The Rewild(her)'s Journey: Washington Tides

"Beauty of the earth and sea and air meant more to me. I was in harmony with it, melted into the universe, lost in it, as one is lost in a canticle of praise, swelling from an unknown crowd in a cathedral." - A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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In this place, where the forest touches the sea, I found rest. I found the place where my soul was set free to rediscover and to re-learn how to be alone. Solitude became my soul food.

As I walked barefoot on the icy pebbly shore, I felt my chest swell with warmth and light. Yesterday this landscape absorbed my tears- salt into salt. Nature spread this land out for me like a comforting blanket and allowed me the space to let go and to be refilled into someone more whole than before.

It took me over two years to find this space, both physically in the land and also in my spirit. It's as if the Universe or the Divine (or whatever you believe) had honored my journey of actively seeking healing from the trauma that had been my life for over two years.

I think that when we practice discipline of the heart and mind on a daily bases, whether it be journaling, meditating, reading, or praying, I think it is this act of acknowledging that there is something outside of yourself, this act of surrendering your pride to the open air- I think this act emits energy from within you that is felt and received by the energy of the Universe...and in return, you are given space, clarity, peace, and renewal. You are given new eyes, new ears, a new form of feeling and interacting with the forces of life from within All. The world becomes your cathedral of praise to the Divine. 

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It began to rain again. The wind played in circles around my body but I did not feel her icy cold. I was too happy, too alive to care about the weather.

10:00 AM marked the beginning of low tide, according to my tide tracker. I began to walk away from the covering of the forest over the shore and headed South.  Watching the tide pull sand and stones away from the land, I felt the call of the sea to explore what she was about to reveal to me. 

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She rolled back her tide-skirts to show off a tiny piece of glorious skin. Here, she allowed me to explore her heart. In these pools of wisdom I found metaphor, symbolism, and a new visual language for future drawings. And she let me see her heart with the new eyes of my heart. 

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As I walked, I walked with intention. With every step I trained my mind to whisper a "thank you" to the overwhelming open beauty of the sea. 

Suddenly, I felt something touch my toes in the icy water. Looking down, I saw that a small sea- star had floated over my feet. I reached down to pick her up and noticed that she was cold and stiff, probably near the end of her life. 

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"Parting is inevitably painful, even for a short time. It is like an amputation, I feel. A limb is being torn off, without which I shall be unable to function. And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.

It is as if in parting one did actually lose an arm. And then, like the star-fish, one grows it anew; one is whole again, complete and round- more whole, even, than before, when the other people had pieces of one." - A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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As I held the tiny sea-star in my hand, she began to move. I felt her body warm in my palm, and her little suction-cup limbs slowly explored the folds of my skin. Thanking her for her lesson and for her place in the circle of life, I lowered her into the shallow pool and let her warm in my hand a second longer. I released her to the waters under a rock to protect her from the birds and the crabs and the anemones. 

I walked back to the forest. Full of living light. And for the first time in years, I felt whole. 

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Entering the coast of Washington

"Here, in the wilderness, lives the whim-filled chance called Life. 

Miracles may become visible in this dimension

where fabricated reality dissolves." - Carolyn Mary K

I had always told myself that one day I would find the place where the forest met the sea.

The fog began to creep through the treetops, slowly crawling down hilltops and eventually spreading its thick fingers to softly touch the windows of my car as I wound my way up the endless 101 North. The further I drove, the further the fog thickened. The further the fog thickened, obscuring my view, the further my mind quieted into the present moment. 

Peace.

It's funny how fog has a way of becoming a security blanket, tunneling our vision and calling us into seeing what lies just ahead instead of peeking too far into the future, and further into anxiety. 

As my mind settled into the grey light, I began to also feel that this land, this place had a thick presence about it. I took a deep breath a noticed that the air even smelled different- thick and damp, full of the exhales of thousands of trees dripping with dewy salt on thick soil.

"So this is what the Washington coastline is like", I thought as a rolled down my window to take another deep breath of the air as it whipped through my hair and sent shivers down my spine. "Hauntingly beautiful." 

