A Circus Wedding in Upstate NY

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New York City circus friends converged on enchanted land a few hours north to witness the wedding of Ali Luminescent & Justin. Aerial performances, a liquor-pissing unicorn complete with fiery horn (!!!), #mermaids posed on rocks by a pond in a bubble vortex, altars & elements of spirit, connection, community, an iridescent moment in time….

On self-doubt

(From an email from a long-time client this morning & my response to her…)

“I’m hard at taking compliments without putting myself down.”
SO many women I work with do this which is why I chose this as my life work. I want women to see themselves how I see them… fluid, timeless, beauty incarnate… The process to get to that end result, to the photo that I see in my head before we shoot it is sometimes an intense process. I have to fight for it, for the vision, for that lens that drops down in my mind full of possibilities. A successful shoot is often defined by how much you can trust me and join in.

You are strong, intuitive, creative… which means I can’t let you give up on yourself during the process, knowing how mystical the end result ALWAYS is when we connect. The intensity of a creative process is our secret. :) Whatever we have to do to capture your story, re-posing the flow of a veil in motion 10 times, re-setting energy each time, breath work, challenging your emotive visualization, is necessary to bring beauty to permanence.

That portrait is how I see you…. and now how others feel you…. and how you should feel of yourself, shoulders back, unabashed! So let it in & when people tell you how beautiful you are, just hug them & thank them. In the process, thanking yourself & healing your doubting parts. You gave yourself permission to shine. I was just there to instigate it & capture it. That giddy feeling when you see the edit for the first time is your crone self happy you are capturing this time in your life…. This is why I do this work, why I get so animated during our sessions…

When I first started out, people would tell me how much they loved a photo, and I would instantly tell them everything wrong with it, how sucky my lighting was, how long the Photoshop took. Even now I catch myself complaining about long flights, heavy cases, the expense of it all, how I can’t sleep before long shoot days. I watched them deflate. I invalidated their emotion. Now, I just simply say “Thank you.” and hug them… and I keep my self-critiques & admonishing about lighting/editing reserved for a later time…. Curiously, what I’m noticing lately is that I am forgetting to admonish myself. Later never comes & I just keep riding the good parts of my art, knowing the parts I fall short of will sort itself out eventually. Time has taught me as much. Gratitude has become the blazing sword of my life. Everything to get to that place, to form the art, just falls under the heading of vision, passion & a certain kind of cohesive openness that allows doubt to fall away….


Satya



Samantha Riggs


An-Magrith



Faaridah

southeast adventures

three weeks on the road: Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Mexico.

flight home now with a young boy next to me asking many questions, whining.
“what is that?”
“a football stadium”
“why can’t I go there?” (whining & flailing)
“because we’re on a plane now.”

i stare blankly at the blue seat in front of me, my elvin hood dimming the reality of the incessant child beside me. too tired to find ear plugs, missing my puppies, envisioning lying in the grass with them, hoping to have energy to buy blue iris for brady before he comes home from work, i’ve missed him so. these trips take so much out of me yet to travel is a delicious and priveledged vortex, a reminder that i need very little to be happy. some clothes, time with friends, inspiring people to aim my camera at. i used to believe that being older meant amassing objects and ‘having’. having routines, saying “i used to…” a lot, trailing off while wishing for a someday.

on the road my ‘somedays’ are vivid, fleeting yet fully present rooms that i stumble upon on purpose. i plan the logistics of each city for months, and then my kerouac spirit takes over and i find myself driving a car on the sidewalk in georgia with people i just met, on a giggling hunt for a hot tub on a boat in the middle of the gulf of mexico in 10-foot seas, pushing on walls to remain upright… and this is my job. these are the moments before and after picking up my camera.

when i agree to an experience, i want it all, every last drop. i want to capture the essence of who i am with, to know who they are truly, be it friend or stranger, to be the mirror for their 80-year-old selves. i look for ‘familiar’ so that I can revel in ‘new’. i plan things out so that i can release it when i arrive. setting coals in the fire so that i can continue this way of life.  knowing that even if it all stopped one day, that i will always be ok.

