Life is Play

It’s such a simple concept but one that can be hard to remember, like that name on the tip of your tongue or the last place you set your keys down. This morning I’d really been struggling with the idea that life is simply a game, the ultimate experiment. I was recently accepted as an Etsy Wholesaler and the thought of creating a line sheet and writing my profile was completely overwhelming. How am I supposed to showcase my brand on a 3 inch earring card?? The to-do list I was making was getting longer and longer and my anxiety was growing larger and larger. 

Then I had a flash of insight that melted my fears away: I have forever. And it’s true; Etsy doesn’t care when I finish my wholesaler profile. Retail shops don’t know I exist at this point, so they certainly aren’t in any hurry. The only one stressed about a non-existent deadline is me…

 

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I’m not sure if our minds have a natural tendency to feel rushed, to accomplish as many tasks as possible as fast as possible, or if society has pounded it into us, reinforced it by forcing us to spend 8 hours a day in school for 12 years, completing assignment after assignment with no semblance of joy or playfulness at all. My own tendency is to finish projects as soon as possible so that I don’t have to feel the pressure of it hanging over my head. But I’d like to adopt a new attitude towards this recent endeavor: playfulness. I want to approach this project with joy and wonder, working on different parts of it at my leisure with the understanding that it’s simply an experiment, another way to express my creativity and share my story. 

There is no timeline because life is unpredictable and ultimately uncertain. There is no rush because this is my experiment, my playground and I have all the time I need! 

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Homestead Update

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Written on February 3, 2018.

It’s been quite a while since the last Land Update, so read on to see how our homestead is coming along!

My partner Eugene and I live in the hill country of Texas, nestled amongst 200+ acres of Juniper covered hills and valleys. We live in a little cabin that Eugene built by himself, the closest neighbors unseen and a mile away. When I moved here in the summer of 2016, the cabin had one room, an unfinished kitchen and bathroom. We had no running water and no electricity! 

Since then, we’ve added a bedroom, finished the kitchen, built a shower, moved in a claw foot tub, acquired electricity through solar panels on the roof, and we now have rain water collection tanks that supply the water for our house and garden. 

We have a large garden space and right now I’m growing lots of early spring vegetables from seed. We recently completed our future fruit orchard; we planted pear, peach, apple, and plum trees. Hopefully we’ll have a fruit harvest in 4 years! 

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The road up to our home is very rough and hilly and my Camry couldn’t make the drive. I recently sold my car and purchased an SUV that can make the trek and it’s made life much easier! Before, I would either take the 20 minute walk to the house, or have to coordinate with Eugene. 



Life out here is easier than life in the city in many ways but harder in others.

 

We use a wood stove to heat the house, so on cold mornings, there’s no thermostat to adjust. Someone has to get up and make a fire. We don’t have air conditioning so the summer is a bit different out here. Most work is done during the early morning hours or in the late afternoon, while the heat of the day is spent napping or laying in the creek down the hill. 

Since my jewelry business is mostly online, I’m able to use my phone to connect to the internet and fulfill orders while Eugene takes on different building projects in the surrounding areas. Life out here is constantly evolving and changing... We're glad to have you witness our journey! 

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Relationship with Spirit

Written on November 20, 2017

The past few weeks have been really busy for me; perhaps its the holiday season, or maybe I’ve just picked up too many new projects. Anyways, I’ve been working a lot and today, as I went outside to gather some herbs and greens from the garden for breakfast, I realized that although I’m busy, one of my relationships needs tending to, just like my garden: my relationship with Spirit/Source/God/Goddess (call it what you’d like). I felt a little tug in my heart and a very subtle knowing that no matter how long my to-do list is, I must maintain my relationship with my Source. I acknowledged the feeling and promised to take a hike later on. 

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I finished work a few hours later, slipped on my jeans, and started walking. I immediately knew where I needed to go, even though I live on over 200+ acres of land. It’s like my body was guiding me and I didn’t resist, but let my feet carry me. Right as I arrived to the piece of land where I was called to visit, I spotted a large deer antler lying on the ground. I walked slowly to it, picked it up, and took a seat where it had been. I spent a few moments in prayerful thanks and gratitude, always humbled at my relationship with Spirit and with this land.

I don’t believe in coincidences and I know that I was led to that spot to receive a gift: a physical gift of an antler, but more importantly, the gift of trust, of unconditional love and acceptance that only Creation can provide for me. 

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My relationship with this higher power is similar to all relationships in my life; the more that I tend to it, nurture it, care for it, and honor it, the stronger it grows. My phone doesn’t ring with the name “Spirit” showing up on the screen, but I hear the call just as loudly, and even if I can’t answer that day, I always acknowledge the call and promise to make myself available as soon as possible. And my life has changed tremendously since I have started respecting my relationship with Spirit, above all other relationships. I am blessed beyond belief, over and over again, and that empty spot inside of me is now filled with unconditional love. Anytime I’m struggling or feeling overwhelmed, I can pick up my phone (aka heart) and reach out to the one that loves me, to the one that gave me life, to the one that will always be there. And I feel safe; safe because I know that I’ll never be abandoned, because that this relationship is eternal and Everlasting. 

