I was Raised on the River

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I say I'm an island lady, because it's in my blood.  But really, my mama is the one.  She was born and raised on the islands of Fiji, the Pacific ocean molded her.  I grew up in a tiny rural town called Salem, NY, and the river molded me.

The Battenkill River.  I had always thought it was an ominous name, however the Battenkill was more of a teacher to me than anything else.  When I was young, on hot summer days, my parents would take me out on the canoe.  For long trips we'd begin at the Vermont boarder and end at the Georgi; a beautiful property running alongside the Battenkill which was donated to the public after Mrs. Georgi passed.  The house was transformed into a museum and as a child, I remember walking through and hearing the story of Mr. and Mrs. Georgi.  How Mr. Georgi traveled all over the world.  Every time he returned home to Mrs. Georgi, he presented her with a crystal or rock from his travels.  Along with numerous paintings, their mineral and gem collection is on display, which I remember most.

In June, when everything is as green as can be, there's a long row of white blossoming trees.  I used to daydream that I'd get married there one day.  But still, the islands are in my blood, it's a fare toss up.  I spent so many summer days in the green grasses and little sandy nooks of the Georgi.

I learned the meaning of my name on the Battenkill.  Quietly, contemplating down the river with my parents.

"How did you find my name?"

"Your Dad found it in a fairy book.  Fay, Fairy, it's what your name means."

I learned my Dad named me.

I learned some currents aren't to be tested, but if you're caught in a rough one, ride the current.  I learned to be calculated in my risk taking.  And of course, I learned leeches suck…literally.

Swimming in the Battenkill was ritual.  Wherever there was a bridge, there were people.  Parents and children finding their sandy spots,  and teenagers, the brave and reckless, jumping off their bridge into the flowing, frigged depths.  Of course, a hap-hazardous spray painting proclaiming 'I love So-and-So,' was a quintessential part of the scenic river experience.

One summer swimming day stands out.  I may have been 5 or 6.  My first best Friend, Rachael and her Dad took us swimming.  It was only the 3 of us for a while.  Hot sun, cold water.  Simplicity.  Always.  A girl emerged onto the rocks at the edge of the river, hair blonde with blue and green colors in it.  She wore a long flowing skirt.  Everything about her was colorful.  She sat down on the rock with a book.  I had never seen her before.

"Who's she?"

"A gypsy."  My friend's dad (Of course I can't remember his name) replied matter-of-factually

"What's a gypsy?"

"Someone who doesn't have a home and travels from place to place."

For a long time I wondered about her.

During my childhood years, I was a water worshiper, never getting out if I didn't have to.  Only now do I realize how much that river shaped me.  My affinity for rocks, my nature to ride the tough currents, because somehow, I believe I'm protected.  And now, it seems I am that gypsy with colors in her hair, sitting on my rock.  Hot sun, cold water.  Simplicity.  Always.

 

Self Truth

Got to Lima two days ago.  Wrote on the rooftop of my hostel for a bit.  Alone. Peaceful.  I’ve been feeling quite lonely these past few days.  From Cusco to Lima it’s been so grey, the dullness of the sky seems to weigh on my spirit.

Strange to believe tonight I will be on a plane back to the states.  It’s really been 2.5 months.  Costa Rica (the beginning of my trip) feels so long ago.  And Nicaragua…I had all these fears of seeing someone I’m sort of in love with (there is no label but I fondly describe him as my ‘seasonal partner’), and it ended up being a beautiful time in my life.  Although peppered with some strange aquaitances, I learned how to own my confidence with grace.  When grace failed me, I learned to laugh. And when my laughter faltered, I learned to let things go.

Anicca, the Buddhist term for impermanence.  My friend, Uri from Isreal taught me that word.  It was the first night I’d be thrown into the arms of Mother Ayahuasca.  Just me and Uri in the jungles of Perú.  I noticed it tattooed on his forearm and asked him of its meaning.  I couldn’t help but chuckle and reply, “Ironic.”

He joined in with me and said it hadn’t occurred to him until afterwards.  He gets that response all the time.  But really, why bother getting attached to anything?  In the end it doesn’t matter, we all die.  Nothing is permanent.

I nodded in understanding,  but really the thought of this made me feel empty, almost pointless.  I think I’d rather get attached and suffer.  Maybe that’s why I write.  Suffering is so crucial to writing.  The next morning, after Ayahuasca and much weeping, Uri, who was Buddha beside me all night, commented he wanted to suffer as I had that night.