It began to rain. Hard. 

After driving for several hours I finally arrived at my beachside campsite to discover that a giant puddle had formed over the entire lot, and without a break in the rain I knew that I had to come up with another plan...quickly because the sun was about to set, and calmly because I did not have any cell phone service. With my wipers on full blast I tried to remain calm and continue North in search for a cabin or hotel or a place to sleep in my car for the night. 

Another hour went by. The fog and rain thickened. For this little Southern California lady, driving in Washington rain for the first time, alone, and without cell phone service on a road that seemed to lead to nowhere was definitely not an experience that had been properly prepared for. 

A lodge appeared out of the thick fog, and quickly turning into the parking lot, my stomach began to turn as the place looked like it was already full. I stumbled out of my car and sloshed my way into the lobby, dripping and squeaking over to the front desk. "You have one room left? Really? I'll take it! And do you have a payphone I can use? I mean, is that even still a thing?...Oh it is still a thing around here, ok got it, thanks." 

After gathering my pack for the night I set off to find my room. As I opened the door I immediately felt two things: 1- the giant wooden desk under the window that perfectly overlooked the ocean and tree-lined shore would be the perfect place to cultivate a creative outpouring, and 2- being inside in a room made me feel caged and claustrophobic. Although this rustic cabin looked like it could be photographed for a spread in every hipster travel magazine, all I wanted was to be outside, to feel this crazy energetic place. 

I shrugged on my windbreaker, attached the rain sleeve over my pack, and found my waterproof camera. It was time to be quiet. To listen. To feel. To discover. To let go. To not care about the time. To let go of judgements. To go into solitude. 

It felt like the land was calling me out into something important.

There was a trailhead a half mile North of the lodge. In the downpour, I felt thrill and nerves all at once. This is where the forest would meet the sea.

I took my boots off walked bare footed. I wanted to feel the land transform itself from pine needles to pebbly sand- to feel connected, body, mind, and soul. 

Emerging from the forest and onto the rough blue sands I felt a pull in my spirit. I wept. I was finally in a land that perfectly matched the language of my soul. 

As the tears streamed down my face and mixed with the rain streaming off my hood, I released two people and a burden that had haunted me for the past two years. I needed that cry. You know, the sloppy, slobbery, snotty, salty cry that we all hide from one another but that when executed properly can bring about a powerful letting go. I let go and Nature caught me in her sweet healing waters. She let me cry it out to her and then she brought me a gift.

Discovery.

"The answer is to be so quiet that the questions stop." - Carolyn Mary Kleefeld 

"The Rewild(her)'s Journey": A Sustainable, Off-the-grid Community in the Redwoods

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, 
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to front only the essential facts of life, 
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and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, 
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and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
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I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; 
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nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. 
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I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,
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to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, 
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 to cut a broad swath and shave close, 
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to drive life into a corner,
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and reduce it to its lowest terms." Thoreau
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A sustainable, off-the-grid community in the middle of the Redwoods of Northern California brought me face-to-face with Dan, the mastermind behind these brilliant structures. Within the first few minutes of speaking to my host, Dan dove into quoting Henry David Thoreau's brilliant poem from "Walden: Or Life in the Woods" (one of my favorites of his writings) .

 

I wanted to share this collection of photos with you because after walking around in this space I was struck with how every inch of this property was Dan's work of art...down to the compost toilet! His passion and his drive to make a difference in this world was definitely inspiring (although a bit too over passionate after asking me to stay for 10 years and help him finish building!).  

 

Anyway, the best part of the night was the community kitchen, where I met a couple from South Africa, a couple from Portland, a couple from Oceanside, and two college guys from San Fransosco. By the time the sun set, all nine of us were sharing wine, cooking dinner, laughing, and learning with each other.  

 

It it was one of those nights that felt like I was living in a dream. How did I get here? How is it that all of us somehow ended up in this hand-built log kitchen, in the middle of the redwoods, at the exact same time? 

