TRAVELS

A cold desert Christmas.

I had a cold desert Christmas. I visited my dad in his new home of Flagstaff, Arizona, and was amazed by the majesty of the land. We had Christmas dinner at the Grand Canyon. It was my first visit, and the site took my breath away (because the Canyon is awe-inspiring, and because it was really fucking cold).”We” was me, my dad, and John, the wonderful human I get to call my boyfriend. I’ve spent many holidays back home in Tahoe as the weird single LA artist cat lady, so being somewhere new with someone to call my own felt like Christmas morning all week long.

In addition to the Grand Canyon, we also explored the Wupataki ruins, the Sunset volcano crater, the mystical rock formations in Sedona, and drank in the stars via telescope at the Lowell Observatory. One word kept connecting these different experiences: perspective. I’d been needing a dose of the stuff. Lately, I’ve been trapped in the petty grievances of my lower mind.

It was fascinating to read about the natives who called Wupataki home, how they were in a constant struggle to survive against the elements yet thrived for centuries. Pottery has been found there but not the tools to make it, which suggests it came from elsewhere, which suggests trading between tribes occurred at Wupataki. The Sunset crater wasn’t much to look at from the base, but the lava flows around it were cool, and I was gobsmacked to read the placard calling the volcano a “geographic infant” because it erupted a mere 1,000 years ago. Telescoping the night sky at the Lowell Observatory (where Pluto was discovered!), we saw a “stellar nursery” located within Orion’s belt, which is literally where stars are born. Add in that poor Pluto isn’t even considered a planet anymore, and all this perspective made me feel one thing: grief.

Grief for all the times I’ve felt less than amazed to be alive. Grief that I spend a lot of my days without perspective. The perspective that this Earth is magnificent and I’m lucky to inhabit it for a speck of time.

So my perspective going into 2015: I’m grateful I have a healthy father, a car to take me to places like the Grand Canyon, and a witty handsome boyfriend to be my co-pilot. Here are some pics!

 

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This was Sundance…

Front page yo!

http://youmeandcharlie.com/explore/a-sundance-adventure/


Why I’ll never stop hopping fences.

I’m really fucking stoked on all the likes and new followers I got this week. Here’s a reblog of a post I think you fort sleepers will appreciate. Forever young!

Over the weekend, I was confronted with a choice: go inside and join a group, or hop a fence and be with nature.

I’d been invited to a gathering by a friend, and was *supposed* to be acting sociable. But I wasn’t in the mood, so I hid in the bathroom. A woman came in. Her name was Uma and she had pixie hair. She said she was going outside, did I want to join? We pushed open a heavy door. The afternoon air was fresh and warm and a grove of trees rustled just beyond a chain-link fence. We sat and talked in the sun, then reached through the fence to pick blackberries. 

More than once, someone asked us to come back inside. Our rebellion seemed to bug them. But I was ready to take it one step further. To me, a fence doesn’t represent a barrier, it begs…

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ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCE: Sleeping in a fort under the stairs

I went to a cabin in Big Bear last weekend and indulged in a childhood delight: I slept in a fort under the stairs.

I came late to the cabin party so all the beds and couches had been taken. My good friend Diana, who’d organized the cabin weekend, said there was a hidden sleeping spot, a fort they’d made by tying blankets to the stair railings. There were pillows inside, it felt secret and safe. I claimed it!

This was a perfect turn of events, because lately I’m trying to act more like a kid. The closer I get to childlike experiences, the happier I feel. The more serious life gets–loved ones with health problems, taxes I still need to file–the more I find relief in seeking out the simple magic of childhood, when blankets could create enchanted hiding places, and life was as trying as my next spelling test.

I actually really like being an adult, but there’s a freedom in approaching each day with childlike wonder. To watch my babe niece, the magnificent Junely, playing in her kiddie pool, sunlight all around her, discovering the splashing noise her hands make in the water, is to remember that it IS astounding our arms move because our brains tell them too, and we can create sounds, sensations, anger, silliness, sadness, anything at all with our imaginations.