The other day, I messaged a friend I made in Portland while living there last year.  So simply she asked, “Are you happy?”

Wow.  So powerful.  A ‘How are you,’ is such a robotic nicety these days, it doesn’t really mean anything.  I took a moment to respond.

“Grateful is a better adjective.”

I’m seeing the world like I always said I would, and I’m proud of myself for that.  But some days, I really feel the challenges of my solo quests.  Because of this, I always remind myself how good it feels to be in a loved ones company, to hold hands, to connect with a stranger, even for a day; they stay that much sweeter in my memory.

I sit here alone, writing on a couch in a long hall of a big, Victorian hostel.  Everything is white.  I wonder how many people before me have sat down with their thoughts, much like mine.  What were they searching for?  What were they remembering?

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I just met a man named Falk from Germany.  He’s been riding his bicycle around South America for 6 months and has another year or so to go.  He must be in his 40’s.  I wonder if he’s happy.  I wonder if he is like Uri and lives in a state of Anicca.  I wonder if he is like me.

I met a girl in Tarapoto.  Her name escapes me but she is from Switzerland.  We talked about how we liked to travel.  By how, I mean she didn’t bother doing anything touristy.  Only walking around, looking, observing, even cafés were in a sense for tourists, but sometimes she was thirsty.

She told me she enjoyed doing nothing.  Her friend had told her she was the only person she knew that actually meant it when she said she wasn’t doing anything.  Only sitting and thinking.  I found her quite lonely, but rather I think she valued her loneness more so.  Something I could relate to.

Soon I’ll be in familiar surroundings again.  Back with friends.  Back to the mountains.  Cali sunshine.  I’m sure some things will have changed, if ever so slightly.

I’m thinking of what these 2.5 months have been to me.  A step closer to something else.  Most people travel to get away, but I think I travel to get closer.  Picking up pieces of myself along the way. Each new place allows me to learn something new about myself.  I’m grateful for this- to discover, revealing the truth, even if it is my own.  Yes, there is more work to be done.  One more step, and another…

Ultima Dia (Last Day)

I have one more night in Cusco, Perú.  Broke my vegan streak for a home cooked Peruvian chicken dish.  Living life according to my rules.  No guilt.  Instead of one last wandering through the cobblestone streets of the historic center, I’ve spent most of the day in bed.

It’s raining hard.  While drinking tea and talking to a new friend from Argentina (in Spanish 👊🏽), hail began to fall around us through the roof as we sat at a table.  We had just been complaining of the cold showers as well.  I picked up a speck of hail to feel it melt in my hand.  It’s always been an odd phenomenon for me, hail. We laughed and climbed to the top story to view Mother Nature’s power and all of Cusco.  The city, the mountains, the deep grey skies.  This is it.

I can’t help but feel the tinge of sadness for all the friends I’ve made and most may never see again.  It’s a strange feeling knowing each person you meet will not be a constant you are accustomed to.  To share a week is lucky.

As I begin to sink my teeth into these mountains, and all the doors begin to open, it is time for me to go.  Friends say I could stay, find work, keep going.  But I think I’m missing that constant I can count on.  I’m missing some other mountains, and some other hills as well.  And with the more places I visit and call home for a short time, I know I will have more places to miss, and of course more people.

With each town I have been a part of, I feel like a cat living a different life.  Speaking of cats…At my apartment I lived in for a week during a short workaway, I was blessed with beautiful views of the city.  I’d take it all in, but noticed something on a lower rooftop.  Something mangled looking, garbage?  No, it was definitely a decaying cat.  Moments like those I believe my life is a dark comedy.  Everyday I would take a moment to enjoy the view, but couldn’t bring myself to not look at that poor dead cat and wonder about it.

Perhaps that’s how I look at most of my trips, on the whole there is so much beauty and greatness,  but there’s always something along the way that made me cringe.  Maybe it was drunkenly kissing the wrong guy (yes that happened) or not taking advantage of the clear, sunny days to take a certain hike; but as a good friend always says, c’est la vie.  I’m going to smile on all the moments the way they were, laugh at myself for the way I can be, and enjoy this day with cooking and movies in bed.  Because my rules, no guilt.


 

 

Tears to Heal: Ayahuasca

It’s 4am and I’m wondering.  I woke up from an alarming dream and tell myself, I will always be a work in progress.  To always have sweet dreams is like only having happy thoughts.  That is not the world, that is not me, and I accept.

