A Fairy’s Dream

So many costumes and so many memories, the best ones always seem to tell the best stories too. Even as I write this I’m having new revelations as to what that “magic” I keep talking about actually is. On one side there is all the thought, effort and planning that goes into creating something special. Seeing the vision in my mind, gathering all the materials and having it all come together and the feeling and outward emotion that creates. The other side is when I finally share it with others, the reactions and light I see from friends and strangers makes it all that more worth while. It’s the combination of both of those things that really creates the magic though, for a costume is only that until it is worn and comes to life.

One summer at the Oregon Country Fair I wanted to do something very different as far as dressing up was concerned. I had only been transforming over from mugglehood as I call it for two years now and previous years I didn’t put much effort into it. But that year, I got it. I knew that OCF needed a different type of fairy that year and I had been planning something epic. I had obtained the most beautiful long purple wig with one single long ponytail in back and used it as an inspiration piece. I soon acquired the perfect lavender lame’ and fur outfit that was more space stripper than necessarily fairy, but it matched oh so perfectly. I borrowed a pair of dark purple wings from a friend and embellished them with some feathers for texture. The white contacts were the topper though .. or perhaps I should just say tripper? ;~)

Darling Reunion, for the kids that have been to the Fair and don’t actually camp on the fairgrounds you know what I’m talking about. Drum circle and fire dancing every night, glow sticks in abundance, smiles, laughter, hallucinogenics as far as thee eyes can see. This place is so sacred and beautiful, I swear sometimes the lovely golden grass we walk upon is alive in ways more than we know. It is a place we all come once a year to celebrate life and love and the art and beauty we all create, we are all family.

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I’ll never forget getting ready in camp that day and taking that first step outside to share the purple magic I was about to bring forth. I often forget in those first few minutes what I actually look like, but within moments the expressions on others soon reminded me I was no longer this plain girl from Seattle. I was an exotic creature that could very possibly been sent from another dimension, a being that would only be seen on this very day. For the hippie fair goers who add a little bit of “enhancement” as I’ll call it, I’m pretty sure they started believing in fairies.

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Walking through the Fairgrounds is a magical experience in itself, walking through it another’s skin is quite something different. Some looks were just dazed and confused, others were mesmerized glances of admiration and some even in sheer fear from small children. I knew not then of sprites and wood nymphs of long ago, I only knew this new world.

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As I walked through the Fair as always, the music calls me. I soon found myself lured to a familiar and favorite stage and bumped into one of my favorite dance friends named Eric. Eric sporting some fabulous gold attire, some sweet and funky tunes by an amazing live band and there was no holding back this fairy getting her groove on. We danced for the remainder of the set and glowed with the energy bouncing off one another, everyone around us was beaming with joy .. sheer dance bliss. When the music ended I was off once again seeking another path and adventure, but still wanting to dance that only meant a journey to the Drum Tower.

Photo by Kyer Wiltshire  http://kyerwiltshire.com

Photo by Kyer Wiltshire http://kyerwiltshire.com

The Drum Tower at the Fair is where I spend the most of my time. Drummers, percussionists and dancers from around the world gather to form some of the most incredible drum circles I’ve ever encountered. It gets pretty hot and dusty in that area, everyone jumping up and down and moving to each new beat and rhythm that unfolds. I don’t mind though, I just want to be close to that energy. At times I feel a drum beat is the actual heartbeat of the earth, it is one thing that we as human beings all share and know. Music. Rhythm and beats. Dance. These things bring us all together, some times without even words all we need is the heart beat.

This particular day I encountered two of the most lovely individuals, Raymond and Natasha. Natasha was doing makeup and offered to liven up my face after having danced most of my makeup off. Raymond offered embraces and treats and we continued to dance and enjoy the gorgeous afternoon. Finding out these two were also camping at Darling, I very much hoped to meet up again with them and we parted ways. It was getting late and it’s a little bit of a walk back to camp.

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Walking through the trees and trail out of the Fair is also very special. The late afternoon sun casts a deep golden hue over everything, the earth feels warm and beautiful and I feel with every step I am home. I had a few funny and random conversations on the way back, and one admirer who insisted on escorting me all the way back since it was on his way. It wasn’t too long before I reached the entrance to Darling Reunion and was walking up the driveway towards the first band of the night.

By chance I met a lovely girl named Josine during that year at Darling, an amazingly talented violinist from Holland. She was standing near the stage as I walked up the last bit of the driveway and told me she would be playing with a few other musicians that evening. I was then greeted by my beautiful festival sister Abby who had also just returned from a lovely day at the Fair. We all shared stories and laughs and then one by one headed back to camp.

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Another moment in being “me” where the violin beckoned me. I made a trek back to the parking lot for more water, returned to camp to get some necessities and then went back to the stage area in hoping to catch Josine play. When I got to the stage I could feel the eyes of everyone slowly turn towards me. Ahh yes, I had forgotten almost that I was still a purple fairy. I remember sitting in the far back as possible, as much as I understood why I was causing a stir, all I really wanted to do was listen to the music. When I sat down everyone around me slowly scooted in closer, asking me about my white contacts, pawing at my tattoos, asking me more questions. I just had to get up and move a little closer to the stage, where there .. it would happen again. I got up and moved closer and closer to the stage where finally I just had to stay put. A warm and gentle stranger sitting next to me introduced himself as Rick and I instantly found a deep comfort in his presence. I told him that I had met Josine earlier in the day and all that I really wanted to was listen to her play and dance, but for whatever reason I was just keeping still. Perhaps overwhelmed in the moment, or the beauty of it all, or now Josine playing her violin and my heart weeping. The revelation at that moment of how silly I was being, that all I had to do was get up and start moving in a way that had been imprinted on my soul from my very first breath of existence.

I asked Rick if he would watch my belongings and he humbly smiled and accepted. Standing up and walking towards the music, Josine’s violin playing my heart a love song, it was a dream come true. The purple fairy danced as several small young girls danced around her in sundresses under the moon light.

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Daily OM: Combating Emotional Vampires

In recent months I had to take a serious “time out” for myself and re-evalute all my relationships.  I had come to a point where I had no energy left for myself, that it was going out in so many directions and my life essence was completely drained.  A mentor gently pointed out to me that if I could see where my energy was going I could have a better understanding of why I was feeling the way I was.  That there were those individuals in my life who were always wanting my time and energy, but in actuality weren’t reciprocating their own.

I took some time to think and reflect and I slowly begin to see what had happened.  The mutable and selfless fish had given everything she had and had once again fell into an old pattern.  I looked at all my relationships and said a sad and sweet goodbye to several, but also realized that the people I hold dear are true blue.  Again, it’s about making better choices for myself including those who I surround myself with.  I’m fortunate to have some very loving and supportive souls and taking that break made me realize that even more.  I’m fortunate that I was strong enough to identify my relationships that are strong and healthy and choose to nurture those.