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i arrived into atlanta with a heavy heart, having spent four months at home in los angeles. it took some patience in the detachment process, tearful as i focused on the threshold, not the journey. annoyed with extra fees, my bags, traffic in georgia, absorbing the reality of how long i agreed to be gone. curiosity is the drumbeat that pulls me in close and whispers “…this will be fun.”

wheeling in my traveling circus to the hotel lobby at a belly dance event, called TribalCon. paloma, a dancer from france, greets me, a new friend, my roommate, on hiatus from motherhood. it is valentine’s day and we are the only same-sex couple dining in a local thai restaurant, dim lighting, sidelong glances from other patrons in a small town.

while she was at dance workshops i removed the furniture except the bed and changed the room into a photo studio. 12ft x 14ft is all I need to build my sandbox. Poof & done! an endless stream of clients arrived over the next few days. the bed was my trampoline, bouncing while celebrating the best shots. 25 degree weather kept me tethered to the hotel. Friends & clients from all over the country were in one place.

i bought large glitter flowers for my hair from Diva Dreads and spent the day excited about them. People in elevators called me Frida. “minus the uni-brow’  i would correct them.

tribalcon was awesome. even better, i got to enjoy the show and not shoot it. instead i spent meaningful time with people, as usually happens when i have my camera put away. i kissed Zoe’s hand and told her that she is still my favorite. strangers beamed at me, some held my hand and told me they love my work. lunch at farmburger with april rose and mavi who protectively walked me back to the hotel afterwards where i spent the last day alone doing a shoot with a pin-up hooper client, who expertly prepared for the shoot with adorable 1940’s outfits, victory curls, red lipsick, such a perfect send off.  all my dancer friends had gone, furniture put back into place, feathers and sequin shrapnel discarded and onto my next city: Miami.

much warmer, a friendly face waving at me curbside. steph, my bollywood dancer friend from an event in georgia from years past. she had given me a painting of a lotus flower that i treasured and always hoped to spend more time with her. we drove that night thru a jungle safari, passed a lion sanctuary to her childhood home in loxahatchee florida.  a gated community, vultures & alligators & tales from the hurricane flood there. three large protective dogs in the yard offering coconuts,  a separate kitchen patio for cooking indian food with spices, wide open space filled with trophies, intricate furniture, framed images of Jesus in each room, a garland of flowers adorning photos of deceased loved ones, peaceful, loving, quiet.

a sleepless night anticipating my first underwater shoot, lying in bed visualizing feeling safe in the water. warnings of sharks, barracuda, stingrays, manatee laws warning me not to ‘molest the manatees’ and various other doom vibes sent my belly into flip-flop spins… and me into a fight with myself. pre-dawn skulking to the living room to set up my gear. cleaning the lens, reading my camera manual hours before the shoot, silica gel packets to absorb moisture in the waterproof housing, fastening the lens mount securely with the housing, batteries charged, a silent prayer and a tightening of the screws.

waiting anxiously for the sky to churn and the day to begin. steph couldn’t swim so kayla offered to assist for the day instead. a fearless woman with a passion for photography. our mermaid, sirenia solaris, arrived adorned in seashells, starfish, netting and a tail taking up most of the backseat. we drove to lake worth inlet where she flopped worm-like on the sand towards the shore. my hair, tied back into braids, river shoes, snorkel gear, kayla on reflector.

the water was cold, my heart racing, hovering my baby, ‘mad max’, my canon 5D mark III with 24-105mm lens over the water. it felt wrong to plunge it beneath the waves, but i did it… and then promptly held it up to the sun to check for leaks. a new harrowing experience. i bit down hard on my breathing tube, pushed my mask to my face, took a breath and went under the water, instantly disorientented. so much to juggle. the inconvenience of having to breathe, the water seeping into my mask, the strong current pulling us towards a bridge. not to mention actually directing the shoot, cuing my assistant with a 5-in-1 reflector in the water.

but i looked up and my mermaid was celebrating dolphin-esque in her ocean world. the panic stopped. i coughed up some water, pressed harder on my mask, closed my eyes, undine thoughts, a quiet growing inside me, ‘trust’ being my mantra, trust the ocean, trust my camera… and then like a piercing laser, my mermaid came into view, a rush, a guessing and a click… and then another, and resurface for words exchanged and then back down, quiet:quiet, the hawk-like searching for my mermaid, willing her to be still, serene, for her to want me to find her by thought alone. i had no clue if anything was in focus, exposed correctly, composed in frame at all. i just followed blips of light and hoped for the best. the distant echo of my shutter release was in a fury…and then it was over.