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Mind Invaders

Written on October 8, 2017

This morning I woke up with a pebble in my shoe, a sticker burr in my pants, and eyelash in my eye, and uncomfortable feeling that I couldn't quite place my finger on. I had thoughts zooming around in my mind like little viruses zooming around in a petri dish, so I put on my lab coat and got to work trying to figure out the source, the place of origin for these foreign thoughts. I was hearing shrill shouts in my mind, saying things like "You're on your phone too much! You didn't sell enough jewelry last week. There's so much that you haven't gotten done." These thoughts started eating away at my morning, making the sunshine seem dimmer, my tea taste bland, and my day feel overwhelming. The thoughts felt like invasive little pests that I desperately wanted gone.

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Then, like some antivirus was dropped in the petri dish, the thoughts cleared a path for me to see their source: lack of self-acceptance. This has been coming up a lot for me lately and when I arrive back at this place, I often feel exasperated that I haven't "graduated", that I'm still dealing with this.

But then I realize that those feelings of frustration and impatience with having to continue the work in this area are coming from THE SAME SOURCE: lack of self-acceptance.
 

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So, although the "antivirus" cleared the path and allowed me to see the source of these pesky little thoughts, it didn't annihilate them. No, because that's my work. And although I do believe I'm a Gryffindor, I don't actually have a magic wand, a spell to cast them away. My work is harder, requires more patience, more love, more gentleness and kindness.

My job is to simply Be; it is to be with those thoughts, with those little viruses, by observing them and witnessing their tenacity and dedication to infecting my mind.

It is my job to put them to sleep, to sing them a lullaby, and let them drift away into some other reality, because they are not welcome in mine.

So, today, when they inevitably return, I will observe and witness, caress and coax, and send the thoughts away, because my heart and mind must remain clear, a clean vessel of Love, and most importantly, of Truth: the truth that I am perfectly perfect exactly as I am, even when I "stay on my phone too much, even when I don't sell enough jewelry, and even when I don't get enough done".

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Today, I Took a Hike

Written on September 6, 2017. 

I took a hike today. I was sitting on the couch, being cozy and embroidering a flower when I heard the whisper. I looked out of our large glass door and saw the grass swaying, beckoning me, the wind promising to caress me and the sun promising to nourish me. I slid on my pants and stepped outside, inside, stepped out of the comfort of my home and into the thrill of the Wilderness. As I walked and stopped, paused and listened, I realized that I made the right decision. I needed to acknowledge the Earth, my feet needed to touch the ground, my hands wanted to be bathed in dirt, and my mind begged to be cleared. I followed deer trails and stepped lightly, pausing after every few steps to listen and to learn. I found a clearing deep inside of a circle of juniper trees and sat down, heavily, my eyes sleepy and my breathing deep.

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I closed my eyes and swayed With the Wind, with the energy circling me, swirling and swirling, cleansing my whole self like water washing down and drain. The scent of animal in Earth filled my nose, my favorite smells. Warbling birdsong danced on the air above me, a little creature making musical my meditation. I sat for a while longer, heard the donkey braying and felt my body Rising, crawling itself out of the clearing and onto another Trail. I walked and shield in my eyes from the bright Sun, my head full of fresh air and the perfume scent of juniper wasting through the breeze. I saw a flower Standing Tall and had a sweet conversation with it, giggling at the way it danced in the wind and the delicate texture of its petals. I found an old bone and some feathers and made a tiny alter underneath the tree.

I gave my moon time blood to the Earth, thanking her for her offerings and apologizing for our shortcomings.

I slowly made my way home and breathe deeply before closing the door behind me, feeling utterly grateful for living in the wilderness, amongst the friendliest trees and the sweetest Earth, feeling blessed for being home.

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Adulting: Freedom from Childhood

Written on July 20, 2017. 

I’ve been noticing a new term going around lately: adulting. 

Adulting means doing things like going to work, paying bills, calling a plumber, etc. 
When I see the word, the context it’s used in 99% of the time is negative. “Ugh, I’m tired of adulting.” “Adulting? No thanks, it’s the weekend.” etc. I remember being young and feeling so impatient about growing up and becoming an adult. I felt that on the other side of childhood/adolescence, there was this special world, a secret utopia that only those over 18 had entry into. I imagined that the funnest things happened after I went to bed. 

There were days when I would leave school early, for a dentist appointment or something, and I felt such a profound freedom in the fact that I was riding around with my mom at 1:00 in the afternoon. The world seemed different, expansive and full of possibility. I couldn’t wait until I was free from the prison of my school, free from waking up each day at 6:30 am, packing a lunch, shuffling from one classroom to another at the sound of a clanking bell, returning home at the end of the day, and doing it all over again, 5 days a week. Of course, as a child, I had no choice. My parents both worked and they sent me to public school and that’s just the way it was. 

But now, now I’m an adult and I finally feel the freedom that I always imagined as a child. I wake up when I want to, I spend my days how I want to, and I go to bed when I want to.

I chose this life, this freedom, and it wasn’t an easy choice to make.

The easy choice would have been to continue to be an elementary school teacher after college, waking up at the same time each day and returning home each evening, 5 days a week. The easy choice would have been to collect my paycheck and rest in the knowing that it would be there again the next month. But I chose another path. I chose a road that started out muddy, unclear, and my feet sunk in the quicksand with almost every step. But the path I chose got easier with each step I took. The mud dried up and although I still had to cross peaks and valleys, I opened my eyes and breathed in the fresh air, let my eyes wander over the expansive openness, let my ears bathe in the silence of nature, and although the road still has bumps and rough spots and is quite isolated, I would choose it over the easy, known road any day. 

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A Visitor: Stranger in a Strange Land

Written on June 22, 2017.

