en route: another world.

there is a tinge of cigarette smoke in the air. almost thick enough to taste with every labored breath through my sunflower mandated mask. it is so rare these days. to be indoors and trapped with that hint of nicotine. but large neon letters spell out a welcome place to inhale and exhale. right next to my gate.

a constant hum of chatter is interrupted with animated electric beats and jackpot dings and bings and rings. the bright colors flash and spin enticing me to sit down and zone out for a minute, or ten. i resist.

this is another world. 

even before you step outside the airport and into the seething desert summer heat, you are engulfed in the chaos. 

i go to the bathroom twice in the first thirty minutes of wandering around in search of a decent meal to take with me on my long journey across the pacific. not because i really have to pee, but because the overwhelm of the stimulation is unnerving. in the stall, i feel safe. invisible. protected.

i am tired from two weeks of traveling. staying up too late feeding my latest screen addictions. waking up too early trying to squeeze in more love sessions with my favorite people. 

but i am so energized. soaking in the feelgoods that come along with trips down memory lane. sinking into the nostalgia and letting feelings of sheer gratitude ooze out of my every pore. cherished memories of people and places that have made me this girl. this woman. a reminder that i still am this person.

i sit on the end of a row with outlets to recharge. too close to the slot machines, but prime location for people watching.

good old las vegas. 

this is just a layover, but i cannot help but get lost in the glitz. and gloom. it is hard to describe this bubble. its reputation telling its own story before i layer on my own. 

i have been here many times before. as a child, for dance competitions. as a young adult, for amusement. lately, for climbing. but today feels different. i do not remember the airport feeling so… much.

over the past year, i have traveled more than most. despite the pandemic, i found a way to feel responsible and safe. but, here, right now, i am flabbergasted. wide-eyed and staring as hoards of people dance past me in rhythm to the sea of artificial sounds. 

do they know they are part of this performance? 

they dress the part. brightly colored ensembles. escalating movement and frantic meandering. there is a scene from across the universe where a new york sidewalk crowded with pedestrians navigate the chaos to the beatles’ come together. it has always been one of my favorite pieces from that film. 

today i am jojo. slowly and consciously strolling amidst the crowds. taking it all in. watching my thoughts react. and release. and come together, right now, over me.

and then, there is an eerie silence that takes hold of the las vegas airport. all the slot machines are quiet. all the people are quiet. only a faint beeping of a cart cruising past alerting travelers to step aside. 

mmmm. the juxtaposition is unexpected, and so noticeable.

a line is forming in front of me. it is time to get ready. pre-clearance for entrance to maui. proving we are healthy. just like when i fly to australia, i stare at the faces. can i tell who is just visiting and who calls the island home? i imagine what they will do when they land. go to costco to stock up? jump in the ocean? stand in awe of the west mauis and haleakala?

i smile knowing exactly what i will be doing… embracing two of my favorite beings, grateful to be home.

the electronic bass of the nearest money making machine fires back up, and they are at it again. 

settled into unsettled.

publishing four months after writing… i promise one day i’ll get better at posting in the present moment. but airplane internet usually keeps me from sharing my airplane writing immediately. 🙂

—–

my definition of home was pretty concrete growing up. i lived in the same house for 12 years, built by my grandpa’s hands. the big green house on old kirk road. for the majority of the time, i had the same bedroom with the one slanted wall and the weird closet door that led to a hole looking down into the utility/laundry room. i knew everyone on the block and all the places to steal a good view of the minor league baseball stadium’s friday night fireworks display. 

until about 12-years-old, i was settled. 

at which point, my parents got divorced. my childhood home became my part-time home. and i moved six times in the six years following that first move. 

six different spaces to call home. a few apartments, a townhouse, and a couple single family homes. as my mom settled into a beautiful tudor style house for several years, my dad sold our childhood home and moved to a neighboring town with his new significant other. every ounce of childhood consistency associated with a specific physical location evaporated. 

