Weekend

Wet legs. Sandy feet. Salty hair. Unplug. Drive west. Breathe deep. Get burned. Sit in traffic. $20 to park. Watch the longboard competition. Calm down. Another deep breath. 83 degrees. Cool breeze, salty air. Sunday. Enjoy. If you enjoy these posts, please follow Smagik.com and please comment and share.

If you play…

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If you play a piano and records in a redwood forest, does anybody hear?

If you climb a ladder to nowhere, do you arrive?

If you smile in your sleep, do you wake happier?

If you don’t go, will you regret it later?

If you throw out the map, will the path appear?

If you love them, will they love you?

If the fog obscures, is there a view?

Does it matter?

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Photo taken yesterday by me (as usual) outside of the Henry Miller Memorial Library and along Hiway 1, in Big Sur, California.

India Permeates

Back from India for almost four months and I am surprised daily by the ways in which it sneaks up on me and permeates my life in Silver Lake, a million miles away. Before leaving for my trip, I ran into a friend who hugged me and said “this is the last time I’ll ever hug you. You’ll be a different person when you return. No one comes back from India the same.” I thought he was being dramatic.

Ganesha, god of auspicious beginnings, remover of obstacles, patron of the arts, sciences, and writing, watches as I open my notebook, sipping hipster matcha, and begin to write.

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While there I became addicted to their creamy, homemade yogurt and learned that it is one’s neighborly obligation to lend starter to anyone in need. I buy a yogurt maker upon  return and begin experimenting with coconut milk recipes. Bring the milk of your choice to just under boiling, about 200 degrees. Cool until warm to the touch, about 115 degrees. Mix in starter ( being without a yogurt making neighbor, I buy starter at the health food store, though just adding already made, unsweetened yogurt will do the trick as well). Place in the yogurt maker, or slow cooker, or (if you live in a hot climate, like India, on your counter) and let sit undisturbed for anywhere between 4-12 hours. Cool and, voila, enjoy.

A man we met in Bundi, a healer in the guise of a skirt salesman, crosses my mind frequently. Karma, shakras, energy, numerology- he knew things about me I’d never told anyone.

Baby Krishna looks out over my books from his place on the shelf and reminds me to open my heart. Love. It’s the reason we are here, he whispers, the only reason. Love in all its forms.

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Family is the most important thing, says our driver, Lokesh. I agree and, now 800 miles away from mine, miss them terribly.

Feed the dogs on Saturday. It will bring you good karma.

After three weeks, I was ready to return to the familiarity of traffic lanes and avocado toast. But, little did I know that India had already burrowed into my soul and that within a few months I would feel the urge to return, to plan another trip, and that I had been changed forever. My friend was right.

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The Winding Road

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

-Joseph Campbell

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Yesterday I stood on the edge of grassy cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and thought about Joseph Campbell’s words, as salty wind whipped my hair and wildflowers rustled my jeans. With my car parked on the shoulder of Highway 1, somewhere between Carmel and Big Sur, California, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be but also wondered how I had gotten there. Thirty nine, no children, no pets, no husband, a career that won’t let me break up with it no matter how many times I try and for which I am grateful, a month on location in one of the most spectacular places on earth, a full weekend to myself, too may hobbies to count, and a mixture of gratitude, wonder, and uncertainty.

Is this it? Does everyone look around, at their life, and ask that question, not as one of lack, but out of curiosity?

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

-Mary Oliver

I am not actually sure what the life I planned looked like. I wanted to be everything from an actress, to a window dresser, linguist, and writer. I assumed marriage and children would just happen though I never thought too much about it. They still might. I don’t know where I saw myself living or what exactly I saw myself doing, I just assumed that one morning I would wake up, look around, and think “oh good, finally figured it out and now it all makes sense.” HAAA!

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On Friday I sat in the front seat of the car carrying a famous actress to a movie set. To my right the sun was beginning to set over the Pacific Ocean and, as we curved around the famous 17 Mile Drive, through Pacific Grove and into Carmel, news about President Trump’s decision to launch missiles into Syria played over the radio. Heaven and hell all in one surreal, twenty minute drive.

How do we let go of how we thought it would be, so we can be present and have gratitude for what is actually happening in our lives, moment by moment, and thereby be of service to ourselves and others?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. And go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

-Howard Thurman

What makes me come alive? Getting in my car with my camera on an empty day with no agenda other than to drive, take pictures of what I see, listen to music as I go, and share the beauty that I find with others. Though finding beauty on California Highway 1 is actually unavoidable, I have as much fun doing the same in Georgia, LA, Colorado or wherever else my job and life take me. IMG_4329

I wake, whether in my LA apartment or any number of hotel rooms, knowing that I want to help make the world a more beautiful place and to help others find the beauty in their lives and I wake with a certainty that I can and will do this, though the specifics remain vague. As I let go of the hows, things fall into place and my life becomes a creative adventure that I, along with the universe, am creating one day and decision at at time.

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur.

-Henry Miller

Faith. Faith that there is a plan bigger than anything my little imagination can conjure up. Faith that we are always being guided and presented with the next right choice, so long as we are present enough to see it. As I repeatedly let go of my ideas about how it should be and accept how it is, I wake more often feeling that I actually am figuring it out and being let in on the secret.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

-Rumi

Yesterday’s Theme Song- Astral Plane on Valerie June’s album The Order of Time. Snack- sweet potato corn chips, bought at a little camping supply grocery store in the redwoods of Big Sur. Smell- salty, woody, grassy air.

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The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Henry Miller

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Chapter 5- Unexpected Answer.