my first underwater image

we sat shivering on the beach. i wanted more. her eyes were bloodshot. there would be no more. just a taste, just the beginning of a new genre coming to claim me. in the shadow of the bridge i freed max max from his housing, completely dry. we all gasped as we reviewed the images. ethereal, unreal. we all just smiled sitting in the sun trying to warm up, apparently getting sunburnt in the process. back to steph’s jungle safari home to wash away the salt.  and there it was, bright red skin on my back. steph tore off some aloe leaves from plants in her yard. her and kayla were quick to apply it, concerned glances. ‘guys, this is way above and beyond the call of assistant-hood’ such caring, i adored them.

sirenia drove me two hours south to palmetto bay. i set up my studio in the living room of portia’s home, from belly motions. tribal dancers, classic egyptian dancers, fitness, zumba, fit bodies. make up and hair artists arrived, the lady gaga was flowing and everything turned fabulousssss. studio shoots brought me back into my comfort zone, back to my element. recovering alone on the floor between shoots, pacing my energy, late nights sharing stories with portia, a like-minded strong business woman, a gorgeous home. i slept in her decadent bed with flowing orange scallops and tropical wood.

steph came to collect me a few days later, drove me to palm beach where i shot her in a gorgeous bollywood costume in an old gothic church. she had the most amazing henna on her hands and it was one of the most elegant dancer shoots i’ve ever done. a courtyard, a garden, archways, bougainvillea. it was a day of superlatives.

Steph

we had lunch in a perfect french cafe, then a drive to spanish river park in boca raton where i shot a sweet family. two little blonde girls in ringlet curls running on the beach. i chased them instigating games, retreating into the most childlike part of myself, joyous, silly. the wind was strong and we all ended up covered in sand.

the next morning brought a 5 hour roadtrip to tampa. an old friend’s mother happened to be driving on the same highway in the opposite direction. i hadn’t seen her in years and our game turned successful on a flat road in the middle of nowhere. 5 minutes of laughing at how surreal it was to see each other this way…and back onto our respective journeys.

i arrived to jen’s house on a humid afternoon, my best friend for over 25 years. wine, dinners together with her sincerely amazing boyfriend Joe, horses in the neighbor’s yard behind them. i let their couch hold me captive for an entire day & played crocodiles with her 4 year old son at night. we soon made our way to the port of tampa where we boarded a cruise ship for a few days as part of a belly dance cruise.

on the cruise i played drums until my fingers turned numb, drank enough champagne to compromise a horse and ‘won’ a thumb wrestling championship complete with gloating, however unearned.  oh and i worked some too.

a whole day of roaming around cozumel, mexico. we spent most of the day at hotel barracuda. monumental sharing in a tropical wonderland. delicate palm fronds, strong breeze, a yogi in the sand, such an oasis we found.
“do you love me?” jen asks
“oh so so much! you could murder someone & I would help you bury the body, no questions asked.”

on our last night on the boat, genuine connection with carmine, kaeshi, brad, theresa & eddie. so much fun. jen’s nightly anticipation to discover which towel animal adorns our turned-down bed each night was adorable. after dinner searches for an actually HOT hot tub were in vain, so we retreated, running in bikinis back to our room, trying to stay awake past 9pm. that goliath of a ship & it’s deep slow rocking rendered me narcoleptic. i had no thoughts, just images swirling with no thoughts attached to them. out into the world they go….

autumn


10/14/12 Lake Huron, Michigan

los angeles, my eternal summerland, seems to have thinned my blood. the cold of michigan slows my movements, my thinking. i awake into heaviness, a strange illness, the dormancy of impending winter threatens to put me into a hibernation. my spine doesn’t receive the memo to cooperate until an hour after waking & even then there is twisting, pushing myself up in slow painful movements. soft beds are lumbar torture. child’s pose & stillness bring me to standing, caffeine to moving. where back at home, it is a quicker process. the warm sun beckons me outdoors in easier strokes. if i ever doubted that california was a good choice of home, michigan is the reminder.  yet still, these are rare days. important to be reminded of seasons, that rain exists, that only thru diversity can gratitude emerge.

the people i’ve met here, they keep me warm. such instant love, comfort and acceptance. i’m really enjoying all the new friends i’ve made here at Sacred Circles. The smell of pancakes in the morning, vegan cookies, log cabins, huddled under shared umbrellas, the forest a bed of pine needles and bright swirling leaves. a large yurt with a circular sky light has been my sanctuary.