and my cycle of constant movement continued full steam ahead… 

i headed to the university of michigan and lived in a different dorm or apartment each year. four new places (in four years) to call my home away from home. 

after graduation came a new city and three new homes. i was officially an adult (or something resembling one). i planted my roots. i was in love with michigan, in love with grand rapids. finding joy in my work. joy in my hobbies. joy in my community. 

and so i left. 

because, why not?

i packed up my blue chevy cavalier and headed west to portland. four more roofs over my head in the span of two years. my work shifted, and i became fully self-employed. able to complete my work from anywhere with halfway decent internet. so settled into being unsettled that i subconsciously crafted a career that would allow me to continue my rootless journey. 

a journey that led me to my match. 

after being without an official address for a year, i met a man who seemed to be equally, if not more, transient than me. 

it was the end of his year long holiday in north america. we headed back to the middle of nowhere australia and took up a temporary residence in a house he owned. i flew back and forth from the u.s. to australia for two years. sending all my mail to my dad’s house. staying with friends and bouncing around the country with no plan of settling down in sight.

tired yet?

i was. i was almost 30 and starting to think about what it might look like if i stopped moving. what would it feel like? could we do it? would we be content?

we tried it…? in hawaii. for two years. in three different houses on oahu. and then six months on maui. and then three months on kauai. 

during all our island living, i was still regularly flying to and from portland for work. when an opportunity came up to move back to the pacific northwest and create a home on a 675 acre mountain, i thought, okay, this must be it. this must be where we are meant to plant some roots. 

we fueled our travel bug and lived in our ryan-custom-built camper van for six months and then prepared to park her and dig into our new home. our forever home?

but, even there, neighbors to rural families who had lived there for generations, we were unsettled. living out of boxes in a construction zone for a year and finally unpacking into a beautifully ryan-remodeled basement apartment just in time for the covid lockdown. 

months and months of forced stillness. we bought plants. we hung artwork. and just as the leaves began to fall in rainbows on the earth, we packed up yet again. three more months in the camper van adventuring, visiting my mom’s new home in palm springs with her significant other, and seeing the rest of the family in the chicagoland area.

and now we are back on maui. 

and now i am tired.

and now i see the pattern. the habit. the lifestyle.

if you’ve read this far, i applaud you. truly. what a wild ride…

when i opened up this blank document, i did not know what words would reveal themselves. since i’m on a flight from maui back to chicago for my sister’s 40th birthday, my brain was engulfed in the nostalgia of home and family. as i veered towards the topic of home, i did not realize the rabbit hole that was ahead of me. 

that i have been in a constant state of motion for the past 22 years.

and now i am left wondering… will we ever “settle” down?

rambling on returning, in february.

unintentionally we complete our own cycles. always around the lunar new year it seems.

in early february… 

2016, ryan and i decided to move to hawaii and live together (not long distance) for the first time in our relationship. 

2018, we decided to elope and then move back to the mainland to live in a van.

2019, we settled in the pacific northwest to try our hand at life on a 700 acre mountain.

2020, we returned from our australian wedding celebration and entered the crazy covid lockdown phase.

and now, in early february 2021, we are returning to hawaii. (this time with a pup.)

it is crazy how every major life change has happened for us in early february. a time ripe for newness and change. we board a plane and our world shifts. our address changes. our clothing changes. heck, sometimes even our names change (or mine anyways). 

and yet, this shift feels like a return home. an escape back to the known. a place where the sun is warm, where the rain is warm, where the ocean is warm. 

ryan and i have continuously been stuck between choosing the mountains or the ocean. the forest or the beach. we feel at home in both. however, my childhood home was always the forest and his the beach. we bounce back and forth trying to find the perfect recipe of ingredients to satisfy our wanderlust. 

how do you combine two youthful nostalgias into one? how do you redefine what feels like home? 

after seven years of trying to navigate this question, i do not have an answer. but, it feels like we might be on the verge. on the verge of finding what fits for us. for our lives. for our futures.