So that’s why I’m trying to do kid things every day: I dance around my room to silly pop music, I kick dandelions to create fairy dust, I eat dessert before dinner (try it!). And I sleep in forts. Diana crawled into the fort with me for a time, which was fitting, since we first met at 10 years old, when we’d spend hours turning our Tahoe homes into labyrinths of dreams, while outside it snowed and snowed.

That night in Big Bear, in the fort, I slept deep and well, safe in the kid feeling that life was easy, and I’d always be taken care of.

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The fort in Big Bear. Cozy. Secret. A place to dream.

 


VIDEO: Desert + Canon 5D + Five Friends = “Sleepwalking”

Happy Saturday! I’m super honored that the visionary director Machete Bang Bang is letting me world premiere her latest art video on my blog!

We filmed this in 2012, the day after I came home from Bali. Looking back, it was sorta my coming out as a performer. I felt self-assured and sexy after all that time in the jungle. Machete says I left for Bali as Kelly Clarkson (edgy but still family friendly), and came back Beyonce. After six weeks of spiritual awakening, I also just wanted to play in the dirt with my friends.  🙂

Says Machete:

A year and a half ago, my friends and I went to the desert to capture our version of art. Unfortunately, most of the footage was lost, but regardless, I wanted to make something out of what was salvaged. Almost every filmmaker in L.A. goes to the desert to makes an artsy fartsy video. This is ours. Weirdo Camp presents: “Sleep Walking.”

Starring: Randall Yarbrough, Erin Granat, Ben Caro, Sarah Sandin, Machete Bang Bang

Cinematography by John Weselcouch
Directed and edited by Machete Bang Bang
Original music by Modest Mouse


Something amazing that happened to me this summer:

It was late July, and I was on a hike with three friends near Cloverdale, California. The hike was actually the immense backyard of one of the friends, he has a cabin on an incredible piece or property in the mountains, there are blackberry bushes and a giant rope swing and best of all–a grove of redwoods. The air was heavy with heat, the hillsides were that summertime burnt gold. To get in character, I picked up a walking stick and chewed a stalk of grass.

When we arrived at the grove of redwoods, we each fell silent. The trees do that to you. I sat down by a stump, right in the dirt, even rubbed the dirt on my legs. Then I noticed patches of light around the forest floor, that they were shifting as the sun passed overhead. I remembered learning that the redwoods are a rainforest, a temperate rainforest, and those moments of sunlight are all those sections of earth get all day, so dense are the trees. So whatever grows on the forest floor must thrive with mere moments of light a day.

I breathed deeply. I rubbed more dirt on my legs. Then I saw my foot was lit up with sunlight. I froze. Over several long moments, the sunlight began to move up my shin, eventually reaching my thigh, then my lap, then my torso. It was one of these threads of light, making its life-giving daily journey, and I was directly in its path.

I remained still, willing the light to pass over my face. I promised myself if I felt that light full upon my eyes, my lips, I would cast off my self-doubt, my social media sadness and cell phone addiction, my despair at not being able to artistically output everything I see, experience and feel. If the growth on the forest floor could thrive with mere moments of light in a day, think what I could do with all the brightness I have–my healthy body, my loving family, my creative friends, my Chairman Meow.

The light moved over my chest, my heart, my throat, and with my eyes closed and a redwood-size smile on my lips, the light illuminated my whole face. I was a new plant on the forest floor, struggling to grow roots, stretching toward the full force of Ra, Egyptian god of the sun, the very word “ra” meaning “creative power.”

So grateful.


I miss Bali; music videos; moon ceremonies.

