ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCE

Travels with the moon.

This was published on Uproxx last week. I’m posting it here in time for the super blue blood moon lunar eclipse tonight / Wednesday morning. Seriously. Don’t miss it.

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Mega Moon Hike

The moon is mysterious — always changing shapes, always rising and setting at different times. It’s a wild banshee compared to the sun, ever constant in its brightness.

The moon is alluring, too — so seductive that the tides move at her will (don’t talk to me about gravity, I’m being lyrical here). And yes, the feminine pronoun shall be used to reference her, because women have a special connection to that round lantern in the sky. The lunar cycle is 29.5 days long, the same length as a menstrual cycle.

I love the moon in a way I don’t love — or even notice — other celestial bodies. And so, after intending to do it forever, I finally went on a dedicated full moon hike. Meaning, I wasn’t out at night and “just happened” to glance skyward. Instead, I went out to purposefully hike by her light. It was an adventure available to us all, wherever we are, for free.

My moon hike happened New Year’s Day, the first full moon of the year. I was back home in Northern Nevada and had the wild hair (what a funny expression, is it just one singular hair that’s wild? where does this hair grow?) to get in touch with my inner pagan. It was time to check “moon walk” off my list of life experiences.

Following my wild hair, I went to the internet, which told me that the local parks and recreation department was leading a full moon hike around Wahoe Lake, the small body of water between Carson City and Reno. God love parks and rec departments. I’d never actually been to this lake, Lake Tahoe kinda steals the thunder of all lakes around here, so it seemed all was in “alignment,” as they say.

Here’s what happened when I arrived:

5:05 PM

Arrival at Washoe Lake State Park. I’m surprised by how many people are here. At least 60, mostly young families. I get misty-eyed, the way I do when I’m touched by something wholesome and innocent. No agenda to be cool, just families out to experience the simple “good stuff” of life. Prairie Home Companion-pre-realizing-Garrison-Keillor-sucks-type good stuff.

As everyone chats and makes last minute preparations for the hike (which I’m realizing is more like a gentle walk), I wander to the edge of the water. I’ve been surrounded by people for days, what with the holidays, and I don’t feel like talking to anyone. The lake is very still. The mountains reflect in the water. Snow-capped. Framed pink by the sunset.

A flock of Canadian geese honk as they pass overhead. I love that sound. It reminds me of growing up in Carson Valley, just 30 minutes to the south. Every morning I’d wake up to the sound of Canadian geese taking flight from my neighbor’s pond — a sound at once melancholy and soothing. Attending college in Reno, I lived next to a park where Canadian geese congregated, pooping on the grass, honking their itineraries. This iteration of the sound was no longer soothing, because I was usually hungover as f*ck. It made college-me recall the geese of my sweet childhood but, tangled in a boozy haze, I always just felt the melancholy part.

I shouldn’t have washed my hair right before a night hike in 30-degree weather. But I’m excited to wear mittens because mittens are cute and I never have occasion to wear them in LA.

5:17 PM

A ranger tells us to keep our flashlights on and stay together, and the hike/walk begins. But where is the moon? I’m confused. When I looked online it said the moon would rise at 4:49 PM. But I guess the moonrise is relative to where you’re located, right? Who determines the moonrise point? What a cool job

5:28 PM

The ranger stops to tell us we’ll soon be walking through sand dunes, which only form in dry years. We might also hear coyotes and owls.

5:34 PM

I remember that I’ve actually been on a night hike before, but it wasn’t a full moon thing. In middle school leadership class we went on a field trip to Marin, CA to a nature immersion self-growth retreat place. And one of the “challenges” was a solo walk down a mountain. It seemed like a mountain, but it might have been a large hill. The whole idea was to be completely by yourself in nature, find your way to the bottom, and possibly “find yourself.”

At that age, the Nickelodeon show GUTS was everything, and this felt like a version of that, so we were excited. But looking back, it was pretty radical to let a bunch of 13-year-olds roam alone in the dark in the hills of San Francisco. I should mention it was a crunchy granola very liberal sort of place.

Tonight will not be like that. I am in Carson City, Nevada.

5:40 PM

There she is! The moon is up! So white and plump, like an albino grapefruit, or a fancy lady in a Renaissance painting. Everyone stops to gaze at her. Most of us try to take a photo, even though we know it won’t turn out. This is the main event, what brought us all out into the cold, yet within a few minutes of moon gazing, everyone is restless and wants to keep moving.