I wanted to share this article because there are emotional vampires of so many types and so often we don’t even realize we are encountering them.   I’ve also been thinking a lot about the way we evolve as individuals, who have been the influences in our lives?  Are they friends?  Family?  Employers?  Spiritual counselors?  Media?  Are our own personal responses to others words and actions that of our own, or something another person has previously instilled upon us?  Have we been an emotional vampire ourself .. projecting past hurt and experiences on to someone unknowingly?  Do we subconsciously give in to others demands to save face in these relationships? I know I’m guilty of all of the above, but at some point I realized that my actions and the way I decide to react to others is my own doing.  I truly believe if we take the time to look inward and see our own contributions in all our relationships, not only do we identify where we can grow as individuals .. but we create an example for others to follow and overall improve the quality of those connections we most hold dear.  Each and every day I vow to be a little less judgmental, a little bit more patient and a whole lot more compassionate with myself and others.

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Combating Emotional Vampires
From the Combating Emotional Vampires On-Line Course
by Dr. Judith Orloff

The following is an excerpt from the “Combating Emotional Vampires” on-line course. If you would like to take the entire course, click here.

Relationships are always an energy exchange. To stay feeling our best, we must ask ourselves: Who gives us energy? Who saps it? It’s important to be surrounded by supportive, heart-centered people who make us feel safe and secure. It’s equally important to pinpoint the emotional vampires, who, whether they intend to or not, leech our energy.

To protect your sensitivity, it’s imperative to name and combat these emotional vampires. They’re everywhere: coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. In Energy Psychiatry I’ve treated a revolving door of patients who’ve been hard-hit by drainers–truly a mental health epidemic that conventional medicine doesn’t see. I’m horrified by how many of these “emotionally walking wounded” (ordinarily perceptive, intelligent individuals) have become resigned to chronic anxiety or depression. Why the blind spot? Most of us haven’t been educated about draining people or how to emancipate ourselves from their clutches, requisite social skills for everyone desiring freedom. Emotional draining is a touchy subject. We don’t know how to tactfully address our needs without alienating others. The result: We get tongue-tied, or destructively passive. We ignore the SOS from our gut that screams, “Beware!” Or, quaking in our boots, we’re so afraid of the faux pas of appearing “impolite” that w! e become martyrs in lieu of being respectfully assertive. We don’t speak out because we don’t want to be seen as “difficult” or uncaring.

Vampires do more than drain our physical energy. The super-malignant ones can make you believe you’re an unworthy, unlovable wretch who doesn’t deserve better. The subtler species inflict damage that’s more of a slow burn. Smaller digs here and there can make you feel bad about yourself such as, “Dear, I see you’ve put on a few pounds” or “It’s not lady-like to interrupt.” In a flash, they’ve zapped you by prodding areas of shaky self-worth.

This is my credo for vampires: Their antics are unacceptable; you must develop a successful plan for coping with them. I deeply believe in the merciful message of The Lord’s Prayer to “forgive people their trespasses,” but I’m also a proponent of preventing the unconscious or mean-spirited from trespassing against us. Taking a stand against draining people is a form of self-care and canny communication that you must practice to give your freedom legs.

What turns someone into an emotional vampire? First, a psychological reason: children often reflexively mimic their parents’ most unflattering traits. A self-absorbed father can turn you into a self-absorbed son. Early modeling has impact. Studies of Holocaust survivors reveal that many became abusive parents themselves. The second explanation involves subtle energy. I’ve observed that childhood trauma–mistreatment, loss, parental alcoholism, illness–can weaken a person’s energy field. This energy leakage may condition those with such early wounds to draw on the vitality of others to compensate; it’s not something most are aware of. Nevertheless, the effects can be extreme. Visualize an octopus-like tendril extending from their energy field and glomming onto yours. Your intuition may register this as sadness, anger, fatigue, or a cloying, squirrelly feeling. The degree of mood change or physical reaction may vary. A vampire’s effects can stun like a sonic blast or make you! slowly wilt. But it’s the rare drainer that sets out to purposely enervate you. The majority act unconsciously, oblivious to being an emotional drain.

Let me tell you the secret of how a vampire operates so you can outsmart one. A vampire goes in for the kill by stirring up your emotions. Pushing your buttons throws you off center, which renders you easier to drain. Of all the emotional types, empaths are often the most devastated. However, certain emotional states increase everyone’s vulnerability. I myself am most susceptible to emotional vampires when I feel desperate, tired, or disempowered. Here are some others:

•Low self-esteem

•Depression

•A victim mentality

•Fear of asserting yourself

•Addiction to people-pleasing

When encountering emotional vampires, see what you can learn too. It’s your choice. You can simply feel tortured, resentful, and impotent. Or, as I try to do, ask yourself, “How can this interchange help me grow?” Every nanosecond of life, good, bad, or indifferent, is a chance to become emotionally freer, enlarge the heart. If we’re to have any hope of breaking war-mongering patterns, we must each play a part. As freedom fighters, strive to view vampires as opportunities to enlist your highest self and not be a sucker for negativity. Then you’ll leave smelling like a rose, even with Major-League Draculas.

Posted in Words of Wisdom | 1 Comment

Swimming in Darkness

This heart so full of love and life
has a dark place.
Given so freely is a beautiful detriment,
it is taken for granted.

The moon dances through the trees,
I listen and hope.
Convincing myself once again,
no expectations ..
but no one answers.

No words can convey
what I’ve already said before.
Now I sit and wonder
what my future holds.

The only thing I’ve asked for
once again has been ignored.
My foolish mind,
it happens all the time.

Some times I just want to run far away
where I don’t have to do this anymore,
I’m all right with being alone.

My tears fill the pool,
swimming in darkness.

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My Favorite Day

With every story I tell, there are usually several other sides stories it relates to.  I’ve been wanting to write about this day for so long, so forgive me if I tend to ramble.  I feel no detail should be left out here, because this story isn’t about one single day .. it’s about several events and individuals who planted the seed of inspiration within me.

My first year of Burning Man I encountered a group of individuals who shared one of my deepest and oldest passions, kite flying.  This incredible group of kite makers, flyers, artists, travelers and kindred spirits who I was first introduced to as DOTA (Department of Tethered Aviation), soon became my brothers and sisters and my extended family if you will.  The first night I walked into their camp unknowingly, I was greeted and welcomed by now one of my dearest friends Jose Sainz, or “El Coyote” as he’s known on the playa.  Jose who throughout this story I’ll refer to as my “compa” is truly one of the most kindest and most generous individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  Everyone who knows Jose also knows how incredibly talented this man is when it comes to kite making and design.  From miniature Asian inspired kites made of delicate rice paper to elaborate rokkaku and beautiful single line kites with feather applique and satin ribbon tails.  Jose’s creations are usually given as gifts, so to receive something made by this man’s hand is not only an honor but it also means that you have found a special place in his heart.