it is always an interesting feeling to return to something. whether to a place or a job or a relationship. the notion of going back to something can feel like a cop out, like a step backward instead of forward.

it can also feel oh so good. like returning to a routine or an unfinished project or a forgotten hobby. picking up where you left off can be welcoming and comforting. a reminder that perhaps you were supposed to be here all along. perhaps you only left so that you could remember why you must return.

the eternal cycle of departing and arriving. 

so today, we departed. we said goodbye to a beautiful and magical mountain in the wet, mossy, fern-filled forests of battle ground, washington. we reluctantly bid farewell to a community of neighbors who truly are like family to us. and we boarded a plane.

and in a few hours, we will arrive. we will say aloha to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. we will inhale the sweet smell of plumeria (or frangipani if you’re aussie). we will joyfully greet the friends and family we left behind. and we will have arrived.

a new chapter to this crazy story we’re writing… 

30 days of gratitude: day 19 – sue

day 19

while living in grand rapids, michigan, i was introduced to this crazy woman and instantly fell head over heels. every young woman needs a mentor, and every mentor needs a young woman. the two of us have been unstoppable ever since.

i am grateful…

  1. that the wilsons thought we should meet each other
  2. for attic chats and brainstorming sessions on how to conquer the world
  3. for every healthy and delicious meal you and roger have prepared for me
  4. for your nut yogurt (so damn good)
  5. that roger has never forced me to try his pepper powder collection
  6. and for the joy it brings me when ryan accidentally sprinkles too much of roger’s pepper on his meal
  7. that i know i always have an adorable old farmhouse to call home when i’m in grand rapids
  8. for your motherly advice
  9. and your unmotherly advice
  10. for the amazing, boundary-pushing literature you’ve created for youth covering topics like artificially insemination and incarceration
  11. that you potentially come up with more crazy ideas than i do
  12. that i tagged along for the 300-mile bike ride from grand rapids to chicago to share tillie anderson’s story with hundreds of youth
  13. for your encouragement of my writing and interest in youth
  14. that i have a twin a few decades older than me to lead me through life
  15. that you are unafraid to tackle difficult issues in our society
  16. for every hug
  17. and every tear
  18. for your continued investment in my career development
  19. for teaching me that it’s okay to not have everything figured out
  20. for roger’s secret comedic side
  21. to have your marriage as an example
  22. for sipping mocktails in the sunshine in your epically beautiful yard and garden
  23. that you’re someone i know i can say absolutely anything to, with no filter
  24. that i’m your chosen daughter (is that the name we landed on?)
  25. for supper clubs and your continual creation of community
  26. that you ride alongside me on our emotional rollercoasters
  27. for your reminders to be kind to myself
  28. for your love and care of german shepherds (and all animals)
  29. for the handmade greeting cards you send my way
  30. that i have such a fierce, unstoppable, ever-changing female role model to look up to and share my life with

sex appeal.

they say if you don’t use it, you lose it. tonight, i realized i lost it, and i never had it.

i’m back in portland for a month and on day two, have already stepped back into my normal portland groove. one of the reasons i love being back in major cities is that they have opportunities for old people to dance. (yes, in dance years, i am old.)

i checked out what was on the schedule at vega dance lab for tuesday, signed up for a month of unlimited classes, and headed to the studio post-work. tonight’s classes included burly q, jazz, and hip hop cabaret. all of these classes should actually just be named bruised knees, strained neck, and broken lower back.

i have not regularly taken jazz or hip hop classes for years. probably something like five years to be exact. there has been the occasional class here or there when i am in portland or find a random class at some fitness place wherever i am living at the time, but since i moved from michigan, i have not performed. and since i moved from portland, i have not regularly practiced.

i have never been the best dancer, but in my early 20s, i was in pretty in tune with my body and evolving nicely into my movement exploration. i performed as part of a hiphop group in college (exhibit a) and a modern dance collective post-college (exhibit b). i felt good. i felt great. i felt fulfilled most importantly.

