I stare at the glorious mountain before me and seek out the words to describe her in true form. I am only human, much younger than she, just a seed in life’s spiraling cycle. And I don’t know if I can hold the wisdom she does, but I know it’s there, waiting to be touched.

Perhaps, some might say, she wants to be left alone. People have come and gone over the years taking way more than they could give. Those whose hands are dirty with spoiled intention come with a ravenous appetite. I can’t help but think that must be so lonely. She is Mother Earth, and she is connected to all that is around her, has more lovers than one could count, but there’s still a part missing.

Humanity’s connection wasn’t severed, just lost. Some thought it was better to live apart, so they conquered land that not one of us own. As “kings of the world”, they fought for power, destroying what’s sacred in their path, despite the absence of its existence in truth. They had forgotten that without her, there would be nothing at all. It can be hard to remember that isn’t all of us humans. I like to think she is still accepting of those who come with the gift of friendship- an offering of understanding as a promise, for we are her reminders that not all have let go.

From afar, I see her strength in clarity. Vast, thick, and bare enough to pick out the veins draping down her vessel. I try to trace the lines, but fade between the forks and lose myself dancing in the curves. I feel affectionate towards her, the affection and curiosity of a fawn, though I am still subject to her unforgiving and unpredictable nature.

I would like to know you. I ask for a story- close my eyes, kneel, and make space for her words to enter.

I hear nothing in return. I suppose I should’ve expected that. I laugh, loud enough that the contagiousness of it catches hold of my allies, the ferns and trillium alike. They laugh too. We speak in energy here. She asks that I listen with my heart.

I touch my palms to the fertile soil. Everything around me stops for a brief second. The trees stop swaying. They are the leaders of the forest, and this is how the ripple effect begins, the creation of a silent space for storytelling. Everyone holds their tongues in allowance for the Great One to speak. A few look to me, awaiting a declaration, but you can’t force it. What must be heard will not push through the ground like a mushroom, nor emerge from the rings of the eldest tree. It will come from the sky instead.

As I look up, my chest opens for reception. It cracks open wide. My spine is the remote control that manages the displacement of my ribs. I bare my heart. Clouds expand and contract as if they were preparing for birth. In the clear blue sky, they spiral- shooting up and striking lightning into me. 

With that, the knowledge from each life I’ve gathered is evoked in me. A rebirth in a way. The story that is told is my own. It was always there, but like most things, forgotten. All the veins that lead back to me are recognized again. I trace the paths along them. There are secrets I can’t tell. And I will be a keeper to that promise. So I preach her beauty instead, so the rest will seek what I have.

Hiking Mount Washington

Each mountain is unique in its own nature, and therefore incomparable to that of others. They all have their own charm and mystery.

The White Mountains are an incredible mountain range in the Northeast and home to Mount Washington, who stands unapologetically confident at 6,288 feet high. Known for fast-changing and harsh weather conditions, Mount Washington has the highest wind speed ever recorded in the world at 231 mph. 

taken at the Summit of Mount Washington

Before I ever summited Mount Washington, I’d heard enough stories to make me not want to go. Many have died over the years there. Because there are no significant mountain ranges between the Rocky Mountains and the whites, there’s pretty much no stopping or slowing down hurricane force winds speeding across the country. Extreme weather is partly what makes Mount Washington a marvel. Weather fronts change quicker than you can blink, and if not properly prepared (gear-wise, but also knowing what to expect for the day), it’s likely it won’t end well. I’ve been at the bottom of the mountain in 80-degree weather, sweating, then trying to summit in 70 mph winds and shivering in the 30-degree wind chill. Many perish from hypothermia. There are also tricky spots throughout the trails, which can make for hard and fast falls down. Other times, people may not make it due to lack of physical preparation or preexisting health conditions.

Mount Washington attracts people from everywhere. If you looked up Northeast attractions, I can guarantee Mount Washington is one of them. There are plenty who take the Mount Washington Auto Road or the Cog Railway, but it’s undoubtedly a shame that a part of the beauty was stripped away for yet another road. Others who come in unadulterated appreciation are hikers, climbers, and skiers. 

There are five main hiking trails to the summit- Tuckerman Ravine, Jewell, Lion Head, Ammonoosuc, and Boott Spur. Huntington Ravine is another trail, but also the most challenging and dangerous. It’s not recommended for beginners and/or those who don’t know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. Do your research. It’s also not recommended to descend on either ravine, so in the case you wanted to ascend that way, you’d have to find an alternate trail to come down. 

I’ve summited Mount Washington only three times so far. Two of those times were through Tuckerman Ravine (descent on Lion’s Head) and once through the Ammonoosuc (descent on the Jewell Trail). 

The climbs came with butterflies and excitement for what the adventure would bring, especially the first few times. It’s like when you’re going to meet a new person. She’s intimidating, towering over the valley in such fierce stance and should in no way be treated lightly. 

August 2020
Tuckerman Ravine/Lion Head
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,169 ft

Ascent: Tuckerman Ravine

I opened my eyes to a gray sky just before dawn. I made my way up slowly, whipped up a nice cup of ginger tea and a breakfast sandwich, then headed out the door. We arrived at Pinkham Notch around 6:15am. Although it was still very early, the parking lot had many cars. Other hikers stood at their trunks in puffy, down jackets, eating hard-boiled eggs. I threw my pack over my shoulders and clipped its buckles around my hips and chest. My nerves slipped away to my feet, and I stomped them out as I walked past the visitor center.

I dragged my still very much drowsy legs up the first .2 miles of slight incline. The waterfalls were in my favor though, requiring stillness to appreciate. I perched myself over a heavily flowing fall that gifted me a cool breeze. It was stationed among the trees, who doused themselves in fresh mountain water. I admired the way the water threw itself over the staggered rocks- no thought involved. I imagine that the water doesn’t get scared. It’s purpose in those moments is to flow and fall. No hesitation. No effort. That’s what letting go must look like. 

A well-built bridge followed this, then the trail tilted itself vertical. The path is relatively wide compared to the average hiking trail, and rocks are scattered everywhere. I kept a steady pace. I didn’t want to go too fast- that’s like opening the faucet to let all your energy run out before you actually need it. Eager to get ahead though, I kept looking up to see what was in front of me, but then I’d trip! So I focused my attention back to each step, carefully placing my feet on the flattest part of the rocks. One who does not care about their feet positioning now will regret it later when their ankles are sensitive and aching for rest. 

I crossed a few more bridges, maybe two or three, and as I did, the trees grew closer together, flushing into the most splendid perylene green. My favorite part about the higher you go is the less bare the rocks are. Verdant moss dresses them like a warm sweater. The magic of moss is too often overlooked- the resilience and fluid nature of it. 