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10/22/12 NYC to LA

horizon as astropop, the gradient between day and night. the further i get from nyc, the looser the grip.  while on the road i bypass my needs. quiet recovery is top priority come dawn.

there is a familiar room i visit within myself when i’m shooting. intuitive focus, a vortex in a language i alone conjure & understand. my spine ignites, a divine possession takes over. i live in other people’s thoughts and feelings… and it is growing stronger.

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chicago was an under-promoted pit stop between Michigan & NYC. downtime with Stefano, time spent with my cousin & some friends. warm autumn days, unpredictable weather. i threw leaves at the sky, rode the ferris wheel, celebrated a friend’s birthday, shot a quartet, met a 95lb woman that is a black belt, fell in love again with classical music. i slept on a firm bed in a home i am comfortable in and snuggled a kitty that i called ‘Pinball’ even though her name is Jelly.


with Stefano

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My NYC office, Bethesda Terrace
NYC shoots were the best yet. consistant inspiration, bright yellows and reds of autumn’s churning, confidence, preparation and frenzies of moments captured. spent time with friends, old and new, a 3 hour family dinner that made my heart burst and my cheeks hurt from smiling, people that i genuinely want to know beyond my dying day.

more than ever, my clients are becoming my friends… & i love that. the thinned veil, the deeper connections, watching their families & their businesses grow, all of this means we get to swirl around each other long after the shoot.

ali luminescent is the latest crossover to stir me. we walked in williamsburg at 1am in the rain, her stilts expertly balanced on the handles of her bicycle, adorned in circus embellishments, her hair & eyes glitter-kissed & radiant. i felt safe with her… as if she belongs everywhere and is never in danger. a passing stranger recognized her from winning a mermaid costume event and she humbly smiled at him. i could just watch her with popcorn, like a movie i never want to end. we had come from phoenix’s apartment, where they dangled upside down on a lyra under the watchful eyes of a dog named ‘spirit’. mugwort smoke curled in the air and i was silently in awe of these circus vixens, wishing they were my friends when i lived in nyc those many years ago…. perhaps i wouldn’t have left, if i had found people that reflected the river i was craving…

in the time between shoots at bethesda terrace in central park, when i was alone, i felt Jeniviva near me for the second time since her passing last year. shoulder to shoulder, looking out at the fountain. throughout the day, awaiting dancers, i expected her to arrive any second to play with me.  such a loss… one that i have not accepted… i have pictures that capture her true essence…

i never want to make another memorial video ever again like that, screaming at a computer screen at 3am… but the truth is, i will… clients turned friends that come to be captured year after year will one day pass on… it is part of my job to keep their memory alive. i am entrusted silently to do this…  for their families….  it is part of my grieving process as well.

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at night i would return late to daniel and shien’s apartment, a fancy new building right on the water in williamsburg brooklyn. we sat on the rug and played with the ever-shedding & talkative kitty named violeta, whom i also called ‘pinball’. daniel has a thriving video business. we were goths together 20 years ago. evenings dressed in black lace & black lipstick at the Bat Cave in Manhattan, roadtrips to Salem Massachusetts, witchy photos at magickal places. that we are both doing what we loved back then makes me happy. “Yay us!” i said walking down his expansive hallway. he gave me an old camera for my growing collection…

another highlight from my time in nyc was skipping thru the streets with Brian Viglione from The Dresden Dolls after indian food, a bottle of wine hidden in his coat. we still have such a good time together, without the shows, without my camera. grateful we have remained friends in this way…

he continues to inspire me. he just produced an album for Philip Boa, an obscure artist that i adore. ‘hyperactive cracker‘ being one of my theme songs. i hooked Brian up with Sam at Projekt records a few years back and they recorded an album together. it all makes me giddy, pairing up my inspirations with each other to see what comes of it.