exhibit a:

exhibit b:

i went to the studio tonight to relocate that feeling. i’ve missed dance. especially with all the chaos of the world, i miss the physical and emotional release of movement.

but tonight, as i swung my hips from side to side and attempted to convert choreography quickly into my body’s muscle memory, i did not feel good. i definitely did not feel great.

i felt old, out of practice, and incredibly unconfident.

i know, i know… what did i expect? five years is a long time. but as dancers, i think we forget that it is a practice. that learning choreography quickly is a skill. that moving your body dynamically and rhythmically is a skill. that performing art is a skill.

i do know that i still have all those skills. that with time, my body and mind can remember. however, tonight also proved to me that there is one skill i have never had and at this age, i’m pretty sure i should just probably just give up on…

sex appeal.

the three classes i took tonight were all about highlighting my nonexistent sexiness skills. a burlesque jazz class, followed by a sexy jazz class, followed by a cabaret hip hop class. two of which were taught by a 6’4 black man & drag queen who has more sex appeal in his pinky toe than i do in my whole body (exhibit c).

exhibit c:

i let down my hair to try to get into character. whipping hair all over the place is the universal first step towards sexiness.

i swirled my hips and popped my booty the best i could, but it is hard to look hot while trying to figure out which arm swoops around your head before it wraps around your waist. oh and wait, was that on the beat or on the one? can you do that ridiculously fast, too many moves crammed into one count section again? and again? and again?

sure, with repetition, you eventually master the moves. but even with the choreography in my body, i have never been able to master the attitude. i have always felt way more comfortable with more masculine hip hop or beautiful movement that tells a story. this whole diva thing has never quite sunk into my body.

i remember growing up with dancers who just had it. their movement was so sultry and so confident. a simple turn of the head or flick of the hand felt naughty. but me, i felt stupid.

and tonight, i felt stupid.

now, don’t get me wrong. by no means am i saying that i do not think i am sexy. please do not leave comments telling me how smoking i am (unless, i mean, you just really feel the need… :P). what i am saying is that i envy all the confident men and women out there who have mastered smoldering eyes and sassy struts. you amaze me.

and i’ll keep going to hip hop cabaret in hopes that one day my hair whip will be as good as yours. in the meantime, i guess i’ll keep practicing my pirouettes…

helpless.

i am not one who typically feels helpless. in high school, when i wasn’t getting an A in calculus, i sought out tutoring during my free period. in college, when i couldn’t figure out astronomy or economics, i did the same. (clearly, math and science are not my strong suits.)

regardless of the situation, i have never been afraid to ask for help. help being picked up from the airport. help fixing the fact that my bank account overdrafted and there are no banks near me to immediately deposit cash. help making my ceviche not taste like shit. help getting out of the house when binge watching netflix has held me hostage for days.

and i have always tried to help others when i knew how. help underprivileged youth finish homework assignments on time and graduate high school. help clean up trash from beautiful beaches and climbing areas. help friends talk through hard times and big decisions. help family run emergency daycare pickups when flights are missed.

but i have never felt as helpless as i do right now.

i am empowered to assist. i am passionate about injustice. i am motivated to create change. and yet, the next steps seem so faraway. i click on facebook post after facebook post promising ways to take action, but they all seem so arbitrary.

the dark cloud that has been floating over us since november continues to hover. continues to make me want to stay in my hawaiian bubble or retreat to my australian getaway. it is this underlying sickness of feeling utterly helpless in the face of such daily tragedy. here, and everywhere.

a few days ago, we were detoured due to a traffic accident. i couldn’t help but stalk google for updates on the incident. that feeling of horror would not leave my gut, so i kept trying to calm it with details. every unfortunate detail. five car crash, four dead, two injured. a 50-something-year-old man driving a pickup truck crossing the center line and crashing head-on into a camry uber.

we were minutes down the road.