Since returning to LA, several friends have asked what about India made the biggest impression. Favorite places, experiences, or memories… My answer surprised both them and me.

The animals. I miss the way in which animals were just a part of everything. They weren’t anyone’s, but they were everyone’s, more like neighbors than pets. The ubiquitous holy cow really was everywhere, as were the monkeys (who admittedly totally freaked me out! They steal glasses off of heads and jump around unexpectedly), dogs, birds (many of prey), and occasional pigs.

I call this an unexpected answer because I am not known as a huge animal lover. Not that I don’t like them, there are some that I really, really love. But, there are many that I can take or leave, especially in the bizarre dog culture of an upper middle class, childless pet owners metropolis like Los Angeles, where the untrained emotional support dog reigns supreme. My aunt still makes fun of me for being the only child she ever met who preferred old dogs to puppies (too hyper).

So, the fact that I would miss the animals of India was not a given.

Feed the dogs, people in India say, it brings good karma. On numerous occasions, I watched as those with not much to eat themselves, fed packages of biscuits to dogs. I watched a woman brush this cow’s neck, as monkeys looked on.

Unlike pet culture in the US, these animals are a part of everyone’s life. Whether you choose to interact or not is up to you, like the weird neighbor you either ignore or befriend, but who is in your life regardless.

It is hard to describe how different a city feels when it is full of animals, of the non human variety.

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Chapter 4- You must have confidence.

“You must have confidence, madam, to live in India.” Lokesh, our driver in Rajasthan.

Lokesh becomes our second driver one week into the trip, in Jaipur, after his brother Hari’s foot is run over by a scooter.

Saris on the backs of motorcycles, sidesaddle, their backs to us, the man driving in front. Colored silk blowing in the wind, sometimes two or three children pressed in between. I realize, as I watch them pass, that I, age 38, am the age of the grandmothers, not the mothers.

Cows, dogs, bikes, cars, trucks, pigs, monkeys, and motorcycles navigate the roads.

Blow Horn. Use Dipper at Night. These words are written on the backs of trucks. Why? we ask Lokesh. Blow your horn and flash your lights so the trucks can see or hear you. Some people need to get places quicker than others, he explains. In our country everyone thinks they are those people, we explain.

On the subject of marriage- Arranged is best, he says. Your parents love you, they know you, they’ve lived with you for eighteen years, they want you to be happy, and will find you a good match. Love marriages rarely work out.

He slows to let us take pictures of particularly well decorated trucks, or camels, or elephants, or elephants in the backs of trucks, or camels doing the work of trucks.

Bahubali is the best movie. Parts 1 and 2. Lokesh tells us to find it and watch it. The most expensive movie ever made in India and his favorite.

He tells us about recent uprisings in towns close by. Tension between Hindus and Muslims runs high. A movie has been made that depicts Hindus in an unflattering light. Threats of violence towards theaters that show it. He agrees it should not be shown. We don’t tell him we actually want to see it.

He tells us which days of the week correspond with which Gods and Goddesses.

I have a sore throat after leaving Jaipur and he pulls off at a chai stand and asks them to add extra ginger to my chai.

On the way from Udaipur to Jodhpur, we stop at the Om Banna motorbike Temple on the side of the highway. Om Banna was killed in a motorbike accident on the site in the 1980’s and, after his bike was cleared by police, it mysteriously made its way back to the site three times. Thus, a Temple.

He explains that village people are the happiest people. Wake with the sun, go to sleep with the sun, grow food, barter. All traditions still going strong. But, change is coming, he says. Fast.

We pass field after field of mustard, wheat, and dill. The villages surrounding Udaipur are amazingly beautiful; with lush fields divided by low, stone walls.

“Tika, tika, tika.”

“A, cha cha.”

Spelled phonetically, both mean something like “ok” in Hindi.

I finally figure out that what look like two lane highways are actually three to four or five, depending. The traffic flows with a chaos that would bring US drivers and freeways to their knees in under one second. Horns and beeps a language of their own.

As I write this, we are hurling back to Delhi and blogging seems a better use of time than worrying about the possibility of dying on an Indian highway. Sometimes it is easier not to look. As the Buddhist saying goes, if there’s something you can do about it, why worry? If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry?

And, as Lokesh says, one must have confidence, madam, to live {in India}. Dear Gods and Goddesses, all 330,000,000+ of you, please help me to integrate this wisdom into my life.

Namaste, India. Namaste, Lokesh.

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Chapter 3- My Words are Inadequate.

I was just trying to write something here for the first time in several days, but a wedding passed by the hotel, so I had to go and watch. And so it goes.

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Words, or at least the ones I know, seem an inadequate form for India. I want to touch it, wear it, hear it, eat it, smell it, and live it.

The compassion. Curry. Textiles. People. And the, literally, totally rocking Temples. Everyone I’ve met, from people on the street, to shop keepers, to drivers, discuss vibration, energy, and the Gods as if discussing restaurants or the weather. Spirituality is so interwoven with life, it seems impossible to separate the two.

And, why would we want to?

This morning, while eating breakfast, I watched as a wild pig, two cows, several dogs with pups, monkeys, chipmunks, birds, and people went about their morning routine, together. None with any more right to be there, in the intersection, than the other.

The fields surrounding town are full of mustard plants, blooming with yellow flowers. Our driver told us it will be harvested at the beginning of March and then it will get hot, very hot, through October.

Right now it is beautiful outside. Warm in the day and cool at night.

If you’d like a silver pendant shaped like a mango and filled with perfume, look for Mangoman’s shop in Bundi.

 

All photos taken in Bundi, Rajasthan.