A Cosmic Hive of Humanity

A Cosmic Hive of Humanity

I’m writing this note from Boudhanath, a city inside of Kathmandu, Nepal. I don’t believe in bucket lists – good god, no – but I do hope you to get to this place sometime in your life – the sooner the better. Not that it’s going anywhere; it’s been here since the 13th century and probably longer – but we know where you’re going –  where we’re all going – eventually. My partner out here, James Hopkins, who runs the Himalayan Writer’s Workshop, has a story about a student who tells his Buddhist teacher that he doesn’t think he has time to take the path to enlightenment. His teacher says, “well, then you may have a scheduling problem.” I took that to mean if you want it – enlightenment, or to visit Nepal, or to let someone know that you love them – you might want to get on that, put it higher on the schedule. Kathmandu is cracked open brilliance. The entire valley is laid out like a mandala – for real – and there are sacred sites everywhere you turn. Some of them are too mind blowing to comprehend – like the Boudhanath Stupa which I’ve pictured above – and which is also a world heritage site. But some of these ancient, sacred spots are in the middle of congested streets and surrounded by broken buildings, sidewalks that fall into sewers, and monkeys swaying from thick electrical wires covered in soot and which hang low in the cool November breeze. I’ll be honest with you, much of Kathmandu is a chaotic catastrophe of open fires on the...
On a flight to Kathmandu …

On a flight to Kathmandu …

As I write this * I’m on a flight from Guangzhou, China to Kathmandu, Nepal, where I’ll be co-leading a writing workshop for 10 days with my friend James Hopkins who runs the Himalayan Writers Workshop. It’s surreal to be leaving the country now, a day before the election results come in, and head to a place where American politics won’t be front and center. The Nepalise people probably don’t give much thought to what’s going on in the U.S. because they’re busy surviving. I read the other day that the average monthly income in Kathmandu is $59. Two years ago, in that other election, I stood in a sports bar in Ubud, Bali, eyes scrunched and head cocked as I watched a televised map of the U.S. turn bright red. The Balianese people I ran into for the next few days didn’t mention the election. Apparently U.S. politics aren’t the center of the universe, though it’s certainly felt that way as we live the daily horror show of bombs and shootings and a president so vile that it’s impossible to believe he’s still among us. And least we forget, there’s the caravan of Honduran refugees that hasn’t even gotten to the border yet, but you already know how that one ends. By the way, are there still children in detention camps who haven’t been reunited with their parents? I am ashamed that I don’t know the answer to that, and like the news media, have moved on. I’ll be honest, it’s tricky writing blog posts and sending newsletters in this political climate. To be writing about anything other than politics and...
Claire and the Butterflies

Claire and the Butterflies

This is not the first time this year that I’ve sat down to write a blog post and not known what to say. I am speechless about the state of the world. I am flattened every time I hear Trump’s voice or watch him point his finger at some mysterious enemy on television. I am incredulous when I see a photo of republican women wearing smart red suits and waving American flags at the president, lips as shiny as blood, each one waiting for a kiss from a man who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them. I need a news break. I need to turn my attention to something simple and beautiful. I need to find something good out there so that I’m not huddled inside my house waiting for the SS to knock on my door, or calculating how old my children will be when we run out of water, wondering whether we should have armed those girls with shot guns. But then I remember the butterflies. It’s not my story, but my friend Claire’s story, and even as I write this I know I’ll have to get her permission to share it and she might say no because her story is huge and not one that I want to minimize in a blog post. And also because one day she might want to write it herself. I’m just a witness, someone who started Wild Writing with Claire about a year ago, and who got to watch her take on the butterflies. What you need to know is that three years ago Claire’s husband had a stroke...
Time to Wake up, Sleepy Head

Time to Wake up, Sleepy Head

When I was 5-years-old, my grandfather, a photographer, decided that the shot he wanted was me, naked, standing on the diving board of his pool in Los Angeles. He took a lot of pictures of me when I was young  – maybe because I was the first grandchild, the first girl. I got caught in his lens a lot. There are pictures of me naked in a bath tub – in one I’m biting my lip, looking up at him shyly.  I’ve gathered the yellow duckies around me so that I’m covering my private parts – that’s what we called them. I don’t know who else was there, who put me into that tub. It’s an adorable shot, everyone loved it. The naked little girl covering her private parts with the ducks. I don’t remember how he talked me into the diving board shot. I don’t know how my clothes came off – whether I took them off myself in the little boat house by the pool. I don’t remember how he instructed me – maybe that he had an idea for a picture and he told me what to do.  Maybe he said it was going to be fun. I don’t think my grandmother or my mother were at home. The only people I remember with us in the backyard were my 4-year-old brother and our babysitter, who were hiding in the bushes laughing at me as I awkwardly stood naked on a diving board on that sunny day in L.A. My grandfather printed those pictures up big, 11 X 17, me standing there, sun in my eyes,...
This Is Me Scrappy And Relaxed

This Is Me Scrappy And Relaxed

This is me just after I’ve woken up, completely unassembled. It’s me before a shower or a workout, me before I know what comes next, before I get all smart and strategic, before I pluck my unruly eyebrows or go after those persnickety chin hairs. Me before I examine my aging skin and do the math on how far till 60 and who will love me then? This is me, face unwashed, hair untouched, same pajamas I’ve been wearing for days. Me before I start sizing up my body and falling into the hallucination that there’s a problem that I need to fix – something about my legs or my ass – if only I could remember. This is me starting the day with nothing except a hope that I’ll make something beautiful out of nothing, that I can conjure magic from scraps, a snip of a dream and a cup of coffee. Me remembering that I’ve got this if I can just relax. This is me scrappy and relaxed. It’s me before I start worrying about whether I’ve taken on too much, whether I should have said yes to the racquetball league on Tuesday nights because I haven’t played in a long time and I’m such a competitive little motherfucker. The thought of losing stresses me out. This is me before I start thinking about losing. Me before I remember the workshops I need to sell and the pressure that come with that, or the classes I’ll run and whether I’ll fill all the seats. It’s me before jumping back into the blog post that isn’t writing itself....