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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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.