a full day of non-stop studio shoots at the house of yes wrecked me. paired with another sleep deprived evening brings me to today, a morning of shooting a dancer wearing antlers in fort greene park and a mad rush to the airport. a suitcase with a busted lock, rude TSA people, flight delays,  screaming babies, crowds of oblivious and impatient people, i crumbled and sat in the corner with my bear hood over my tearful face, throwing daggers at the city outside the window…

time to leave, it always happens… los angeles, i never want to leave, always with reluctancy… and now i don’t have to, for the entire winter!  i’ll be home until february now. i can’t quite let that information in just yet though. i’m curled up on a plane, delirious and tracing brady’s lips on the window pane. a desperation sets in, to see him, to hold his hand, to be safe… his love is a magnet that brings me home…

limitless in forests

9/26 HoopCamp, Watsonville, California

A field of hoopers in golden light. An echoing voice repeating the word “OPEN!” Ascending energy, rapid. Bunkbeds with new friends, a slumber party. The friendliest people I have yet to meet. Many encouraged me to set my camera aside & pick up a hoop. I just might. This group of people make me feel invinsible, welcome, encouraged…open.

9/27

Coffee warm in my hand, squinting at the rising sun through still goliaths, rushing water, birdsong. This morning I rolled out from a bunkbed and into a new day with the kindest people. Heartfelt “Good Morning”s as we gathered like fireflies in the middle of the forest for a 7am yoga class. Sun salutations brought awe as I stretched up and back, taking in the towering redwood trees against the changing sky. These trees are wise protectors, old as time. Soon the familiar body buzz of a deeper place opened up inside me. I am with like-minded empowered people. I feel stronger here in the forest, limitless….

farm wedding

Bronwen & Lou
9/24/12 – Virginia

River walking hand in hand with little Nixy. Her small hand wrapped tightly around my pointer finger. We built sandcastles on a sandy embankment. I scooped the earth. She filled up a boot with water, depositing it into the moat I made to protect her castle. Frustration as the water soaks back into the soil. ‘Nothing in nature stays… ’ I whispered to her. Just then Fionna appears, blonde ringlet hair, cherub face, and then Savannah bounces over. I find myself thigh deep in naked toddlers. We all begin to build a village of castles, complete with alligators for the moats, flags & circles of rocks. Savannah tugs on my hand and says we should decorate our castles with gold, tells me to press the mud between my hands to find it. I think it’s a game until I actually do it and notice the glitter flecks in the soil, squealing in wonder “Wow, it IS gold!” and so we adorned our castles in gold… until Nixy got boot crazy with the moats and drowned out the village.

Fionna & her mother wandered back to the circus tent, thinking it best to continue helping set up for the wedding. I steered the children back. Savannah sweetly protested, asking me to walk further down the river with her. All my adult excuses rear up. “I’ll get my pants wet.” She smiles, chin up, waiting. “There are bugs & besides the river is high today and….” “It’s…just waterrrr” she sings, “You know you want tooooo…” and she was right. and so we walked on in the river some more… eventually emerging filthy and content, as if from a secret world.

The next day’s groom, Nixy’s father Lou reminded me that I’m not a babysitter. But I truly want to know Nixy. I want to share and grow with this family, drawn to them years ago. There’s just something that happens when you witness someone enter this world. I want to capture her growing up, even if on a yearly visit, perhaps eventually shoot her wedding as well. I experience family life vicariously thru this family and others throughout my travels. Bronwen, the bride, was a belly dance client years ago, then a friend sharing intimate stories of life’s changes. Then one day when I was in Washington DC with a day off she asked me to come to the hospital and I witnessed their souls multiply into a Nixy.

Their wedding day was a beautiful community event. Friends & family converged on the family farm in Rocky Mount, VA. Pigs were slaughtered & roasted in the smoker. Everyone brought food & drink, decorations for the blessing tree, antique keys, poems, the ashes of her father. I was adamant about time alone, just the 3 of us to capture their love without distraction. Magick moments I had in my head for months already, a scavenger hunt for perfect light to bring them to this reality. Barns, chicken coops, aged wood.

The familiar focused frenzy took flight inside me & I spent the remainder of the event hovering slightly above my body, unable to hold a conversation. My eyes felt neon & voracious. I was a fishing net thrown wide to reel in the salamanders of memory. I was existing in their love… The posed portraits ended, the ceremony began. The audience on hay bales. The blessing tree radiant in the golden light of sunset. Nixy walked down the aisle, straight to a hidden part of the tree and unexpectedly released her grandfather’s ashes. Many tears flowed…

Dusk descended and I found myself spinning in a field with my sister-in-law, Crys who drove 8 hours to spend time together. So great to see her, sister energy and sharing. She helped harness the light during portraits using my reflector.