The night after compa and I first met, Talking to God.

The night after compa and I first met, Talking to God

Among all these other amazing creations, Jose was also known for making various types of banners that would stand vertical on rebar and telecsoping poles.  These banners constructed of ripstop and various styles of detailed applique adorn camp in beautiful texture and color and dance with each passing wind.  My second year of Burning Man I was camping with another group but I found myself pulled to DOTA and would visit them daily to spend time with my compa.  One afternoon Jose and I were sitting in the dome taking in some shade and and a cold drink, he had told me about something he had created in the past few months.  He takes off to his tent for a minute and returns with a couple pairs of wings he had made using the same design he used for the banners.  Only these were different, he sewed openings for your arms (sleeves if you will) and you could put your arms into them and grab the banner poles and dance around.  I plucked a pair of teal colored wings from my compa’s grasp and pulled them gently on each arm.  Slowly flying around the dome I danced and flew like a bird floating softly on a breeze, it was truly magic.  I took the wings off and returned them to Jose, knowing the only next logical thing to do was beg and plea for a pair of my own.  He asked what colors I would want and I told him “black with crimson red sheer applique”.  I also asked him if he would make cuts along the feathers so they weren’t solid and would flow better in the wind.  I told him I would happily reimburse him and all he said is “We’ll work something out.”  Which really meant his fingers were crossed behind his back and he would take nothing for them.

Playing with a pair of wings for the first time at DOTA.

Playing with a pair of wings for the first time at DOTA

I wish I could have been there when Jose started making my wings.  I like to imagine Picasso working on a favorite masterpiece or one of the finest chefs crafting one of their greatest feasts.  One night over the phone Jose told me he had finished my wings and I was absolutely beside myself with excitement.  He also was sure to tease me about the fringe I had requested on them and what a royal pain in the ass it was to cut all of those feathers evenly, but indeed they turned out beautifully.  Not too longer after that conversation Jose had attended the American Kite Flyers Association in Seaside OR where he displayed my wings and they actually ended up winning an award!  He also told me that during his time at the festival, an older woman had come up to him who used to be a dancer was admiring the wings.  He was overjoyed to let her try them on and I could hear his heart melt as he described this woman finding her inner child and beauty as she flew across the beach.

Knowing the following year I wanted to return to Burning Man and camp for the first time with DOTA, it was important to me to connect with this new family.   This proved to be a difficult task though, as every member is spread out around the country.  Wanting to spend time with my compa too of course, I decided to attend DOTA’s annual event in Florida they coined “SKF” or secret kite festival.  A week on the beach, just us, no rules and regulations, just a beautiful time to bond and be our silly selves.  That entire week was absolutely incredible .. we flew kites every day, worshipped the wind in silk veils, paramotored, laughed, played games, had countless amazing meals together followed by hilarious drunken LED hula hooping antics.  The last day of the week we were having an epic day of kite flying and windworshipping.  Jose and I were sitting on the sand together and he whispers to me “You know I brought them, don’t you?”  I knew he could only mean one thing .. my wings.  Disappearing for a moment he returned with a long slender black bag.  I was trembling when I opened it, two of the most beautiful wings emerged from the bag with black ripstop and the most gorgeous sheer crimson fabric in between.  He showed me how to insert the poles and I was off like a bird flying across the sand and dancing in the wind.  That day I was the luckiest girl in this world.

SKF Festival and first flight, photo by Tim Elverston

SKF Festival and first flight, photo by Tim Elverston

The months passed and the burn of 2011 was slowly approaching and planning was well under way.  Several things were on the agenda for me that year, it was the first year I would camp with DOTA and I wanted to really bring it and share all I could with them.  I also decided that it would be my last year of Fire Conclave so I began to choreograph and rehearse with the NW Conclave group.  I then had been cast as Artemis in the Trojan Horse project and was training in archery as well as developing her costume and character.  So much to do!  And of course, all of the other costumes and outfits I had been gathering and piecing together for the week.  I started to think about my wings and that they deserved a costume that would do their beauty justice.

My bird mask after embellishing

My bird mask after embellishing

Wings .. hmmm.  Yes, of course .. a bird.  A beautiful, graceful, elegant black and red bird.  The most difficult part of this task was the issue of feathers.  Knowing that feathers are a huge potential to shed and leave a trace, and now hearing the drama and hatred of feathers after 2012′s burn, I am reluctant to even discuss this.  I knew that bringing feathers to the burn would open myself to be chastised (and believe me, there were a few that did).  But I also knew that if I made the costume myself I could do everything in my power to sew those feathery bastards down in a way that they would stay put for as long as possible.  I found a lovely mask venetian black mask on Ebay that I embellished with red peacock feathers and gems and additional black feathers on the cheek bones.  Hot glued and placed with precision so they wouldn’t come off.  I found two black hackle pads of rooster feathers to use as pasties which I also embellished with additional feathers and gems and secured with glue.  I made two wrist cuffs and a neck cuff with black brocade and feather sewed on trim, which I additionally sewed repeatedly to insure they were secured.  I found a pretty underskirt layered with black and red tulle that would act as a bustle, the only thing left was to make some sort of skirt.  Luckily the Goodwill came to my rescue, I bought a brown tiered taffetta skirt which I later cut down the center, dyed it black and hemmed it in a way it could be tied around my waist.  The long black braids and bun I had purchased for my Artemis costume would be the perfect compliment to such a lovely outfit.

Before and after shot of skirt

Before and after shot of skirt

Feather cuff

Feather cuff

In the weeks before the burn anticipation was growing and preparation was almost complete.  I received a message from friend Marty (which funny enough I met at Burning Man the very same night I met Jose) told me that he was getting married on the playa and asked me to be their flower girl.  My dear friends Marty and Cheri .. getting married .. on the playa .. OMG!  He tells me that they will be having a circus freak wedding and that the theme will be black and red and perhaps I could put together a basket of goodies to pass out.  A trip to Archie McPhee’s, the liquor store and a sex shop and that task was soon complete.  Now what to wear?  I just may have the perfect thing.  ;~)

It seemed so strange, setting my alarm clock for 8AM that Thursday morning on the playa.  I had an archers meeting at 10AM at the Trojan Horse and the weddings was around 11, I wanted to be sure I had enough time to get ready.  I sat outside my tent with a mimosa and started putting on my makeup, some camp mates were already up and some were just waking.  I adorned my beautiful black braids, pulled some black fishnet tights over my legs and attached the black feathery pasties to my breasts.  I pulled the tulle underskirt up and over my hips and tied the black tiered skirt around my waist.  I slipped on my favorite Doc Martens and covered them with fuzzy leg warmers.  The last few pieces pulled it all together .. long dangly earrings of red marquis cut garnets and silver decorated my earlobes and a matching necklace hung delicately around my neck.  The beautiful feather and brocade cuffs fit perfectly around my wrists and neck, I was now standing there fully dressed and for the first time could see my vision in it’s true form.  The only thing left to do now was put on my wings.

