Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It Is Time.

This past year has been right on track:  still piecing life together in a way that makes sense to my heart, and feeling my way through memories and situations and allowing the healing process to return, over and over again.  There is so much love in this world.  

It is time!  We take the next step because the steps were already there for us.  They always are.  We can dance blindly around that first step for our entire lives, or we can just acknowledge the fact that it's there.  You might have to trip over it a couple of times before you finally see it, but it's there.  I saw my path all lit up and shining when I was in Australia last summer.  I felt the pulse of a small community on the Gold Coast of Aussie called "Byron Bay."  I felt the people moving together, enjoying life, taking care of the ocean, the whales, the beauty of this planet.  I felt them taking responsibility for their time here.  I know this happens all over the planet, all the time.  But for me, until I feel something, I just "know" it, and I can't move from knowing, I have to move from feeling.  And I felt myself move out there.  I felt it when I saw the whales breaching.  I felt it when Kevin, Maggie and I watched the moon rise over the water at night.  I felt it when I saw, for the first time, a lighthouse, at the end of the shore, with its bright light searching each night for lost ships.  I felt movement, and life's fleeting dance.  I watched Aussies roam around town barefoot.  I watched as my graceful hostess, Maggie, picked up hitchhikers whom she knew, and took them across town, and dropped them off ~ simply because they needed a ride.  That's the Byron Bay way.  They help each other.  They don't judge because they don't put their energy towards judging.  They'd rather be planting gardens, swimming, laughing, eating wholesome food.  They don't live in as much fear as I have known over the years.  I felt movement.  I saw that first step right in front of my feet. 

It's scary to see those steps sometimes.  I've enjoyed dancing around mine over the last few years.  I've loved the path I chose, to teach yoga and paint.  To live in Wimberley and make face and body sprays because I got tired of chemicals and "junk" being put in my body everyday.  To enjoy the community of people here, watching the ebb and flow of life, the creek, my own heart.  But when I returned home from Australia, a seed was planted.  I knew I had to open a yoga studio in the town where I was raised.  I knew I had to find a way to do that, even though I had no idea how.  I knew I had to do this because it wasn't about me at all.  It was the next step I had to take in order to help us trust the process of life, of finding our next step, of taking care of each other and our community.  It had always been there. 

The pieces came together so fast.  We couldn't have done it without the community coming together to make it happen.  My best, oldest friend, Jody Jennings Doss, and I decided to partner and open "Red Dawg Hot Yoga" and nothing has felt so RIGHT in my entire life.  I'm grateful to so many people for helping us through this process.  So many yoga instructors along the way have given me advice, and helped me make the bigger decisions on where to spend money.  Cary Byrd designed our website!!  Cary is married to my ex-husband's little sister, and to have their support was so beautiful for me.  Connections are not severed when a marriage ends.  Love is always there.  And we have amazing teachers with diverse backgrounds in yoga training and teaching.  Now we all have a place where we can teach and practice, in an open environment, where we can explore and grow.

My heart is full.  And I feel my roots dancing.  I can't wait to reach a lot of people in our community with this healing hot yoga that has become my greatest love.  I can't wait to watch them experience joy from opening their spines, their shoulders, and their hearts.  And I can't wait to watch the ripple effect it always creates.

We open May 1st. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The A-Team! Let the adventures begin.

It's Sunday morning, and I'm tucked away in the hill country, surrounded by cedar trees in Wimberley, Texas.   It was one of those record cedar seasons for me.  It was so intense there for awhile that I committed to spending at least half of my time, and all of my time during cedar season, down at the Gulf Coast.  I'm happy to report I'll be painting palm trees next Christmas and through January.  It's a shift I've been wanting for years,  so I'm actually thankful the cedar pollen drove me a little mad this year. 
I'm lining up painting lessons, living in an Airstream for awhile, and fishing from piers and kayaks.

Welcome back to the chicken coop!

I haven't been on the blog since last summer, and I've really missed it.  I'm feeling the need to restart by backing up before I blast forward into what I am convinced will be my best year so far...

My chicken coop.  I started this blog so I could have a place to write about my chickens, my teachers, the different personalities that make up "Jamie." They are the voices in my head, and they bark orders at me, sending me in many different directions, almost daily. It hit me as I was standing in my kitchen about 6 years ago, compulsively cleaning, that I was exhausted from simply being Jamie.

So I stood there and yelled, "It's like I have a bunch of chickens running around in my brain arguing over what I should do next! They're not that smart either!!" And there it was. I had the realization that there might be more to me than just my thoughts. And I might be able to find an easier ride if I learned more about my own thought process, and how to keep those chickens calm and quiet when I needed some peace.

"Your heart has a voice. Listen to it."  This one stuck with me years ago.  I think it belongs to Rumi, but I remember thinking "Really?? Wonder what mine would say if I could keep my head quiet long enough to hear it?" I didn't feel I had a choice anymore.  What was going on in my head everyday wasn't productive or helpful. It was getting louder and more crowded up there, and I was craving some kind of mental rest.  It was then that I started calling my brain the "chicken coop." And it was then that I started naming those chickens, giving them their own identities, so I could sort out what was happening in my brain, and most importantly, detach from it.