 

After a late night of wine and laughter with strangers, I walked back to my cabin, called "The Half-Moon Cabin". I inhaled deeply, smelling the sweetness of pine and dirt, and looking up at the stars, thought about Thoreau's poem.  "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately"...this was true of my journey as well. I set my intention to open my heart to the Redwoods, and opening the squeeky blue front door to my cabin, I realized that I was finally feeling the tickle of deep joy.

"The Rewild(her)'s Journey": Lola Sonoma farm, Honeybees, and the Divine Feminine

 "Place a beehive on my grave

And let the honey soak through.

When I'm dead and gone,

That's what I want from you.

The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,

But I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey.

Place a beehive on my grave

And let the honey soak through." - Sue Monk Kidd, "Secret Life of Bees"

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"One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees..." - Leo Tolstoy
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"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams." - Henry David Thoreau
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The summer of 2010 was the summer of the honeybee for me. That's when she came to me, in all her glorious golden beauty, as a symbol for the Divine feminine nature of God.  

I grew up in a culture in which we understood God as a dominant male warrior King, fighting for souls and saving us from sin as if we were all "damsels in distress" . As a little girl, I couldn't relate. Nothing about this guy called "God" appealed to me, except for this nagging in my heart telling me that there was more, and that there was love. I remember listening to Bible stories in Sunday school waiting for a strong female character who wasn't pregnant, cooking, or washing. I remember feeling like something wasn't right.

Fastforward to my undergraduate days in art school...I had a professor who flipped it all upside down for me by allowing me the space to explore my questions about gender roles and God through art. He gave me space to work through doubt, anger, frustration, and then he gave me language- "patriarchy", "goddess theories", "I-Thou theories", "matriarchal  mythology", to name a few. And then he gave me a book on an ancient mystic woman named Hildegard of Bingen, who wrote about her extreme love of the Divine using the symbol of the honeybee. From Hildegard I followed a line of inspired female authors up to the present day who have written about bees as sacred symbols of the Feminine. 

I think space and time hold human inspiration in a collective vat of some sorts, and that these inspirations are dispersed to each of us through different languages, yet the symbols remain the same. Visual language. 

For me, the honeybee is my way of understanding God in a whole new light- one in which my femininity is no longer stifled, but powerfully thrives.

(my facts may be off in the following paragraph, but this is what I have come to know about honeybees)

Each hive consists of hundreds of worker bees, all of whom are female, and all of whom have specific roles such as the foragers, the nurses, the laying egg workers, the builders, and so forth. The craziest thing about bees is that the egg laying worker bees only produce unfertalized eggs, which they lay in their comb, feed, nurture into larva, and which exclusively become drones (or male bees). Drones are hilarious because they are big, dopey, have no stingers, and are shoved out of the hive as soon as mating season is over!

All bee larva are fed this stuff called "Royal jelly", which is secreted from worker bees. Interestingly, when it is time for a new queen, worker bees decide to build a separate queen chamber out of wax, and feed that larva extra Royal jelly in order to develop her into a larger, sexually mature bee! The community creates their leader together! Only the queen will be able to lay fertilized female eggs to continue the growth of the colony. 

So now that you've had some "Honeybee 101", perhaps you can see where my creative mind went with this! 

In 2011 I wrote out all my research and symbolic language of the honeybee in a thesis paper, and created giant splashy/abstract/also anatomically accurate oil paintings on wood panels for my graduating show. From that year forward, the bees have always been part of my symbolic visual language.  

Fastforward to my time WWOOFing at Lola Sonoma farm... 

Suiting up to work with the bees I took a second to center myself and put on love before working in the hives. I've read several accounts that bees pick up on the energy emitted by the beekeeper. This was confirmed to me by my teacher named Chris, who told me that he would be speaking to me in a softer voice than normal to keep the bees at ease. 

The feeling of having hundreds of bees swirling and dancing around my body is like nothing I can describe. Just pure energy. Yellow. Warm. Humming. I felt as if I was opening chambers of ancient wisdom when I opened up the hives to harvest honey and comb. The way bees are deeply connected to the sun, to geometry, to the elements, and to sound waves...its just magical.  

