes. Being aware of twinges and discomforts and pain and exploring them. Healing them. Also, diving deep into the me inside, exploring there. Allowing emotional pain to surface for healing, and letting it go, and finding myself that much lighter and more free. Closer to wild and unfettered and blissfully abundant, with each healing and release. Stronger and more resilient with each stumble and setback.
To me, this is it. Living full-on, up-close with the Self. Honestly. Full acceptance of all that I am, light and dark. Awareness of what doesn't work, and measured action to improve. All change begins with conscious thought, with an idea, with a seed. But it lingers, unawakened, until action is taken. There must be a catalyst.
Action...is the step through the threshold, into a new world. A leap of faith. A big decision. Facing a fear. A change in plans, a new experience, a flight to another place, meeting someone new... all of these are first steps through that doorway, into a new story. A new adventure. Consciously creating opportunities to encounter new things, face to face. To engage the senses in different ways, to change perspective, to expand.
I am working with a coach now, (I'll gush about her when we're through, I don't want to detract from our work together) and it's doing wonders for staying focused and connected to my creativity. And she said something at our last visit, that stayed and rattled around in my head. Shook things up. It had to do with getting to core wants and desired outcomes, how I'd choose to design my life and experience creativity in a responsive world:
"What if there wasn't a book to write? What if there was no song you had to write and sing? No project to get done? What would it be then? What's beneath that? Without the to-dos?"
Wow. What a storm of stuff! Epic battles started raging inside, don't tell me I can't write! Why can't I sing? Why, what, why... and on and on. Silently, of course. Inside. Me against me. As is everything.
But I considered it, for the sake of the exercise...and some crystal clear truths bubbled up through the mess...
1. I am writer because it's who I am. I'll always write, I always have, because it's just me. It's how I see the world, and whether I share it or not, it will still happen. I live stories; life is art. It's not a have to, it's just me. As much as my arm or my foot is me. The same is true of music. If I went through a day without dancing around the kitchen, holding mini-concerts in the car as I drove, or hearing music within me and letting it out...I'd obviously be very ill or depressed. It just doesn't happen often. So, the answer to that question is: I'd still do and enjoy these things, even if I didn't seek to publish or share them. They're just me. It also made me so much more grateful to have these outlets in my life, and I promised to create more space for them.
2. But what if... if I didn't have those things. What else is it, what is the thing that lights me up, that sets my soul on fire, that mainlines me into Bliss? It's travel. New places, experiences, adventures, people, sights, sounds, smells, landscapes, FOOD. I write and create to process my world, and explain it in my own unique way, but I travel to engage my world. To live. For me, travel is to be in experience of Life, while art is to be in observation of life. (I did say up there that life IS art, so I don't know. Good luck sorting all that out. it might not make sense. It might, though.) Anyway. I thrive on a balance of both. So, if I had no project to work on, if I wasn't writing something or crafting something... I'd definitely be planning my next travel experience.
And here's why all of this is so important: knowing what makes us come alive and feel good, is everything. Knowing what that is, and then doing it, is a recipe for a fulfilling life. It's simple, but it's everything. Human beings, as we grow from childhood and encounter life's slings and arrows, we become wary of joy. We get further and further from it if we don't make an active choice to bring it to mind, and connect to it. Consciously. And stillness, quiet, meditation is key...because in the silence, we hear ourselves again. We hear what it is that we really want. (Pssst. We're still allowed to want things.) Or, we could hear our purpose, or the whisperings of the divine within us, our higher selves, pointing us toward our Truth. Whatever it is, way deep down, that energy, in those buried places, we get to listen to it.
I believe that we don't merely wait for our lives to happen to us, but that we consciously create them. Each day, with each choice. What great reminders I got, this week.
A simple prescription:
Find balance: nourish the body, quiet the mind, honor the soul
Listen and know what you want
Honor that voice, take a step toward what it wants, and live in gratitude of it
Repeat as necessary.