My first publishing endeavor is now available here for a direct purchase discount of 50% off retail price. This book represents the culmination of many years of questioning and self discovery reflected upon during a recent six month creative leave from CalArts. It is a compilation of poetry and photographs delving into the deeper and often neglected emotions of our psyche. Below is an excerpt of the introduction.
“A lifelong lover of the written word, poetry has given voice to my rather introspective inner world. Written exploration of this inner world has allowed for a freedom of ideas not possible when in conversation. It is my hope that by putting pen to paper, someone flirting with their shadow will embrace this journey with a knowing that all will be well. It is only by embracing the darkest corners of self that one fully blooms…
The discount purchase price is reflected below. Normal retail on Amazon and Barnes and Noble is estimated to be $29.99 and $35.00 respectively. Enjoy this discounted only here!
Broken glass is an eclectic collection of what was once a whole, yet each piece is still able to shine separate from this whole. Think of a stained-glass window. These inspiring works of art are comprised of broken pieces of glass, each able to stand alone in specific brilliance. In totality, the stained-glass window shines like a sunbeam, sending colorful light in all directions. The beauty of this whole does not negate how special each individual piece of glass is. Removing even one piece would change the stained-glass window completely.
How easy it is to forget what makes each of us as individuals shine. We define ourselves by family, friends, job and relationships. It is so easy to forget who we are and what we contribute to the whole. Losing self in another is a slippery slope and the treacherous fall that may occur is not one to be taken lightly.
For empathetic people, this is especially difficult to navigate. We pride ourselves in being helpful, selfless and putting the needs of all others before our own. While this may seem to be a service-oriented way to move about the world, the exclusion of self in all matters is neither healthy are wise. Without goals, creative energy and spirit it becomes impossible to have a voice in any partnership. Each person should intend to uplift the other while gently encouraging their partner to stretch and grow. Without this space one will inevitably become stagnant, a shard of glass crushed by the weight of insecurity.
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov
No one should dim their light for the benefit of another. Each one of us has the opportunity to shine in our own way. The color of the glass we use is up to us as is the manner in which we create our window. As the artist, we have a choice and a voice. It is incumbent on us to not lose sight of our precious light.
Continue to love those in your life. Lend an ear when necessary. Offer a helping hand and gentle encouragement but never compromise who you are and what is important. Shine as brightly as you are meant, dimming no amount of self for the benefit of others discomfort. You will find as you gain confidence, that your stained-glass window is more representative of your shining spirit and gentle heart.
“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
― Franz Kafka
Life is messy. We spend the lion’s share of our days trying to clean it up, wrapping it all in a pretty bow to present as unstressed as possible. The worst scenario is in showing the ugliness of it all, the dirt and grime that makes us human. There is never any way to avoid the mess, it is only in the mud when truths are told, and destinies revealed.
I tire of being constantly upbeat, writing as if all is meant to be and nothing happens without divine predestination. How false a perception and a blatant misdirection to believe such ideas. It is only in the murky and muddy depths that spirit is challenged. The darkness doing nothing to blind us from reality and all of its unbearable eccentricities.
Even standing in the company of great natural beauty, I am moved by the anguish and violence that created these enormous natural wonders. The depths of their dark waters run deep. In some cases, towns were washed away, entire peoples relocated, and life forms extinguished. We like to forget the messy parts, it makes it easier that way.
“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”
― Anais Nin
Why are we so uncomfortable with the mess? Why is it so difficult to find the words for someone who is grieving? When did it become taboo to say how awful it is to loss a loved one. No, it will not all be okay, no it was not for the best and no it will not get better with time. Scars fade but never really go completely away. Scars remain as a tattoo of the mess written on our hearts forever.
The same can be said for misfortune. Life can be ruthless at times. Financial ruin is not “karma” or required reading for life school. In reality financial difficulties are awful. Those who experience this misfortune are not unworthy of success. They did nothing wrong as some might point a judgmental finger. The way this world values the almighty dollar is a big part of the mess, and we all roll in this dirt over and over as if pigs to a trough.
In my utopian ideal emotions and feelings are valued and stoicism is not. Tell me if you are hurting, in pain or suffering. I may not like what I hear but say it anyway. I must be equipped with enough tools to take in another’s sorrow without condition. Only in this way am I swimming in my own murky waters and attempting to rise toward the air above. Tell someone your mess today and be unabashedly truthful. You may be surprised by the response.
