Masks and Mayhem

Once upon a time, I took an overnight train ride from Albuquerque to Los Angeles for spring break with my mom and my sister. It was sometime in the mid nineties, pre cell phones or internet and back when they played one nightly movie in the lounge car. On this particular journey, the movie that Amtrak chose was called Outbreak. Umm, whose brilliant idea was it to show a movie about a viral disease gone awry on a train filled with passengers and stale air? Half way through the movie, we got up and made our way back to our train car, wrapped ourselves in any available garment, and tried not to panic when someone sneezed. It didn’t work.

Cut to today. Corona virus.

A global viral outbreak that some are calling a pandemic and others are warning could become one. Either way, not great news for Mother Earth’s human tenants. In the space of one month, it went from a virus that seemed far away, to one that made cruise ships look like the worst places on earth, to one that is reminding us all of just how reliant we are on each other and how intertwined we have become. Surreal images of vacant cities, subway platforms filled with people wearing masks, stories of others paying hundreds of dollars for a box of masks that should cost no more than $20. In the span of a couple of days, panic and mayhem. Well, that was quick. Civilization really is a fragile thing built on the head of a pin. Or so it sometimes seems.

And…tonight I will board an international flight to Africa. We planned this trip five weeks ago, just before the first rumblings of a virus began to emerge from China. We watched as it spread and checked the CDC website’s travel warnings daily. And then, this week, all hell broke loose. To go or not to go? We decide to go.

A beach town at the tippy tip of South Africa awaits, as does a family in Zimbabwe, old friends of my boyfriend’s. During a recent acupuncture appointment, my doctor advises drinking whiskey on the plane, along with lots of water.

The CDC says masks aren’t needed unless you are already ill and trying to keep your germs to yourself or caring for someone who is ill. Nevertheless masks sell out everywhere when news that the virus is in Italy hits the news. I go to every drug store in town before finally giving up. My dad finds some at a lumber yard and gets them to me. I, along with everyone else, just want to do something to feel like we are doing something.

I pack a suitcase that is, no joke, half filled with hand sanitizer, teas, wet wipes, vitamins, and meds. I wear a hoodie with a scarf and douse the scarf in an immune boosting essential oil. My neuroses run wild.

And now we are in the airport, waiting for the first of three flights that will land us in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa, sometime on Sunday morning. I swing between excited and anxious but keep coming back to faith that it’s all going to be ok.

I am about to head south of the equator for the first time. To see elephants. To meet people I’ve heard much about. To play in the Indian Ocean. And fingers crossed, to return home to a country that isn’t unraveling in panic, healthy and happy.

Summmmmer.

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For the first time in fifteen years, I am having a summer vacation. Like the analog kind I remember from the 1980’s and early 90’s, pre- summer jobs. Hence the infrequent posts. The heat has turned off my ability to think clearly and I find myself wanting to read other’s words (books!!) rather than write my own.

Pools, oceans, tents, hikes, streams, hammocks, books, gardens…

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Zucchini in the spiralizer, steamed lightly with tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and roasted chicken.  Smoothies blended with chard from the garden, peaches, and ice.

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Two weeks on Cape Cod, living out the summer of my daydreams. Ponds, rope swings, bike paths, and ice cream.  Surfer’s crowd each other as rare summer waves make an appearance on a Friday evening in Rhode Island. Thai food eaten in a VW bus in the parking lot at sunset.

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Small wooden sailboats in a harbor, near Woods Hole, MA. I love them.

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I’m home now. Late summer is upon us. Two weeks until school begins, though that feels exceedingly early. It’s hot and muggy in the desert. The monsoons are here. No plans to travel this fall, at least not far. Routine and rhythm kick back in. Jobs call. Vintage clothing to be photographed and sold. The occasional film set beckons.

It’s been a sweet summer dream. And now a new one begins.

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Summer

Strangely delicious Italian food in Gila Bend, Arizona, after a quick post drive dip in the pool.

A bunny stops, silhouetted in the light of San Elijo State Beach’s bathroom, and stares a me, frozen, and I begin to brush my teeth.

It’s been years since I’ve been camping. Lattes, croissants, and groceries a short walk away, just over the PCH and the train tracks. Not the camping I’m used to. Each night I sleep better than the night before, traffic and trains blurring into white noise. I envy the kids’ ability to shut it out completely.

Red eyes from days of sun and salt.

S’mores.

A quick detour to Williams, Arizona, on the drive home. The Grand Canyon in its late morning, early summer glory. The perfect knife found in a general store.

Open roads, canyons, beaches, and picnics.

The first summer I can remember spending off of a film set in a very long time.

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HBD, Smagik!

Six years ago I created this blog as an exercise to find beauty in the everyday. It was a dreary, February day and I needed a self induced push and reason to get off the couch. By creating the goal of finding or eating or going to or doing something beautiful, delicious, fun, and joyful everyday, my life began to take on these same qualities. Small, everyday, easy to take for granted moments took on a new significance simply by being noticed and appreciated.