At the two-mile mark, I met with Hermit Lake and the Hermit Lake Shelter. There were a few small shelters and tent platforms throughout. There were also some picnic tables, which made it a solid place to sit down for a second before we began the true ascent. I love it there, and the reason for that is because it has the grandest view of the ravine. The ravine is just… magnificent.

Tuckerman Ravine in autumn

The east side of the mountain has two ravines- Huntington and Tuckerman. The lateral side of the mountain caves in and juts out. Normally, a mountain side would slope down, but glacial erosion caused the side to form a bowl shape, so technically, they’re both technically ‘glacial cirques’. Standing in front of the ravine, you’re basically in a massive stadium, and the pines are your audience. You’re unable to see over either side, which made me feel like I was being protected behind a shield. From a good position in center stadium, you can view the collection of massive boulders. Although the sky was tragically covered in a thick bed of clouds that laid low, I could still see the face of the wall.

The snow was gone, with the snow arch collapsing back in June, but what remained underneath were the impressive boulders carving into the mountain body like scars. Maples, oaks, and pines complimented them, and a meager waterfall ran along the rocks. I remember what this all looked like last September. The leaves had already changed and created a beautiful mix of colors- burnt orange, auburn, butterscotch, and lime. And the sweet smell of an autumn breeze in the mountains invigorated my whole being.

taken somewhere near Hermit Lake Shelter in autumn

The trail’s alpine flowers grew boldly at its edges. They have a rough life, but are made for it. Imagine being this seemingly delicate flower, but having the ability to withstand freezing temperatures. So wonderfully smart they are. Experts of mountain life!

taken in August

It wasn’t a long climb up the ravine (about one mile), but it was exposed. The rocks can be slippery because of general moisture or from running water flowing down the rocks. There were also sections where the mud has slid. I carefully weighed myself out on my thighs and got my hands ready to brace in case of impact. Climbing the ravine was one of the best parts of this trail. I looked down and I was suddenly above it all. I could see both sides of the stadium walls, but still not past them. And in the distance, the sky began to open back up into the valley.

taken in August
climbing on Tucks trail in August

The boulder field opened up into an alien land. A thick fog covered the landscape, and without the sun, the temperature began to drop. I couldn’t see too far in front of me. The people passing by faded into shadows. The wind added to an extra chill and if it was iffy here, I imagined the top wasn’t ideal. I came prepared though, with a pack that has pretty much everything (I hoped). I took out my gloves, down coat, and hat, and put them on as if my life depended on it. .8 miles to the summit. 

taken in September 2019 (autumn)

Being tired, sore, and a little slow makes .8 miles feel longer than it is. Still, I moved my feet with determination. As I inched closer to the peak, I began to notice these peculiar formations in the rocks. White and pink, some with black speckles. Some were sharp, others a bit dull, but all with the same basic structure. Some rested with a pile of other rocks as trail markers, but the bigger ones were locked into the rigid rock. Crystals. 

There are many reasons Mount Washington is magical. And when I say magical, I mean this mountain reaches into the heavens or maybe just close enough that heaven’s remains fall right onto Earth. I didn’t expect this even though I’ve seen quartz on mountain tops before, just never in this size. They are incredibly beautiful, untouched and naturally there. I wonder if those being there, peculiarly placed, is the reason why Mount Washington Valley is swelling with energy. But anyway, I’ve never seen anyone stop to take a minute with them. I placed my hand on the white crystal bed, paid my respects and thanks, and kept moving.

As soon as I could just barely pick out the edge of the auto road, the motivation to hurry up kicked it. And before I knew it, I was at the top and met with more steps up to the summit building. It was even colder and windier than before, so I hurried in where it was warm to properly prepare for the descent.

Descent: Lion’s Head

taken in August 🙂

In order to transition to the Lion Head trail, we had to walk back down the way we came for about .4 or .6 miles to another sign for the Alpine Garden trail. Trekking through the fog again, I made my way over bigger boulders. Most of this was me sliding on my bum to avoid falling or out of laziness because it’s a quick chance to sit. You’re still scrambling here, except it flattens out a bit. There was a short section of pines before entering a meadow.

Here, I watched the clouds peel off the mountain. It wasn’t the luckiest day atop the mountain, but from a bit lower you could begin to see the view of the world around you. Even the rocks begin to flatten out, so your feet get a quick break. Lion Head drops off its edge, plummeting down into the path we walked before. I laid on a rock at the very edge, taking in the mountain wrapping around, the sun’s sparkling light, and the clouds moving quickly over me. A few droplets of rain came through, but nothing serious. It was peaceful laying at the edge of the world.

When I first came here, I remember seeing other people walking on Lion Head and wondering how they’d get down because it looks like a straight path with a quick drop off. I just couldn’t fathom it, and still can’t whenever I’m the one walking down. All I know is that there are lovely alpine plants covering either side and guiding me toward the treeline.

My legs worked to lower me down, deeper into the mountainside. The White Mountains are known for their rocks. If you come here, you’re probably not looking for easy and you shouldn’t expect it either. Even past the treeline, the rocks didn’t stop, but there were more exposed roots and dirt. This makes it slippery. I had to maneuver down rocks that my dad calls “Mountain Marble” and trust my feet that I wouldn’t slide down. These parts are the hardest because there aren’t any holds for your pants (sometimes squatting is required). On occasion, there were fallen trees, so I’d find myself climbing over or crawling under.

Lion Head opened back up onto the Tuckerman Ravine trail a bit before the Hermit Lake Shelter. The rest of the way down was exactly the same as the way I came up- just plain walking down them rocks again. This is the part where all your thoughts leave because you’re trying to make it out. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, just that my body had had enough already.

And right back to the visitor center I went, arriving to a parkling lot overflowing with cars.

The toughest part of this trail is…every second of the ascent. The Tuckerman Ravine trail gains 1,000 feet in elevation per mile. It’s only four miles to the summit, but it’s a long four miles, as is every mile in the White Mountains. Your body works hard. Your movements are calculated. I felt the muscles that hadn’t been worked in a long time being used. The trail tore at my flesh and weaknesses, but in a way, left me completed different than the way I started. Amazed and captivated with the art of the mountain.

With Love,



Our bodies are our homes while we’re on this Earth. And we want to feel good and comfortable in our own skin.

My skin definitely isn’t perfect, but it has come a really long way from where it’s been. I’ve always had acne. It usually clears up during the summer time and resurfaces during the change of seasons (at its worst during winter). But over the course of the last year, I started getting cystic acne on my cheeks and forehead. These spots would stick around for months at a time. I got back and chest acne as well. My pores were enlarged like crazy. And on top of all this, I was breaking out in rashes, and on occasion, burns from trying a billion different products. As the acne itself went away, it would leave behind scars that I thought would never leave.