Nighttime came and a parade of fire performers ignited the field, spinning their love for their troupe leaders. Mohawked men in corsets, top hats, feathers, everclear on tap, the evening took on a Burning Man element. Raucous celebration, tents, flasks, shifting temperatures, fire, candles, bass vibrating the ground, a world into itself.

Midnight neared and I felt myself fading. Crys handed me a water bottle in the hotel room and I sucked it down without stopping, throwing it across the room laughing. I laid there vibrating, unable to sleep until all the photos were safely uploaded. Crys tucked me in… We had breakfast the following day & she hit the road.

Once alone, the faerie mallet descended from the clouds and spanked me hard, one swift stroke & I realized that I was in pain and depleted. I lay on the floor for 9 hours, my back an unhappy child, my voice hoarse, my spirit recovering. I was useless.

Today I went back to the farm to soak up more time together. A skeleton crew of friends remained. Where yesterday was summertime with humidity & sweat, today was instant autumn with jackets & cool air. The mismatched Victorian dishes laid out, hugs and plans to see each other soon.

“Each time I see you, you feel more and more like family…” Bronwen said at the airport… My heart flickered vibrant fireflies around her eyes & we separate once more. Her to her family… & me to unearth the pearls captured in my magic box.

 

Adventures in Costa Rica

7/28/12 – Arenal

i have yet to witness the top of the volcano, shrouded in mist since our arrival. diagonal slopes of lush tropical vegetation, cows, horses & one lone yellow house on a distant ridge. for lunch, tilapia caught that day from the lake in the distance. huge black butterflies like floating paper, whipping rain that pounds against the windows of our love cabin, #11 with the perpetual ‘no molestar’ (do not disturb) sign secured to the door. this is the disconnect i’ve craved. cell phone all but forgotten in the safety of the deposit box, adventure beckoning us out of our cabin. the landscape begs us to dive in… & so we do.

yesterday began at 7am with a plate of the richest local fruits…. mangoes, papaya, plantain. we soon found ourselves at the beginning to a path leading into the rainforest. torrents of rain brought on fits of laughter as we secured our rain ponchos, seemingly preparing for war with the elements. i opted for rain pants (my fathers voice in my head instigating caution) & was glad i did. buckets of incessant streaming humid necessity poured over us.

my hood over my braided Bjork bun-ponytails created a fountain of rain water. i often stretched out my tongue to taste it, pura vida, the mantra in my head. ‘pure life’ what they wish for each other here. ‘pura vida’ as a greeting, a blessing. to me, a battlecry.

first step onto a hanging bridge. steel cable bridge that rocks side to side under foot & thin fencing as feigned security above the forest floor. ‘look for sloths!’ brady’s voice behind me as my fear of heights reared up. my feet go from bouncy to molasses & i hinge at the waist, grasping for the edges, as we near the middle of the highest hanging bridge. ‘sloths, yes’ i say to myself and scan the canopy, joining in to trick my monkey mind, releasing my hesitation born of fear. none to be found, my elusive friends. in Spanish, they call them ‘lazy’ & i feel quick to defend, despite never having met one.

ivonne, our guide, stopped at a fallen tree, explaining how in other countries it’s easy to tell the age of the tree based on rings, formed by seasons. here in the rainforest of costa rica, there is only one season, rainy & humid…. with a side of rainy & humid…. so no rings in the wood to show its age.

we walked on thru the steaming tropical wonderment, coming upon thick nests of large spiders poised in wait. ivonne somehow found a discarded remnant of a caterpillar morphing inside of a dry hold in the wood, a ripe cocoon, one wing bursting. the definition of metamorphosis, protection of ascension. i took note to preserve similar lessons within myself.

suddenly she stopped, shone a green laser on an eyelash pit viper, told us how most snakes with triangular heads are dangerous. didn’t have to tell me twice to avoid that one, coiled & livid…. & then brady started running and sliding on the bridges…. & i fell in love all over again. this man is fearless, standing for all but common sense, whimsically sliding on bridges a mile from the forest floor, my crazy clown.