I just got home from handing out free novels and music for the guerilla indie art project that’s been my main gig since I arrived in Los Angeles. Back in Koreatown, back pounding the pavement to make a buck, I find it hard to believe just last week I was in a bar in Bali, listening to an Indonesian band singing Pink Floyd, watching the lead singer snuggle his Dutch girlfriend between sets, struck by how lovely his brown skin looked entwined with her very pale skin. I stole glances at them over my watermelon juice, they both chain-smoked between kisses, and when he looked away she’d rearrange her cleavage in her red dress and fluff her hair. She did it every time he looked away. Every time! I’m guilty of doing the same in the company of boys, maybe all girls do, as if somehow every thirty seconds your entire appearance needs a refresh.

That night, in the bar, was one of the only nights I went out during my stay in Bali, and I was struck by how much rock n’ roll has the power to affect me physically. After so many days alone in my hotel room, removed from all things noisy and messy, removed from everything really, it felt good to have the bass thump in my gut and the guitar riff in my soul (or whatever that place is inside me that hears classic rock and has to hold back the desire to scream something, smoke something, smash something, love someone).

The next night I went to a full moon temple ceremony with a few new friends I’d met in the bar, a fun Indian couple and Moss, a tall Canadian who runs the Love Space, a creativity center where I went on to teach a writing workshop. A local had invited us, and he took us by his home to loan us some sarongs so we’d be appropriately dressed for the ceremony. His mom met us (typically most Balinese live in family compounds, each home with its own temple), and she had a few grains of rice pressed into her forehead and chest, a symbolic gesture I would accept myself at the ceremony. We then drove through what seemed like an endless valley of rice paddies, all lit up by the eponymous full moon. The moon then went into hiding, however, perhaps shy from all the attention, and by the time we arrived at the ceremony it was pouring rain (what’s another adjective to describe how rain falls? I’m tired of “pouring”). We were the only non-locals at the ceremony, and were greeted with friendly curiosity. I couldn’t get enough of how beautiful the women looked, no matter how old or how “attractive” they were, they were stunning in their lace blouses and long skirts, dancing barefoot in the rain to the gamelan choir. I thought they couldn’t get enough of me either, when I took refuge from the rain under a sort of tall parasol staked in the ground, out in front of everyone. Several women were gesturing at me, laughing and waving their hands. I waved back, like, Cool! They like me! Then I realized they were pointing at my purse, which wasn’t under the protection of the parasol, but sticking out behind me getting totally soaked. It broke the ice, however, and later a woman offered me a treat wrapped in a banana leaf, and her friends all giggled as I wolfed it down (I love treats!).

I got closer to myself in Bali. Especially as an artist. The understanding of slow the hell down, enjoy making your art, working on your craft. There are no lost days in writing, no wasted time. Only improvements made, one word at a time. Gotta keep rising above what I “need” to do daily…..the chores and bills and little details, and keep realizing all I really NEED to do is write, chip away at my art sculpture of text, one page at a time.

Since I’ve been home I’ve gone to the desert to appear in a video performance art piece directed by the visionary Machete Bang Bang, acted as “the girl” in a music video, given away tons of free art for my job, went back out to the desert to start shooting an art book I’m modeling in and writing the text for in collaboration with a landscape photographer, and started spring cleaning my closet.

I am productive. I get things done. I am an AmeriCAN!

 I miss Bali so much my bones hurt.

At the risk of simplifying something incredibly complex, here is what I know: the Balinese know how to live life. They surround themselves with beauty and culture, honor family and spirituality above all else, and create art for the joy of the process, not the product.

This last bit is the essential thing I’m taking away from my month in Bali. I have become way too focused on what my art can give me, rather than what I can give my art.