I didn’t know where to turn when it came to skincare. Everything I used either didn’t work or made it worse. I got a few products from my dermatologist at first, but they take three months to kick in and work steadily. Truly, I was impatient, and I also didn’t want to have to rely on these to keep my acne away for good.

I was really embarrassed of my skin. I told myself I could only wear certain clothes, so people couldn’t see my back, and I scrambled to find a good foundation to cover up my face. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Growing up in the age of social media makes it really hard to be confident in your own skin, when you’re constantly seeing these seemingly perfect people. There’s a lot of room for comparison. I used to edit my face on some of my pictures because I didn’t want anyone to know what was really there.

I had to learn to love myself throughout all of this, despite what my skin looked like and know that there is so much beneath all of that. Having acne is not an “ugly” thing. It’s a normal human thing that most people struggle with. There was nothing wrong with me when my skin was awry- it just needed a little more TLC. It was my body’s way of telling me something was up that I needed to deal with. Acne didn’t make me any less. I didn’t, and don’t, have to hide.

I wish someone could’ve flat out given me a solution when I was desperately searching for one. This was my journey though, and everyone’s solution is going to be different. What’s listed below is what helped me, and hopefully it’ll help lead one of you to yours.

Secrets to Getting Clear Skin

Treat from the inside-out.

We must work from the inside-out. Doing this helps you clear the root of the problem, so it doesn’t resurface again. The goal is to nourish and nurture your overall health.

Your inner work and work that is done from the inside is where the bulk of the effort lies.

  • Mental/Emotional Health. When I look back at the times I had a lot of acne, I was most often not happy, stressed, anxious, or depressed. I wasn’t doing well mentally, and my skin was a reflection of that. It sucked because my skin breaking out put an even bigger damper on my self-esteem, but those were times when I really needed to take care of myself.
    • Me-Time. Make time for yourself and things that make you happy. Go for a walk. Make some art. Make sure there’s always at least a day a week that’s just for you. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.
    • De-stress. Stress can play a HUGE role in acne. It’s important to de-stress throughout the day. Meditate. Do some breathwork. Write in your journal, and identify your feelings. It’s important to come back down to the ground and realign yourself.
    • Happiness. When I’m happy, I have the best skin. It’s almost like it glows. The key (for me) to being happy is what’s said above. I lean towards being anxious, so I’m constantly having to identify what’s going on inside of me, debunk stressful situations, and re-ground myself. I do things to set myself up for success. P.S. Being grateful brings joy into your heart.
  • Cleanse. While looking for solutions online, I discovered Organic Olivia’s blog about how she cleared her acne. She swore by doing a parasite cleanse. I was familiar with the subject because I’d done a few before, but I’d never thought about how parasites can relate to cystic acne. (Yes, we all have parasites. And no, they don’t have to be causing life-threatening illness.) Parasites can also cause a slew of mental health issues like anxiety. It all lined up for me. I went to Whole Foods and picked up a two week microbial cleanse. I did the two weeks, waited one week, and repeated it. Not only did my entire body feel like I was getting rid of all the junk, but my face acne was significantly reduced in size, and my body acne was disappearing.
  • A Good Diet. A good diet doesn’t mean dieting. It means clean-eating and drinking lots of water for the most part. It’s not about being super strict with yourself either. Treat yourself, but understand it’s everything in moderation. I don’t hold back when I want something because I don’t want my relationship to food to be negative. I want to enjoy the food I eat. For the most part, I try to stick to eating a plethora of veggies, lean proteins, and I cook at home. I also try to stay away from most processed foods and sugary drinks. Kombucha is my favorite alternative because it has probiotics and is also fizzy like soda.
    • Listen to your body. Only eat when you’re hungry. Overeating can put stress on your body because it’s overloaded. Be conscious of what feels good.
    • Less Coffee. Coffee dehydrates the body. This is my biggest vice because I love coffee, but it also causes major anxiety. Staying away from it, and choosing to drink herbal tea instead, improves my skin health tenfold. It also helps bring my stress levels down :).
  • Vitamins- A good probiotic can go a long way. Imbalances in the body, especially in the gut, can lead to acne. I took a Skin Probiotic for a while, when my skin was at its worst. Now, I stick to a Bio-K probiotic for my overall gut health.

Treating the surface layer.

  • A Good Skincare Routine. There are lots of super fancy acne fighting products on the market. There are many things people will try to sell you because it’s “revolutionary”, but 1) why would I spend that kind of money if I don’t know if it’ll work, and 2) they’re usually out of my budget. I needed things that actually do something and are reasonably priced. I tried pretty much everything and read a bunch of articles before I found the one. The first thing that worked for me was the SLMD Acne System Kit. I opted out of using the cleanser because of a sulfate it contained, but everything else was great. After using it for a few months, I began to branch out.
    • My skincare routine consists of:
      • Cleanser– I use this once a day, usually at night. If I’m breaking out more, I use it twice a day. Otherwise, in the morning, I just rinse my face with warm water, massage with an exfoliating glove, then rinse with cold water. I like to have a cleanser with salicylic acid in it to help fight breakouts, so the Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser is ideal and also cheap. There’s another awesome exfoliating cleanser by Skin Medica with AHA and BHA. It’s a little more pricey.
      • Toner– I use this morning and night. As an astringent, it helps tighten your pores back up after washing. Just regular witch hazel works, or the Thayers Witch Hazel (rose petal).
      • Exfoliant– AHA and BHA work wonders on acne, ESPECIALLY if you get those little skin colored bumps that don’t ever leave. It helps peel away the dead skin and reveal a new layer. I like the BHA Liquid Exfoliant from Paula’s Choice. I only use it at night because if used too much, it makes my skin dry.
      • Retinol– This is only used at night. It helps bring collagen to the surface of your skin, helps smooth skin texture, and get rid of dark spots/acne marks. I still use the SLMD Retinol Serum.
      • Treatment– This is basically a spot treatment. I use drugstore brand benzoyl peroxide whenever I get a stubborn pimple. Other times, I use tea tree oil- ONLY when there’s nothing else but lotion on my face. (CAUTION: Always dilute tea tree oil. Never ever mix it with chemical treatments. And test to see if you’re allergic first.)
      • Moisturizer– Used morning and night. It’s always, always oil-free. (Oil clogs pores, so I try to make sure all my products are oil-free.) I like it to have vitamin C to help reduce hyperpigmentation. The Avalon Organics Intense Defense Oil-Free moisturizer is my favorite.
      • Sunscreen– I really only use this in the summer time or when my skin is oily. My sunscreen contains niacinamide, which helps balance oil production. I like the EltaMD sunscreen.
      • If you have body acne, I swear by the Paula’s Choice Acne Body Spray.
      • *Bonus*- To help extract the dirt out of my pores and pull out toxins, I use the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. This stuff is true magic.
  • Don’t Pick at Your Face. Just don’t.
  • Check the Ingredients in Everything. I can’t stress this enough. Because Perioral Dermatitis is triggered by certain things, and because my skin is so sensitive, I have to be careful with what I’m using. Everything I buy, I READ THE LABEL first. Most products contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), which is a really big no-no for PD. Sulfates can clog pores and also cause skin irritation. Check your detergent, dish soap, foamy hand soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Look for things without sulfates, parabens, fragrance, etc.
    • It’s hard to find products without all these chemicals in them, I know. But there are brands out there that strive to put conscious products out. Some examples are; Shea Moisture, Whole Foods Organic Detergent, Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, and Lyonsleaf.
    • Know everything you put on your skin goes into your body. It all has an effect and swings back around. Here are some quick little facts for you about things to avoid (from on Instagram):
  • Makeup. The thought of this at first made me nervous because I didn’t want to expose my skin, but wearing less face makeup helped reduce my problem of clogged pores. Instead of covering my face in foundation, I just use concealer under my eyes or as a spot cover up. Primer helps the product not seep in either. Remember to properly remove makeup- exfoliating with gloves help here. Also CLEAN YOUR MAKEUP BRUSHES. I’d get acne wherever I was swiping that brush because bacteria was collecting all over it. It’s important to wash them periodically.
  • Exercise. Get your blood flowing! Exercise helps improve circulation and move the blood to where it needs to go. Sweating also helps expel toxins. I don’t love exercising, but it makes me feel good and improves the way my skin looks. Even just getting out for a walk every day makes a huge difference.

