Free, Free, Eee, Ack

“I’m free, I’m free” yelps the little balloon, joyfully.

Up, up and away he flies.

A crisp October morning. Blue skies.

“Let’s go north, let’s go north”.

But, the wind has other plans.

South he blows. Away from the irrigated, green fields of the North Valley and the Rio Grande River. Away from the lavender fields of Los Poblanos and the calm beauty of Corrales.

“Wait, wait,” he says. They told me to go north. I’m never supposed to go south. Or worst of all, east. Mountains.

Towards the Shell station he blows. Up and over the Frontage Road, the Target parking lot, and then, the thing he’s been warned about all along… the freeway. Cars swerve below as distracted motorists attempt photos while driving.

“More heat, more gas,” he gasps. Oh, no, he worries, they’ll never let me fly alone again.

A traffic jam has formed below. Cars stop on the freeway, waiting to see where he might land. A child in the backseat of a minivan waves.

Other balloons are heading his way. He’s not alone.

One last push and he makes it to the median. A grassy space just big enough for a basket and a deflating balloon.

His chase crew’s truck is near. The walkie-talkie crackles. A family pulls over and asks to take a photo with him.

“Sure,” he smiles. As the family piles out of their station wagon, his crew’s truck arrives. “That was close,” they say.

And just as he hopes that mom and dad will never know, he looks up to see them floating by.

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Zero Sum, blah blah


zero-sum, noun

: of, relating to, or being a situation (such as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

win-win, adjective

: advantageous or satisfactory to all parties involved.

Wowza!!! September.

I arrived back in New Mexico on Friday night, amid a fantastic electric thunder storm that lit up the night sky as we drove west on I-40. The smell of desert rain came through the vent as NPR played in the background. After not having slept well for about a month, and almost not at all for a week, I was on autopilot, willing myself to drive and arrive safely and to think about what comes next, later.

Everything felt completely familiar and totally different.

Listening to our President speak on NPR, I was almost jealous of his ignorant black and white view of the world. Jealous is the wrong word, but how nice it must be to live in a fabricated world of certainty where there is right and wrong and winners and losers, good/bad and never any grey or complication.

Moving back to New Mexico didn’t make LA any less cool in my mind. It didn’t make the things that worked for me there any less great, nor did it mean I’d never return.  Coming back to the beauty, familiarity, and ease of my home state, didn’t mean that the things that had previously annoyed me or felt small here would suddenly cease to do so. My love and annoyance with each could and would exist simultaneously.

paradox, noun

: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.

In her book “You are a Badass. How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life,” author Jen Sincero writes about the idea of just seeing what you can get away with. Because that book, which I love (and which you will too), is still packed away with all of my other books, I’ll paraphrase; we are our own worst enemies in that we limit ourselves before giving ourselves a chance to even begin, by thinking of the ways in which something probably won’t work, so therefor why bother?

You want to work as little as possible and live as well as possible and travel and create things and do all of the stuff you want to do, when you want to do it? You basically want it all? Good luck!

Why thank you, yes. I do want it all. I want to be healthy and alive and vibrant and in so doing, inspire others to do/be the same, the way others have inspired me. I want to live where I want to live, work where/when I want to work, and stop believing that somehow this is asking too much.

My hairstylist in LA just moved to Oakland to become a baker. Several friends are going back to school. My neighbor in Albuquerque refuses debt of any sort and pays cash for everything; it’s taken him 15 years to fix up his 150 year old adobe home, but now it’s beautiful and he did it on his terms.

Who says that to have this, you can’t have that? Or to do this, you can’t do that? Bosses, teachers, advertisers, parents, banks, co-workers, and so many other voices that are not actually ours, or true, weasel their way into our brains and come out sounding like practical logic. Based on what? Other people’s fears or a company’s desire to sell you something?

I am going back to looking at the adventure of it all and asking Why Not when an idea pops into my mind. I refuse to believe that for this to work, that can’t work, or that win-win situations, in which we all come out ahead, are too idealistic. Let’s just see what we can get away with!

Photo taken on I-40 West, near Holbrook, AZ.

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Just Be and See


After a crazy autumn and winter full of action, movement, and change, the past month has been eerily peaceful.  I’ve been sleeping well, have felt bizarrely uncreative, content to go to the semi full time part time job I manifested on a TV show with a crew I love working with, and have felt overall catatonic, foggy, and also calm and happy.  As dust settles after a tiny tornado blows through, my new life is falling into place and, like a spectator, I am watching it,  amazed at the ease with which things can happen when they are meant to and when one gets out of their own way.