Ill never forget the hum that turned into a dull roar as Chris and I opened the last hive to collect comb. These girls were strong and they were letting us know by dive-bombing our masks and hands. We worked slowly and methodically, gently sending the bees love and thanking them. This was definitely one of the most special days I've ever experienced. 

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After working with the bees I was introduced to the rest of the gang on the farm! Each animal has a name, a personality, and a special connection with Chris and Lori, and all of them run around and play together during the day as one big family.

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I didn't know this about myself, but I actually love goats! This girl sitting next to me is Stella, and she was gracious enough to let me learn how to milk her, and later on learn how to make cheese from her milk! 

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So this is the cuddle corner! After the goats have eaten, they literally come to this corner and ask for pets and cuddles from Lori! How adorable is that? 

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I didn't know I could form an emotional bond with a goat, but here I am loving on all these bundles of stinky delight! And yes, they really do all have their own personalities! 

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A lot of other amazing things happened on the farm- one day we had a small celebration of honeybees by inviting guests over from the community and sharing the blessings of honey and goat cheese and wine from the farm together. I also had the joy of displaying my art and sketches for people to see, and we talked about creativity and life and farm life. 

Walking away from Lolo Sonoma, I have a sense of finding a deeper part of myself, one that has a healed and new understanding of God and of my feminine power. I also found that farming calmed my anxiety- like to the point where it was gone when I was cuddling goats, belly rubbing piglets, and harvesting honey. Maybe it's that deep sense of Feminine Mother, that when you work with other creatures in nature that energy comes out of you, calming all, and calming yourself.  

 "...The world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved." - Sue Monk Kidd

Thank you Chris and Lori at Lola Sonoma farm! What an incredible experience! 

"The Rewild(her)'s Journey": Big Sur Day 3

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I woke up with the first few rays of sun creating a soft pink glow over the East, and as I unzipped my tent I was greeted with the most spectacular sight! The soft morning sky held the moon directly in front of my tent flap, as if she had been waiting to greet me "good morning" before she dipped into the sea. It was now officially the first day of summer, and I was waking up to a new season as a changed woman. 

I made a hot cup of coffee, bundled up, and walked down my campsite's trail to my private cliff, sketchbook in hand. Sitting down in the soft dewy earth, I watched the color of the water change with the rising sun. I noticed how turquoise the water was as it rippled around the bottom of rocks and boulders. Then I started thinking about rocks.  

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How amazing is it that a rock can just keep on being so strong after thousands of years of enduring tens-of-tons of water smashing against its surface? Could it be that rocks are like the skeleton of the earth? I've always thought of the sea as being the lungs of the Earth....

...I'll be honest here and tell you that I have no idea where this concept of rocks and saltwater will go, but it was a beautiful morning of watching, observing, and drawing. 

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As the sun began to touch the tip-tops of the coastal mountains around me, anticipation and excitement began to form butterflies in my belly...I was about to finally see something that I had been dreaming of seeing for years...Julia Pfieffer Falls! 

After packing up my campsite, and after loading my backpack full of drawing supplies, I set out on the trail. What met my eyes was beauty beyond anything I could have imagined. So beautiful that I almost couldn't take it all in at once. My solution to this sensation is almost always to pull out my pen and draw.

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After sketching for several minutes with my straw hat pulled low over my eyes, I suddenly felt the presence of another human very close to my side. I looked up and locked eyes with an extremely handsome man who seemed around my same age...seriously no joke, this ACTUALLY happened and it's hilarious! So naturally, I became flustered and began to frantically draw, hoping he would maybe just go away. Nope. He continued to watch me and began to ask questions about me, my work, my life, and my hometown. In return I asked him questions and found out that he was touring around the West Coast with coffee samples from his coffee farm in Laos! Pretty rad.  

I continued to draw and he continued to watch. It was one of those moments that felt like I was in a movie. Anyway, he took down my name, and me being my awkward self instantly forgot his name and didn't get any contact information from him. (So if you're reading this and you were that guy I met at the falls, I'm sorry!) 