i did not know any of the people in this crash, but yesterday as i picked my “nephew” up from daycare, i could not shake the fear. the danger of driving. the unknowingness of daily life. the deepening pit that would eventually eat me alive if anyone’s life was lost on my watch.

i did not know any of the people who were murdered in las vegas, but as i thought about the hollywood action scene unfolding onto reality, the pit deepened. the helplessness sunk in harder. harder. harder. harder. what fear will this cause?

i stared at all their faces today. faces that could have easily been mine. (you know i love me some country music.) i read article after article and watched clip after clip and am still left asking how? how does humanity get here? how do we get the fuck out of here? how can i help? how can we help?

i am asking you because i need help. because i need to help.

diving in.

two years ago, i departed from the space we daily occupy. after a couple hours of important education, i bit down on the mouthpiece and rolled backwards off the boat. sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean blue.

last week, i departed from the space we daily occupy. after a couple minutes of important education, i stepped into a harness, boarded an airplane, and climbed thousands of feet into the clouds, above the clouds. hovering around the sky, i did what we were born to do. flying faster and faster towards the trees that keep us grounded.

   

there are people whose feet never leave the dirt. i am not one of those people.

i am very aware that my feet were made for the soft grass. the kind of grass that deserves bare skin and a moment of recognition. but i was born to this earth. all of it. i was born with gills, and i was born with wings.

i have not written much since we moved to hawaii in february 2016, but there has been so much to say. when the momentary annoyances of outdated city life settle into silence, the natural wonders of the islands speak louder than i could have imagined.

when the vicious waves slam me into the dead coral reef, i cringe. but as i come up for air just in time to catch a stingray quickly coasting over the crystal clear ocean surface, i remember why so many people are called to the sea.

there are ocean people. i am not one of them. but in the past year and a half, i have taught myself that just maybe, i am capable of finding a deeper connection to the vast blue planet beyond the shoreline. that just maybe, the same grandeur that naturally draws me to the tall pine trees lining mountain slopes might exist amongst the turtles and tuna.

and last week, as i carelessly launched my body out over that same ocean blue from 12,000 feet above, i learned why people love to fly. every element of this existence zoomed out to the big picture. shorelines sketching the outlines of islands. communities collectively organizing sections of earth. browns separating themselves from blues separating themselves from greens.

i was not afraid.

“but she says: ‘no, don’t you see we have wings? it’s the funniest thing, it’s just that no one knows.’” (“josephine” by teitur)

earth, wind, fire, water, air. our elemental composition trends towards a return to source.

why are humans transfixed on finding ways to fly? to breathe underwater? to climb the highest peak? to create fire?

it started with a spark.

just as our hearts know when another is beating in sync with our own, our bodies intrinsically know we belong to every element of this earth.

i scuba dive. i skydive. i continue to dive into whatever this life is willing to offer.

i pledge allegiance.

i said the pledge of allegiance today for the first time in a long time. i actually cannot remember the last time i recited the pledge. as the maui county council chair asked everyone to stand and recite it, my heartbeat quickened in fear that i might have forgotten the words, and i’d have to brand myself a shitty american for the rest of my life. but as i put my right hand across my chest, the many years of daily repetition paid off and muscle memory moved my mouth to form all the correct sounds.

i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

i cannot remember the last time i voiced these words. i cannot remember any time where i have actually thought about the words i was voicing.

but today, i heard my voice.

i sat in the maui county council chambers surrounded by women and men there to honor maui resident teresa shook (the women responsible for igniting the women’s march), and i heard my words loud and clear.

img_1101

just as it would often hit me unexpectedly while dissecting one of the many great poems in my intro to poetry course in college, the words transformed from merely words into actual meaning. especially there in that moment, standing with my palm pressed over my heart in a room full of local government officials and everyday people truly wanting the kind of nation our forefathers pledged.

we are all united. we cannot be divided. we will fight for liberty and justice for all. i pledge my allegiance to this. i have pledged my allegiance to this subconsciously since kindergarten.