First flight of the day, photo by January Gregov

First flight of the day, photo by January Gregov

How blessed I could be to have such an amazing support group that morning.  My camp mates showered me with love and snapped a few photos before I ventured out to be covered in playa.  My dear friend Paperboy was so wonderful to give me a lift over to the Horse for the meeting so I wouldn’t be late, in a permitted non-art car type vehicle of course.  Arriving at the Trojan Horse I received the warmest greeting by Homer the project organizer and man who had cast me.  This was the first time meeting my fellow archers in the project as well and I was ecstatic to share my excitement about what was to come the following day.  Soon to arrive on the scene was my beloved friend Marina who was my companion Calisto in the project and who would also be attending the wedding with me.  One of the first magical moments of this day happened at that moment.  I was approached by a lovely girl dressed in street clothes, she reached out to me with her eyes welling up and she says to me “Thank you for doing this, you are truly one of the most beautiful things I have seen all week.”  My heart exploded and I took her into my arms and engulfed her in love and appreciation, letting her know how much her words meant to me.   I  returned to our group of archers and we finished our discussions about the project and it was soon time to head to the wedding party.

Marina and I at the Trojan Horse archer's meeting

Marina and I at the Trojan Horse archers meeting

I will tame the beast, photo by Marina McDonagh

I will tame the beast, photo by Marina McDonagh

Marina and I were waiting patiently for our “ride”, it is playa time you know.  Within moments the double decker bus arrived from the theme camp Hippocampus, who I had camped with the year previous and who Marina was camping with.  Our wonderful friend Markus behind the wheel greeted us with more love and hugs and informed us we had to pick up a few of the band members from Titanium Sporkestra.  I entered the bus and walked towards the back, carefully climbing the ladder to the top platform where several friends and band members were already gathered.  The bus fired it’s engine and we were soon on our way, I walked to the front and put on my wings and spread them wide and were off like a bolt!  Music was blaring and I was now flying through the city on a bus operated by Hippos, there was no place I would rather be.  I remember looking down at the people as we passed by, the smiles that overtook faces as they looked up.  The magic and beauty I had spent months dreaming about creating was now happening and I could have died right then a happy girl.

As free as a bird, photo by Mike Reneer

As free as a bird, photo by Mike Reneer

We pulled into a random camp a couple blocks of the Esplanade, the remaining band members had now boarded and we were on our way!  The band queued their instruments and started warming up, wings still equipped we were now leaving the city and entering inner playa.  The excitement was building as we approached the site of the wedding, an incredible art installation created by the Iron Monkeys.  A large crowd was already gathered and the bus arrived in fine style with the marching band playing wildly and party goers already celebrating.  Looking down at all the smiles and friends, it was time to go see the bride and groom and spread more magic on the ground.

The Hippocampus Bus, photo by Marina McDonagh

The Hippocampus Bus, photo by Marina McDonagh

My sweet friend and soul Cheri was absolutely beaming when I walked up to her to give her my love and first hug of the day.  Such the gorgeous bride in her fine playa attire and wearing a grin from ear to ear. Every where I turned there was a beautiful familiar face saying hello and sharing this joyous occasion.  I cracked a bottle of champagne I brought to share and I gave Cheri a ring of mine for good luck.   An oval labradorite cabochon for something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  I told her she could “borrow” it but then I would gift it to her afterwards, because that’s just the type of sap I am.  Marty was absolutely beaming as well, so proud of his soon to be wife and so gracious to all that came to celebrate and I was equally proud and honored that these two souls chose me to celebrate their special day.

Shenanigans!  Photo by Kym Spencer

Shenanigans! Photo by Kym Spencer

The wedding attendants were soon told to form a giant heart around the wedding party and with little effort all soon stood side by side in this form.  Something inside me said that it was time to take flight, I put down my glass of champagne.  I again slipped on my wings and moved and flowed throughout this giant heart.  Saying hello to all the attendants and making them feel welcome, dropping little bits of love and affection to those I knew in the crowd.  Marty and Cheri were now gathered near a platform with the minister so I returned to them to begin the ceremony.  I stood behind them and raised my wings to create not only a backdrop but as a symbol of the beauty and freedom this couple shared.  The sun was scalding and hot but that was the least of my concerns, now standing before me were two people I cared so much about declaring their love for one another to the world.

Photo from space of the wedding heart

Photo from space of the wedding heart

Dancing in the heart of love, photo by Marina McDonagh

Dancing in the heart of love, photo by Marina McDonagh

Marty, Cheri and I, photo by Marina McDonagh

Marty, Cheri and I, photo by Marina McDonagh

The ceremony ended, everyone rejoiced and the party was soon under way!  Another friend’s art car called A’Tuin was also present and sweet dance tunes were soon filling the space.  I congratulated Marty and Cheri again and we delighted in hugs, more champagne and what an amazing day it was.  Something that I hadn’t realized earlier in the day, was that my skirt was slowly evolving.  Someone stepping on my train earlier in the day had broke the stitches holding up the tiers and now my skirt had formed into a cape .. a long black bird tail.   I made one more trip through the crowd handing out all the goodies from the basket and of course, sneaking one of the airplane bottles for myself.  We danced and laughed for the next hour and soon the party was ending and it was time to return to camp.  I boarded A’Tuin with the newly wed couple and we shared a few more laughs and hugs before I was dropped off at home sweet home .. DOTA.

Photo by Alex Mogilevsky

Photo by Alex Mogilevsky

I was starving by this point and buzzing from the excitement of the day.  I had just attended one of the most beautiful events I have ever had the privelege of taking part in and was overwhelmed with energy.  Back at camp were several camp mates to greet me and I went to the kitchen area to make something to eat.  My friend Tootie who I had caravaned to the burn with this year was preparing for a trip to the Temple.  This woman who is one of the most compassionate I have ever met.  She may not describe it this way, but I believe she has been given a gift as an healer in regards to deep emotional scarring .. she is an angel.  Tootie is also an animal lover and had confided during our trip down that she had lost several pets this year due to illness.  I asked her if she wanted me to go with her to the temple and she said she would be grateful, loving animals the way I do too I didn’t want her to go alone.  I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but suddenly the words “Firebird” escaped from Tootie’s lips.  It was in that moment that I received my playa name, and coming from such an an amazing woman it couldn’t have been more of an honor.  I finished my lunch and grabbed a few things before we headed headed out on our journey.  Refilled my hydration pack with water, put a couple of cold beers in the inner compartment and tossed in a couple of salty snacks for later.  I grabbed my wings, hopped on my bike shoving my skirt into the milk crate behind me and Tootie and I were on our way to the Temple.

