une femme debout

I go to the gym, play songs on YouTube and often pick random songs just to see if I like them. I’ve been listening to a lot of French music these days…I’m just simply in love with the language. I’ve been studying it on my own then took classes at Cornell. It’s much easier when you already know Spanish! The grammar makes sense, except for a few things, but I’m not getting into it right now. What I really want to get into is this song, a song that yanked my attention to the singer’s voice, the emotion, the melody, the things he was saying, although I still can’t understand it all, and on the first round I couldn’t understand anything, but I kept playing it, obsessed with what he must be saying. 

Finally after two days of this I was in the kitchen doing guess what? –fermenting, of course–when I stopped and pulled up the lyrics. I can see why it’s so emotional. Now I want to go to Europe and reach out with love to all the immigrants and refugees who have no place to go and are left homeless. Every time I listen to that song, my heart goes out to them, and I haven’t stopped listening to it for days. I’m already halfway through the process of learning to sing it! For a non-native French speaker, it is quite a tongue-twister!

Then one day I realized this song was also for AJ. And I know now why I’m so in love with it. AJ, who never stops fighting for life and always falls into pits where he wants to abandonner. He has been ready to let go of life so many times. No pain medicine works for him except the highest doses of opioids, and if you haven’t heard yet, they are addictive. But he is a giant of a man and not even that does the job, so he is always enduring spouts of withdrawals.

How do you expect someone to hold onto life when they can’t move the bottom half of their body, the damaged nerves are always shooting pain through his extremities, his back and into his bones, while the withdrawals from pain meds throw him into a darkness which can be compared to withdrawing from heroin. Add to that the severe migraines that pile up, and the fact that he can hardly leave his room and rarely sees daylight.

Me and his mom are his lifeline, and it takes all we can give to keep him alive. I am very happy that he likes kambucha and the fermented cabbage I’ve been making! He has been having stomach issues and this has been helping him. Thank goodness. Giant sigh of relief.

When I realized this song was for AJ, I realized I had to learn to sing it. Tongue-twister or not. And then I realized it was also about me, and my days when it was so hard to fight for life and I was always borderline homeless and depending on family to keep me alive…

And the song – https://youtu.be/Y9GCM9DZUJo – Claudio Capéo, Un Homme Debout.

 

 

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all things fermented

The Art of FermentationThe latest passion of my life is fermenting foods. This new love totally took me by surprise! I was at my friend Devon’s house, having stopped by for a quick hello and good-bye. I was in Ithaca moving out of the famous Cascadilla Street project house. This house where I lived so much, painted so much, had so many parties, and so much more than I can write at this moment. It was a place where my years and adventures were packed in, filling every crook and cranny. Having been away for almost a year, I had driven across the country to move out, which was much harder work than I had anticipated!

I couldn’t muster the energy to care what I looked like. Full of sweat, in a tank-top, shorts and flip-flops, with my hair however crazy (I did not look in the mirror), dirt on my legs and chemicals all over me, I went to my friend’s house to say my quick hello and to pass on to him my most beloved altar. That moment was like a meteor in the sky. It was so happy and so fleeting, and I went away converted to a new religion. It completely snuck up on me! All he did is have me taste some leafy vegetable looking thing that was packed in a small mason jar. What was it? I wondered. He wouldn’t tell me. I was brave, I tasted. OMG. It was delicious. Then when I learned what it was–radish! My entire paradigm shifted.

So radish is one of my least favorite foods in the world. I hated it since I was a kid, and have stayed far away from it as an adult. The stuff in the jar was not radish, it was fermented radish. It was dark forest green, had a very deep flavor, full of all kinds of textures and nuances, kind of like seaweed, and I love seaweed.

The fact that my most hated thing could be transformed into my now most loved thing is what got me. All it took was fermenting it.

As we sipped our local craft beers and washed and cut vegetables, Dev told me stories about all the things that can be fermented and the things that he had been trying. I listened in awe, I felt like a child in a chocolate factory. I could not wait to come back home and tell Steph all about it. I couldn’t wait to get started!

There’s a book you have to get, he said. I’ll text you the name and author.

Ok!

A week or so after having returned to Austin I felt it was time to get started, but first, I had to find the book. It’s called The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. The first place I checked was Amazon, but I wasn’t ready to spend $30-something dollars, so I looked at the used version and they were $20-something, and none of them on Prime. Then I had the bright idea to call Half Price Books. This was a small magical experience because the lady that answered the phone looked in the data base and they didn’t have it–BUT!– someone had just sold it to them and it was sitting on the counter right next to her. She told me that it was in her hand and she would save it for me. I got it for $20 and didn’t have to pay for shipping.