So here's a recap.  These are my Stars.  More come out every now and then, but this is the A-Team:

Grace:  Codependent little Grace. My "inner child," and I love Grace so much that I call her Grace. She is me, after all.   We're growing up together, so that she can enjoy life as I age. She ran my life for many years, stepping in and out of the driver's seat in my brain. When she is the one in charge, I know because I start to feel really needy, insecure, and child like.  Grace doesn't like to be alone, but I do, so we compromise a lot.  I have lived in Grace for so many years, that I hardly noticed when I would switch back and forth. Now I see her when I make decisions from that child-like place in my mind. I also see her when she gets her feelings hurt, and that happens easily because she is a child. I have to give Grace lots of love, and I hold her hand a lot. She can also throw quite the temper tantrum, and she is hardly graceful in those moments.  But again, we're growing.  Awareness of Grace has been totally freeing for me.

Patty: My inner-addict. Patty poked her head out while I was in high school.  Finding alcohol and drugs was a perfect remedy for my awkward, shy, insecure little girl trying to match up to my idea of what "cool" was.  Patty gave Grace a solution here.  And she was on a fast track.  She is one of my greatest teachers. She led me close to death, so that I could see.  My heart stepped in here and told her "No thanks. Go back to your room until I figure out what to do with you, Patty." She used to like anything that altered her state of mind, but in her golden years, she just prefers to put the cork on the wine much sooner than she used to, as opposed to forcing the cork on the wine, or throwing out the wine, or blaming the wine, or whining about the wine. Patty loves drama, and she is a master at creating it when she's unleashed or bored.  She spent lots of time at center stage. Now she's in the background, prancing back and forth in her heels that don't fit right, wearing too much makeup, with a cigarette dangling from her beak, and a glass of wine sloshing around in her tiny chicken hand. She's tragically hysterical.   

Hank: He's my musical chicken. And I'm not sure why he's a guy, that's just how I saw him. He loves music, and spends hours with tiny headphones on, building play lists and shuffling songs around, adding new ones, deleting old ones as his tastes change. There's always a song in Hank's head - and we all smile really big when Hank nails us with just the right song for the moment.  He showed up when I was a child, and was fascinated with 8-track tapes in the mid seventies, then promoted himself to making mix cassette tapes in the 80's, eventually leaving me with book after book of cds, because he spent hours taking the sleeves out and creating them.  They were more precious to Hank that any photo album I had.  But with the creation of I-Tunes, he dropped his beloved cd books for his own personal library of any song he can think of, adding them at any time.

Octavia: She's my yoga chicken. Yoga certainly lives in my heart, too, but it started in my head, after seeing this graceful, older woman on the beach in Tulum, Mexico, in "tree pose."  She was looking peacefully out at the ocean with her dogs sitting on either side of her mat.  I knew in that moment, that I was going to experience what yoga might do for me.  I have to watch out for Octavia because she can get obsessive with the amount of yoga she's doing, how far she can take a posture, or how many classes she can teach each week. I can easily overdo anything - even something originally intended to lead me to stillness and peacefulness. Octavia took me to Bikram Yoga training. She was named there, too. She's newer to the group, and I have so much fun with her. But she'll do so much yoga, if I let her, that I'm too tired to even shower. For two or three days.

Lil' B: She's my cleaner, my organizer, my purger, my obsessive compulsive little chicken. She's actually smaller than the rest, and has tiny biceps because she moves around a lot. She's happiest when she's in motion. She likes to rearrange furniture and the contents of the refrigerator or the medicine cabinet. She likes to clean out closets and drawers, and throw things out. Purging makes her purr. She wears a headband so her short chicken hair doesn't get in her way. She wears a tiny Ipod on her arm so she can listen to music while she cleans. She loves to sweep, do laundry, clean dishes, scrub floors, set out fresh flowers and table cloths. She's Lil' B, named after my mom, Betty. I love what I got from my mom. I love Lil' B. She can be challenging when I want to be in creative mode, but can't seem to stop cleaning the paint off the easel, trays and jars before I'll allow myself to actually start painting. But damn my house is always clean, so I appreciate Lil' B. And because Lil' B is also my obsessive compulsive chicken, I also think she can be a bit of a misguided over-achiever.

Ruthie: The painter. She wears scarves in her hair. She prefers my feet to be bare, so that I can feel the surface of what I'm standing on.  She trusts the creative side of life way more than the analytical. She is wise. She is spunky. She paints what she feels in the moment. She could care less about text messages, FaceBook, phone calls, who's doing what... she loses herself in her art. I love Ruthie. SHE'S FREE. She shows me things in her paintings. She heals me through the act of painting water and sky. She shows me that there is a God, that I am really not in control of anything, and that I can go with the flow that is my life. She lives in the moment.  She is my middle name. She is one part of me I am choosing to live from more often, because I do believe we have that choice. I sign all of my paintings "Jamie Ruth," in honor of Ruthie. Thanks, Ruthie. I'm so glad you're here with me.