Photo by Alex Mogilevsky

Photo by Alex Mogilevsky

The Temple that year was one of the most gorgeous that I’d ever seen.  Several intricate towers were so beautifully decorated, inside alters of personal remnants and trinkets had erected.  There was always an air of reflection, mourning but still a celebration of life was everywhere.  I walked with Tootie until she found a place to post the photos she had brought and then left her for a few moments so she could say her goodbyes in private.  I thought to myself, what gift could I give at this very moment?  I could fly, I could create beauty right then and there.  So I put on my wings and I began to slowly fly around the temple.  Each step taking my time, wings held out I soared on the breeze that had sifted through the Temple towers.  A woman and her two small children were approaching me and the small boy looked up at me and then turned to his mom and said “Mommy mommy!  Can I fly too?”  She looked at me with uncertainty and I looked down at the boy and said softly “Of course you can sweetie.”  I took my wings off and helped this small child put them on his arms and he eagerly took off running around the temple.  Again .. the smiles, if you could only see how happy he was.  His sister soon piped in too that she wanted to try and the mom again asked “Are you sure it’s all right?” and I replied “Of course. :~)”  Reluctantly he handed the wings to his sister and she excitedly put them on.  I walked with her showing her how to “fly” to face into the wind so the wings would stream behind her and slowly flapping her arms.  So delighted, we both were.  When the girl returned the wings to me the mother said to me in a voice that sounded tearful, “Thank you so much for that, you don’t even know what that meant to them.  You see, they are birds.  His middle name is Blue Bird and her middle name is Sparrow.”  And with that we hugged and parted ways, what a gift it was .. to all of us.

I returned to Tootie to check in on her after a little bit of time.  I didn’t want to intrude but I also wanted her to know that I hadn’t left her.  Tear soaked cheeks I could sense how painful it was and I said nothing, other than held her in my arms.  Goodbyes are never easy, especially when saying goodbye to loved ones who have parted this life time.  We talked for a little bit and then said our own temporary goodbyes, there was still one more thing left for this Firebird to do.

There was something I’d known about for months that was going to happen this year at Burning Man.  It was the one thing that I was not going to miss during the week even if my life depended on it .. there would be no “playa time” in this instance.  There is a group of musicians who have captured my heart and soul and they were going to play that afternoon at Reverbia.  My favorite band, a band that rarely plays so it is truly a gift to hear them play live .. EQlateral.  It was later in the afternoon now, I jumped on my bike again shoving my skirt into the back and riding directly towards the 6:00 spot to Reverbia.  I knew I’d be early but didn’t care, all I knew is that I wouldn’t be late.

Arriving at Reverbia I was overjoyed to find out that the band playing before EQ was a band called Antioquia.  They had been DOTA’s house band the previous year and were jamming out some sweet tunes, it was so welcoming to finally sit for a few and listen to fantastic musicians.  I started talking with some girls close by and I met the sweetest girl named Ashtine.  I tell you, one of the things I love about the burn is making new friends and sharing space with like minded souls.  We sat and talked for a while and shared some spirits and it wasn’t long before other familiar faces from Seattle had trickled in including my favorite doll Marina.  We again had a chance to visit and relive the days events before the music started, those moments of gratitude and appreciation for life I won’t forget.  It was also then we I got to tell her my new name and my sweet soul sister lit up like a playa Christmas tree when I told her.

I love music, it is the air that I breathe.  Violins especially, I swear their strings are connected directly to my soul.  As long as I can remember I have always loved to dance, it is my soul’s way of responding to the beautiful language of sound.  I remember being only a couple of years old at our family’s beach cabin and my parents and friends would enjoy sunsets and cocktails, some tunes on the 8 track and watch yours truly getting down to whatever track was playing.  I remember traveling to Spain and Portugal with my ballet class when I was ten and dancing in various towns and cities.  I remember early cruel teenage years at the end of middle school, mean girls telling me to stop dancing the way I did that I moved like a “belly dancer” and for some reason that was wrong.  I remember dancing to Soca in the streets of San Pedro and swaying to guitar melodies on a corner in Puerto Rico.  I also remember the first time I heard EQlateral play and thinking  to myself “Man, this is it.  This speaks to me.  This music makes me whole.”  Since that moment and every moment after, I would go to the ends of the earth to hear their music just one last time.

Dancing with my true love, photo by Angel Frolicker

Dancing with my true love, photo by Angel Frolicker

Peter, John and Sebastian take the stage and I could feel the anticipation inside me build.  As soon as the first note hit Marina and I were on our feet in center of the floor.  You have to hear it to understand it, but the build of energy inside is quite extraordinary and what happens next I never know.  I just give in.  The momentum increases and it’s ecstatic, the violin starts to play and my skin weeps.  Moving around the space where ever it takes me, Marina close by .. now our friend Angel is dancing .. my breath is taken away and I couldn’t be happier than at that moment.  Even with no one to love in my life at that time I have never felt so utterly complete and loved.  They played for about an hour, my heart ached when it stopped but we all know it can’t go on forever.  Giving Marina one last hug I bid my farewell and started to head back again towards camp.

Bliss dance, photo by Marina McDonagh

Bliss dance, photo by Marina McDonagh

The sun was beginning to set and in DOTA that only means one thing, The Golden Hour.  I felt like I was racing with time as the sun was going down and I pedaled as fast as my tired legs would go across inner playa.  I was looking for just one, that’s all I need to know in which direction to go … just one kite.  As I drew closer to camp I started to see it, not one but two kites off in the distance.  One in red and the other dressed in black, having one last waltz together before the light passed over the mountains.  My camp mates Tim and Ruth were there flying together, a beautiful sight to see this husband and wife (and kitemakers themselves) flying their creations and sharing their passion.  Also there was our wonderful friend and photographer Cesar who captured a glimpse into this magical moment.