I recently came to the big city of Austin for a 24 hour trip and it really felt like a trip, if ya know what I mean. The longer I live out here on the land, the stranger it feels to be somewhere else. I start to feel the change as I enter into Dripping Springs, the town between where I live and Austin. The energy feels taut, more tightly wound, the air has an electric feeling and I usually start to crave a latte. Sometimes I stop at SummerMoon and get one, the coffee running through my veins, matching the buzz I feel around me.

I start to feel this hum of anticipation, excitement building about the idea of air conditioning, a bath with “endless” water, and wifi. I pull up to my parent’s house in typical suburbia and visit with them, take a long shower, put some laundry in, and do computer work. On my last visit, I marveled at the fact that I could get a haircut at Supercuts, a juice at Juiceland, and things I don’t need but want at Goodwill, all within 50 yards. The city is so convenient! It felt like a body, its own entity, with separate parts all working together to create harmony, to create society, to create a lifestyle in which people can drive to their jobs, get paid, and conveniently spend their money all within a pretty small radius. 

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As I moved around the different city organs/stores, I felt strange, like some sort of alien creature, a bug that was released from a glass jar miles from where it was captured. I also had the strange sensation that I was in a video game, or on a movie set, or even dreaming. There was a lack of realness, but the rawness was overwhelming. The concrete all around soaked up the sun and the air was suffocating. The sounds of the traffic and the music in the stores was violating and the contrast of the air conditioning with the heat outside was shocking.

But through the intensity, underneath the overwhelm, I felt happy, calm, and at peace.

I enjoyed getting my hair washed by the talkative cosmetologist Supercuts, her experienced hands massaging my head. We shared laughs about another customer stealing the magazines and how she never thought she would get back together with her ex boyfriend. I enjoyed the smell of Juiceland, a fruit utopia, and I even enjoyed getting mistaken for my twin sister for the millionth time. I loved going to over-priced Goodwill and finding a vintage crock decorated with a beautiful butterfly. I bought a wonderfully tasteless organic frozen pizza to heat up for dinner and ate Coconut Bliss ice-cream for dessert while I watched cable television. 

The next morning I woke up and did some more computer work and then said goodbye to the city. As I passed through Dripping Springs, headed home, my body began to unwind, the air around me felt more still, and the silence that greeted me as I arrived home was magnificent. Here I am sitting around half-naked, sweat dripping from behind my knees, desperately wishing our tiny freezer would hurry up and freeze the ice cubes, and yet I am happy. I am peace with the sweat and the heat, with the bugs and the increasingly shorter supply of rain water. I am calm in the silence and in the dark, and I am grateful for the contrasts that life provides.  

 One of the many joys of life here, getting snagged by a tree friend by the hair!

One of the many joys of life here, getting snagged by a tree friend by the hair!

The Mother and Our Pain

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Written on January 20, 2017. 

Yesterday I felt sad so I distracted myself, every now and then sinking in and then coming up for air when I felt like I was drowning. Today I felt sad again. I had a primal urge to call my mom. Then the dam broke, my heart opened, and the tears flowed. I felt the pain of realizing that as much as my mother loves me, she could only love me so much, as a human can. Her unconditional love can still never match the unconditional love that I receive from Nature, Spirit, God; whatever you’d like to call it. As I cried, I remembered that I am grown now, an adult, a woman standing tall in the line of my ancestors. I looked behind me and saw where my mother came from, how she had to rise up and stand strong at a very young age, becoming a second mom to her younger brother. I looked even farther back and saw my grandmother, who recently left this world and passed over to the other side. I felt a surge of pure compassion for them and the women that came before them. They’ve all done the work that they were able to and here I am, doing mine. 

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As much as I’ve learned on my journey, I still find myself resisting the pain that sometimes comes. Even though my own song says “We exist to resist the pain that sooner or later we must face.”, I still push it away, even if just with one tiny finger. It can be excruciating to feel something so strongly but not know where it comes from. I’m finding that the sooner I sink into the pain, the sooner it reveals itself and shows its origin. Then I can lay down and curl up, let the waves take over and the tears flow, and allow the process to happen. 


When I was young, I used to get so wrapped up in the sadness that would come snaking in. I would slide down a dark hole and remain in the bottom of the cave of my mind for weeks at a time.

I grew to love the darkness as much as I loathed it, and when the sun would come out, I shielded my eyes at the blinding brightness and welcomed the clouds that would inevitably return.

Now that I live in the sunshine of myself most times, those cloudy days feel very uncomfortable. It takes a great strength to lift my head to the clouds and allow the rain to wash over me, but each time it happens, I gather a little more power and surrender to the pain, for the pain is what brings lessons, the pain is what brings the eventual light, the pain is the catalyst for transformation. 

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So, What is Love?

Written on May 25, 2017. 

"When we were born, we got blasted apart; we burst into a million fragments, scattered around like a 1,000 piece puzzle on the floor. We were kids so we didn’t even attempt to put the puzzle together, we just kept living. Then we grew up and we saw all the fragments lying on the ground and we started piecing them together, one by one. But, above it all, looking down at the mess and the sweet gentleness with which we search and search for the right piece, there is a part of us that is witnessing, just observing the process. That part of ourselves doesn’t get overwhelmed with the daily search, with the frantic hunting for lost fragments; that part of ourselves realizes that we are complete, even in our fragmentation, we are complete, we are whole, we are perfect, and we are Love.”