Anyway, after he left I found myself laughing at the absurdity of the last 20 minutes of my life, followed by tears streaming down my face over the beauty and how grateful I was to finally feel real peace and joy. I felt so alive and free. 

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After the falls I decided to head to Big Sur Bakery for a quick lunch before driving up to meet my host in Santa Cruz. As I hopped out of the van I felt my phone buzz for the first time in three days...I looked down, shocked to have service, and then it happened. ANXIETY.  

I felt my stomach do a somersault and instantly looked for a bathroom. This was my first time dealing with a bodily reaction of anxiety, and it was not fun. 

I left the bathroom and paced around the garden, telling myself to calm down, to breath, to pray, and when ready, to eat some food. I was off balance, caught off guard, and needed time to align myself in order to properly deal with my relationship to anxiety once again.  

I looked at my phone and saw all the texts I had missed. I opened up my email and saw all of the unanswered questions, order inquires, and correspondences that had been left without response for three days. I opened my Instagram and saw activity that I had not anticipated seeing, including one very unpleasant surprise of a rip off of my work...no I didn't want this. I just wanted to hike back to the falls and feel the bliss that I just experienced. Not this, anything but this. 

I put my phone in my backpack, ordered food, and pulled out my journal and my book. 

"Those who participate in change must participate in death." - Elizabeth O'Conner

My booked just so happened to be about living in the tension of letting go, of bringing about inner change, and letting your old self die.  

"I felt a sharpening in my willingness to let my false, egoistic patterns pass away- all the things I clung to for meaning, success, security, and validation. I knew that these patterns included not only the images I had of myself but the ones others had of me. I needed to let them die." Sue Monk Kidd

And when my problems with a relationship came flooding over my mind, and when my anxieties about another relationship that have been hovering over me for two years appeared in my mind, I read "I would have to die to the old roles and images of myself in relation to him [or her]. I couldn't tag behind him [or her] through life."  

My food had arrived at my table. A giant homlett sizzled and cracked in front of me and I don't remember how it got there. I began to eat, slowly thinking of how this place had brought me so much peace, and how now I needed to prepare myself for the journey of returning to life as it was, but with the approach of newness. With the approach of letting go, and holding onto the strength of death of old habits and birth of new beginnings. 

 

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"My letting go wasn't complete and perfect. I know that. The process continues on in us forever, I suppose. But I sensed that this was my moment to express the shifting I felt inside. It was the beginning of leaving behind the first half of my life and those ways of living it that no longer worked. What I was walking toward, I had no idea." (Pg 118) 

It's as if Sue Monk Kidd wrote this book specifically for me and this moment. I finished my food, feeling nourished and strengthened, and journaled out my anxiety in specifics. After praying over the things that I had written, I invited the Divine to be my guide in this process, and to be my protection against the darkness of anxiety. 

I took a deep breath, closed my books, and stood up. Ready. It was time to now do the hard part- living out the epiphanies from the seaside mountain. Enacted enlightenment.  I realized that this whole journey is my moment of expressing the shifting I feel inside myself, it is my way of leaving behind the first half of my life and those things that didn't serve it, and it is my way of bravely walking into the unknown. God, make me like that rock I drew this morning, steady and true against the tides.

I forced myself to smile, and felt the energy of positivity flow down my body. I choose peace. I will train my mind on thanksgiving. Hopping back in my van I said goodbye to Big Sur and thanked the land for all that it had taught me, and for shaping me into newness. 

"The Rewild(her)'s Journey": Big Sur solo camping Day 1

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I was completely unprepared for Big Sur, which sounds silly, but I didn't even know that Cambria was the last stop with full cell phone service before entering into the "dead zone" of no communication.  

At first, finding myself with no cell reception, no way of telling my family that I would be without communication for three days, and without any map apps to guide me to my host's home, caused a minor panic. With my hands shaking and my palms sweating, I pulled over and walked into a camping supply store and assessed the woman behind the counter, seeking a friendly local to help me find my way. 