Tomahawk: I'd call him a Rooster but I refuse to give him that kind of power. He was appropriately named by an ex-boyfriend who saw first hand, and many times, the wrath of Tomahawk. It was at that turning point in my life when most of what I was doing wasn't working anymore, and I had to learn to live life differently.  He saw me at my worst, but through that, I got to meet the worst of me. And I am grateful for that.

Lots of people close to me have seen and experienced Tomahawk. Sometimes I think I was the last to see him. I've had people throughout my life walk away from me because they didn't understand this part of me. I get that now. He's my pissed off teenage boy chicken. He is my victim-chicken. The first time I saw him in my head, through meditation, he was in blood-stained bandages. He was so hurt, physically and emotionally, that he barely looked up at me from his tiny cot. And when he did, I remembered his pain. He's been hurting since my childhood. And he can seethe with so much anger, and cut through anyone with such painful words -- I've never come across anyone who could, or would want to, stand up to Tomahawk. He throws words like tiny tomahawks toward loved ones' heads and hearts. He knows these things well: how to live in survival mode. How to retreat. How to force others to leave me. How to get me to leave anyone, at any given time. He is a master of these things.  Lately, he has taken up residence in the left side of my chicken coop again. I see him leaning in a corner in the left side of my head, smoking a cigarette, bandages still in place, some of them still freshly stained with blood, some of them dried and falling off. He pridefully keeps them tacked on for the world to see.  At different times in my life, I felt he was so powerful that he wouldn't stop until I totally self destructed.  But I've been reducing him down some these past few years.  Instead of saying "Damn you, go away!" (which is exactly what he was saying to everyone else),  I'm now saying.. "Come on out and dance with me, T-Hawk."  He is one of my greatest teachers because of the pain he has caused me, and others.  Pain is a gateway, you know...

Turtle: Turtle is actually my spirit. My soul. I added her to my A-Team based on a realization I had while near the ocean once, that there is a part of me that's separate from my heart, and my chickens. She wakes up peacefully, moves slowly, breathes deeply. She has nothing to prove, doesn't want or need much, and loves to be quiet and still with and in my projects. Like Ruthie, she also loves to paint and draw. She thinks her dad hung the moon. She watches the world whiz by her at a pace she never felt drawn to keep up with. She doesn't really need anyone to feel complete. She IS complete. She's grounded, trusting, and in love with life and God. She's the low steady drum beat to the song that is me. She's as peaceful as the day she came into this world. She KNOWS. She isn't personality, frustration, or ego. She is wise because she is my soul, and it comes with a few thousand years of past experiences. She lives in the moment because she knows that's all there really is.
She lives by these words, and says them to me as often as I'll listen: All is well, no matter what is happening. Follow what inspires you. You are here to enjoy life. Live in the moment. Trust that you are a part of God, and everything is happening exactly as it should. Trust it to the point that everyday you wake up with joy in your heart. Trust it to the point that you always know where your home is, right here in the center of you, and it will be this way for eternity.

All I have to do is ask Turtle something. She always has a peaceful solution. And once I realized she was there, and accessible at all times, things got much, much easier.

My chickens prefer to dance on a wire in darkness. When engaged, they are relentless about what it is I should be doing next, doing now, not doing... I get confused easily.  I am a girl with crazy chickens in her head. I am a woman with a heart that stays as open as I will allow at any given moment. I am a woman with a soul that's as wise and steadfast as the next.

And I am willingly on that wire, sometimes yanking "Patty's" heels off, sometimes holding "Grace" up to God and asking for help, often asking Turtle for advice, and sometimes just balancing perfectly on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, watching the people dance in the street below me, swaying with soft music and gentle breezes.

All those chickens all lined up around me, wide eyed and wondering if I will jump or fall, dance or float, dream or fail. And they can't wait to talk about it all.  

We're going on some wild adventures this year.  Now that I've introduced the entire cast of chickens, we can weave some tales and watch what happens. 

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor...Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

See you soon.  Jamie

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I love Sunday mornings in this old cabin. Doors and windows are open... I can hear the water running over the dam at the creek, the geese are still resting, and birds are singing from all directions. Yesterday my mom and I day-tripped to Port Aransas. I don't remember the last time I went anywhere for very long with just my mama. We went to move my paintings, and the day just sort of kept happening... she brought homemade turkey salad sandwiches, chips and pickles, all in ziplocks for our picnic on the beach. It sent me straight back to sack lunches from childhood. She didn't buy the small bags of chips. We put everything in sandwich bags with "twisties" until the Ziplock bag was born. So the lunch she packed was enough to bring tears to my eyes. But then I got to see her, all 71 years of her, run and jump into the Gulf just like she must've done as a child. My mother, Betty Jean, born in 1940, is exactly 30 years older than me, has grey hair now and the same sparkly blue eyes. We jumped through the waves together, which is something we haven't done since I was a young girl. We walked down the beach and picked up tiny seashells because that was all we could find. We ate our lunch, laughed about the seagulls and how aggresive they've gotten, watched the waves and just sat together for awhile. I kept thanking God for that moment. I have not always been close to my mom. I haven't always understood her ways. I am a creative soul, an artist, and sometimes we feel like very different people. But not that day. I saw all of our many similarities that day, and I felt barriers melt away, barriers I didn't even know existed. Time just stopped for us out there, and we got to laugh like two best friends. We got to the island and went straight to the beach. The second she opened the car door and stood in the sand, a seagull pooped on her forehead. We had just put on sunscreen in the car, and the poop was solid white so I told her to rub it in! I took her picture. She didn't want me to share it, but I HAVE TO. Sorry, mom.