Yesterday I attended a storytelling workshop at The Museum of Broken Relationships. First of all, you should go to this museum, in the heart of Hollywood, if you are able. Full of items sent in by people from all over the world, each one is accompanied by a story and I haven’t been that moved by an exhibit in a long time. From sweaters to tickets to bellybutton lint, each of us is made of the heartbreak and beauty of life and living and none would be where or who we are without the previous joy and pain that got us there. Second of all, storytelling, gratitude, and finding beauty within the mundane seem to be the common and recurring threads weaving my current interests together. I am being repeatedly led to the next right person, class, workshop, and idea at the perfect moment and, while I have no idea where it is all leading, I can feel the fog lifting.  There is something in the writing, improv, and stories that is working its way out, percolating and, as my nervous system calms and life settles, slowly finding its voice and path.


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The Boat People


I remember when I was a child and my Great-Great Aunt Clarabelle came to visit. She was well over one hundred at the time and as we sat on the deck of Mavis’s wooden sailboat, she told stories of a time before the rains of 2013 and the great floods that followed.

She was in her 30’s in 2013, with three decades of dry land living already under her belt. She grew up in the desert, a place I read about as a child but thought was imaginary, like the end of a rainbow or the land of nod or Manhattan. I couldn’t imagine that such a place had really existed. Roping cattle on her father’s ranch, everything in her life was dependent on the land.

In place of water, she grew up on dry, cracked earth, surrounded by cacti and plants that knew how to survive on less than an inch of annual precipitation. She told us of things like baseball and camping and roads. As a child, she and her sister would hike and climb trees and they never even learned to swim. She told us that the smell of rain in the desert is the most beautiful of all the smells. Better than bread baking or things called roses.

As Clarabelle grew older, she knew the world was changing. Years went by with no rain at all, wildfires followed, and then rain fell too fast and couldn’t be absorbed. She said it became extreme and unbalanced. People discussed what was happening, but no one really knew what to do and nothing changed. The droughts became longer, the tornadoes stronger, the winters colder, and the summers hotter. We tried to imagine the world she described, but having water as our only reference, it was difficult.

Sometime in the 20’s, after the floods of 2013 began and it became clear they wouldn’t end, corporations began buying all of the land over 8,000 feet. They built their headquarters and factories on the sides of mountains, with homes for the executives in the back. Replacing things called continents, these small islands stick up here and there, but for over 90% of the world, life began to be lived on and in the water.

Great-Great Aunt Clarabelle’s generation had to adapt quickly to these changes, or be swept away. Her days as a cowgirl were over. Her parents wanted to give up, too tired and old to learn an entirely new way of life, but with two thirds of her life ahead of her, Clarabelle knew she had no choice.

After the rains started, they did not stop. The lowlands disappeared and people abandoned their lives and headed for the hills, literally. Then, the hills disappeared, followed by most mountains. In the course of a decade, the world became unrecognizable. Horseshoers turned to boatbuilding, as did carpenters, bankers, and farmers. Life became about boats, fish, and water purification tablets.

As children, we fashioned snorkels and flippers from found pipes and old tires. We dove for fun, making our way down to swim amongst submerged skyscrapers, neighborhoods, and abandoned amusement parks. Islands were fashioned from old car doors, railroad ties, and tree limbs, taking the place of land. People with money constructed floating villages, haciendas, villas; small self sustaining communities. The rest of us did what we could, inflatable inter-tubes orbiting around a sailboat nucleus, fishing lines extended. And it became the way it was.

Nothing ever dried and the sun was something spoken of by poets but never seen. Scientists predicted toes disappearing, evolving into a more useful fin, possibly in the next million years or so. Sleeping on our rafts, bobbing in the waves, we dreamt of prairies and cars and of running.

Great-Great Aunt Clarabelle adapted well. Instead of clinging to her previous life, she forged ahead, becoming the lead mermaid in Poseidon’s Great Circus. Traveling the world by submarine, she and her fellow mermaids tried to lighten their fellow human’s load with laughter and joy. Later, living in a pink houseboat, she sailed the world, eventually making her way to us when I was ten.

Original photo by Helga Ancona