Ever since doing all of this consistently, I haven’t broken out much. Sometimes I’ll break out because of something I ate (like dairy, sugar, or gluten), other times for hormonal reasons (my cycle). My pores stay clear, and I keep an eye on my mental health, which helps keep my skin glowy. I also make sure to get enough sleep, so my body has time to heal itself.

These are some photos of what my skin looks like now. Healed :).

Take this all with a grain of salt. Know that you are beautiful, and you don’t have to be ashamed of your skin. I understand that now more than ever and have to fully accept myself as I am.

With love,


Ode to Summer


A Love Letter To Life

I lay beside Rines Hill, a rock climbing spot that’s nestled in the woods about half a mile from the battered dirt road, somewhere in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. I’ve found my balance on a slanted rock, underneath a canopy of trees. I’m definitely not wearing enough clothes for this weather, so the only thing between me and the decaying pine needles is my used, red flannel. I thought it was summer, but it’s actually really brisk out. There’s a chill about the wind that hits right in the chest. In that way, it’s different from a summer breeze. A summer breeze is gentle and caresses you, lifting you up and cooling you down.

There are busy insects, scurrying to and fro, beneath me. I’m a little eerie of them crawling under me. I don’t want them on me. But after a bit, those thoughts stop pestering me, and I become curious. I wonder what their mission is- what their life purpose is. So restless.

As I watch the trees breathe, I notice they move much like my diaphragm. The trunk inhales with strength, and a tenderness that understands what that breath will do to nourish, and exhales with steadiness, pulling the branches and leaves with them. They move so smoothly, in unison and formation. Have I been mimicking them, or are they mimicking me? Well, they’re the reason I’m breathing in the first place, right? I must’ve learned from watching them.

The sun is so kind, shining brightly on my bare skin. I could take a good nap right here. I appreciate his presence. The remembrance of his existence and the gift of light are what gives me the motivation to push through when things are tough. The other day, I decided to sit by the river. It was a beautiful day, barely any clouds. The river rushed over the rocks without hesitation- something I envy about it. Letting go and flowing like that would take a lot of practice for me.

While it was beautiful, watching it gush through the Earth like that reminded me that it has so much unforgiving power. I felt safe, but I was still careful. There was no one else there besides me. I came here because I wanted to tell the water all the things that hurt me to release them. And when I spoke of these things, I felt a deep wound open up. The murk of these memories began to surround me, enveloping me in dust. But as soon as I remembered all that was around me, the sun began beaming harder. It beamed through the dark and through the water until I could see it all clear. And then I came out of it. I was here right now- nothing to worry about. All I had to remember was that light. I’m not alone.

Everything here is quiet. There are no sounds of trucks rustling over the loose rock on the road and no chatter of tourists, just the clatter of carabiners and leaves brushing against each other- but only when the wind blows. I don’t get this kind of silence too often. Although I’ve struggled to connect with myself in the past weeks, this quietness has delivered me back to my body. I imagine my sole existence in the forest without any concerns, no one calling my name in the background. I’m noticing everything for the first time, all over again. The stillness brings me back to being, and I breathe with clarity, instead of fog. Feeling grounded now, I search for the poetry that’s hidden in the back of my throat. The poetry that I’ve stuffed down because I was “too busy” or something. I scrape at it from the bottom of my belly, from where the sun rays have thawed it out. I cough it up onto this page.

We all wait long months for you, Summer. Some of sorrow, some of patience, some of daydreams- others of anticipation and excitement. The sprout that hides under a blanket of snow has popped out of the ground in spring’s uncertainty, only knowing that this is what it’s supposed to do. But all of the sudden, when that first day comes where the temperature has risen enough for a dip in the Atlantic, everything bursts and runs carelessly into the ocean. The sprout is now fully grown, joining the world in its glory, shamelessly. The red squirrels and chipmunks chase each other until they realize they’re tumbling down the hill, out of control of where they will land.

And with the blink of an eye, we are sinking into the empty fields of Goldenrod and tall grass at the tail end of August, pointing out the shapes of the clouds and asking them if they’d tell us the story of the land they’ve crossed. Which lake or stream or ocean or puddle did you emerge from?

I know these moments are fleeting, so I immerse myself fully in the smiles of the people I love. I sip from the bee’s sweet honey and breathe deeply, engulfing myself in the true scent of pine and cedar. I bury my feet in the dirt as if I’m trying to become one of the ferns. Or maybe a mushroom. I look up for as long as I can before my neck starts to hurt, so I can see the silhouette of the mountain in front of its brilliant halo. I listen closely to the crickets before bed, orchestrating their most magnificent pieces. It’s the best music to search for the milky way to. And even if the grass isn’t the greenest, I’ll roll in it anyway and learn plant language well enough to giggle the way the wildflowers do.

The sunset has the same effect as biting into my favorite chocolate bar. Over the beloved ocean, it paints in the same way fireworks do. Violet and baby pink and burnt orange sparks make love to the sky. The waves crash over in pale blue light, mourning the day, but prepared to greet its true love- the moon. Finally, they can be together in undisturbed harmony.

Dawn pours over like molasses over the valley and in through the windows of my bedroom. It gently nudges at the dandelions and whispers to the bees. Wake up. Life begins again. A promise kept, as I wake with my face still stuck to the cotton pillowcase, clinging to the last bit of a dream that felt so very real. I feel the excitement of another warm day, another opportunity to experience something new.