So I smiled all day, and felt the light break into my heart. And then I got to put one of my paintings in my favorite store down there, on consignment. It's called "Cita" and it's a creatively designed space with home furnishings, original art, some jewelry and clothes - all thrown together like bright colors on a canvas. It's magical. The owner, Shanna, loves my palm tree paintings on plywood. And she is carrying my hydrating face sprays I make called "SeaLight Spray!" She wants me to paint more for her store!! I actually have a client. Ha.
Lucky palms, and lucky sprays.... I don't make much money at anything I do yet, but again, I am determined to move through my life and follow things that really light up my soul. I'm in it for the long haul. And next on my path is a 5 week trip with Kevin and Dustin Welch through Santa Fe, Taos, Red River, all through Colorado, into Montana, and over to Maine for a cruise on a 100 year old sailboat.
And before I head out with a huge box of SeaLight Sprays, some colored pencils and all my tiny chickens in my head, let me say this:

I stopped teaching yoga two months ago, and rarely have I practiced since. I thought I was giving myself time to heal the neck/shoulder/hip pain I've been experiencing for months. I thought I was injured. My neck and shoulder have been popping, muscles tensing up without much relief. I had almost resigned myself to a life of pain management, without any pills. I got some x-rays a few weeks ago, and it shows that I have mild bone degeneration in some discs. It shows some minor arthritis.

I'm reconsidering how I think about and practice yoga. And with the help of a few good friends and some yoga instructors I trust, I'm doing some "physical therapy" at Still Water Studio here in Wimberley, and I'm taking that to heart. Helen has given me some hope about healing, and a few exercises and poses I can do daily on my 5 week adventure. She reminded me that I can help my body heal. She showed me how to reconnect with the smaller muscles and tendons, so that they can all relax a little and work together again.

My hope is to be closer to pain free when I return at the end of August. I look forward to teaching again, because it lights me up a little brighter than almost anything else.

See you soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hands free.

I met a woman once who had died on the table a few times and was brought back to life. She said to me: "Death is easy. Life is the hard part."

It made me smile because I decided a few years ago that I might want to end my life. And I chose not to. But I also feel that either way, things in this world would've been okay.

June 2007, Tulum, Mexico... I could picture it happening right there, in that moment. I could see it. I wanted to swim out under the moonlight and not return. I wanted to drift to the bottom like a pearl, and watch as the night sky folded her arms around me forever.

This morning I decided it was time to write again. I looked at the photo that sits on my dresser. I am bent over, picking up something in the water. It was that weekend in Mexico when my heart broke into 1,000 pieces. I took some of those pieces and carried them around with me all weekend, in the form of bits of sea glass I collected while I was there. I rubbed them together as I felt my heart break over and over again, like the waves themselves were crashing through me, and I had no where to turn anymore. I just had to stand in the water and let it happen. For the first time in my life, I began to trust that I am not in control of this thing, whatever it is. And right there, I made a promise to myself and God. I let go of some old baggage that desperatley wanted to be set free. I buried some old memories as I buried those bits of sea glass in the sand, the pieces of my broken heart. I let go of feeling such deep guilt over decisions I made 25 years ago. I let go of my desire to self destruct over that guilt. I let go of tiny hands I longed to hold and decided to hold my own hand instead. I decided to create a much safer world for Jamie to live in. I decided to take better care of myself. I decided to heal my own heart, one day at a time. I made a decision to live life without secrets and darkness, and with a stronger relationship with God, with my own spirit, with the world.

Here I am, 5 years later, June 2012. I sit in my cabin on the creek and feel my spirit fly. Over the water, through the Cypress trees, over the hills, and all the way back to the ocean where I see that woman I used to be, who had to get to that beach and break into a thousand pieces so that she could finally see God through the fragments that had become her life.

I am here. In the fullness of who I am, all of my darkness and light, I am here. And the peacefulness I feel from the trust I have that I am no longer in control of this thing, well, it still astounds me everyday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Two months?? Really?? Not that I have a huge following and you guys are all waiting in anticipation to read something brilliant from me, but still... so much has happened, that I'd love to share here, it's just a discipline to sit down and do it.