I started right away. I cut up sweet potatoes into tiny slices and, following Devon’s instructions, set it out to ferment. I also set out cabbage and a few days later, kambucha. I waited a few more days to see what they would be like, and when they were ready Steph ate them all in one sitting and asked for more. First trial was a success! After that I fermented a whole head of cabbage, radish (of course), spiced tea with apples, peaches, more kambucha, more sweet potatoes, tamarindo, beets and more kambucha again.

It’s hard work, but when I’m in the kitchen working on a new concoction, I am in a beautiful bubble of present moment, excited about entering this new universe and very happy I have someone to feed.

 

unbrainwashing myself

You go to an Ivy League university and forget what life used to be before the elite status ever took you by the hand and walked you through the ancient overarching doors straight into its wide domain.

The world marveled because I was there. Because I was there. Me. How is it that this person who runs off to live in the jungle, comes back to the US and refuses to adapt to society, won’t keep a job and now is at one of the most top universities of the world? The math didn’t add up, and it was thought that I must be extremely intelligent. How else would I get in?

This wasn’t the problem. The real problem was that I thought I had to do and be different than I had always been because once you enter, you can never go back. I now had to prove something to the world. I had to maintain my status and newfound worth.

Then one day I had my awakening. Actually, it was one night and it lasted all night long. I couldn’t sleep. I ached from the level of my soul. I woke up done.

Society, prestige, elite universities, public persona, my LinkedIn profile. None of it mattered, and it hasn’t begun to matter again. Facebook is the least interesting thing in the world.

Do you want to know what really is interesting? Creating a sacred space in my back yard, setting food out for the birds, making a makeshift birdbath, working on VoiceLaunch Directory. My own spiritual wholeness is what has my attention.

I remember I used to dream of things I wanted to be, people I wanted to be like, places I wanted to go to, things I wanted to have. Now I don’t even want that. I want to be here now, in this present moment, with nothing left to change.

I’m not interested in ‘being the change I want to see’ for I don’t want to see change. Life as it is is Wonderful, and we, human beings are extraordinary. We are ephemeral and timeless at the same time. Our suffering comes and it goes, and it is like that for all of us. Even if it lasts a lifetime, it still goes.

When I was in Mexico I thought I would stay there and help change things. But I couldn’t bend reality enough to make it happen. It just wasn’t happening. A series of events brought me back to Austin where I realized, wow, I am home surrounded by my family, and I don’t want to be anywhere else.  My nephew AJ is still in a wheelchair, and I’ve witnessed his suffering and spiraling into deep despair since I’ve been here. Every time he spiraled, I went with him. I sank into his hell with him.

Again, I woke up. Gabriela, your sympathetic suffering doesn’t make his pain any easier to bear. Do you want to help? Keep your focus on all things happy and wonderful. Feed the birds, create a sanctuary, go for walks asking your mind/higher self to see the truth of the situation. Don’t let the clouds deceive you.

If you ever go for walks asking to see the truth of a situation, you can go for hours before a light bulb comes on. Sometimes it doesn’t come on at all and you return home having gained nothing but a few more burnt calories. But don’t give up. Repeat the process over and over again until your light bulb comes on. The hard part is walking through all the levels of fear and doubt in yourself and the process. You can sweat from anxiety. What if its all bs, what if there is no light to come on ever? This is where you put to the test all that you believe in. Is there a God, a Universal Intelligence, a Higher Power? Is it connected with you and your life? Is it good? Is it just going to kick you aside and ignore you forever? Are you completely and totally unworthy?

It’s not that I chose to be disconnected from the world. In the light of my own awakening, it simply no longer holds sway. Fighting for relevance in the minds of other people is the worst waste of human resources that I have ever witnessed. I’d rather be present with the birds, watching them as they watch me and wonder what I’m doing. 

hello again

During my last semester at Cornell, I set my blog to private because I thought I should try to be like the rest of the world and not have my personal life all out in the open. Plus, I couldn’t remember what I wrote and had no time to go double check. I felt pressure to try to find a “real” job in some great company, so, like so many people advise, you must hide a lot of your content on social media and blogs.

Now I’m in Mexico, two months away from the “real world” and am out on my own working on a project I completely believe in. I’m betting my life on this! As for searching for a job, the energy was not flowing that direction, and I know by now that I must follow my intuition if I want life to work out well. (I’ve beat my head against a wall while trying to “make things happen” that never would so many times that I think I’ve finally learned my lesson, which means I’ve learned to follow the knowing in my soul that says “this way”.)