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This message came to me during a downpour, a literal rainstorm and a downpour of healing + tears happening in my own heart. I was confronted by a loved one about some of the things that I share with the world/whoever sees it. I am asked often by this person why I share so much of my story, my life, my feelings. “Considering the feelings of those you love is part of loving someone. It is not all about yourself and what you want. Sometimes we do things or don’t do things because of our love for another person.” This is what they told me. So what is love, then? Is love hiding parts of ourselves so that we don’t upset someone else? Is love making decisions based on someone else’s life experience rather than making a decision based on what we desire for our own lives? I think that Love- true, unconditional, Love with a capital ‘L’- isn’t based on these things and doesn’t even exist in the same space. Love is remaining authentic, being true to yourself no matter what the world around you is asking of you. This kind of love is HARD. It’s easy to hide parts of ourselves from others, to walk a path already laid out instead of bush-wacking your own, to nod and smile when you actually feel like crap inside. But those things aren’t done out of love. They’re done out of habit, convenience, and fear. 

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In our society, it’s much more challenging to be vulnerable, to be open about your dreams and your fears, to be honest about how you feel, and to live the life you truly want to live. When we live in this wholesome, honest way, we are actually able to truly love others because we know what it means to love ourselves. As my teacher says, “You are told to love your neighbor—but you have never loved yourself. And a person who has not loved himself, how can he love his neighbor? From where can he get love? First you have to have it. You are loving the neighbor—you who knows nothing of love because you have never loved yourself. The neighbor is loving you—he has never loved himself. Such insanity is happening in the world: people who know nothing of love are loving each other.” 


The inner work that I’ve spent my whole life doing just isn’t okay with that kind of “love” anymore.

So, although others may find me selfish or unloving, I will continue to live a life based around authenticity and my truth.

 

Even though it hurts me to see those I love hurting, especially when they blame their pain on my actions, I still cannot change the course of my life for someone else. And so it is. 

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The Archaeology of Ourselves

Written on May 10, 2017. 

Our inward spiritual journey is the archeology of ourselves and like any skilled archeologist, we must be very careful, slow, and delicate in extracting our own pain and facilitating our healing. Someone walking in a field doesn’t stumble upon ancient remains and just take a jackhammer and start digging in. They take stock of the site, concluding that extraction is either going to be a safe and harmless process or that the environment just isn’t reciprocle to any digging at the present moment, without damage to the remains. And that security and knowledge about our inner landscapes is what we deserve as well. 

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Lately I have been feeling a dull ache, a pain somewhere deep inside that I can’t quite pinpoint. I hear the echo of where it originated from, but I can’t grasp any specific memories around it. I felt a strong feeling surface the other night, but what was rising up felt too big, too much for me to hold at that moment, so I asked for the healing to happen “behind the scenes” and I lie down and let my body tremble and quake, download and cleanse. Today I decided that, once and for all, I was ready to face it, whatever “it” is; I was ready to face the pain, the memory, the wound that is throbbing and asking to be examined and cleansed. I let the smoke of Palo Santo bathe me while I asked for the clarity to see. I used the mimosa plant as my ally and tool and I lay down to “let the healing begin”. I closed my eyes and felt my 3rd eye throbbing and I was trying hard to make sense of the visions I was seeing. After a while, i just sat up and glanced at the tree beside me. I call him my brother tree. I immediately got a message saying “You’re trying too hard. This wound will heal when it’s good and ready and no sooner. If you try too hard to extract it, you could cause damage, so just trust that it will fully surface when its time for it to.” I immediately began weeping at the truth and compassion in the message I’d received.

As much as I like to take part in my own healing and growing, it is like an adult tooth pushing out a baby tooth: no amount of pleading and swearing that I'm ready for the pain will make the baby tooth fall out any sooner.

I must rest in the knowing that I am growing and healing at the pace that is appropriate and healthy for me, even though it may not match the rate that I would like. My job is to remain patient, trusting, and (most of all) kind to myself. 

Honoring the Mystery

Written on April 25, 2017. 

Lately I've been reminiscing on the last couple of years in my life. This time two years ago, I was Wwoofing, living and working on a farm, trying out a lifestyle I had only dreamed of before. I spent my days outside with my hands in the earth, occupied and working, my mind free to wander and dream and ponder, tallying numbers and figuring out if a life on the land would ever be feasible and affordable. During that time I was also introduced to ayahuasca (a shamanic brew from the amazon) for the first time, in ceremony, opening myself up to a whole new world of magic and possibility, my intention and intuition become sharp, like a piece of knapped flint. 

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This time last year, I was in ceremony again, communing with the Spirits and meeting my Love. I met him in the underworld, in a dark room where energy was swirling and whirling around me and time was incomprehensible; I was a baby again and couldn’t use words to express my feelings and fears, so I held his hand and there, on that soft mat in that dark room, is where I fell in love. 

Now, it is spring time once again and now I am on the land that I dreamed of for so long, my hands in the dirt again, digging beds for our garden. Our love is just one year old, yet it feels like I’ve been by his side for a lifetime and even beyond. This love feels deep, reaching into the shadows and depths of my core, like the medicine that introduced us.


Lately, I have been practicing an old, seemingly never ending exercise of mine: letting go.