With every Golden Hour the magic starts to happen and when it does those passing by are called to stop and take it all in.  I was slowly flying around under the kites and spreading my wings one last time.  Slowly and gracefully, a sky dancer, a Firebird.  I noticed that a couple had stopped on their bikes nearby and was quietly watching all of this.  Without hesitation, the wind shifted and I slowly turned towards them ever so gently flapping my wings and moving towards them.  I moved closer, and closer, flying closer until we were almost touching.  I spread my wings open wide and wrapped them around this couple in the sweetest and warmest embrace.  When I open my arms I could see their eyes filling with tears and they said just this one thing to me .. “Thank you for your beautiful dance.”

The Golden Hour, photo by Cesar Cortes

The Golden Hour, photo by Cesar Cortes

Photo by Cesar Cortes

Photo by Cesar Cortes

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Choices

Those who know me have probably heard this phrase quite a bit in the last year: “I’m continuing to make better choices for myself”. What does that mean exactly? It means that as I grow older and wiser my perspective has broadened. My priorities have changed and so have my beliefs and desires. Old patterns and habits are no longer needed through these new eyes. I now see that my decisions, and choices, not only set me on to new and bright paths but happy ones at that.

I spend a lot of time reflecting, I truly feel there is no greater teacher in life than ourselves. I look back on my past quite often and find acceptance in the fact that I can’t go back and it can’t be changed. Instead, I reflect on the choices I’ve made and understand how they’ve affected my relationships and friendships, jobs, hobbies, travels and other personal interests. I’m only human, I’ve made many mistakes and bad decisions, but I’ve also made many good ones. It is when I really dissect the choices that I have made and how they’ve guided me to where I’m at now do I understand not only the power of making good choices but that I create my own happiness. I’ve come to have a deeper understanding that my choices and intentions manifest my life and world around me.

If we only could see just how much of our own suffering we cause .. my heart wishes this for everyone. I especially see this in friends when it comes to relationships. I am speaking this from experience, I have been that person. The one who wants nothing more than love in her life, the one that makes bad dating choices. The one who settles for less and convinces herself that the current situation will suffice because it provides affection and companionship. When really all that is happening is time is being wasted, lies are being told to ourselves and in reality we are only hurting the other person and ourselves. Now we have not only created unnecessary tension and anxiety, but we have also created our own suffering. Essentially we have made a bad choice that now has prevented us from being available from the one who will truly love us. It is so easy to blame and project what we are feeling, but truly we must take responsibility for our own part in this. We made the choice, whatever it was. We said “Yes, I will accept this situation. I will sacrifice what I truly want for something right now.”  Immediate gratification perhaps?

Oh “mind” *winks at self*. Why we do what we do the things we do. Why we think the things we do. Why we want the things we want .. and why all those things constantly change. Look into your being and do not try to fool yourself. We are the Fool, we are a beautiful flowing and changing spiritual being. We have the power within ourselves to achieve anything, we have the power to make choices. What is your heart’s desire?

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Making Progress

If you’ve ever had a project you’ve put off for a while, you know the one .. the one that you dread so much, the one that you wake in the middle of the night and somehow the thought of it pops into your mind for a moment and you cringe and let out a big sigh?   Yep, that one.  And in this case, I’m talking about my studio and work space.

This summer was one of the busiest yet, it was one amazing trip and adventure after the next.  Fourth of Juplaya in Black Rock Desert, the next week off to the Oregon Country Fair, the next off to Mt Vernon for the regional burn called Critical Massive.  Not having even a chance to unpack completely before I was off to a new adventure.  And to top it all off, somewhere in between OCF and Critical, my beloved father passed away after battling Parkinsons for many years.  My life was hectic and crazy and there was just no time to nurture my own space let alone have time for any new projects.

First, it was just a matter of not having the time (or energy) to put the camping stuff away.  Then the pile of shoes, clothes and misc. costume stuff slowly grew.   Then it was time to travel to the ocean to retrieve the items and cherished heirlooms of my dad’s at his home in Ocean Shores.  I tell you, nothing is more frustrating than wanting to purge and lead a more simpler life but now faced with so many pieces of art and nostalgia from my childhood and I couldn’t bear to leave these memories behind.  So I loaded up yet another truck full of furniture, misc boxes of kitchen ware and trinkets, an entire teak wood yard furniture set and returned home.  The studio now found itself another dilemma, it was the only place I could store these newly inherited possessions until I found the courage and energy to go through them.

Depression slowly sank in.  I was missing my dad terribly.  I then lost another friend to a drug overdose followed by another one who had battling colon cancer for years. My roommate who I moved in with originally was constantly sick and battling her own depression, hiding in her room all the time because that’s how she would deal with it.  Someone who I considered a dear friend would no longer talk to me nor confide in me and the space that was once my home was engulfed in a dark cloud of negativity.  I just didn’t want to be home, I didn’t want to deal with any of it let alone the studio that I grew more guilt and frustration every time I thought about it.  The space that I originally intended to be our “Epic Craftroom” and space to retreat to create was now the bane of my existence.

I will say this, life is like a roller coaster and for every downward turn there are several sweet upward bends.  Towards the end of October my roommate moved out to go live with another friend and I was so lucky that a sweet soul and friend was looking for a place to live.  The very first thing we did together after unloading her belongings into her room was sage the entire house together .. I knew this would be the beginning of something wonderful.

So last week I decided it was time to deal with my demon, I made a pact with myself to work Sunday even if it would take all day and make the studio into the space I’ve always wanted.  When I came home from my boyfriend’s Sunday morning, there my new roomie was in her tank top and undies doing dishes in the kitchen and greeted me with the biggest smile.  We started talking about my project for the day and then got a little side tracked by some discussions about hula hoops.  I realized how blessed I was to not only have a beautiful and loving friend to share my home with, but another creative soul who I know needed the space as much as I did.  With hard cider in hand I ventured out to the pit of despair.

I started by folding the clothes that were strewn about and putting shoes and costumes and accessories back in their appropriate bins.  Slowly bits and pieces of ribbons, feathers and silk flowers also found their way to their storage containers.  But no project for me is without its distraction, before I knew it I found my hula hoop tape and was inside showing my roommate that I had some supplies to fix up her hoops.  Not only unintentionally inspired her to start a project she’d been longing to do, but now I was well under way in mine.  Things were getting put away more quickly than I had hoped and each time I returned inside the house to put something away, I was rewarded with more smiles and seeing my friends hula hoops taking new color.  Inspiration inspires as redundant as that may sound!

About four hours later, a couple of ciders and a stop to my favorite taco truck I could now see the floor of the studio and I knew it was almost complete.  I rolled out the oriental carpet that had been in my parents livingroom when I was a child.  I placed my dad’s favorite wing back chair in the corner, my reading lamp and a beautiful wood chair with the Green Man carved in the back nearby.  The buffet which was the only piece left of my mom and dad’s original dining room set also soon found it’s home in the room, which will no doubt soon be covered in costume accessories and wigs.  Of course, I saved the front workshop space for last .. reorganizing the camping equipment is so “meh”, but it took the least amount of time and I was finally done.

