TRAVELS

I always cry driving HWY 395.

Yesterday I drove home from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe and cried the whole way.

Countless times I’ve done that 8 hour drive, since I was a kid and we’d go to LA several times a year from Tahoe to visit family. “Scenic 395” runs through Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S., then through all the cute/weird little Old West towns that dot the journey from California into Nevada like Lone Pine, Bishop and Bridgeport. You transition from a desert landscape into the snow, passing Mammoth Mountain and the bizarre tufa formations of Mono Lake. The scents along the drive are: sagebrush, cows, crisp mountain air, exhaust, pine trees.

I was driving home for a joyous occasion, the birth of my new nephew, and my emotions were close at hand. I’d wanted to be at his delivery (I was honored my sister and brother-in-law even asked me to be there!), but he came two days early and as I packed my bag in LA he was already taking his first breaths in this world.

I was feeling down I’d missed such an important moment (though I kept shouting at myself “You’re not what’s important here! A healthy baby was brought into this world. Check your ego. He’s all that matters!”). Add in the LA malaise of traffic, helicopters, whatamIdoingwithmylife and amIevergoingtomakeitasawriteractressetcblahblah, and I was a total basket case. I cried what felt like ancient tears. But I didn’t necessarily feel sad, I just felt.

And I remembered another time I did that drive and wept like a heartbroken teenager. I was driving south on 395 that time, 5 years earlier, my big move to Los Angeles. I’d been planning to move to LA with my best friend Beth since we were 15, but now that it was happening I suddenly had a lot of reasons to stay put. I was leaving behind a life that allowed me to write prolifically, a cool cheap apartment, a job I liked, lots of friends, a boyfriend I was in love with. I had my two cats in the car with me, Chairman Meow and King Alobar, and I was all turned upside down. I listened to Fiona Apple that entire drive, sobbing and doubting and growing up by the second.

What punched me in the gut driving yesterday was how tremendously time passes. Lightning fast, yet full of life. Was that just 5 years ago that my life had an entirely different shape? The people in it were a different cast of characters. Now I have a whole new community of friends. I’ve had jobs and opportunities I couldn’t have known existed (although that’s why I was going, I didn’t know the details ahead, but I knew fortune favors the bold). Now I’m in a different relationship, a new boyfriend to love. Even the cats are different. Chairman passed away and Alobar found a different home. Now I have Lady Fluff and Kitten Coyote. But I’m still listening to Fiona Apple.

Driving toward home, toward welcoming a new life into my family, I felt gobsmacked by how much we change. Every year, every moment. I don’t know if it’s any sort of answer, but something feels connected in this: they named the baby Quest.

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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.