To surrender to the flow, to be aware of the fifth element (as the Sufis called it), the fact that although we have some control over our actions and daily life, there is a higher intelligence, a big Mystery that rules us all. It’s a force that I acknowledge daily, treating it with reverence and care, like rubbing lotion on the hands of an old person, or offering nuts to a curious squirrel, or planting flowers carefully in freshly dug holes. This is the force that pushes my body down onto my soft bed some days, asking that I conserve my energy and quietly rest for a few hours. This is also the force that rises me out of bed early in the morning to make jewelry all day and take photographs of my work. This force reaches from my belly to my throat and brings songs to my voice, the message aching to be embodied and shared. 
So, as spring arrives and brings new teachings and new challenges, I will honor the changes and the truths. I will honor the Mystery behind all of life. 

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The Arrival of Spring and a Cabin Update

Written on March 22, 2017.

Spring has arrived here on the land; the flowers are stretching their petals towards the sun and our front yard mandala has sprouted many weeds from the recent and frequent rains. I have begun to amass quite the collection of my favorite fungi, “desert seaweed”, thanks to a large drying screen that my love created for me. I like to have enough to give to friends and loved ones and also to get us by when the rains don’t come, because the water is what brings this green, algae-like nourishment, so we’ll still be able to enjoy it even in the summer. We finished construction on our bedroom at the very beginning of the year and what a lovely little addition it has been. Our one-room cabin was just fine when it was all there was, but now that we have room to stretch our arms out, it’s really lovely and spacious here. We found an 800 gallon rain water collection tank on Craigslist recently and so now, combined with our other 500 gallon tank, we have 1,300 gallons of water to use! It’s a less stressful feeling now, knowing that we have enough water to last about 3 months, with no rain. Our 1,000 Watt solar panel is still treating us just fine.

 

We don’t use much power at all during the day; just enough to run the vacuum every now and then and to light the closet, maybe.

 

Our newest project has been our garden. We don’t actually have one yet, but we’ve started working on the site, clearing the land and building a structure that can house garden supplies and a chicken coop. It’s really exciting to me. Some of my favorite moments in life have been harvesting and working in a garden, my hands in cool soil, later to make a meal from delicious vegetables and herbs, straight from the earth. I am remaining patient, content with the fact that our garden may not be up and running until the fall. I want to create it right, intentionally and unhurried, trusting that it’s completion will simply bring another part of my life in balance, and then it’s off to discover the next creation that wants to be birthed! 

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Where the Wild Things Are

Written on March 8, 2017. 

Someone asked me recently if I ever think about teaching again (I used to be an elementary special education teacher). I always say no. I say no, even though I often have dreams about my former students and wonder where they are now. I say no, even though I miss getting to see the same children 5 days a week and becoming such good friends with them. I say no, even though my paycheck was steady and good and I had health insurance. I say no because, at this point, I can’t imagine a life unlike the one I’m living now. Each day is a flower that unfolds, the color inside a mystery until it reveals itself. I don’t follow a schedule anymore, simply flowing with the river of the day and relaxing into the moods, emotions, and creations that arise. It rains and I take my basket and harvest the desert seaweed that I often speak of, my mud boots squishing and squashing, feeling delighted when I stumble upon a particularly large mass of the green algae-like stuff. 

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Some days I work on my jewelry business until the afternoon and then feel the urge to take a hike, so I put on my hiking pants and set off. I start out walking at a normal pace, my eyes and ears taking in the sights and sounds until I start to tap into the Spirit of this land. Then my walk slows to taking a few steps at a time and then stopping to listen for deer or pigs and search the ground for fallen treasures. My senses get overwhelmed, although not as easily as when I first arrived here; to be completely surrounded by Earth, alone, is quite stimulating for me and I often sink to my knees in humble gratitude, offering my happy tears to the ground. 

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Once, I found the tip of a spear (made from flint) lying on the ground and when I picked it up and held it in my palm, I swear I could almost feel the ancient history running up my arm. 
So, while I do miss working with children daily, I do not miss the monotony of that time in my life. I admire those that are able to stay centered and balanced while sticking to a schedule, but I also appreciate my own quirkiness (doesn’t seem like quite the right word, but a better one escapes me) at not being able to adjust to it. So, for now, I will stay out here; out here where the days flow like streams and where the seaweed needs to be collected; out here where the rising sun means there are hikes to take and treasures to collect; out here, where the wild things are.     

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The Illusion of Separation

Written on February 15, 2017. 

I was just sitting under a grove of cedars, in the middle of 3 huge stones, one of my power places. A place where I can feel magic, where I can smell the blood from moon lodges held there, where I can hear the flint being knapped and the voices of the hunters talking, a place that feels ancient, like I’m not the only one who recognized it as a place to take rest and Listen. 


I prepared for a ceremony by lighting sage but before I could even begin to think about my intention for the journey, my mind was blank, a clear pool rippling in the wind. I received a realization that every action I take, everything I am doing, is an act of self love. How could in not be? Even the times when it feels like all I'm doing is making the wrong decisions, there is a silent truth that every decision is simply taking me a step closer to Home, to my truthful, authentic self. Because you see, there is no separation from what I'm doing now and where I want to be. I only think that there’s a difference; that there’s some distant land I'm trying to get to, some faraway shore that I'm wanting to reach. The place where I am now just doesn’t feel quite right, some of the pieces aren’t in place yet and if only this thing or that other thing would happen, then life would be good, I would be happy, I would be successful. But where ever I am now, is exactly the right place. What if I am happy now? What if I am successful? What if I do really love myself? What if the path that I walk now doesn’t need to be fixed or healed or mended? What if it simply needs to be acknowledged and loved and carefully tended to? 