So here I am, sitting with legs crossed on my bed this morning, after having had a dream about purple skies and yellow/orange palm trees blowing in the breeze. A storm was coming in, and the air smelled like mango and pineapple. I woke up saying "yellow and orange palm trees in a purple colored storm? Okay, I'll paint it." I have my first show coming up. I'm going to hang my work in a coffee shop in Port Aransas, Texas. It's called "Coffee Waves," and when I walked in there the first time back in January, I could see my paintings there. It fits my style, and the owner is full of charisma and looks like Sammy Hagar. Check plus. We met that day, me and David, and I showed him some photos of my paintings that I have on my phone. Let me say here that I wasn't even looking for a place to hang my art work, but I've always known it won't sell very well in the Hill Country. It's all water and palm trees, mountains, and now mermaids. But my heart barometer was reading really high in that coffee shop, and I can't help myself when that happens. I have to act on it.

Turned out that the earliest opening for me wasn't until 2013. That feels really far away in January, so I just tucked that away in my mind and went on with it. But I noticed I didn't have the same inspiration to paint. It has always been a form of therapy for me, and a great outlet for my chickens, but I think I was just ready to finally put it out to the general public. And so I was waiting again...

Meanwhile, I've been dealing with chronic hip pain, and more recently, a lot of neck and shoulder pain. Chiropractors, massage therapists, accupuncturists... I am trying everything, except cutting back my yoga schedule. I love the students at this little Wimberley studio. They're having so much fun with their practice, and they inspire me so much as a teacher. But the pain has been ongoing for 6 months now. After a session with an accupuncturist last week, and a serious conversation about my blood actually being deydrated from spending so many hours each week in a hot yoga room, well, I decided to pull back for awhile. And when I made the decision to do that last week, I also asked God and all of my angels to help me with it, and to help me stay open to what's next on the horizon.

24 hours later I get a call from the art coordinator for "Coffee Waves" in Port Aransas. They had a cancellation from an artist. They want all of my work on their walls from May 15-July 15, which is a busy time at the beach. Suddenly I'm dreaming of purple skies and yellow palm trees, and smelling mangoes in the air...

More soon, and that's what keeps me inspired.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shark Waters

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of sharks. I was around 10 when Steven Spielberg came out with "Jaws," and everything about the ocean changed for me after that. Before "Jaws," I spent hours in the surf, swimming out past where I could still touch bottom and riding waves back in. We grew up making summer trips to a place called "Caney Creek." I couldn't have dreamt up a better place than Caney back then. My mom's dad, we called him "Paw Paw," bought this house back in the 50's. It sat on one of those salt water creeks that was only a mile or so from the Bay. The house was on stilts with a flat back yard. Paw Paw had a garden in the back, and he spent hours watching over us, teaching us how to fish, bait crab lines, check crab traps, and shuck our own oysters. I remember being so sunburned I'd have to wear one of my dad's white T-shirts over my bathing suit all day, with zinc oxide on my nose, and a ball cap on my head that never fit. I never wore shoes. I slept with Off Spray all over my body because I was too tired to shower. The hum of the window a/c units put some sleepy kids out like tiny lights every night. (Now I have one of those units in my bedroom at the cabin in Wimberley and it's heavenly). My mom would stay up with one lamp on in the living room and kill all of the mosquitoes in the house before she went to bed. We would stay sometimes for a month in the summer. We would go to the library before heading out of town, and each of us brought a stack of books down there. We didn't have TV. We had books, cards, dominoes, a garden, a salt water creek teaming with fish, crabs, and sometimes sharks. We spent hours fishing off of the pier in the back. Each house had its own pier, and at night the whole creek came to life under the pier lights. I remember watching the creek during the day, often wondering how it was the same creek at night, the one that lit up with fish and shrimp under the pier lights. There was always something a little frightening about that water at night for me. During the day, I would jump in and float around with my mom and Aunt Sue. I was certain the water was safe while the sun was out.

I remember the night a shark bumped up against the crab trap on the side of the pier. I must have already seen "Jaws" by then because I remember my legs shaking to the point of near collapse. I was convinced that the shark, which was probably no bigger than 4 feet long, was going to bite through the support beams in the water, and cause our entire pier to collapse, and then it would eat all of us. The side of the pier where the crab trap was didn't have enough light for me to be sure that the shark was gone. Needless to say, I turned in early that night. The fear inside me was overwhelming. It made my chest tighten and my whole body shake. I was super mad at that shark for ruining my fishing night. I think sharks went from being mysterious, large fish with lots of teeth, to the fiercest, most calculating predators on the planet for many of us after Spielberg released "Jaws" to the world, and then followed it up with a few more monster shark movies, just to be sure the fear had solidified and completely consumed most of us, and he had raked in as much money as he possibly could on the shark-sea-monster idea.