Whether it be a spontaneous adventure or precisely planned trip, I know there will be heartbreak by the end of it. I’ll have to part ways with my wandering feet, settle down for something a little more stable. All the soft tender kisses on my forehead by the butterfly of change will be wasted, or I won’t get to the top of the mountain before the berries rot. But things bloom at the edge of heartbreak too. This is the cycle of life.

I thoughtfully create a collage of memories in my head. These ninety days fly past- are only a fragment of my life, yet so significant and so precious. They are the paradise I fly to and the fuel for my soul.

I stand in front of summer, guarding it from the fangs of fall, who stalks its prey like a hungry mountain lion, and beg for just a little more time. One more dive in the lake before it freezes over, before I watch the hands of the trees fall off. Because I know that by my next breath, the first flake of snow will be falling onto a desolate earth.

And so I leave this here, the leaves fluttering like twinkling stars in the moonlight, as I walk away from the edge of this wall. Grateful and thankful, my feet confess their last words to the moist dirt and auburn and sunflower-yellow leaves. I gift one last joke to the spider and beetle and toss an acorn to the chipmunk. I make notes to myself of all the things I’ll do when I return- how fast I’ll climb. And maybe I’ll build up the courage to speak to the great peregrine falcon. I imagine myself running back to the hill and giving this rock the biggest hug (acknowledging an old friend). I think of how special this all was and how it feels good to enjoy life and truly bask in it. To take the most sultry bites out of this cake while I’m still here.

With more love,


Shifting Ground

photo by Sonal Madhok

I was driving around one day and noticed the car in front of me had a sticker on it that read, “Change? How’s that working out for you?”

I don’t know about you, but I think that statement is terrifying. Yes, they are “just words,” but there is truth in that among all the people that fight for change and care so deeply, there are still many who refuse it- who are more than comfortable with the way things are in the world and would prefer them to remain the same for their sake.

My mother is the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. She’s smart and funny and kind. All she ever does it go out of her way to make sure everyone is happy and feels cared for. She meets every person with so much love and gives away more than enough without any need for reciprocation. She deserves the world. 

I’d assume that most of you, reading this, feel the same way about your mother or at least someone you love. But despite my mother being a human being like the rest of yours, her Puerto Rican complexion means something different to the world. 

While there have been a lot of kind people along the way, there have also been a lot of people who are not so kind…

My mom has been parking on the opposite side of our street for the past year we’ve lived here. There has never been a problem, but a few weeks ago, she found a note on her car saying that that was illegal, and that they would call the police if she didn’t move. There were no signs or indicators noting that this was unlawful. In confusion, she called the local police department to check and see if it was okay for her to park there. She kept them on the phone and made them double-check. To which they replied, it was entirely legal for her to do so. She continued to park there. 

The next night, at 10 pm, there was a knock on our door. It was the Chief of Police. He ordered her to move her car because it was illegal, and she was blocking the intersection. When she replied that she had called the previous day, he said it was a “new rule” and proceeded to place police orders specifically in the area she was parked. 

My mom minds her own business, so I wonder a lot about why her “improperly placed” vehicle bothered our neighbor and why he sat in bed at 10 o’clock in the evening, dialing the police to have them come over here.

Aside from this, there have been many other instances on our block, and in my mother’s life, where this behavior has occurred and where she has felt uncomfortable, unsafe, and frustrated. For example, yesterday, my mother was walking our dog past a construction area nearby, where a police officer was posted up. As she passed, he proceeded to follow her as she walked until she got back home. Then, later that day, another police officer passed by, watching as she cleaned her car.  

Regardless of if you think any of this behavior was racially motivated. Regardless of if you think it’s not a big deal. This is NOT okay. And frankly, it’s fucking scary. 

What’s most painful about these situations is the fact that it’s so simple that nothing can really be said about it. “How can you prove that she really didn’t do something wrong?” “Are you sure they were following her?”

If you have ever loved someone or something, then you know the feeling that when they’re hurting, it hurts you. You just want to protect them, but you never have control over fate. Everyone has to go out in the world, but not everyone has a nice, white bubble to float around in- and that’s not discrediting the problems of others. I sometimes worry when I leave the house that something bad will happen, and I won’t get home in time. Or that the weird looks she gets when she goes for a walk will turn into something more grim. Although my mom doesn’t do things that would get her in some kind of trouble, I fear that she will be. 

I didn’t always recognize how different my mother’s reality was from mine because I have white skin- how I benefit from the white supremacist society we live in. Hell, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Not only was it rare to see diversity in my friend group, in my school, or in my town, but I don’t even remember conversations about racism coming up unless it was a topic of the past. I didn’t want to believe that people could be subtly racist, especially to my own mother. 

There is an unfair, disgusting, and horrifying abuse of power within our system. It was built long before our generation opened its eyes to this planet. Not only is it deeply embedded in the police force and the government, but also the people. Whether or not you want to believe it and as ugly and painful as it is, it’s in all of us. This is your battle. I know that these instances don’t happen in most people’s lives. And I know that because of this, it makes it really hard to think about, believe, and to stick with the change. You may have never seen it or realized it or even thought that maybe your own words or actions carry enough weight to really hurt someone else.

When I began to have this conversation with myself, it wasn’t easy. I was uncomfortable because I didn’t understand a lot of the feelings I had buried inside, some of which didn’t even belong to me, but were ingrained. I had to ask myself questions I never did before. So much comes at you at once, and you’re overwhelmed because, by nature, you want to fix it all at once. You can’t. There are things you and I won’t ever be able to comprehend. We can’t tackle everything. But it means something to be conscious and walk through life without rose-colored glasses.

Earlier this year, a chilling video surfaced the internet of a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck for nine minutes, until he was unresponsive. That man was George Floyd. And that police officer was Derek Chauvin. Seeing that video should’ve shook you hard into your humanity, your mortality and your community. George Floyd was not only a husband, but a father- a human being that deserved just as many rights as the next one, just as many opportunities and respect. And the fact that, even after being murdered by law enforcement on video, there was hesitation to arrest and convict his killer is infuriating. There were many, many others before him. And even more after. How many more lives until something changes?

It’s heartbreaking to think of the people who don’t care enough or who simply just don’t believe it, when this is a reality for so many others. There are people who go out of their way to put the lives of others in danger, who live to see fear in those people’s eyes because it makes them feel high and mighty.

This happens every day. This behavior is everywhere. It’s not new, and it’s not a secret.

Everything that once hid in the shadows is coming to the surface right now. These things are changing right before our eyes, and everything we thought was, really wasn’t. You can feel it when you step outside your door- something is different, off balance, shifting.