but today, i actually took the pledge. and i will take it here again:

i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

img_1102and then i sat back down in my chair and listened to maui county’s councilmen, local residents, and even a german tourist, give their testimonies celebrating teresa shook, celebrating the fact that one facebook post from a retired attorney from a tiny island in the middle of the pacific, could spark a movement. i watched as women and men wiped tears from their eyes, inspired by the powerful stance our nation took when its appointed leader challenged our unity. we are indivisible.

i am the product of a hardworking father with a creative and charismatic personality and a hyper-driven mother who is an extraordinary example of independence and intelligence. the values they consciously (or unconsciouly) instilled in me encouraged understanding, acceptance, growth, and love. through their actions, i saw that fear could be conquered, that perseverance leads to results, and that perfection is a daily practice.

and today, as i made my pledge of allegiance to our flag and the nation it represents, i celebrated those lessons…

our nation can conquer fear.
our perseverance leads to results.
our perfection is a daily practice.

birthday light.

dear world,

winter solstice. thirtieth birthday. christmas. new moon. new year.

there are drawbacks to being born so close to christmas, but one of the big benefits is celebrating during such a transformational time of year. the dark begins to turn to light. the spirit of giving is in full swing. the lunar cycle resets. and the resolutions for the new year emerge.

it’s 5:30am, and the sound of rain drizzling down upon our tin patio roof lures me from the warmth of my bed into the cold, damp, mosquito-infested air. wrapped in a blanket, i sit here watching the sky turn to flames. a small little spark, and the darkness evaporates.

suddenly it is the day i was born.

the rest of the country is already awake. my phone is dancing to its own beat of vibrations and lighting up the morning. an endless outpouring of love all before breakfast. i sit in the aftermath of sunrise and count my blessings.

each and every family member, friend, acquaintance, and even stranger. thank you.

thank you for taking a moment of your day and giving it to me. i will relish every ounce of it. for this is a time of change.

in the coming weeks, we will vow to eat healthier or travel some place new or stop swearing so much. our list of resolutions will empower us to march into the new year with courage and hope.

i am courageous. i am hopeful. but i am weary of the darkness. i have always been weary of the darkness. i am a northern child born just as the earth begins her journey towards spring. i am a child meant to light up the dark.

so what do i want for my birthday?

i want you to be a light.

paz y besos,
sara

she creates.

what happens when an artist loses her artistry? when the pen falls from her hand, when the rhythm fades from her step, when the shutter stops beneath her finger. she is left surrounded by those that are still creating and yet she creates no more. every ounce of inspiration sits in waiting amidst the musings of someone else.

her words are not her words. her moves are not her moves. her images are not her images. there is a desire to find them again, yet something encases the urge. trapping each idea below the surface. with no awen there to pull them through the glass, she stares at the reflection until they disappear untouched.

she fights the cravings by occupying time with distractions, but like any addiction, the need returns. as she watches others craft and indulge, she cannot help but envy the outcomes. chaos captured into something beyond rational comprehension. how can she transcend the disconnect? when does she become them?

day by day, the energy subdivides and focus falls into multitasking passions. we want it all, so we try to take it all. but, her container cannot hold it all. she overflows spilling out necessary pieces of her intuition. you cannot put toothpaste back into the tube, but she will try. she will continuously try. every lost edge reformed to fit back into her current puzzle.

she falls in and out of love with the notion of creativity, trying to comprehend how this seemingly insignificant portion of her being occupies so many hours of her thought. mental exhaustion battling the misunderstood efforts to define her influence.

she deafens herself with their songs, their words, their rhythms, their rhymes, until she can no longer hear her yearnings. misguiding each intention to disillusion. the tired moth dissolves to dust in the flame.

then something shifts.

a hidden glint of what could be appears from the ashes, and she can’t help but hold onto it for dear life. a simple reminder that creation is eternal. that an empty space can always be filled with something more. that action stimulates art.

and then, she creates.