I can tell you this. My greatest fear is of deep ocean water at night. I dream about it, I paint it, I stay off of cruise ships because of it, and I don't like to fish off shore unless it's in the morning and I've convinced myself that the boat won't sink that day. I have said many times that I would die of a heart attack if I had to swim in the ocean at night. The thought used to make my throat and chest tighten. I remember once about ten years ago, I was in Florida out in a kayak with my ex-husband. We were only about 50 feet out from land, but the water looked to be about 20 feet deep. He rowed over to a bowie that was bobbing around, and at that same time, I saw a dark silhouette of a big fish swimming under the boat. I started to panic. I didn't do yoga back then, so I didn't know how to control my breathing or stay calm. The fear consumed me quickly. I convinced myself it was a shark, and that it was following us, waiting for the right time to attack. Gary saw what was happening and paddled us back to shore quickly. Are you seeing the picture I'm painting here? I was 30 years old then and I was more afraid than I was that night on Caney Creek. I've been feeding my fear over the years with video clips of shark attacks, more movies about those "killers" and hanging on to every word in the news on attacks on our beaches. I even obsessed over "Planet Earth," watching the Great Whites leap out of the water to swallow a seal. All I've been doing is feeding my fear.

At the same time, I am completely obsessed with ocean waters. I watched "The Cove" about a year ago, the documentary on the slaying of Dolphins, and it absolutely broke my heart. Dolphins are such beautiful, intelligent animals. They are our teachers, our friends, and they share this planet with us. AND THEY NEVER ATTACK US. I think this makes it easier for people to want to protect them. It felt like watching cold-blooded murder. It's infuriating and embarrassing.

But even then, I still felt the fear of sharks and dark ocean water swimming through my body. Dolphins were one thing, those innocent creatures who never attack us humans, and I believed in protecting them fiercely, but sharks??? I honestly felt like it was okay if they were getting killed for Shark Fin Soup and shark steaks since they are the most feared predator on the planet (and in my world). I felt like maybe that would reduce my fear somehow, knowing that so many of them are being caught and killed. I remember having thoughts like "well, maybe they can just control the population of the really big sharks, and that will cut down on the number of shark attacks each year." I just didn't care about their well being on this planet because of the amount of fear they have caused me over the years. I didn't care whether or not they were thriving as a species. I remember feeling like it would be a safer planet if THERE WERE NO SHARKS IN THE OCEAN. And again, I think my thoughts represent those of a few hundred million people world wide. Spielberg and the media gave me an education on sharks, but it was a false one. And I let that perception shape my experience every time I put my feet in the ocean. I was a prisoner of my own fear. My chickens in my brain LOVED fearing and hating sharks. They loved letting that fear run through me each time I went waste-deep in the ocean and couldn't see around me because the water wasn't clear. Those chickens have a job to do, and that is to warn me of danger!! And SHARKS are terrifying, so all they've been telling me over the years is to get out of the water!! But my heart says something different. I indulge her every now and then and swim out a little farther until the chickens start screaming at me. Once I even floated on my back in ocean water that was about 6 feet deep. And when I put paintbrush to canvas, I end up painting water. Sometimes it's at night under the moonlight, and sometimes it's at daybreak with a hundred colors bouncing from the sky to the water and through the palm trees. It's all my heart ever wants to paint. And now I know what she has been trying to tell me.
I was told by a good friend recently to watch "Shark Water," to help me with my fear of sharks. Hmmmmm, I thought. How is that little documentary about a guy who likes to swim with sharks going to make any lasting impression on my chickens who have held on so tightly to the fear of sharks for most of my life?

I sat on the couch Saturday morning and watched "Shark Water" without the expectation of anything spectacular happening. I loved the depth and eeriness of the soundtrack (I now own it and I'm using it in my yoga classes). I loved the photography because it's what I love to paint - without the schools of hammerheads of course. Facts started popping up on the screen...

Fact: "The have survived for 450 million years" Me: wow, that's a long time. So they were here when dinasaurs were here. I bet they ate those, too.
Fact: "They are the world's top predator" Me: yea, I know about that one. They're sea monsters!!!
Fact: "They control two-thirds of the planet" Me: yes, and that's why it's okay if some of them die and end up on our plates.
Fact: "But they are not our enemy" Me: blank.

And so I watched. I watched as someone who has loved sharks since he was a little kid, do everything in his power to show what their life underwater has become. It took him four years. He thought he was going to make a movie that was beautiful about sharks - one that showed us that we can and should co~exist with this predator because they are just as necessary to the underwater ecosystem and the survival of this planet as we are. What he ended up making gives us a glimpse into how dark their world really has become. WE have taken out 90 percent of the shark population over the last DECADE. (450 million years, remember?) We kill around 100 million sharks a year (they kill about 5 of us) for "Shark Fin Soup" that is on most menus in Chinese Food restaurants, even in Austin, Texas. Shark "fining" is when the fishermen cut off just their fins, and throw the shark back in the ocean, while it's still alive, where it is left to breathe it's last few breaths and sink to the bottom and die. The meat isn't valuable enough to justify the effort and expense in taking and using the whole shark. The fins are worth an astronomical amount. Shark Fin Soup is a luxury. The myth is that it helps cure cancer, since the sharks have survived for 450 million years, and hardly get cancer, maybe eating their fins will help keep cancer away. (The absurdity here actually makes me smile because it's so huge, and we have a long way to go.)