The world is bending and breaking and bleeding. It would be a lie to say you don’t see it. We will all carry the weight of hatred on our backs as long as it is still very much running rampant through our country and our world. It lives in the way we participate, our inclusion of certain people and exclusion of others, our gossipping, our choice to support larger corporations while the smaller ones suffer, our pollution, our plastic, our self-denial, our abuse, our lies- everything we give our energy to that is not for the betterment, but instead feeds the negativity and allows it to grow even bigger. I know it hurts to think of these things, but it will always come full circle. No one is off the hook.

We’re all so caught up in our own lives and busyness that somehow there’s “no time” to learn and change. Or maybe there’s no time because it doesn’t immediately affect you. But none of your busyness actually matters- all of this running around and freedom you hold is meaningless, unless we can all live together like that. As Nelson Mandela once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This not only goes for the people, but the animals, the land and ocean too. We have gone on too long without a sense of community, appreciation, and care.

What I’m asking of you is to just take a second of every day to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Plainly, don’t be an asshole. And I’m not saying you are one, but always check yourself. Keep checking yourself. Check your family members and loved ones. Check your friends and coworkers. Educate yourself.

Don’t be complacent with the system because you don’t have negative experiences. Stop saying you don’t give a shit about anything at all. That’s not cool. No, you don’t have to constantly repost things on your Instagram- I’d hope that’s not the only thing you’re doing anyway. Have these conversations with your family and friends and everyone in between.

Acknowledge what came before you and the truth in everything. Make some room for the truth of others. Begin to see the world and her inhabitants as an extension of yourself. And treat everyone with the same respect, kindness, and immense love that you also deserve.

Hold so much love inside you that it bursts out of the seams. Spread it everywhere you go. Use it to heal. See the light it reaps.

Take the time to learn how to change and to make the world a better place for ALL (and there are no borders or limits or exceptions to that). Your love for humanity is going to have to be much greater than your love solely for your inner circle and yourself to overthrow this. Let go of your ego and your selfishness. Give it up for the bigger picture.

Awakening on a grand and global scale was coming. It’s long overdue. Nothing will live in the dark anymore.

Ignite the fire of change. Let your heart unfold. Meet everyone with the means to clean out a deep wound- lend an open and gentle ear. Please don’t ever be afraid to use your voice. You have one for a reason and I promise it matters. The call to become more conscious asks you to become compassionate, do the work, and listen. Notice. Feel. Discuss. Release. Repeat.

Grieve and rebirth. We will no longer live in a way that is not conducive to everyone’s wellbeing. No more blood will be shed. No more tears when there doesn’t have to be. It will take time. Know you are not responsible for everything, but you are responsible for yourself. You hold the dice and are deciding at every moment which direction this is going to go. Let it be forward.

With Fire,

Visionary Orchid

Why I Hike

I’m sitting in the car, watching the trees blend together like a bunch of blurry pixels as the speed increases. The soft light of dawn is spilling in, stealing the remainder of the night, and coating everything in its golden hue. This is the only time you can look right at the sun and not get blinded. Mornings have stolen my heart. Everything has such beauty before the sun rises to the center of the sky, acquiring the ability to turn my skin bright red like a geranium (the color before it cools to a tan). And how everything is quiet and all the bodies that rush past me on the sidewalk in the afternoon are still asleep. And all the streets and valleys are stained grey and blue.

My father is driving, blasting his sometimes strange, alternative music right through the windows and letting the wind blow around the overgrown locks that he’s very proud of. It’s early, maybe around five-thirty or six in the morning. And I’m still sleepy, struggling to keep my eyes open after a late night, but I won’t give in- I have my headphones on the amp me up. He insists we be up super early so we can make it to the trailhead before it fills up. Ever since COVID, they’ve been blocking the streets from parking to limit the amount of people entering. We won’t miss our chance to be there on time and grab a spot.

My boots are tied on tight, as tight as I could get them. If they aren’t snug enough, your ankle will be more unstable. I can tell, he’s excited, but I’m still a little anxious as always. We arrive at the trailhead at seven a.m. sharp, and I hop out of the car to prepare my trekking poles for impact. My boots touch the soil, and the energy surges through my body, marking every cell until it lights up my brain. The nerves are gone- it’s time to get moving.

The outdoors haven’t always been my “thing.” Even growing up on the shore, and making any place by the ocean, my home, I didn’t have that connection to nature. I was never good at sports, and I definitely didn’t enjoy anything we did in gym. I sat out a lot. And the friends I had usually did some kind of activity. Or had a club to go to. I always wanted some kind of hobby to call my own. Perhaps it was because I longed to have a team, but maybe not- I don’t exactly enjoy being watched by a crowd and I never felt comfortable speaking out loud at club meetings. I’d rather just be alone.

My dad, on the other hand, has been doing some kind of outdoor activity since forever. I wouldn’t exactly call him a “team player” either, but he eats, sleeps, and breathes the outdoors. Mountain biking, road cycling, hiking, climbing- you name it. We didn’t have many shared interests. I was kind of artsy, and he’s more techy- me, more easygoing, and he, more rigid. He pushes himself to the absolute limit and that’s always been a bit much for me. I like the safe side.

Just a few years ago, he asked me to come hiking for the first time. I agreed. Near where I live, there are a lot of brisk hikes and walking trails, but there isn’t anything within an hour radius that’s too long and/or challenging (I know this is my opinion). So there aren’t a ton of places to get decent practice and work your way up, unless you’re trail running for endurance or training at the gym. Both of which I had/have trouble being consistent with.

We started in Bear Mountain, New York, working our way up from four to seven to ten to thirteen-mile hikes, routinely getting Mexican food afterward- I suppose that’s what reeled me in. Months and months passed. I hiked on again, off again- mostly staying in New York, but touching Vermont, New Hampshire, and some parts of North Jersey. We would rise early and throw on our packs. Or we’d camp- falling asleep to the smell of a dying fire, the fireflies acting as a string of lights hanging outside the tent and the crickets chirping away.

After I proved myself to be worthy and committed, I acquired hiking gear and was very excited about it. I had my own stuff finally…and a few more pounds to carry on my back. I became an adventurer who was ready to set foot on land I’d never seen before. I may have looked and acted absolutely miserable in the moment. But I seldom came off the trail feeling unaccomplished and weak. It wasn’t until recently that I started feeling ready for the challenges thrown at me- eager to do it again.

Of course, everyone hikes for the views: the breathtaking peaks and the valleys below them. You’re on top of the world. Pine trees tower over you as you watch the beetles and daddy long legs crawl over the rocks. You have the opportunity to see all the lakes, ponds, and waterfalls the world as the offer- you might even run into some wildlife. You observe how each ecosystem thrives. You feel freedom. And your heart starts to grow bigger for the wild. Each inhale is an opportunity to receive, and each exhale, an opportunity to give.