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As my ceremony came to a close, something in the tree to my left caught my eye. I looked up and saw a large, knotted snakeskin dangling from a branch. I slowly got to my feet and walked over, my mind trying to grasp what my eyes were seeing. It may not seem like much, but these signs, these gifts, these treasures from the land, from Spirit, are so very meaningful to me. I softly whispered a ’thank you' to the tree as I untangled the skin from her grasp. I sat down with the snakeskin in my hands, marveling at this tangible manifestation of the all-too familiar state of shedding that I so often encounter on my path.


 My newest song says “My skin is stretching tightly over my old self. But I am letting go. It feels so much better to shed.” When we shed our old ideas about life and about ourselves, when we allow ourselves to die to the old, we make room for the new. We grow into ourselves and continuously allow the cycles of death and rebirth to take place within us, recognizing when it’s time for a new skin. 

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(re)Discovering My Past

Written on December 17, 2016. 

I’m on a road trip back home to Mississippi to see some family and my sister put in my own CD of the songs I’ve written and while she’s singing along merrily, I am having a strong wave of gratitude passing through me. I began writing lyrics when I was about 8 years ago and began writing music when I started playing guitar at 14. I am so grateful that music came to me. I know that I am simply a channel of divine Truth and I am so thankful that I have this outlet to express that truth with. 


Only those close to me know much about my past, but I experienced a deep and profound sadness from age 14 until about 19. I recently found my old journals from that time period and had a very healing time reading through them. I spoke of so much existential pain and sorrow; I spoke of feeling sad and not knowing why, I questioned Life itself and grasped for my purpose like I was falling off a cliff and reaching for some tree root to save me. I wrote about how I had lost myself, searching for it in relationships, drugs, and alcohol. I also got to read about my findings, my rediscovery of myself in my art, in music, in Nature, in the all pervading Love that began to fill me. 

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As I read the words I’d written almost 9 years ago, I remembered my study of quantum physics and how it changed my reality, to realize that I could change my reality. I remembered how the colors of the leaves on the trees seem to grow brighter, the edges around objects seemed more crisp. One line that I wrote really stuck out for me: “I realize now that if my mind was strong enough to believe my own delusions, then it is strong enough to remove myself from them.” So true! 

It may sound strange but I am so thankful for that time I spent inside my “cave” as I liked to call it, inside the confusing twists and turns of my own mind, for it was there that I grew, the frequent tears formed ridges on my cheeks that only added strength. I grew out of my cynicism and self loathing into a creature made of love AND pain. Now I listen to myself singing, “We exist to resist the pain that sooner or later we must face. Rise up, stand up and Be. Feel the strength of your silence.”

I sing my songs and raise my face to the sun and hear the prayers snaking through my veins and from my voice, feeling eternally grateful for all of the pain that I’ve faced and for the way it transforms into love, leaving little lessons along the way. 

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My Life on the Land

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Written on November 28, 2016. 

I live in the middle of Nature, embraced by Mother Earth from every angle, and I love it. There's nothing out here, yet I know that I have all I need. 

I'm in the hill country of Texas, about an hour from the big city of Austin, with my partner. When I first arrived here, there was no electricity, but now we have a few small solar panels, so we can see to cook and shower at night. Our water comes from a small rainwater collection tank and we use it extremely frugally, seeing how long we can get 500 gallons to last. We hope to purchase another tank in the spring to help water the garden. 

I wake up each morning and look out at the land, at the thousands of Cedar trees and Spanish Oaks that are quickly changing into bright red bursts of fire on the Fall landscape. I have hot tea or coffee and start my day, sometimes with a plan, but more often than not just allowing the time to flow and honoring whatever activity (or non-activity) wants to be started or completed. 

There's not much out here; the closest other humans are a 15 minute walk downhill, but I live in abundance. After the rains come, I take my basket and harvest desert seaweed that I put into a soup I make on the day that I start bleeding each month. I also forage for other edible fungi and sometimes I come back home without finding what I was searching for, but always with some treasure, some bone or stone, or feather, that makes me feel blessed and Seen. 

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My dream since I was a little girl was to live on the land and off of the land, as close to Nature as possible. My dream has finally manifested itself and many days it doesn't even feel real. My favorite books growing up were the Little House on the Prairie series. I loved reading about how Laura helped her mother cook over the fire and helped Pa build their cabin, how she spent most days roaming the land, free and playful with her dog Jack for company. I also spent many hours reading The Girl Who Married the Moon and The Naked Bear, Folktales of the Iroquois. I read about medicine men and women, sacred ceremonies, the spirits of plants, and the deep connection we all have with our Earth. It is perfectly fitting that I am Here now, practicing and integrating all that I've read about and felt deeply since I was young. My life is my dream and I am looking forward to seeing how it continues to unfold, providing me with gifts and abundance and lessons, while I remain grateful and Awake, vowing to remain a Child of the Earth. 

Success or Excess

Written on July 24, 2016. 

There’s been something that’s growing inside of me lately, like a tiny pebble in my shoe; something that isn’t terribly uncomfortable, only slightly annoying, until I realize that I can’t walk without pain. The sensation has been festering, nesting inside of me and today it popped its head out to say hello and have some conversations. 