We are literally wiping out another species. We are wiping out an animal who has been here longer than any other animal. I cried harder than I have in years. It hit a level of sadness in me that was deeper than when I have had close friends and family pass away. It hit me in the center of my heart, and I couldn't stop. Maybe I just needed to cry over something other than my own life. Maybe I needed to break through my perceptions of what sharks are really all about. Maybe I was PMS'ing. (I wasn't.) It was too much, really. I think any therapist would've said it was just the catalyst, and obviously I needed to release something that's deeper than just the fact that sharks are being murdered at a rate of about 15,000 every couple of hours. Maybe that's true. Here's what I think, though:

They are the catalyst. They are the thing that I have feared the most in my life. It seems so silly now. A shark is a fish. If it could shoot a gun, it would be a much fairer fight out there as it is raised to the boat to meet its death, but it can't. And I can't protect my body from a shark bite if I choose to swim in the ocean. It's about real risk . We've forgotten that there is a certain mysteriousness and thrill in knowing you're swimming in waters that are the home to fish who could eat you if they chose to. The fact is, we aren't shark food, and never have been. They just mistake us for their food sometimes. So take the risk if you want to swim in the ocean, but let's not kill off the thing we think is causing the risk. Some of us die from shark attacks each year. More of us die from soda machines falling on us each year. Do we have the right to kill them simply because they have killed us? Do we have the right to wipe them out because we're afraid of them? I'm tired of being afraid of taking risks. Boom. That's the catalyst part.

I got my paintbrushes out this week. Mermaids showed up underwater. I don't feel that same fear of dark water. My heart is happy. She won the shark battle. The chickens are just watching quietly. And now I'm just wondering what my part will be in raising awareness about these beautiful teachers of fear we call sharks... this blog post being my first baby step, of course...

As I was watching the documentary last weekend, I found myself saying "I'm sorry" to the sharks, over and over again, grieving their losses, and mourning the fact that I've feared them so much. But it wasn't enough to say it from my comfortable couch. I told Rodney I'm ready to get certified to scuba dive. I'm claustrophobic, have vertigo, and a tired, old fear of deep water and sharks. I'm going in. ~ experience their beauty for yourself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"In The Now" News...

It's Sunday, and I woke up just in time to see the entire sky in a soft shade of orange. No blue, just orange. And it bounced and ricocheted off of everything, leaving the grass and trees dripping in orange daybreak light. If I could create a paint color today, it would be "Daybreak Orange" and it would be so brilliant that you would want it on your walls, your toes, your car and your wood floors. Can you imagine orange wood floors?? Yea, so can I.

SUNDAY "In The Now" News is as follows: (and it beats the hell out of MSN. I know because I scanned the headlines on my home page this morning... Demi Moore (wish I could call her and tell her it's just her crazy chickens); Still searching for bodies from that Italian cruise ship, (didn't the sharks take care of that?) and Super Bowl Predictions (SUPER exciting). Need I say more? Mine are WAY better.)

"In The Now" News:

One of my favorite friends, Savannah, is waiting for her baby to say "okay, it's time to let me out." So far, "Vanny Baby" has stayed indoors for an extra week. Maybe baby's waiting for the cedar to clear out first. Or maybe baby's waiting for the moon to be in a new phase. Maybe baby is waiting for it's grandfather's "writing workshop" to end this weekend so those folks don't have to be a part of a natural child birthing experience. We don't know the answers to these things, it just becomes another lesson in patience. Patience with the process. Patience with the Universe. Maybe "Vanny Baby" wants to be a February baby instead. Maybe that matters in the big, universal picture. Meanwhile, Savannah waits it out, watching rain storms, waking up at night to shift to her other side, listening to her belly, learning a deeper level of patience. Today I think we'll do some yoga for Vanny Baby.


We had a rain storm one night last week. We got 5 inches in just a couple of hours, with lightening and thunder and I had to remind myself that my cabin was built in 1938, surviving many rain storms, and we weren't going to blow away, or drift down the creek with the rest of the debris. I unplugged my computer from the wall at the same time that thunder cracked right over my head. It sent me to the floor, shaking and laughing. It was powerful, and beautiful, and the creek was completely swollen the next morning. Here's a photo I took while stomping around in rain boots:


Yoga training started this weekend at The Still Water Studio, and two very important, special women in my life signed up for the training. Wendi "Willow" is one of them. The other is Heather, who must have sailed into this world on a giant feather, ready to shed light on all of us with her huge almond colored eyes and radiant "I just lit up your whole world without even trying" smile.

They hadn't met before this weekend. They are from different parts of my life, but now their paths have crossed. I love it when stars collide...