we next journey to La Fortuna Waterfall, 500 steep steps down. my knees cracked & protested, distracted by blankets of moss & mushrooms that looked like burnt pizza pie, pulled by the curiosity of unseen rushing water, intrigued by the celebration & strength we were not yet privy to. & suddenly through the break in the trees, we were able to see a hint of it. a majestic rushing tide at the base, we bore witness to the full thunderous spectrum. the water pummeling so hard that there were warnings of being sucked under if you swam anywhere near it. the pounding mist of gravity was inspiring, humbling. i felt an amoeba on the thumbnail of God staring at this waterfall.

in the parking lot, ivonne thrust binoculars at me, showing us the nests of tiger herons, bulbous swinging homes hanging from windy branches, filled with the hair of animals to keep their babies safe.

we had lunch, then traveled to the volcano. we entered a path of giant cane towering above us, all one plant as far as the eye could see, bending in the wind. lava & ash underfoot. ivonne started poking plants. they retreated under her touch. my eyes went wide. it was psychedelic, unreal. she is like the nature whisperer to me, full of knowledge & random facts. i poke plants in wonder & force myself to walk on, glancing over my shoulder to make sure they recover.

ivonne starts digging into a muddy ball near near a dead tree, scraping tiny insects onto her palm. they are termites, full of protein. ‘taste them’ she says. brady throws one onto his tongue. i stare into the eyes of one termite. we both tilt our heads. i pluck it from its already disillusioned reality and sacrifice it in the name of experience. ‘minty!’ my conclusion & brady freaks spellbound that i actually did it. we smack hi-5 & continue on the trial giggling how we ‘totally ate termites in the rainforest’.

then like a dream the landscape changes. ivonne tells us it is because the lava explosion of 1968 avoided this part of the forest. we were in giant cane & then suddenly in the familiar diversity of rainforest jungle. spiders, reptiles, snakes & ferns. then we ascent steep black volcano rocks. the sky threatens us and then fully unloads its full torrential wrath. i throw my hood back, standing on cooled magma screaming with arms to sky “PURA VIDA!!” i feel it now, the pure life connecting. it is a place of acceptance & recovery through wonder. i slip a small volcanic rock into my pocket to remind me of this. black corral offerings of transformation, all born of pressure & heat.

we are then dropped off at Baldi Hot Springs. racing up to the water slides, challenging the waterproof housing of my flipcam. brady throws himself head first into the fastest slide, hilariously recording as he spins chaotic & bangs his head in the dark tunnel twisting cave that deposits him into bubbling healing water. there are many caves & waterfalls that we explore, some complete with ‘jaws’ theme song. we search for the hottest pool, settling into bliss as dusk descends, holding hands under water, eyes closed. “happy birthday, brady…”

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MONTEZUMA

electric flickers over the ocean as cobalt dusk morphs into a stormy abyss. the ocean swells and clashes like rams in battle. a storm is approaching slowly & i am wide-eyed, living in this tension, milky sky of secrets, willing it to come closer, to overcome me, to live in summer’s wrath….

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drifting in a floating hammock on a cloudless day. i am in pure bliss, in want of nothing. replicas of mayan statues, mouths agape as if to shriek ancient songs, luscious ferns, red bark, tiny orchids like tongues fall onto my chest, bright fuschia aching towards the sun.

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vultures with wide static wingspans cresting, riding the wind. howler monkeys rustle in the jungle nearby and bellow like dinosaurs.

the ultimate relaxation. i dare say, bliss. bright soft beach, powerful waves, butterflies chasing after each other, some flying solo swirling like childhood helicopters from trees, only to rise up mysterious and float frantically away. waterfall or beach, our most difficult afternoon decision, opting instead for chocolate, wine & bed…

on the streets of this small beach town artists sell their handmade jewelry & art from on top of their worn cars. dogs, happy but hot, lie under tables. they seem to belong to everyone. live serene music at night & the town drunk incessantly babbling to no one in particular.

our love cabin is perched on a hill overlooking the sea. a round circular cave with stones and rich wood, tall ceilings, lizards silently scamper by on windows defying gravity. today we wandered past the waterfall trailhead and found our own private beach… such beauty here.