Scars hold many secrets. Hard earned but never displayed in any sort of distinctive manner, they are often tucked away behind locked doors without keys. Scars can be hard fought, forged in territory marked by pain and hardship. A desolate landscape rarely traveled and purposely avoided. Yesterday, while driving in rural Idaho and following a very trying week, I was reminded that scars can be marks of the beautiful as well.
Just about everything that could go wrong this week did. The RV had some power issues, eventually working themselves out only after causing much undue stress. Dylan and I both got very sick from the smoke coming from the California wildfires. Not just a nuisance head cold, but full on respiratory distress. Visits to the doctor and heavy medication where required to even feel a semblance of oxygen circulating our lungs. Steroids are not a good road trip companion and to say that nerves were frayed and emotions high is a grand understatement.
Couple all of this with the looming uncertainty about exactly where and when I will find my little slice of paradise in which to ruminate, write and relax; I found myself in the most perfect of storms.
After leaving Elko and the arresting beauty of Lamoille Canyon, we came across the Hansen Bridge towering over the Snake River gorge. Nestled in the middle of vast farmlands filled with nothing but corn, hay and cattle; the bridge appeared out of nowhere with a startling presentation. Trying to find words for this natural wonder is simply impossible.
The scar, marking one of the largest floods in geologic history was nothing short of stunning. So beautiful in fact, one would be hard pressed to visualize the horrific power of the flood carving out such an enormous section of land. What remains, amid the tortuous twisting of the gorge, is a striking beauty. Set this wonder beside the spectacular strength of Lamoille Canyon, itself forged by a glacier scar, the wonder of nature in all things was exposed in the most intimate of ways.
Thinking of these places, I was struck by the metaphor within. We all have deep and painful scars, some visible with others lurking within our shadow self. My guess would be the deepest of scars, those hidden from others, are strew with rugged edges and steep plunging cliffs. It is these scars that shape use just as the gorge and canyon were shaped many millions of year ago. So very significant are the wounds responsible, that fantastic wells of strength must have been required by the natural world to overcome.
What is clear to me is that scars are absolutely necessary for growth. Without such wounds one would miss out on valuable opportunities for self-evaluation. It is only in the deepest depths of despair that walls must come down, vulnerability be exposed, and true character formed. As in the natural world, I must confess to my fair share of deeply seeded scars continually grappled with. Looking down at the Snake River gorge and walking in Lamoille Canyon, it is evident this grappling will continue indefinitely, and I have to be okay with this process.
Quietly, I thanked all that had come before, both the darkness and the light, allowing me to forge my own gorges and canyons. Without wounds, I would not fully understand pain, happiness, grief or wonder. Blessing each and every one of my scars, both seen and unseen, I silently said a prayer of acceptance for everything I am and everything I am not. This week has provided much fodder for growth, revealing the most sensitive edges of my innermost fears, yet I remain steadfast in my commitment to live as completely as possible, scars and all.
Full moons can be intense experiences for me. I feel everything ten fold and usually end up diving deep for a few days. Afterwards, I am often surprised by what I have written.
This poem reflects back on some challenging times when disappointment was a constant companion. Bringing people close calls for vulnerability. It is sometimes easier to stay somewhat isolated even though this leads to an unwelcome loneliness. My proclivity is to go to a place of solitude when in need. It was and is my sanctuary. A space in which I can process all the emotion and information being receiving, then let it go.
“It could be a meeting on the street, or a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing.”
― John O’Donohue
Sitting at the iWash Laundromat, I watch my clothes swishing around in an industrial size washer and am struck by the simple act of water washing away the dirt and grime of this place. Feeling the heat of the day sticking to me like a wet coat, I let out an audible sigh wishing I too could be washed clean. One must always respect the sweltering heat of a desert summer day, if not the heat can cripple even the toughest of souls.
The anticipation has been mounting and I wake up each morning wishing I was anywhere else but here, as if my life is a movie set on pause. Knowing that my travels begins in August, I try to fill my days with the tasks at hand. Planning has always been a strength of mine, to the point of distraction. Now I focus on letting go of all the material things that weigh me down. Everything must go, it is all just so heavy both physically and spiritually.