One afternoon, on my walk home to the Matahari (my hotel) past the pool hall and the green Mercedes and the five massage shops, the rain started pouring (need new adjective!) down. I ducked into the nearest doorway, because when it starts raining in Bali it goes from “sprinkling” to “downpour” in one second. Turns out the shop I took refuge in is a store selling sculptures and masks, and the family who runs it are sitting on the floor, working on their craft. They smiled at me but didn’t say anything. For the next hour, I just stood in their shop, leaning against the counter, watching the man and woman varnish a wooden mirror frame and the boy paint flowers on a mask. They weren’t rushed, weren’t worried about if they were doing it “right”….they weren’t anything really. They were just existing, slowly, steadily working on their task. Simple, I know. But to me, a revelation.

Another day I made jewelry with some locals. I was working on a copper bracelet made of several small rings, but kept getting frustrated at how clumsy I was handling the tools. At one point a boy says to me, and he’s only got like ten words in English total, he puts his hand on my arm and he says: “Don’t panic. Then you won’t finish anything.”

In the last few years, I’ve come to view my writing as a commodity, worried more about what it can give to me than what I can give to it. I get frustrated when I don’t see results fast enough, annoyed when it’s not “just done.” In Bali I witnessed art for the love of making art. The most poignant was the women making daily offerings. The offerings are literally everywhere. They usually appear as palm fronds stapled together to make little baskets, and hold a mixture of flowers, pieces of fruit, bread, and rice. The offerings are placed along with an incense stick both up high, on ledges and sculptures, as offerings to the gods, and down low, on the ground, in the streets, as offering to the demons. I’m told the idea is humans are in the level between the gods and demons, tasked with maintaining a balance between the two. I love that the women get all dressed up to place the offerings. Literally every day, they make these little treasures, then everyday according to some mysterious schedule (doesn’t seem to matter when) they put on their long sarongs and lace blouses, arrange their hair with pearl and gemstone pins, and go around placing the offerings and giving a prayer. Then they take off the fancy dress and go back to what they were doing.

Fun fact: The drummer of Caught A Ghost, the crazy good band I shot the music video for, helped me calculate that if I live to be 100 years old, so for another 73 years, I could spend the rest of my life in Bali for $932, 575. That’s $35/day (living like a queen at $20/lodging, $15/for two meals a daily massage).

I miss Bali, like I miss a new friend I’ve grown to love dearly and know I might not see again for a while. I miss the friends I made, the lady with the pretty plum lipstick who worked at the Matahari and would walk me to my room, linking her arm in mine and asking me in the Balinese way where I’ve been and where I’m going. I miss the Balinese waitress I befriended one night when she messed up my order and gave me a ride home on her motorbike to make up for it. I miss My Friend the Drum Lady. I miss me, the relaxed Balinese version of Erin.

I want so badly to hang onto these hard-earned perspectives, this new way of looking at life. But I always feel like this when I return from a trip, and inevitably the old life will creep back in. The main thing I want to hold onto is conquering the “more” disease. Having a coffee at a cafe and thinking it would be better if I also had a cookie, or had nice company, or was alone. Basically, wanting more than what I have right then. More money, experience, love, insight, talent, connections. More more more. Now, I’m just trying to move slowly. Verrry slowwlllyyy. I’ve realized this is the only way to handle the pace of LA. Deal only with what’s directly in front of me.

On my trip home the final flight of my travel was canceled and I had to stay the night in Tokyo. I spent a nice evening discussing films with a pair of human rights activists, painting my nails, and calling Beth back home to tell her how small and Japanese everything in my room was. At the airport the next day, enjoying some pre-flight sushi, an elderly Chinese man says to me out of the blue: “Don’t be stressed in life. Play more. Talk to God. Then you’ll be happy.” He gave me this unprompted. And what excellent advice.

The frustrating thing is nothing in this blog post comes close to explaining how I’m really feeling. How adrift I feel, maybe always feel. How daunted by this city I am, how right back in the turmoil I am of go go go all day and never get anything done. But at least I wrote a little. At least I wrote these words.

Something I’m chewing on, that I read recently, some words from Anais Nin: “Once we engage with the real people and real circumstances in our lives, we discover our own inner excitement and every day the real caress replaces the ghostly lover.”