Thank you for joining me on the journey! And here’s to many more years of Adventure, Joy, Connection, and to finding the beauty in all of our everydays!

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@smagikstudio

Our Known’s Last Days

I’m riding on a train from Providence back to New York and out the window the trees are just beginning to change. The sky is grey and, after a hot, sticky beginning to the month, temperatures plunged and today was 45 degrees cooler than Wednesday.

Last night, I stayed with friends in Westport, Massachusetts, in a beach house built from a kit in 1890, happily never updated or insulated. After eating lobster casserole at The Back Eddy in Westport and sitting in front of a propane heater to watch the Red Socks play game 1 of the ALCS, I climbed into bed wearing two wool sweaters, a hat, wool long underwear, and socks. It was 48 degrees, inside and out.

Fishermen, autumn’s chill, sweaters, swans in the pond.

On the train back to the city, watching beauty whizz by, while I read an article in NY Magazine about the recent climate report… http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html1 degrees bad. 2 degrees really bad. 3 catastrophic. 4 or more (towards which we are currently headed) apocalyptic.

A world without fish, coral reefs, snow, sweaters, enough food for billions… drought, fire, hurricane, mass migration, famine, starvation.

So big.

So beyond the imaginable. So far from the changing leaves, lobster, and last night’s lavender sunset. How did we let this happen?

The reality that the system of which we are part and on which we depend is failing and that no matter how quickly we change our ways and create solutions, our future will certainly look drastically different from our past and present.

A brand new baby in her mother’s arms across the aisle from me. Almost 40 years my junior. What will her world look like?

Twelves years. 2030. Twelve years is a blink, a snap of the fingers, the turn of a page, nothing. That’s how long the world’s scientists have given us to turn the boat around and avoid the iceberg, of which there won’t be any more, but you get the point.

The alarm has been sounded, the reality is here, and as I watch New England’s autumn leaves blur by, the beauty takes my breath away.

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RIP AB

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But, that’s ok. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

-Anthony Bourdain

Thank you for packing us in your suitcase, including us in your travels, for your humanity, stories, humor, words, for urging us to choose the adventure, eat the unfamiliar, explore, and for leaving so much good behind. You were my role model, inspiration, and my always crush.

Rest In Peace.

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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Good morning, sunshine!

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It’s been a while! I keep waiting for something to want to be written,  but feel that one month after returning from India and one week before returning to work, I might need to force the issue.

I have been a hermit. Not a depressed hermit, nor a sad or lonely one. Just one who is totally content to rearrange the furniture before decluttering the bookshelf and then cooking dinner or taking a walk and happily crawling into bed at 9 o’clock. The past couple of weeks have been chilly in LA and I am happy to blame the dampness, the need to wear a sweater, and the desire to drink tea all day for my lack of blogging, but really that all adds up to perfect writing weather. So, what’s up?

I returned from India just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Earth Dog in Downtown LA’s Chinatown, something which, as a March born Aries, always sets me up for my own personal, fast approaching new year. With the first part of 2018 under my belt, where are things flowing and where do adjustments need to be made?

Something clicked in India and I have had a hard time writing about it and summing it up into words. Hence the lack of blogging? It wasn’t conscious or literally related to India and no experience there was directly responsible, but I returned to my life feeling and seeing clearer than I can remember ever feeling or seeing.

Midlife; when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you “I’m not f-ing around, use the gifts you were given.”

-Brené Brown

This clarity led to a couple of weeks of real physical and mental discomfort as patterns, habits, relationships, and ideas that no longer served me were illuminated and then removed. I can only describe it as feeling like the birth canal we all must go through to get to the light. Within this period, which came between the eclipses of January 31 and February 15, I was woken in the middle of the night by a literal earthquake centered in Silver Lake, (only 2.9, but that is strong enough when it’s under your house!), a necklace I haven’t taken off for over two years literally detached itself from my neck and fell off while I was standing still (I’ve always heard that when you break a necklace or a mirror it is the end  and beginning of a seven year cycle of karma), I broke a pitcher and my tea kettle on the same day, and the list goes on and on.

And then I woke up one morning and it was all clear. Things I have been working on or trying to “figure out” (ha, when has that ever happened?!) suddenly  became clear. Puzzle pieces clicked into place. Words I’d said or thoughts I’d thought suddenly had the power of knowing in my gut to back them up.

Was it India with its ingrained spirituality which, even if that’s not why you go there or what you are seeking, permeates the air, water, and people and gets into your bones? Was it being away from everything familiar and therefore seeing that which can so easily be overlooked? Was it just time? Was it grace? Or the eclipses? Who knows?! Some combination of all of the above. All I know is that it’s all good and that there is no escaping your wake up call when the Universe deems you ready. So, get ready!

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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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