To accept myself, I realized under a jungle canopy of twinkling stars, is part of finding myself.  The Ayahuasca was strong in my blood.  I held myself, looking up at the night like a child, I thanked the gods for the beautiful woman they created.  I thanked the universe for this love inside me which I wrapped myself in.  I cried for all the beautiful thoughts that ran like a river, flowing, meandering, weaving through my mind.  My eyes a great canyon for which these thoughts escaped as tears.  So many that the salt seemed to dwindle, to my lips I could barley taste the sea, they were now fresh water.  Water for growing.

And yet, how could love feel so sweetly sorrowful?  The sacrifices of my parents, even before my existence. The torments of those I loved.  The struggles of those and of which I know not.  Heroes. The love I’ve been afraid of.  All of it, I felt.  All of it I released back into the darkness and sent sweetly to the ones I love.  If you wondered was it you?  It was.

That night, I was blessed with the remembrance of my first memory.  In the womb.  I was apart of my mother- The Goddess and my own mother. Protected in a brilliant light of red and orange.  I cried for us, the mothers.  And as the healing song reverberated in my ear in a way that spoke to my spirit, it was then I knew, with more certainty than I’ve ever imagined, one day I will be a mother.

Gracias, Gracias, Gracias.

Wanderings: San Juan del Sur

Yesterday my friend, H and I tried to find the lighthouse of San Juan del Sur.  We both have days left and decided we needed a mini excursion, and a break from our daily café stops and pool lounges.  I must write of one little adventure before I leave Nicaragua and this not so sleepy beach town. Although we didn’t find the lighthouse, we found our own wonders.

We knew roughly where the lighthouse is, although from the central part of town and the beach, it is not viewable.  So we headed in its general direction.  Walking through the residential part of town, it was refreshing to see what lay beyond the barefoot surfers and Nica taxi drivers asking for their service.  Children were playing in the streets, chickens and dogs wandered about.  No tourists here, just Nica life.

The road curved up, so we continued forward, taking note of the property that ran alongside us which was gated and obstructed from view.  I joked it was the home of SJDS’s drug lord due to the hidden opulence of the place.  We persisted up, up, up.  Yeah, it was really steep though…

Alas, a barbed wire fence and grassy lands notified us that the road had ended.  Naturally, we went past the barbed wire.  Stretches of land lay before us, H and I scanned the rolling hills trying to navigate this lighthouse.  With the encouragement of my friend, we squeezed through more barbed wire, our eyes on what looked like a cabana at the top of one of the hills.

We came across this spiraling grassy roadway that went around the entire hill and was lined with flower bushes. What we thought was a cabana was a sheltered hut with a long wooden table and some chairs inside. The thought was romantic, but how the hell would you get food all the way up here?

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Around the corner, a stunning view lay before us.  But still, no lighthouse.  We trudged on. The hills were carved out in dirt paths everywhere, we only needed to get on the right one. Down into the thickets we went, turning into a downhill slide, staying close to the ground I crabbed walked down, down, down.  I wondered if the way back up would be more difficult…

Now we were back on the coast, filled with smooth rocks, enclosed from anything and everyone.  We explored the rocky beach, picking up little sea treasures.  This was our destination.

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Wanting to avoid trekking through the dark, H and I took in our secret spot for a brief moment and headed back up before sunset.  The way up was much less treacherous, but my legs were feeling it.

This time we followed the spiraling path downwards and realized we were now inside the property we originally had been so curious about.  I hesitated going forward.  Maybe we should turn back and go around? That sounded tedious.  Again, my partner in crime encouraged me forward.  Hopefully we wouldn’t get murdered I joked.

Walking through the property, it was extremely well kept.  When there had been people about earlier, there was now no one.  Where did they all go?  Taking each other’s hands we approached the security guard at the locked gate.  He walked up casually as my friend tried to explain our misdirection getting to the lighthouse.  I’m sure he understood none of it and only nodded and unlocked the gate.  As freely as we entered, we exited

After our long trek we grabbed a cerveza from the market and popped them at the beach we know so well to see sunset.

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Thank you San Juan del Sur for revealing your secret places, and your everyday life I’ve been so far away from. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you.

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Envision Festival 2017

Welcome to Envision 2017 in  Uvita, Costa Rica.  Nestled between palm trees  and sand, 4 days of music, arts, yoga, and hot, hot, hot heat commenced; bring your bindis and good vibes.  For some this is an annual ritual, and others, much like myself, it’s a once and a lifetime experience.  Whatever the situation, prepare to get lifted.  For the most part, it was an amazing third eye opening experience, and as always, one I’d love to share.