During this time in Mexico I have been transforming and re-awakening. I have decided that I yearn for freedom more than anything in the world, including the good opinion of all the great people who have stepped in to help me on my way. I may let a lot of people down! But I may surpass their wildest expectations, too. I sense the latter will be the case…

Meanwhile, I’ve realized that whatever I end up doing, it will be the authentic me doing it and not some constrained soul. My authentic self if playful, fun, somewhat juvenile and a complete dreamer. My authentic self speaks up passionately and also sits back to drink alcohol and talk shit with great company; it trusts god with everything and falls in love with humanity over and over again. It doesn’t give a damn about social rules and statuses, but might be polite for the sake of not rocking irrelevant boats.

I’m here to do my work, and god goes before me and behind me, and angles surround me. Who could ever hurt me? But I’m not here to challenge the powers that be, which are usually the cartels that rule the area. I’m here to do my work. I’ll lay low for as long as I need to.

What is my work? To reach into the hearts of humanity and inspire them to step into their highest potential in any way I can, given the tools I have to work with. My work is to remind people of their worth and dignity, and that they deserve to be happy; it is to see the “poor” not as poor, but as the child of god. My work is to talk, to pray, to write, to visit, to draw, paint, create new designs, come up with new ideas for business.  Doing this, my life is complete. There is nowhere I would rather be and nothing I would rather do. There is also no other person under the sun that I would prefer to be that this authentic me.

 

good-bye, my friend

Friday morning my longtime friend took her last breath.  I didn’t know of it until Sunday afternoon, when I finally returned what I thought was her call. “Hi Mist!”  but it wasn’t Misty, it was her husband.  “Hi Jesse!”. His voice was different and he thought that I already knew, but I said I hadn’t listened to the voicemail that was left. He had a hard time speaking. “Should I just listen to it and call you right back?”

“No. Let me just tell you”. He went silent. “So I’ll just tell you”. Again silence. I waited. Oh my gosh, I thought, Misty dumped him! She picked up and walked out leaving him hanging and he was flabbergasted…oh, he was calling me with her phone…I’ll just wait then…

“Misty is dead, she’s dead”.

I actually didn’t feel anything right away, it was more like dryness than sadness. But I immediately got into position of support as her new widower told me the details. I gave him advice. Not that I know anything about burials and funeral services, but I did know enough to tell him to make sure he only spoke with people that have been supportive to him in his life and those he trusted well. (They have a list of dead-beat family members who use and abuse them, betray them behind their backs, steal from them, etc. I was happy to know that he knew better than letting them come to the service.) I also told him that I wanted to be his point of contact when things weren’t going right, and when he feels overwhelmed with grief. What we both had in common was that dear, crazy, wild woman who we loved to pieces.

I didn’t know how much I loved her until a few hours later. I couldn’t help but think of all the fun times we’ve had together some 20 years before. I had just come to the US and was not only undergoing extreme culture shock, but a total identity crisis as I was faced with the new truth that all my old truths were no longer acceptable. My dad was never some great prophet and all I held dear was now, let’s say, must not be mentioned out loud.

Misty offered all kinds of dreams available to be had for she was suing the city and state for some outrageous sum because a drunk cop ran over her with his police car and now she wobbles around with metal instead of bones in her legs. She wasn’t the light at the end of my tunnel, she was the light in my tunnel. She made walking through it bearable. We did crazy adventures and talked about buying mansions. We went house shopping. I was going to live in this big great house with her and study music. One day I took my beat-up car which I had purchased for $300, to rescue her from an abusive boyfriend. He would be away for at least an hour, which was a rare case because he watched her day and night like a prisoner. She called me when I was at work and said, “Come pick me up right now!”. I told my supervisor I had an emergency and was off to the rescue. It was scary! We threw a few things into a couple of duffel bags and then drove straight to the Greyhound station. But instead of sending her off, we both got the crazy idea that I should go with her all the way to Vegas and stay there for a few days. We would find some shabby hotel, gamble, then she would head north and I would return to Phoenix. And, just as we planned, I hopped on the bus with her that night, but upon arriving to Vegas we found that there was not a room to be had because some convention was going on and everyone on the western hemisphere was there. We ended up staying in some shabby motel with a single slot machine in its damp and stinky lobby. I have no idea how it happened, but my adventure partner had winning karma and loved to gamble! She would go to places outside of Phoenix and come home with a few more hundred dollars than she left with. Every time I tried it, I lost everything I had on my and everything that was loaned to me! Well, true to her karma, that single, wobbly slot machine spat out tokens worth $20. No big deal for most, but for us, it meant lunch money.