I hang back, wanting to be alone. Just me and the moon. I stare at her speckled surface. Perhaps this is the crux of the moon connection, that you can gaze directly upon her. Did I mention it’s also a supermoon? First full moon of the year and it’s on New Year’s Day, and a supermoon. Perhaps I’m reaching, because last year was such a black eye, and I’d like to believe this means something positive for a new beginning.

I love all the moon events we’ve been having lately. Eclipses, supermoons, and the blood moon a few years back. Auspicious omens… if you’re into that sort of thing.

I putz around in the sand, wanting to let the group get a good distance away. I always feel awkward in sand, like a cat in a litter box. The dunes remind me of a hiking trip I took to Israel with my cousins in 2006. We did multiple hikes per day, and I remember being enthralled, exhausted, engaged. We stayed up late talking and got up early to hike. We went night clubbing in Tel Aviv and floating in the Dead Sea. But it was the hiking where we connected most. Walking at the speed of life.

I can barely see the group now, so I do a little stretch, a little dance. The sort of dorky dance you do when no one is looking. The stars are out, even with the moon shining so bright. I’m reminded of another night walk a few years ago in Sedona.

I was with a new love, and everything about the experience was impromptu. The trip to Arizona, the romance, the hike – in fact, we so underestimated the length of the loop trail through Boynton Canyon (consistently named one of the most beautiful places in America), that night fell and we started shivering, both of us in sandals and shorts, with no water or map. Dumb. But! The stars came out, dazzling, electric, and we got to experience a well-worn hike in a way most people never do.

5:57 PM

I’m lost.

I can’t see the group at all. Or the trail. I think of Moana, which I just watched it with my five-year-old niece over the holiday. Moana found her way across the sea by looking at the stars, could I do the same? No. But I like the word “sextant,” which is some sort of astronomical instrument.

Have all the adults out there seen Moana? You should. I’m so proud Disney for these new narratives in which the girl isn’t on a quest for a prince, but for self-discovery. If Moana can make it across the ocean, I can make it across some dinky sand dunes. I’m nervous, but I still have cell service. I’ll be fine.

6:08 PM

I found my way back. That was not scary at all. 

6:10 PM

Wish I was still lost. The group is bugging me. People keep stopping to get take pictures of the moon, then are frustrated when they don’t turn out.

6:15 PM

The moon is climbing rapidly in the sky, and I’m reminded of another lunar experience. Last spring in Tulum I did a traditional temazcal sweat lodge with a female shaman. That night the moon was going to be full and pink, a “rose moon,” and so I snuck out of the sweat halfway through to see her rise over the ocean. The shaman gave me a disapproving look, leaving the sacred space was definitely a no. But I really wanted to see this pink moon!

I ran down to the beach at the appointed time, but the moon hadn’t risen yet. I must’ve misunderstood or read the times wrong, or who knows? I sulked back into the temazcal, fully cooled down and thus missing the whole point of the sweat.

When the sweat was over, the shaman gestured for us to follow her to the water. It was just me and two beautiful girls, Sarita and Alexandra. We arrived at the shore just as the moon was rising. A ginormous moon, taking up the whole horizon, pink as a lamb’s ear. We stood ankle deep in the water as the shaman spoke prayers to the moon, to us. The air was warm. Salty. Sea salty, sweat salty. The whole moment was so dreamlike it felt like at any moment God would call “Cut!” and the scene in the movie of life would be over.

And I thought I knew better than the shaman about the moonrise because I read it on some dumb website. I need to work on allowing guides to guide me.

The temperature is dropping rapidly. I see the parking lot in the distance. No one is paying attention to the moon anymore, but I am. I wonder what it’s like to walk in the craters, to look at the Earth in the distance like we look at the moon. To gravity bounce with every step. To swim in the stars.

Another memory of stars and swimming; of my extremities going numb with cold. I lived in New Zealand for a while after college, and one of the most memorable things I did there was the Waitomo glowworm caves. You float in an underground river, and it’s deep down, miles underground in a cave. You’re in an inner tube, wearing a full wetsuit because it’s freezing. It feels like Gollum is going to pop out and say hello.

You get to this large cavern, look up and marvel at a galaxy of stars, the most beautiful, bright stars and they glow green. But what you’re really looking at is worm larvae. Glowworm larvae, whose poop is luminescent so it shines like a midnight eve. It was the best night sky I’ve ever seen. Even though it wasn’t. You know what I mean.

Sometimes I see the Waitomo glowworm caves when I close my eyes. The feeling of floating in an eternal galaxy. The secret heart of the earth.