The best part of that day was at the end of course.  Exhausted, I gazed around the room feeling the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders and truly taking in this beautiful new space.   I hung a print that belonged to my father over the chair, a lovely Native American illustration called “The Raven and Sun” now have become the guardian of the space.  The only thing left to do is build a work table for upcoming projects. 

I invited my sweetheart over to see what I accomplished and to see his face light up was even more reward.  I pulled out my camping table, delved into one of the fabric bins and covered it with a piece of black linen, I found a couple of candle holders and tea lights and placed them on the table.   Windows open to let in the cool evening air and the rain falling outside, we cozied in for a card game called Magic while KEXP serenaded us with some classic hiphop on my dad’s old Boss stereo.

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Daily OM: Asking for What We Want

(October 23, 2012 excerpt from Daily OM Newsletter http://www.dailyom.com/)

Daily OM:Asking for What You Want
Cocreating with the Universe

by Madisyn Taylor

Most people don’t always fully realize that we all have within us the ability to cocreate our lives with the universe. So many of us are taught to accept what we are given and not even to dream of anything more. But our hopes and dreams are the universe whispering to us, planting an idea of what’s possible while directing us toward the best use of our gifts. The universe truly wants to give us our hearts’ desires, but we need to be clear about what they are and ask for them.

To ask for something does not mean to beg or plead from a place of lack or unworthiness. It’s like placing an order—we don’t need to beg the salesperson for what we want or prove to them that we deserve to have it. It is their job to give us what we ask for; we only have to tell them what we want. Once we have a clear vision of what we desire, we simply step into the silent realm where all possibilities exist and let our desires be known. Whatever methods we use to become still, it is important that we find the quiet space between our thoughts.

From that still and quiet place, we can announce our intentions to the pure energy of creation. By imagining all the details from every angle, including scent, color, and how it would feel to have it, we design our dreams to our specifications. Similar to dropping a pebble into a pond, the ripples created by our thoughts travel quickly from this place of stillness, echoing out into the world to align and orchestrate all the necessary details to bring our desires into manifestation. Before leaving this wonderful space to come back to the world, release any attachment to the outcome and express gratitude. By doing this daily, we focus our thoughts and our energy while regularly mingling with the essence that makes it possible to build the life of our dreams.
© Cheri Rae

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Meeting Julie

Several years ago I was beginning a spiritual journey of sorts only to have my world turn upside down.  My strong connection to the earth and desire to heal and nurture were put on the back burner by a severely broken heart and devastating break up.  My path was to be put on hold in that moment frozen in time until the smoke dissipated and I could once again see clearly.

The last few years have been an extreme evolution of the Self, I have grown and learned so much about myself as an individual.  I’ve taken the time to reconnect with my own energy, delve into my subconscious and rediscover my hidden gifts.  My light that was once extinguished was blossoming once again and I started seeking answers.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  How can I make a difference in this life time?  These questions are not simple, there is no single answer .. but what I have discovered is that I have so much to share.

When your mind is open and free from judgement amazing things begin to happen.  I started listening, not just hearing, but really paying attention to the subtle messages that were coming to me in all forms from the Universe.  I began to realize that we are all truly connected on a deeper level than I had ever imagined possible.  Connected to one another but even more so, connected to the earth and all its forms.  Each time I found myself outside and close to nature my entire being began to vibrate.  I could hear voices in the wind, trees and flowers.  Moments spent near the ocean were beautiful yet humbling, seeing and understanding the power of creation and destruction through the mysteries of the great abyss.  My light was radiating and the Universe was calling me.  The spiritual journey I had started years previous had now found new meaning and my path was clear once again.

Towards the end of August of this year I started asking myself how I would go about this new path and develop my gifts as a healer.  I remember laying in bed one night frustrated, wanting a teacher or a mentor to give me additional guidance.  I created the intention and sealed my wishes in an envelope in my mind as I drifted off to sleep.  The next day while enjoying lunch and sifting through emails, I received a message from a shamanic herbalist on Whidby Island about new courses starting again.  It was around the time of the blue moon and her words came through like a flash of lightning.  Not only was this the answer I had asked for, this was the same teacher that I was trying to connect with just before my heart ache many years prior.  “Finding Nourishment at Your Doorstep” a 13 month course in shamanic herbalism rang out like church bells and it wasn’t much longer before I had picked up the phone only to hear Julie’s warm and encouraging voice on the other line.  We talked about the course, my intentions and experiences thus far and set a date for me to come visit her at her beautiful farm.

Now, what I know about spirituality and shamanism is that some mysteries are not to be shared and that tools of ritual are considered sacred.  I am not writing this lightly or out of disrespect to any traditions, I am writing this to share with friends who know me about my beautiful first experience.  I am writing this because some part of me wants others to also earn a greater respect and connection to plants and the world around us.  I can only plant the seed though, this I realize.  The knowledge must be sewn and harvested by the individuals who seek the wisdom for themselves.

Pulling into Julie’s farm one Saturday afternoon, the autumn sunshine was casting a gorgeous golden hue across the fields.  I went to the door and knocked lightly only to be greeted and welcomed by this warm goddess and teacher.  I removed my shoes and we went into her cozy kitchen, there were jars of herbs everywhere steeping in various tonics and tinctures.  She picked up a mug and begin to pour me a cup of delicious and sweet oat grass infusion and we sat down at her table for the first time together.

We began by creating sacred space together, I set intention for what the next few hours would bring and Julie shook her rattle and sang a lovely song to our Earth Mother.  She then told me she would send me out to her yard shortly, but first she handed me her “talking stick” and asked me to share with her a little bit about me and why I was there.  I started describing my deep connection to plants and nature that not only had existed since I was a child, but the deep draw that I was now feeling to learn more.  I explained that I was finally at the point in my life where it is important to acknowledge and nurture my abilities as a healer and share that with those close to me.  She said that we are one with the plants, we give them breath, they breathe our breath .. one can’t exist without the other.  We shared several breaths together envisioning this, breathing in the plants breath, and returning our breath to give them life.

Julie then said she wanted me to go outside and listen.  She explained that during fall the plants begin to lose their leaves and all of their energy returns to their roots.  That fall and winter is the time to harvest these roots as they are in their most nourishing state.  She told me to “be aware of the roots” when I went outside and to not remove or harvest any plants, to listen and return to her in a few minutes and share my experience.  She started shaking her beautiful rattle for me again and I walked quietly to the door and put on my shoes.