The sensations that I’ve been feeling lately, mostly emotional ones, seem to be related to success and money, the (literal) gold of our society. I don’t know about your life, but I was raised to believe that being successful meant having a well paying (though not necessarily excessive) career with benefits, enough savings to go on vacations, and a nice retirement fund. My parents also helped me learn the values of being a kind person, serving others, and standing up for those that couldn’t stand up for themselves; a good middle-class upbringing, I’d say, one which I am forever thankful for. I strongly believe that every where I’ve been in my life has been no less than perfect, no “bad” stones on my path, each one necessary to keep me moving along and my childhood caries the same essential weight of my adult life, thus far. 

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I realize now though, as I am moving into alignment with my true self more with each passing month, that while the values that I was taught have served me well, my own ideas about success are vastly different than my parent’s (and probably most of society). I don’t feel the need to go into detail about my values (although I’m happy to discuss with you if you’re curious), but I do know that the sensations and slight anxiety that I’ve been feeling lately are because I am continuing to move into my own truth and to stand tall and strong in it. Whenever I feel unhappy and I trace it back to success, I realize that I’m feeling icky because someone else’s idea of success isn’t in alignment with my own and THAT IS JUST FINE. The capital letters are for me, not you, so sorry if they seem harsh, but I need some serious reminders that just because I am not living up to someone else’s idea of success, doesn’t mean that I am not successful. When I am living from my heart, following my own Journey, I am at peace. It’s only when my mind decides to take a field trip from the fields of contentment to the noisy city of comparisons that I feel like perhaps I should “be doing more with my life”. While we’re all together in this strange cosmic journey, we are very much allowed to be individuals. Each one of us is an integral piece to this puzzle and if we’re all trying to be the same shape, then the puzzle will never complete itself. So, my values may look different than yours, but my journey is just as important/not important than anyone else’s. 

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Trusting In Life

Written on July 4, 2016. 

As I meander my way through life, I arrive at some familiar places, like wandering on a path you know and recognizing certain trees and landmarks. I welcome the familiarity and find comfort in knowing where I am, even though a part of me wants to explore a new path. The place that I keep arriving at lately is around Trust; cultivating trust in ourselves which translates directly to trusting Life. 

Life feels like a big ole' mystery and the Unknown can be very scary, that's for sure! But underneath everything we don't know, underneath our fears and our confusion, there flows a current. This current is steady and strong, everlasting and absolutely perfect. The current exists whether our human selves do or not; it just Is. But we are afraid to rest in the flow, to allow ourselves to be at peace, at one with the water, carried away with no real destination. And the fear is so real, so debilitating, that it can affect every part of our lives. We hold so much fear because we've forgotten how to trust. 

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When we don't trust ourselves, we apologize unnecessarily, we spend time with others out of a sense of guilt/obligation rather than because we want to, we tiptoe around our partners because we're afraid that we will mess up somehow; we sabotage our lives by not trusting Life to flow through us and guide us. 

Over the past year, I have really been practicing trusting myself and therefore trusting and honoring Life. Before I speak or take any action, I try to listen to my inner guide and see how I really feel. This allows my words and actions to remain pure and unfettered by guilt, shame, or uncertainty. It also allows those that I meet and spend any amount of time with to relax in my presence, to sink into the knowing that I, Marlena, am taking care of myself, no matter what. My partner knows that he doesn't have to worry about me or take care of me because I am in charge of myself. He doesn't have to suspend his words or actions for fear that I may not like them, because if he says or does something that I don't like, I will kindly, neutrally, tell him so, with no judgement or shame or bad feelings. On the other hand, I am not overly concerned with him in any way, because I expect him to take care of himself, to voice his concerns, to inform me when I am behaving in a way that triggers him or that he just doesn't prefer. 

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I feel that as I've gotten more honest with myself, I have become more of who I really am. I have embraced life and vowed to trust it with all my heart, even through the pain that it can bring. To trust life is to have a deep reverence for it, to be at peace with the mystery and to work with all that is, rather than against it. I have a deep respect for those that I meet that so clearly speak their truth, every single day. I know that when I spend time with them, it's because we both want to be together, we are both present to the moment, and there is nothing that I need to worry about, because while I take care of me, they will take care of themselves. It's a breath of fresh air, honestly, in a world where selfishness seems to equal narcissism and putting our own needs first is as foreign as midnight daylight. When I love myself and trust myself unconditionally, I love and trust each person I meet unconditionally. One cannot exist without the other. So, as I continue to walk my path, I am sure that I will get lost along the way, but once I let go of my fears and trust Life, I will arrive exactly where I am supposed to be.

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Chicken Wisdom: On Shedding Guilt

Written on December 20, 2015. 

This past spring I had the opportunity to live and work on a few different farms in Texas and I really learned so much. Some were practical skills that I never expected to acquire like driving an excavator and running drip irrigation! But there were many subtle Life lessons that snaked their way into my conscience uninvited but certainly welcomed. I remember once being on my hands and knees, scraping chicken poop off the floor of the coop, when I got a lesson on Guilt and Feelings. Knee deep in chicken shit, I was happy as a lark! I felt completely humbled and content serving these egg-laying Beings. They flittered and fluttered around me, making soft chicken noises, curiously watching and quietly observing. Even if they could speak to me, I don't think they would have been profusely apologizing..."Oh Marlena, we are so sorry! We have just filled this place with poop and now you have to clean it up. Thank you so so so much! I promise we'll come clean your place up soon. I am just so ashamed of this mess. I'll never forgive myself." The hens seemed grateful, yet not surprised, with me serving them. And it was a mutual relationship. I looked after them and they gave me eggs. No apologies needed. 
 