I already forget her name (told you I'm bad with names), but the woman who initially met my anxious eyes with a hard look and inquisitive brow, ended up being a calming and welcoming presence for me. She spread out a map on the counter and pointed out where I needed to go to find my host's property. "That right there is Nacimiento road. It's a dirt road that will wind it's way into the mountains...wait what are you driving? It's really windy, it's a one way road, and there are no side rails, just a straight drop down to the sea...oh you're driving a minivan? Ok well that's part of the adventure I guess, right?! Ok so after 7 miles you'll come to a fork in the road and you'll want to go to the right...now this road is even more rugged. I wouldn't even drive my truck up there. In fact, one time I did and I was lucky I could even get myself turned back around to drive down the mountain! Ok? Good luck!" 

I asked her several times if she thought I should in fact go through with the drive, and she thought I should at least try. With a reassuring look she sent me on my way, and I mustered up my courage and hit the road again...

For someone who is terrified of heights, I found myself stubbornly bumping along a dirt road that made my stomach roll in backflips. I couldn't stop, I wouldn't stop driving. I didn't want to fail so early on in my trip. I had to make it up this ridiculously dangerous road and into a stranger's property without any cell service... 

And that's when I stopped.  

I had made it to the fork in the road, I had turned right, and I had even gone another mile down the one-way dirt road when my van slid out just enough for me to wake up from my stubbornness and stop. "What the hell am I doing?" I yelled at no one. "Why the f*** would I ever do this to myself? Who am I trying to prove something to? This is my trip, this is my journey, this is my time to choose how to live. I'm getting off the f***ing mountain and I'm going to find something better!" I was yelling at a tree through my window with hot tears spilling down my face and the dirt from the road pluming up into my windows. "Just stop. Just stop. Just stop" I kept repeating to myself. "Stop trying so f***ing hard all the time. Stop trying to do everything so perfectly. Stop trying to control every tiny detail and just be!" (I obviously love a good cuss word now and then, sorry!) 

Sitting there alone in my van with salty tears and dirt mixing on my cheeks, I realized that this trip was about to change a lot of me. I turned around and drove back down the mountain.  

Without a campsite for the night, my only option was to check out a BLM land that I had only heard about through my host at Cambria. It was a place called "Treebones", and aparantly the dirt road to the left of the sign lead to free camping spots off the side of the road.  

Mustering up more courage, I set out on another terrifying dirt road in hopes for a place to at least park my van for the night, away from any officers. Luckily, I was able to snag the first clearing I found, and to my delight it was very private and had a view of the sunset. I hopped out of the van and set to work, quickly pitching my tent and setting up my cooker to boil water before dark.  

With a warm cup of tea in my hands and my blanket wrapped around my waist, I climbed onto the roof of my van and watched the sun paint the sky before she dipped into the sea.  

It had been a really good day. Not good in the sense of the stress, but good in the journey. This was not failure. This was victory. This was me stepping away from ego and into a new understanding of maturity and balance of energies. And on top of all that, I had just pitched a tent for the first time in like 10 years! Boom!  

I spread myself flat on the roof of the van, feeling the heat of the day begin to slip away as I watched the stars appear across the purple sky. This is what it feels like to be alive. 

Later on that night, the Moon rose so bright that she woke me up from sleep. I stepped outside and drank in her glow. I had never been this close to the Moon before, I had never actually felt heat from her glow.  

I smiled. Climbing back into bed I listened as the tide crashed against the rocks and fell asleep to the sound of elephant seals calling into the deep glow. The fullness of life, the oneness of all.  

 

 "We are all forces and instruments of Nature

expressing her every whisper and scream

in an ever-evolving symphony of creation." -Carolyn Mary Kleefeld

"The Rewild(her)'s Journey"

It's all happening!

This Sunday the 12th I will be taking off on my 6 week journey up the West Coast to create a book full of illustrations of the environment, conservation efforts, and sustainable living!

Check back here on Sunday for my first official post!