7:10 PM

The hike is over. I’m back at my car. Before getting in, I breathe in the moon and the sharp tang of sagebrush one more time. Everyone is dispersing, and I wonder if they even noticed me, the weirdo typing notes into her phone the whole time. I give the moon a silent promise to hang out with her more often.

* * *

Looking back through my notes, I realize how many memories the hike brought up, other experiences in other places and times. Connections woven through strands of linked experience like locks of fine hair. I think this is what hiking and being in nature is all about – letting your thoughts wander. Letting in memories of other times I’ve experienced the moon, the stars. This moon walk in my hometown led me back to childhood geese, middle school Marin, Israel, Sedona, Tulum, New Zealand. If our lives are made up of our memories, then taking time to reflect is the greatest gift.

There’s another full moon this January, on the 31st. We’re ending the month as we started it. But this one is going to be huge. Ready for this? January 31st, 2018 will be a total lunar eclipse, AND a blue moon (which means the second full moon in a month, which only happens once every 2-3 years), AND a supermoon, AND a blood moon. WHAT?!

I know I’ll be out gazing at the heavens for this epic lunar event. Hope to see you there.


Releasing lanterns, hoping it’s not dumb

I wrote this last month for Uproxx.com, still ruminating on it. I’d always wanted to attend a lantern fest, but there’s something that feels inherently wrong about a pretty event that’s meant to pay tribute to those who’ve suffered. Like when celebrities have $10,000 galas for charity. I know the heart is in the right place, but I feel weird about it. I like the article, though. Been a big triumph this year to publish regularly. Think I’ll keep at it.

Releasing Lanterns With Messages Of Healing And Hoping It’s Not Dumb

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Still thinking about that eclipse …

There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about the total eclipse. The thrilling / terrible feeling of whoever’s in charge turning down the sun dial like “Watch what I can do, silly humans.” I’ve never felt so insignificant, yet interconnected. The only event that’s affected me in the same way was being in the room as my niece was born. Both experiences are tattooed on my soul. 

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A “pretty white girl” writes about Burning Man

Unpacking The Lies You Tell Yourself At Burning Man

Who knew getting hated on could be so rewarding? To date, the essay I wrote about my Burning Man experience (see above) has been read ­­­­­50,000 + times. This might be normal for other writers, but since I’m usually locked away in a long form narrative, this shit never happens to me.

I’ve felt elated, proud, shocked, seen, and – hurt. Because there’s also been a lot of backlash. By readers who hate Burning Man in general and thus hate the article (which is such a curiosity, to take the time to read AND comment on an event you’ve never attended but loathe intensely … Burning Man is so charged like that). And by Burners themselves who hate – well, me. Or at least what I wrote, what I represent, “everything that’s going downhill about Burning Man.” To get backlash from the community stings a little. Okay, a lot. I got called a Sparklepony. In Burn culture, this is very, very unflattering.

When I look back at what I wrote, in the midst of unpacking the rental van, hair ratted, bike chafed, picking playa dust out of my eyelashes, mourning the loss of my sleep schedule, hoping we wouldn’t get charged a cleaning fee on the van, getting charged anyway, catching up on bills and checking in with family, yeah I cringe at how obnoxious the article is at times. But in that haze of post peak experience deadline drama, I had no time to self-censor, no time to organize my thoughts beyond a brain dump of what the experience was like inside my neurotic, self-judgmental mind.

I agree with some of the detractors. I wasn’t there for my camp as much as I could’ve been, admitting lugging grey water in apocalyptic heat was the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done was a pretty embarrassing window into my privileged existence. But the comments that piss me off are the ones that refer to me as “just another pretty white girl.” This means my experience isn’t valid? This means I can’t have a point of view?

Would it have made a difference if I’d divulged that I’ve spent the last year as caretaker to my very ill father? That getting to spend a week feeling alive in the desert was the antidote to our endless ER visits. And that before that I was holding space for my boyfriend when he got run over by an SUV, breaking both legs and spending months in a wheelchair. And that he and I got our Burning Man tickets as the goal on the horizon when he would walk again. And that even though we’re not together anymore, my ultimate Burn highlight was when we found each other on the playa under the moon, marveling that he could not only walk but dance and ride a bike, and we held the solar shower for each other as we took little bird baths and discussed our favorite art installations.

If I’d shared all that, would it have made a difference?

Or is that just something a pretty white girl would say?

With that said, now I’ll do the only thing you really can do in life: focus on the light.