Upon arrival, I stood in what seemed like an endless zig-zag line of immigration and customs, Envision goers stood out like a sore thumb.  Indicating factors: tattoos and piercings, patterned clothing, and in my case, blue hair.  Some acknowledged each other in various ways, be it a knowing look, head nod or striking up a conversation.  However, when I arrived at SFO the day before, I had my flight canceled right off the bat and redirected.  Needless to say, I wasn’t in the Envision spirit and feeling exhausted, no one was getting a peep out of me unless approached.

I made moves straight to my hostel in San José, in the heart of the capitol city called Pangea. Every person I met there was going, which made it easy to make some friends and figure out how to get to Uvita by bus, about a 5 hour trip south along the Pacific coast.  I got dropped off in Dominical, the town before Uvita and made a friend while I scoped a café and waited for my friends to meet me.

First order of business: iced coffee and WiFi.  My new friend, Chris and I ended up sitting for a couple of hours while we exchanged the stories of our lives, reaffirming the reasons for coming.  Connection, authenticity, and a desire for growth (Of course you don’t have to go to a music festival to do or seek that out, but it helps ;)).  I ended up running into him a handful of times at Envision  and was honored to be that grounding buddy for him.

While my new friend left to find a hostel, another Envision attendee sat down next to me.  A suave surfer, proclaiming he knew important people, although he was not at liberty to divulge. Ok…???  As he continued to tell me how cool he was he added he wanted to be a shaman with a wink.  At that point I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not.  Here I experienced a fine example of where privilege and arrogance meets consciousness and healing.  Quite a scary combination, but a reality.  After a brief convo and a monkey ball (a no-bake cacao, coconut ball) he was gone and my friends arrived shortly after.

So this was how the rest of my Envision trip was going to go.  People from all walks of life, the positive and negative, passing through briefly to share a collective experience.

Shortly after I met my sister friend and her partner whom I planned this trip with, we scooted off to our hacienda in the hills.  We swam, we drank, we ate, it was pura vida (Costa Rica’s national saying, translating to ‘pure life’).

The next morning it was time to get to the festival.  I tried Chi Gong (or Qi Gong) yoga for the first time, and for those of you who are unfamiliar, think controlled breathing with uninhibited shaking and wriggling.  Let’s just say I felt like a kid again and it was great, and to be honest, that’s probably the weirdest I got for the entire festival.  After loosening up my body and mind, we explored the festival and perused the yoga and workshop classes that would be offered.  I was impressed by the variety and mentally made a note of what I’d like to go to.  To name a few there was sacred tobacco ceremonies, jade egg class, Chakra alignment, and acro-yoga.

For the music portion of it, again I was impressed by the stage setups which were art installations in themselves.  A few must sees for me were Rising Appalachia (best performance of the festival in my opinion), Autograf (I danced the hardest for this set), Zach Deputy 2x (best vibes), and Random Rab for sunrise which was beautiful and something special to be apart of after staying up the entire evening with everyone and feeling that energy extend into daylight.

The one negative occurrence that continued to pop up was theft.  Unfortunately, one of the houses we rented was robbed.  Money, electronics, and a bottle of tequila. The tequila though… Needless to say, we were all pretty shook up, although grateful no one was present during the burglary.  The frustrating part of it was our friend who had two performances at Envision had her computer with all her set information on it stolen.  For an artist to have their tools taken from them on the eve of a performance is a great misfortune.  Luckily she had her music backed up and was able to borrow a friend’s computer. She pulled it together and had two beautiful performances. 

I spoke with a handful of people who had experienced something similar.  Be it house, hotel, hostel, car or tent, there seemed to be no discrimination.  There was obviously some bad juju, outsider resentment going on, which to an extent I can understand, and unfortunately it revolves around money.  All that I can say to this is that, for the most part, Envision is a positive creation with good intentions and good people.  To protect our belongings and prevent any future possibility of theft, we gathered all valuables and checked them into the baggage check at the festival.

The message of Envision was so clear and beautiful: come with the intention of building bridges and create a better tomorrow through self discovery and self improvement.  With that message, and the even the negative experiences that did happen, the most valuable piece I brought with me was knowing what’s not important and letting go of that, and finding the love within yourself to create and hold what is.  Pura Vida!

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