I was in a lost place in my life when I started, and hiking/nature gave me a sense of belonging. I struggled a lot and held it in because, perhaps, I have too much pride to speak about when I’m in pain. Mentally, I was struggling to keep myself all the way there and to talk myself through it. Eventually, hiking becomes less about the physical and more if you’re mentally able to handle it. Your body is on autopilot, but can you get yourself to keep moving? Emotionally, I felt many feelings coming up I had to deal with and sort through. And I wasn’t in proper physical shape, but nothing my young body couldn’t get used to. I just kept pushing myself. All the way through those swollen feet, blisters, and achy joints.

The more experience I gained, the more I began to realize what this activity really meant- that it isn’t just an “activity.” It is a practice. A ritual.

My feet touch the ground. I feel it pumping beneath me as if it’s propelling me. Each step is an exploration of the floor and what’s underneath it. Every joint in my body lifts and extends. It becomes a gentle flow of movement. And suddenly I’m not trying, my body knows exactly what to do, and my brain is the commander in chief. My thoughts come in and out at their own will. I’m in a meditative state. I release my soul while my body is treading forward. It dances freely in the space around me- jumping from tree to tree, kissing me on the forehead, then returning to the heavens before it has to come back to its temporary home. Happy.

While the above is taking place, this is also- the droplets of sweat running down my cheeks transform into waterfalls. The villages built over my skin are being flooded over. I’m struggling now, but I can’t turn back, especially after I’ve walked a few miles already. You got this- nothing you haven’t done before. I ate breakfast, a hearty bowl of oatmeal, but my stomach has emptied itself again. My belly is grumbling. I long for my bed. My knees and hips ache. Mosquitos are sucking all my blood out and leaving me dry. Weird insects are getting lodged in my ear, even as I swat at the air. But I tame myself, learn to be content and accept discomfort. Let it be. No, I’m not always the most graceful hiker (if that even exists). I’ve fallen hard and eaten shit a few times (not literally, if I must say).

I used to be afraid of what was hidden behind the trees and under rocks. But hiking taught me to just let go of the fear. How will I ever learn, or see, if something is in the way? All those bears and snakes, that you fear crossing paths with, want to protect themselves just as you do. They are living their own lives, basking in their beautiful homes. There’s no reason to afraid, just be smart and respectful- this goes for the plants too. Nature is unpredictable and can be as harsh as it is beautiful. I began to connect with the world around me and ground myself. Then I learned how to do it over and over each time I returned. The fleshy barrier separating the two of us disintegrates. I am the air and the dirt and the sky. I am the light on every passing stranger’s face and they are the light on mine. I am infinite in my movement and space.

And although it has made me feel eternal, it has also shown me my humanness. I’m not invincible. I’m in no control of boulders slipping out from under me, or a sudden thunderstorm coming over in the alpine zone, or a rattlesnake that I didn’t hear warning me. I have to be careful. I have to focus. I can’t be in la la land all the time, floating through this emerald dream. I’m not the only one on the planet and I am not immortal. I’ve been shown my time here is fleeting, going by just about as fast as my car passing the street signs, scenic views, and ambitious bikers.

Hiking is how I passionately explore myself. It has allowed me to connect to myself in a way I never even knew existed- who I am really, beyond my barriers, why I do the things I do and think the ways I do. I don’t know if I was taking care of myself properly before, but it taught me how to do that too- how to fully rely on myself, especially for protection. It taught me how to push myself without hurting myself. It gave me no choice but to nurture myself when I needed it and to love myself as if no one else in the world exists or has the capability to do so. I have everything I need inside, and it unlocks and explodes with the simple caress of my own fingertips. Sometimes the person I need a hug from most is me.

And it has gifted me the chance to connect with my father. It has become a place where there is neutral ground, where it’s safe. I speak and communicate the best when I’m there. I’ve gotten to learn about him and his life, and he to learn about mine. And even though, it is my father with whom I share this with, I feel my mother’s spirit running through me so strongly. It is her fortitude that I bear with me. And her heart that I hold. When I’m having a difficult time, it is her courage and his security surrounding me. I feel like I can consciously heal both of them through my movement.

My experiences have let in new ideas and showed me that a lot of what I think matters in my life, actually doesn’t. Everything I learned from the “civilized” world and media is minuscule and superficial and unimportant (mostly). It doesn’t matter what I look like. It doesn’t matter if my legs are shaved, or if my armpit hair is so long I could probably tie it, or if I smell like I’ve slept in a garbage can for the past week and made friends with all the creatures that come out after dark. Who cares if I’m skinny if I am strong? And the length of my hair doesn’t measure my femininity in the woods. My skincare products and hairbrush and outfits are just material items that can be taken away at any moment. What do I need all of it for anyway?

There is nothing in this entire world more comforting than the thought and the embrace of the wilderness. As UNCOMFORTABLE, as UNHAPPY, as BREATHLESS, as FRUSTRATED, as SCARED as I have been, I would return over and over. I would give it all up to go be an untraceable, insignificant speck in the forest. There are no walls there. The Earth, and the privilege of hiking, have torn down every wall I had, then made me look me right in the face. Naked and bare and raw I am in the face of mother- there is nothing she cannot see past. And still in that state of unadulterated vulnerability, I have felt more whole and accepted than I ever have in my life. Braver. And more connected to all that is. And all I had to do was walk. I didn’t have to be a writer or a daughter or a student. I didn’t have to be happy or sad or angry. I was just me and that was enough.

The physical pain I’ve experienced, although I have a limit, is no match for the gift I’ve received of being mentally determined. I have been given a strength that no one can ever take away from me because it burns so brilliantly inside me. That same strength has faded every scar and cured every sickness plaguing my heart. Birds whistling and the clicking of cicadas are the sweetest sounds. And I know that if I ever feel lost, I have somewhere I can return to. A home. And this home I will righteously protect until the day I am no longer here. I have learned to let in something so much greater than myself and then love it unconditionally. To give back the same it has given me.

This is what my soul yearns for.

With Love,

Lia Aspen.

On a Good Day

photo by Lucas Feola

Anxiety in My Head and Fear in My Bed

Tuesday Morning Thoughts

This morning, my eyes gazed up at the blank ceiling above me. I noticed each line between the panels and the little details- the specks of paint and tiny cracks making up the bigger picture. My body laid limp on my white sheets, covered by my favorite velvet blue blanket, with one leg out to escape the heat. It was like any other day- except for once, my thoughts were quiet. That spot between my shoulders let go of its tensity. I melted into the floor beneath me.

I usually feel like I need to check my phone to catch up or answer people, but this morning I didn’t. I didn’t need to scroll through Instagram at 8am in fear that I “missed” something. There was no itch to get up, to wash my face, to get dressed. It could wait. I didn’t need to be anywhere. And laying there wasn’t wasting my time. That’s how I wake up on a good day– in a cool, calm, neutral state.