In this case: the positive feedback the article has generated. Readers who’ve shared El Guaco-esque experiences of their own, and the owner of El Guaco himself, who found me on Facebook to say El Guaco is his playa contribution because he’s an introvert and this is how he feels comfortable interacting with people.

Some other things I need to say:

–My heart is heavy for the man who ran into the fire, for his family, for those who witnessed it. I didn’t address this in the article because I wanted to gently shine a light on all the other aspects of the experience. I don’t have anything poetic to say about it, just had to acknowledge it.

–I love bike culture at Burning Man. It’s such a return to childhood, riding around with your friends, your bike posse. It’s the perfect example of the duality out there, hedonistic activities happening simultaneously as you get in touch with your inner child.

–Something needs to be said about baby wipes at Burning Man. They are a gift from heaven. That’s all.

–To save face, I know I should write more about my previous Burns, in response to the commenters who wrote that it’s sad I’d been 4 times and was still such a “spectator.” But that’s another article for another time. And I’m pretty ready to be done with Burning Man for the year.

The last thing I want to say is I’ve had haters before. I wrote a sex column for a semester in college that was so divisive I got both applauded by my First Amendment and Society professor, and nearly kicked out of school. Being the center of such turmoil was thrilling, and embarrassing. It was right after my mom’s death and I was in a very “fuck it” place in my life. I’d be lying if I said the backlash didn’t affect me deeply. I wanted to hide for the entire year following. What’s changed in ten years? Then I was writing for shock affect, this time I was authentically expressing myself and my experience. I think I just have a somewhat salacious way of moving through life. I’ve also had ten years of rejection and disappointment to get me primed.

Okay, controversy. Okay, Burning Man. I’ve said all I can say. I’m done. For the year. Or longer. Or not.


Summer sucks, unless you’re seventeen.

Lately, I feel grumpy. It’s July, which means days are long and hot. Pool parties. The beach. Short shorts. Blah fucking blah. In other words, a constant reminder that despite my best intentions, somewhere along the line I sold out and became an adult.

I feel nostalgia for the summer of my youth so heavy I can’t breathe. Growing up in the tiny ranch town of Gardnerville, Nevada meant summers were like a country music video on repeat. Especially the sweet spot between ages fifteen and seventeen, when we were old enough to drive but too young to go anywhere.

The launch of summer was Carson Valley Days, the town parade and carnival at Lampe Park. Everyone came and everyone rode the same five rides we’d been riding since we were kids. We spent summer days at Lake Tahoe and summer nights at the river. Cheap beer was usually involved. We rode in the back of pickup trucks, driving too fast down county lanes, nothing but the stars above and our uncertain futures ahead.

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I took this photo a few summers ago on a road trip with my muse Paije. We weren’t in Gardnerville, but the feeling was the same.

The lack of options is what created the bliss. Gardnerville had one movie theater and lots of empty Earth. Social life meant seeing the same movie for the fifth time, or circling up around a bonfire in the desert or the woods, drinking our parents’ purloined liquor and blasting Country Grammar (I know I just seriously dated myself, but Nelly’s debut album was really tight).

I marvel at how we found these bonfire spots. Before Waze, before texting. I guess we called each other on land lines and wrote down the directions?

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That same summer road trip. I wish I had pics of my Gardnerville youth, but I can’t seem to find many.

I could devote an entire book to growing up Gardnerville, and I still might. But for now the last thing I’ll mention here is the scent — summer nights in the ‘Ville are the aroma of hay fields, fresh unpolluted oxygen, cows, wholesome American dreams. I know I’m waxing poetic, we always look back on our youth with a rose-colored lens.

But no matter how many cities I visit, or fancy Hollywood events I attend, nothing feels as great as being seventeen on a summer night, surrounded by my gang of friends, parked at the river, singing Garth Brooks into the night.

 


Festivals are where I became an adult.

This is peculiar, I know. As hesitant as I’ve been over the years to be labeled a “festie kid,” I most certainly am. Never has this been more apparent than Memorial Day Weekend at Lightning in a Bottle. Because it’s not just about a fun weekend dancing in the dust with my friends anymore.

For the second year, I was an emcee for the Lucent Temple of Consciousness. I was presenting the presenters, heady folks recognized as leading experts in religion, sexuality, the environment, and much more. Being emcee is a great honor, and responsibility.

Far cry from my first festival ever, Burning Man 2006. Most people work up to the Burn. I started there, sleeping in my car and eating beans out of a can. I’d brought old Halloween costumes and flip flops. In short, I didn’t “get it.” But the experience forever changed me. A feeling of being liberated from the matrix, a peek behind the veil of society, a place of connection, sensuality, and a word I’d never heard before: consciousness.