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It seems that guilt is a heavy heavy coat, seemingly impossible to shed even when the sun shines bright and the body begs for a breeze, for cool relief. But while it can be heavy, I’m realizing that I have the strength to remove that coat, to give myself the comfort that I deserve. Releasing the tight grip of guilt and treating myself with loving kindness and respect has been been an intense practice for me for the past few years. Our society teaches us that being selfish is a bad thing, so to break that conditioning, to cut the strings of that corset tied tight around us since birth, takes strength, takes courage, takes determination. Releasing the guilt and providing myself what I truly need gives me the space and energy to provide for others. I believe that until our own cup is full and running over, we have little to give, little to offer this world. So although my days in the chicken coop are done (for now!), I will carry the wisdom of those little chirpers with me always: No apologies needed!

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Coming Home

Written on November 28, 2015. 

Every stone, every tree, every river, and every person has a story. My own story is always changing, flowing like the water between smooth rocks, sometimes rushing hard with fresh rain, other times trickling along, lightly lapping on the shoreline, slowly eroding the bank that becomes one with the water. I want to share a bit of my story with you, a perspective that I have in this moment as a write, but remember that my story is always changing, flowing like the river...


 “Life is a choice between heaven or hell. You can choose to be free or trapped in your cell.”

I wrote those lyrics a couple of years ago pretty soon after my twin sister and I moved to Austin, Texas. I had just graduated from college and was more than ready to move out of Mississippi, where I had lived for the past 22 years. My home town was beautiful in its own way, rolling green hills and vast empty fields, lined with blackberry thickets and dotted with muddy water ponds, perfect for achieving that lovely squishing in between your toes. I grew up in the most poverty stricken state, with the highest rate of teen pregnancies, and other bleak statistics I’m sure. The good memories from my childhood look like deep forest exploring with my sweet sister, arrowhead hunting in empty fields, spotlight with neighbors on muggy summer nights; the memories sound like hill country blues leaking from the juke joints along highway 4, my dad and his Lebanese brothers shouting foreign obscenities during dove hunting season, the constant chirping of cicadas or locusts, since we called them both. They taste like mud pies and grass salads, deer meat and brown gravy, smoke from a barrel burning piles of fall leaves.

 (My twin sister, Lydia, and I on a fun, rainy day spent jumping in puddles in an empty parking lot.)

(My twin sister, Lydia, and I on a fun, rainy day spent jumping in puddles in an empty parking lot.)

As I got older, I remember some sort of passion rising within myself, some fire being stoked at the bottom of my stomach, snaking its way into my throat, releasing itself first as experimentation in saying cuss words and then at the authority figures at my school, those people in power who clearly did not know what justice looked like. I became an advocate of some sort, speaking out for those who felt silenced, standing tall to face those that bullied my peers and myself. I was an odd combination of scrawny and strong, short and wiley, innocent to many things but not naive to all of the craziness that I observed around me. I felt extremely out of place in that small town, a willow tree amongst the oaks, a butterfly released, knocking desperately on the cocoons of those around me, hearing nothing but silent screams. I wanted out of that cocoon covered environment. Out of that small town where people got stuck, feet in the quicksand of Mississippi ground. I wanted to experience more than I ever had. I wanted to catch a ride on the wings of a hawk and soar over vast oceans, deep valleys, snow covered mountains, the exhilaration of the flight squelching any fear of the height at which I flew.

 (A recent drawing I did of a hawk)

(A recent drawing I did of a hawk)

I finally caught my ride out via my 99’ Camry, cruise control set, Austin Texas on my mind. I get asked all the time, “Why did you move to Austin, specifically?” From the first day I arrived, my answer was and still is, Austin is a vortex. It sucked me in. That’s not to say that I’ll never leave, but the energy of this place is amazing and has accelerated my personal growth ten-fold. Once I moved to Austin, I felt like I came home. I felt completely accepted by this place, welcome to be as quirky and free as I felt on the inside. 
    
Feeling accepted and welcomed by those that surround me offered a sense of freedom and security that was integral in a deep discovering of my true self and purpose. I moved here fresh out of college, fearful but excited to start a career as a teacher, independent from my parents for the first time and completely naive to what life was like outside of going to school. Unfortunately having a full time teaching job didn’t shine any light on that existence that I thought I’d taste after college. I was still stuck in a school Monday through Friday, all day long, staring out of the window, wanting nothing more than to play outside, surrounded by the beautiful nature that was quietly but strongly calling my name. After 2 years of teaching, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life and quit my job, not knowing what I would do or how I would make a living. I felt as if I was on the edge of a cliff, a pack of hungry wolves charging at my back, an unknown abyss in front of me. I knew I had no choice but to jump and when I did, the most magical thing happened. My wings opened and I realized that I could fly! I had found my ride and it was within myself the whole time. 
    
Now I’m still flying, although more silently, like the wise Owl, gently landing on opportunities, sometimes sight-unseen, but feelings strongly felt. I am learning to trust my Self more than ever, realizing that it is this self that has guided me along my journey. My life is nothing more than my experience; rich, real, messy, and joyful. It’s not what I read in books, or see on the internet, or hear from my friends. It is not what is I grew up thinking was right or what I think needs to happen as I grow up. It is exactly what is happening right now, and only until I took the leap and jumped off of that cliff was I able to have the perspective to see beyond the trees, out to the edges of the very Universe.
 

“We gotta take a step back, become the witness to it all. We gotta spread our wings if we feel we’re gonna fall.”