Then she introduced me to The Strip. What a fabulous place of bright lights, tall towers, crowds impossible to get past, and water emerging from the ground dancing to some beautiful tune. We pushed our way through the masses because Misty was adamant and unafraid. I, much more sheepish at the time, followed behind obediently. Then we came into a casino which seemed to have millions of machines and tables and lights and waiters offering drinks, all fancy and fabulous, but Misty looked directly forward and walked straight over to a machine and started playing. How was it that within a few hours she had $400!?

It was about a two years span that we were partners in crime, in which she was the leader and I was the puppy.

Over the following 15 years we were in and out of contact with one another. She seemed to always be moving, losing my cell phone number, and changing husbands. A couple of her former husbands were serving time. I couldn’t keep up with her, since my own life storms were claiming every piece of mental and emotional space I had. We would fall out of touch. Every now and then I would think of her, pray for her, really hope she was ok, then dropped off again. Time would pass.

Then one day I would get a phone call from her, and she would fill me in on all that had happened since we last spoke. It was always something like, I got married again, I moved to a new state, I’m in this new fabulous house and am feeling great. We would stay in contact for a few weeks then drop off again. I tried to call her in some of these interludes but her numbers were never working. Then one day she called again after several years of being off the map somewhere. She had a new housemate, was very happy, life was good. Dr. D, the one whose skill saved her life after she was run over, was wonderful. Through all of this, Dr. D was her hero. Then a new storm hit, something bad would always happen, and the constant pain she lived in was unbearable to her.

I had never met someone so wild, who had endured so much pain, yet so committed to being happy and having a wonderful time with a drink on some porch. She inspired me to actually live. Then one day she met Mr. Wonderful (Jesse) and her life finally became good. Over all these years I had only been able to visit her about three or four times, and the last time was about three years ago in Arizona. I stayed the night at their house and witnessed with my own eyes what a great man he was to her. I felt still and satisfied. Her life only kept getting better.

Then they moved to some beach town in Texas, and I had in my mind that I would go visit. I would sit on the porch with them, have some drinks and a cigarette, chat about random stuff and not care that they are Trump supporters. The only thing that mattered to me was that Misty was happy, and she had a devoted man taking care of her.

I will never get to go to that beach and have those drinks with them. All the un-lived adventures will remain that way, un-lived, but still thought up.  They are like alive trees suddenly petrifying, but not going away. There is a corner of the universe where those adventures still need someone to live them! That was supposed to be us.

What I am most deeply sorry for is the last time she called me was to congratulate me for graduating, but I got off the phone fast because I was watching a movie with my sisters. I said I would call the next day, but didn’t. Days past and I was kept busy by my family, then I got sick…

I was so excited for her to be calling me though! I returned her call and it wasn’t her, it was the sad news. Now I will never be able to talk to her again…unless I learn how to talk to spirits, of course (never rule anything out!).

All this time I had no idea how much I actually did love her. It sank in and I cried for days.

My crazy, wild, completely untamable friend Misty, I will see you again ♥

Angel of love

A kid named Angel was found dead in his dorm yesterday morning.  He was Latino, LGBTQ+, about to graduate. I hear of people dying all the time on the news, and I think ‘so sad’, but this one feels like my own personal loss even though it was someone I never met. I feel like I lost someone that I, myself knew and loved deeply, deeply, deeply. I feel such a beautiful soul is no longer with us, and it has me in and out of waves of grief coming from who knows where.

The service in Sage Chapel filled with people, his family, students, people that knew him, people whose lives were changed by him. Apparently, he walked on water. He was someone that filled everyone else with love, made them feel better about themselves when they were beaten down. But no one ever know how Angel was doing…

People like this come to plant dynamite in the heart of the world; their departure is the explosion, breaking apart all hardened surfaces, making sure they never close again. We bleed forever now. People like this make those who are strangers to them feel shock waves of sadness, and show up to cry with others, and listen to stories of their wonderfulness and beauty and ponder on the world.

I wasn’t the only person in the church who never met that kid.

This event has me pondering more…it’s not true that all we need is love. What we really need to to de-numb, to stand up, and to never let people stay alone, never again. We are our brothers’ keepers, after all. And our sisters’.

 

what’s the temperature?

Hot.

The veins of the land of free are bursting from rage

Don't tread on me! yells the oppressed in the streets

The fat monster laughs, gloats, 'I got my way'

Hyenas laugh in succession

But the oppressed don't stand alone

Not this time

Not anymore

Not ever again

Today there are lions ready to tear

this dark reality apart

And waking dragons whose fire

has been held down for way too long…

We're ready to fight

We've waited for this our whole lives

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