Only three weeks until I leave for Harvard, my last academic obligation before beginning creative leave in earnest. It is a limbo of the worst sort. My mind is longing for the tranquility of nature and immersion into deeper ideas and I struggle to redirect in doing homework for the course I will be attending. The banality of academic dialogue is more pronounced in this limbo, a bad song playing on repeat over and over. The only true music calling me is aesthetically soothing and filled with the mysteries of the universe.
Watching the clothes spin in the machine, I ponder this place and all that it represents. The dust of the desert is unrelenting, a veritable Grapes of Wrath scenario. I find it in my shoes, my hair and even in bed. I glance up and notice a young couple stopping in with their week of dirty laundry. They too need water to wash the desert out. Even though the heat is oppressive, they smile at one another, make small talk and even seem to enjoy the ritual of the laundromat.
“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.”
― John O’Donohue
Expanding my perspective, I see an elderly man with skin worn deeply by the heat and poverty of this place. He sits quietly on a bench enjoying the air-conditioned respite before he too must go out once again facing the wall of 1000 suns. The woman behind the counter has a look of resignation, as if to say “Yes, I work at a small-town laundromat and life is not how I expected it to be.” She too has the look of wear and tear with deep wrinkles on her face from years of smoking and a raspy voice to boot. “Can I help you darling?” she asks. “No thank you”, I say wanting to be left alone in my thoughts for at least the spin cycle.
Finishing up my clothes, I load them into my dust covered car and head back to the RV, my temporary sanctuary, parked on my boyfriend’s lot until our voyage commences. The heat is stifling, and the RV air conditioner simply cannot keep up. Spontaneously, I take off my sweaty clothes and decide to use the outside shower to cool down. The heat has a way of letting all inhibitions go and before I even have a chance to think about it, I am outside, stark naked, letting the cool streams of water wash over me. I think about the iWash washing off the desert and feel as if I am in my own laundromat begging to be purified. The water pours over me and a desert breeze gently brushes my skin. In an instant spirit is here, yet another moment of discomfort in which spirit reminds me I am never alone. The breeze dances across me as if to say, “Let it go Lavinia, let it all go. I am with you.” As I finish my shower and wrap myself in large beach towel, I feel a freshness that permeates my very being. Taking a deep breathe, I pause to look up at the sun acknowledging the symbiotic relationship of heat to water. Nature is truly amazing.
Later, my boyfriend lights a bonfire in front of his house. This is something that people do out here in the desert, especially when the coolness of night settles in. Once again, I am struck by the dichotomy of this place. The heat of the day is as repellent as a bad cold, but in the coolness of a desert night, the heat is a welcome visitor warming my legs as I sit mesmerized by the dancing flames. I lean my head back and look at the night sky. The stars flicker like thousands of jewels lighting up the darkness. I catch my breath for a moment stunned by the beauty of this desolate place.
Even in the harshest of environments beauty can be found. I may be riddled with anticipation but must not ignore moments of serenity as they present: the iWash with its plethora of interesting people, the absolute freedom of an outside shower as a breeze dances across my skin and the majesty of a desert night sky canvasing the glowing flames of a bonfire. These all offer moments of serenity in which spirit reminds of the connection to all others in the most beautiful of ways. Limbo will pass, and I will soon be on my way. The desert will stay with me, yet another piece to the universal puzzle of this world. Blessings to this place, the people and even the dirt. You all have been my teacher in the most harmonious and unexpected of ways.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir
Here it begins, the process of letting go and there is no turning back. Fear is a shadowy figure that lingers and finds me in my dreams each night. It is but one thing to repeat affirmations promising to relinquish all that constricts. It is yet an entirely different beast to make these same affirmations a reality. The bridge between the two is great and one can easily get trapped in a limbo of uncertainty.
For me, this intersection of doubt and decision was marred by a trail of anxiety, tears and what can only be described as a complete breakdown. I sobbed for what I thought my life should be and knew that in my tears, lie all of the regret and fear resulting from this false sense of security. Material things have energy and at times this energy can be misconstrued as comfort. Why I ever thought an old Christmas decoration, coffee table or blanket equaled love I will never know. What is clear is that extracting myself from accumulation has been the most difficult thing I have ventured to do second only to my divorce.