Over the years, I’ve done festivals in different ways. With 30 friends, with a boyfriend, with a best friend and met a new boyfriend (or two) there. I’ve gone days without sleeping, experimented with combinations of…sparkles. Felt wildly uplifted and had more than one breakdown. Emotional, physical, vehicular.

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These transformational festivals have lured me to different continents and different understandings of myself and my values.

And now, after 10 years of being a festie kid, I’ve become a festie adult.

During LIB, I woke up each morning to an alarm so I could get to The Mystery School where I was emcee. I skipped a dance party to listen to a talk on “The Science of God.” I didn’t even make the main stage sets Saturday, so content was I with a few choice friends watching Nahko and Medicine for the People at the Temple, and then was asked to emcee a little on the main stage! I still slept in my car however, this one a rented Elton John van with Vanessa as co-pilot.

But I still didn’t make it to yoga. Or take a shower. #goalsfornextyear

But it all feels different now. As much as festivals have given me, it’s time for me to give back to them. As I’ve said before (check my Burning Man Vid) festivals are nearly impossible to describe, you just have to go. The rest of the world is catching on. Festival fashion and culture is becoming mainstream. Bernie Sanders gave a recorded address at LIB. For me, just when I think I might move on from the scene, I get sucked back in. I’m writing this now on a plane about to depart for Bonnaroo in Tennessee. See you there. xx

 


Why I love rejection.

So much to process right now, words about to rip out of me. Been a big month, you could say. Have a lot to share. But not ready to. Instead, going to write about rejection.

I recently received what I consider “positive” rejections from Short of the Week and Tin House, and it got me thinking. I’m good friends with rejection. We’ve met each other many, many times. In fact, rejection might be the most helpful feedback one can get on the path of art and life, depending how you receive it.

Short of the Week wrote they mulled over my film quite a bit, were very close to accepting it but ultimately felt it wasn’t what they were looking for. Considering this was the darkest and most edgy film work I’ve ever written/acted in/produced, I was nervous as hell to put it out into the world. Terrified of being judged as a psycho pervert, aka terrified of being rejected. The pass from SOTW felt like a win, because apparently they rarely give more than a “thanks but no thanks.”

“This was a really tough call for us. Considering the film is about such an intensely unlikable and awful character, it’s undeniably compelling. The lead performance is fantastic and the unconventional, yet strong shot choices help convey a sense of unease, unsettling the viewer. You really do capture the “seedy underbelly” of LA.” 

Tin House, illustrious gatekeepers of literary merit, also rejected me. A much briefer “this doesn’t work for us, but please know we welcome reading your future work.” I’ve never been so excited to be rejected! Hooray! It means 1.) They actually read it, and 2.) As one of my mentors Colette pointed out This is a definitely a good rejection, especially from Tin House. Believe me, they get scads of submissions. They only send “send agains” to people whose work genuinely impresses them.”

So what it does mean, getting close to acceptance but swallowing rejection? How many other times has this happened? The novel I wrote that almost got published, then didn’t. The original pilot I wrote/acted in that almost got picked up, then didn’t. Am I good, but not good enough? The guys I’ve liked who didn’t like me back. The jobs I’ve wanted but they hired someone else. For all my work ethic, commitment, continual work on my spiritual/emotional/physical self, maybe I’m good enough, but not “right” enough. In that moment. For that opportunity/person/acknowledgement.

Maybe I suck. But that’s not for me to know. For now, I’m keeping a note card on my desk where I keep a hash mark for every rejection I get on my current project (a new pilot). I look at it like wanting to rack up rejections, because it’s a numbers game, and eventually I’ll get the YES. And it only takes one yes.

And because not trying is the same thing as being told “no.”

And here’s a brain dump from my mind:

I saw an owl at the Renaissance Faire. He had fire eyes like the red flowers on the pomegranate trees in my yard. Looking at my face and seeing it get older. The shooting star I saw Saturday night. That time we gathered to watch the blood moon eclipse and it was foggy so we drank cactus instead and laughed and I ended up in a suite at the W Hotel. The loves I’ve had. The friend I’m not going to see for a long time. Lady Fluff’s cat kisses. Realizing she’s a feline Kathy Bates. My own near misses. Hiding from the lust demon, not eating sugar or dairy or starch for a month like a real LA girl. My former Reno self is embarrassed. But it helps me think straight.