That first step outside .. I breathed in the pure essence of Autumn.  The crisp air, the gold and red foliage in abundance, the sun moving a little more quickly across the sky.  Each step I took deeper into her yard I was completely enveloped in life.  Each blade of grass, each leaf, each spiderweb had a vibration.  I thought about the roots all around and under me, I visualized them glowing bright with all of this new fall energy.  I could see the complexity of all of the various strands of root systems but how effortlessly they grew together and around one another.  I could see life purely.

I returned inside back to Julie and shared my experience and she listened with love and gratitude.  Her eyes were bright and joyful seeing me light up with a deeper understanding and “getting it” if you will.  She then began to tell me we would both go outside together to harvest my first plant together.  She explained the importance of asking permission before harvesting anything because that, in essence, I was not only taking life but giving death.  That in respecting the plants they in return will share their knowledge with us.

I followed Julie outside and I walked behind her towards her garden.  Her walking stick lead the way and I remember how beautiful her gray hair looked blowing lightly in the breeze.  Walking up to the gate I felt such an honor for this wise woman to be sharing her sacred garden bed with me.  The garden was wild and overgrown and misc. grasses and plants were poking their heads through the wire fence.  Julie exclaimed with excitement how wild and beautiful her garden had become, all plants were welcome there.  We walked through the gate and began to seek out a plant for me to harvest, a simple yet lovely single dandelion.

She walked through the garden listening and looking.  Her weathered hands gently pushing tall grass out of the way in search of a plant that would give us permission.  The first one she found had declined and she respected its wishes, we soon discovered a large single dandelion growing close to the path where she again asked its permission for me to harvest it.  This time, the answer was yes but she quickly told me that I have to ask it permission as well.  She said to breathe with the dandelion, to share its breath and then ask if it will give its life to me.  If it agreed then I could harvest it and give thanks and then return to her.  Julie walked towards the house and gave me these moments alone.

I knelt down seeing this plant, which I’ve thought so often as a weed, in an entire new light.  Green and gold, soft and nourishing, this was beautiful medicine that I could harvest and make my own.  I breathed with the plant for several moments and then asked it if I could remove it from its earthly bed.  I felt this warmth inside and felt a strong vibration from the dandelion, almost glowing so bright and saying “I’m ready”.  I carefully dug around it as not to disturb surrounding plants and almost terrified that I would.  But the root of this lovely plant came bursting forth and I was now seeing a beautiful, tender and succulent root before me.  I covered the hole with earth and gently patted the ground as if never having disturbed it and returned to Julie waiting patiently for me on her front steps.  I washed the root well with the hose and removed all the dirt and we returned inside her home.

Walking back into the kitchen Julie grabbed a knife and cutting board and instructed me to grab a jar, label and pen.  I cut off the leaves of the dandelion and placed them in her compost and chopped the root into small pieces.  I thought the root would be dense and woody, but it was quite the opposite.  The root was rich and juicy but crisp like jicama and the knife easily penetrated its flesh.  When finished I placed the chopped root in a jar and covered it with an organic apple cider vinegar and labeled it with its contents and date.  She explained that within six weeks the inulin of the plant would seep out and combine with the vinegar to make a healing tonic.  Not only was the tonic good for nourishing stomach flora, but it was also nourishing for the liver, urinary tract system and lymphatic systems.  I shook the contents lightly and held the jar in my hand with the greatest feeling ever .. I created my very medicine.

Julie and I returned to her dining table, held hands and she sang another beautiful medicine wheel song to close the space we created.  She also shared a gorgeous root of echinacea she had purchased from a local herb supplier and encouraged me to make tincture with it when I returned home.  We hugged and said our goodbyes and I left her home as quietly as I had first entered.  The first step I took when I left her that day was the first step in my new path as a healer.  My heart was bursting, for the first time in my life everything made perfect sense.Dandelion Vinegar

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Today

Today has been the loneliest I have felt in a long time.  In all this beauty and light, past hurt from long ago has seeped in through the cracks.  It is difficult not to compare what I’m feeling today to something so old when it is so familiar.  I know they are not the same, but my hurt and concern is there and it is genuine.  The hardest part of not being who I used to be is finding acceptance and letting go.  Yet even more difficult when the words needed for healing and nurturing are completely absent.

Today I ponder, tomorrow .. I hope.

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Dancing among the stars

Photo by Chuck Revell

Sensei could rock a cheerleader outfit like no other! Photo by Chuck Revell

I can’t remember exactly what night it was, or what club it was .. but I do remember we met on the dance floor.  He wore a dark hat with a wide brim and a warm smile, every time I went out dancing this stranger seemed to be there.  One sweet evening when the beats were so good and the vibe was just right,  I decided to introduce myself.  Todd Osborn, or “Sensei” as his close friends called him, was no longer a stranger and he soon to become one of my dearest friends.

What I remember most about Todd, well beside the fact that he lived to dance, was the fact that he always had a way of making people smile.  His kind and generous nature and gift of selfless love went everywhere he did.   Every time I was going to take a solo road trip it probably wasn’t more than an hour or so before my phone would light up saying “safe travels!” of some sort with Todd’s number on the screen.  And of course, the same on the return trip.  He was one of my only friends that would randomly check in with me just to see how I was doing and he always suggest that we’d meet for lunch every couple of weeks to catch up.

Todd and I both were lone wolves as I call it, single and independent souls who were constantly called to get our boogie on.  I recall so many nights receiving a text from dear Sensei saying he was heading out to catch one of his favorite dj’s sets and that I should join him.  We would rally for a “safety meeting” as Todd called it which usually involved a couple swigs off his bottle of tequila and some pre-dancefloor *cough* inspiration.  He would immediately roll his windows down and apologize for the stale cigarette smell in his car, of which I never minded because I was just so happy to be sharing time together.   He always had bottles of water, gum and an “ice cold coke” to hydrate his visitors.   He would also take this time to offer unsolicited advice (which I also didn’t mind), gently reminding me to always be myself and not take life too seriously.  Then he’d say “ok, it’s time to dance!” and off we’d return to the beats and crowd inside.  Making our way back through all the warm bodies to the front of the stage and getting our groove on I could see him melt every time I smiled with delight of the moment.  We’d get down for a while and before too long we would be heading out for another safety meeting.

One night late last year Todd took me out to breakfast after a long night of dancing.  It is then he confided in me that he had been ill for some time and wasn’t sure how much longer be able to keep dancing.  He smiled and told me how grateful he was for so many loving friends and that nothing would stop him from living fully until the very end.   Well my friend, that you did .. we had so many more great nights after that, so many belly laughs, so many dances. .. fully you lived and fully you loved and you will always be remembered in my heart dear Sensei.  Thank you for being there when I needed a friend, thank you for your constant encouragement and love, thank you for sharing that gigantic heart of yours with this girl.  I am forever grateful.

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