Calling my sister, after saying goodbye to the place I have called HOME for the last three years, I choked back tears trying to sound strong when in fact I was completely crushed. She tried to comfort me and offer reassurance to no avail. In the midst of our conversation, a giant hawk flew over her car, nearly landing on the hood. In this moment of complete exasperation, an angel had let it be known that my sister and I were well taken care of. Speechless for a moment, my sister finally managed to say “Just let go, Vin. It is time for you to fly.”
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
― John Muir
The rest of the trip to the city in which my RV is currently parked was a blur. I remember crying out loud and thanking a legion of angels for providing some comfort during a most difficult transformation. I remember telling myself to just let go and I clearly remember the moment when my heart finally heard the message and doubt became decision, fear became motivation.
That same day, my boyfriend had his own experience of Divine intervention. As he struggled with the feelings of separation from the home that he has lovingly nurtured for the past decade, a crow flew right above, circled and dropped a feather at his feet. Take this for what you will, but the message for me could not have been more clear. We are meant to take flight in this moment even if it means flying blindly into the storm of the unknown. It is time.
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Next week, a yard sale has been scheduled at which I will sell everything that remains save some clothes, dishes, and personal belongings. This final release from the cords of connection is necessary in order to make space for the next. It is in this space that my adventure begins. The intersection has been breached and the decision has been made. There is no looking back, only forward.
Feeling the weightlessness of this release, a sense of anxious relief permeates the air. No longer having to shoulder the burden of material things that provide nothing beyond utilitarian need, my time to walk with nature has arrived. This vagabond with gypsy blood is now a mystic wanderer searching for words unspoken, yet only experienced. Understanding that nothing can provide what I already hold within, I have released all expectations and joyfully complete the purge of the material for the fullness of all else. Now it begins.
“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”
― John O’Donohue,
There is only forward, it has become impossible to look back. As if the person I was no longer exists. With each day, minute and second I am transformed into the next. Nothing is lost on me any longer, every happening is a new landscape filled with possibilities. As John O’Donohue states, “the eternal makes you urgent”. Urgency is forever present and the tug of my curious heart grows stronger and more persistent with each delay.
The march of routine echoes loudly in my ear. I try to embrace the simple, knowing there is grace in completing the smallest of tasks with pride. This does nothing to silence the awakening. It hums ever so quietly until it eventually becomes a deafening freeway filled with thousands of thoughts and possibilities. The assault of this unknown is paralyzing. Fear lingers, beckoning me to restrain myself by filling my mind with a litany of “what if’s”
A summit is very much a metaphor for this awakening. Every day is filled with rejection of the norm, a conquering of the ascent. It is a push to something unknown yet beautiful in its otherness. The awakening of a soul is a blooming of the eternal breath. We carry this breath our entire life, suppressing it under the burdens of this world. When this breath begins to move throughout the body, no amount of restraint will diminish it. It is powerful yet gentle, curious yet familiar and erratic while focused.
“May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future graced with love.”
― John O’Donohue
The breath of an awakening spirit lifts one up slightly above the comfort of the familiar, with a line of sight to the summit. It is in this line of sight that possibility exists. People will tell you to get your head out of the clouds by coming back to reality. Pay no attention. These same people are fearful of what you see. Their discomfort is with themselves, never with you.
In this very moment all I hunger for is to live. I wish to live as completely as my ageing body will allow. Time is the constant. The weight of the world is ticking loudly, with the reminder that nothing is guaranteed. If I wish to allow my awakened soul to blossom, I have to provide space for this breath to flow. Constriction is never conducive to growth. I often smile when I throw of my work clothes soon after getting home, wash my face, tie up my hair and feel the release of the work day. For me, it is in this moment that I feel most like myself. Naked, open and filled with an expansive breathe of something other than what is considered productive, yet vital for my very being.
“The human journey is a continuous act of transfiguration.”
― John O’Donohue
My inner dialogue with spirit is only flowing when I am in this most natural of states. It can be trance like when writing, a connection with a different frequency or plane. It is in these moments that I hear O’Donohue remind that we must all be “inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment.” I am inflamed and am not looking back. My awakening may be jarring to others and even myself. All things worthwhile are difficult and require a commitment to the idea until one can live into the space of the real. However long it takes, I am committed to reach for the summit. Whether I make it to the metaphorical top is unimportant. It is in the striving that I blossom and am filled with the breath of all that is and all that ever was.