Wendi is one of those women in my dreams who is a healer, a beautiful young mermaid, a mother, and an old woman sharing essential oils and hot tea with me in the kitchen. We were cut from the same cloth, raised in the same town, by parents of the same generation. She is my sister's age, and they were close childhood friends. I was always the "little sister." Wendi and I are both tall now, but when we were young, I was much shorter than her. I remember the feeling I had when we ran into each other after 20 years of life, at a mutual friend's wedding in 2010. I was looking into her eyes, and not at her chin. And immediately, I felt this really strong, old connection. We started talking and laughing about my dad making pancakes for us when we were kids. She would spend the night with Libby and my dad would make tiny dime-sized pancakes for our hamsters, too, so they could have Saturday morning pancakes with us. She remembers lots of stories I had forgotten. My heart latches on to each of them, and stores them in a special place. Finding her again reaffirmed by belief that there is magic everywhere.

Over the next year or so, we shared our stories, our dreams, lots of laughs, and started envisioning a life that made sense to our hearts. We're both living in Wimberley now by choice. We both left Austin by choice. We want to find a piece of land and start a small community. What does it look like? We still paint it in our minds, but so far it has small cabins, one shared living space with a big kitchen and some orange wood floors for yoga. (Just decided that after Sunday morning's sunrise!) Lots of creative space for painting, reading, and writing. We have a garden there, and a place for house concerts. Dogs and maybe horses. Willow is my favorite package deal with her two beautiful children, Jack and Mollie, two dogs, one cat, and a bunch of crazy creatures her son, Jack, has living in his room. We have hippie hearts, southern roots, and laughter in our bones, so much so that we have to let it out on a regular basis.

Jack and Mollie are two of my favorite humans on the planet. Mollie is 6 and has downs syndrome. She calls me "Jimmie," and I love her. She lights my heart in a huge way every time I see her. She is brilliant, curious, deeply loving and has more to teach me than most people put together. I am her student, her biggest fan, her "anything," since her mama is her "everything." My brain turns to mush every time I see her. And Jack? Well, her older brother is here to do great things. We don't know what it will be yet, but he is so wise that I would take his advice and follow through with it on anything. He gets it. He's also Mollie's guardian angel, and he takes his job seriously. He is full of patience and love for her. It's something special to witness.

I'll come back to that another time. For now, we'll stick with the news.

Since we're manifesting a community with yoga, music, kids, and lots of love, Wendi decided to sign up for yoga training at Helen's "Camp Utopia!" She had so much emotion in her voice last night after day 2 of training, that it brought tears to my eyes. They spent three days with Helen, and have many more to go!

And "I came into this world on a feather, Heather" is a more recent friend who has been taking my yoga classes in Austin for the last couple of years. Last August she left Austin and moved back to New Orleans to be closer to family and heal from a recent break up. A month or so later, her grandmother died. A month later, her mother died. She emailed me and I saw how deep the pain was in her heart, over losing the women who had shaped her, loved and guided her. She said I had given her some inner strength through my yoga classes, and that she was so grateful for that now, as she was trying to fill the holes in her heart and move through her grief. I knew it was a long shot, being that she was in New Orleans, but I told her about "Camp Utopia" and how training might be a great thing for her right now. And she made it happen. She's staying at my cabin. She's handling her grief with love. She talks about it. She's moving it around inside her. She'll eventually shift most of it out. And she's using her yoga as a tool for her healing. She still had all of that light in her smile when I saw her. I'm excited she made it to Camp Utopia, and I can't wait to see where it takes her. Secretly I hope she is one of the old women in our kitchen making teas and sweets, but my angels haven't revealed that to me yet. But they definitely brought her here!!

Wendi and Heather both inspire me in so many ways. I'm not a single mom, and I haven't lost my mom yet. To watch these women find the light in their eyes and love in their hearts and face each day with a sense of awe and wonder, always inspires me to do the same, and push through whatever challenge I'm facing.

*** And some final "In The Now" News...

I've been playing "The Healing Game" the last week or so. We always have old stuff inside us that we shove aside. The problem, and/or blessing for me is that with such a demanding yoga schedule, it sometimes just forces out those little "dust bunnies" I was stacking in the corners of my heart. Damn them. But I see too, that I don't have to attach a bunch of drama to my own healing process. I don't have to engage my chickens: Grace, Tomahawk, or Patty. I'm learning to breathe a lot deeper throughout the day. I'm learning to look up at the sky and whisper "help me right here, please" when I feel anxiety or panic coming on. And I'm learning to stop running, and "grow in love" with those who are already around me.


And lastly, I am teaching a group of juvenile teenagers from San Marcos some hot yoga twice a week. Their counselor is a regular student of mine, and after a few conversations on our mats after class, she got the principal to pay for these kids to come to Wimberley and take yoga during school hours twice a week. It might be unprecedented. They have short attention spans, lots of ego, tattoos, tight hips and hamstrings, the odds against them, and yet... I see that sense of curiosity and wonder in their eyes. The seed has been planted. I have them for 10 weeks. It's like watching wild weeds bloom. Their faces go from one eyebrow raised with cocky grins to being fully engaged and focused on their mats. Sometimes they're even perfectly still in Savasana. They don't know it, but they justify what I've chosen to do with my life every time I teach them. If I help them feel a little freer from their little chicken coops, then everything I've done up to this point has been worth it.

"Ew baby, baby, it's a wild world." ~ thank you, Hank.