It actually just recently came to my attention that that’s how most people wake up every day. But soon after, I start to wonder about where my worry has wandered off to.

I wonder why I’m not anxious and then assume that something bad is going to happen, so it starts up again. Or I make myself nervous expecting it to return. Where have my jitters gone- the feeling that makes me go-go-go every morning? And if they’re gone now, does that mean I don’t have any sort of stimulus to get through today? I almost feel like I’m dependent on it. Serenity makes me feel like I’m numb.

I paused for a second and sat with that. For the first time, a new question popped into my brain- how efficiently can I function without anxiety? Do I need to be this way in order to get out of bed and accomplish something? Has it gotten so extensive that my moments of relief now seem uncalled for and will forever be disturbed by question?

Because I’ve lived with this for so long, it’s normal to feel anxious. I had stopped trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. I just let it do its thing. I got tired and stopped having the energy to combat my bouts of dread. I learned how to “comfortably” live with it because it took too much out of me to fight it. And in that process, I lost myself because I stopped trying to discover who I was without it. I let it rule my life. What I know is the anxious version of myself.

That isn’t okay. Letting it “do its thing” is giving up. It’s letting myself fall away at the feet of it. And I know that I act differently when I’m not anxious. I’m more outgoing. It’s easier for me to speak, to say how I feel and to communicate. I behave differently. I react differently. But it makes me want to run and hide. I’m condemned to my room because that is the only “safe” place. And even there, I am at war with my own mind.

photo above by XVNDER BLANK

A few months back, I went to an open house for a school. I’d been thinking about going for a while. And I already skipped the first one because it was snowing, and I didn’t want to trek to the city in the snow (so I couldn’t really back out this time). I was excited nevertheless. I like going to the city because it’s easier for me to exist there. Everyone’s focused on their own stuff, so there’s no pressure. I never feel like anyone is watching me, or thinking I’m weird or something. I’m comforted by being this tiny little speck in a sea of people. I didn’t have any trouble on my way there.

We all gathered in a half-circle facing the founders of the school. It was a very intimate space, perfect for an open discussion. They started off by asking us why we were interested in this particular route and what brought us here. Upon hearing that they were going to go around the room, allowing each of us to have the floor to speak, I became a bundle of nerves. There it was.

I looked to each side of the room in anticipation of which they’d start on. I counted each head until mine. Then I began rehearsing my lines over and over again until I got what I wanted to say right. I kept telling myself, there’s nothing to worry about. You’ve done this a billion times. Just chill out. You can do this- it’s fine. I shrank further as the line moved along. Four people until me. I wish I could telepathically tell them, then they could just skip over me.

As the last word slipped out of the person before me, I watched each colorless rosebud head turn to listen to the only crimson one. I heard a muffled, “go ahead“, but my own heart banging angrily against my chest and the shallow breaths escaping my mouth were the only decipherable sounds. I tried to remind myself to breathe. It was my turn to speak, and I was. But each time I blinked, the stretch between the artificial light and the endless darkness behind my eyelids became longer and longer. I couldn’t feel my breath or hear my words anymore. I was in an empty room surrounded by white noise. And all I knew was that my physical body was trying hard to get as little out as possible to convey what I meant- although there was a lot I had to say, a lot of my heart to give. I wanted them to see me. And all I could’ve hoped for was that what I did say was enough.

It’s moments like that that defeat me more than anything else.

You see, there’s this bridge between your thoughts and actual words. It’s the pause that most people don’t consider. It’s think and- boop! There’s what I said. It comes out so easily for them. But sometimes I get lost in translation. The more you focus on what you have to say, the longer the walk to your mouth becomes. The more you think about if it’s even worth saying. You start to examine everything about it, then it gets lodged in a crevice along the way. And by the time you decide you’re going to speak, it’s too late. You’ve taken too long and you have to muster up something in place of the time lost. Or whatever the topic was has fled. Or you’ve been sitting in awkward silence for the past ten minutes with the person you love and didn’t even realize it.

Anxiety amplifies all those pauses in life- no matter how tall, or complex, or short, or simple. Then uses them as space to spiral.

It’s hard to explain what a day with anxiety is like. And I get that it’s hard to understand anxiety when you don’t have it. Sometimes, it kind of feels like I’m housing another me. Except, this other me is an alien from another planet. She’s paranoid and a bit all over the place because she’s new here and doesn’t know much yet. Everything makes her nervous, and she comes to me to vent about it. She also has trouble organizing her brain like humans do. So it’s my job to either explain everything to her, so she calms down- to take everything step by step. Or to just let her run wild and share the panic and fear. It’s like having ‘first day of school’ butterflies, but every day is the first day of school.

I’m kind of an adult now and being one comes with responsibilities. There are superpowers you’re supposed to acquire, but no one teaches you how to do so. They are as follows; handling things on your own- regardless of circumstance, having the ability to confront, always staying calm, swallowing the fact that (most of the time) you won’t have the opportunity to explain yourself, and pretending everything’s alright. Anxiety makes all of those things really difficult.

Below are some examples of how anxiety affects my daily life:

  • My heart drops when I receive phone calls. And I refuse to make any calls unless I absolutely have to. (This means making any kind of appointment, reaching out to my grandparents, facetiming an old friend, talking to customer support, etc. require a lot of thought and pacing beforehand. And are most often accompanied by panic and dread.)
  • Going to job interviews is very challenging. Sometimes I don’t even show up.
  • I can’t really make plans in advance because if there’s too much time to think about it before it happens, I’ll go back and forth with my decision to go. Or I’ll cancel the day of- which makes me feel bad, but not as bad as my nerves on the drive there. I’d rather just turn around and go home. It’s not their fault. It’s not that I don’t want to see anyone, or that I don’t care or like them. If I’m being honest, I don’t know what makes me so nervous about simply hanging out.
  • I really enjoy grocery shopping, but if I have to go alone, I start feeling like everyone is staring at me, and I’m being suspicious. I’ll spend twenty minutes in an aisle trying to find something (because I have to look at everything and make sure I don’t miss anything), and if I can’t find it, I’ll just leave without it.
    • One time, I was trying to pick a face wash at Whole Foods, but I couldn’t find the one I normally buy. I didn’t want to ask for help. My eyes ran down the wall, double checking and triple checking. Then I noticed that I had been standing there for awhile and started to…sweat. Lol.
  • I don’t like going anywhere I could possibly run into someone I know. Seeing people unlocks this utter terror within me. I won’t approach anyone. I’ll look down at my feet when I’m waiting for my coffee or stare at my phone to avoid an undisclosed encounter. (I think a lot of people probably think I’m rude because I never say hi or smile, but I’m trying to be invisible, so pardon me.)
photo by Dan Verbenko
  • I like to know there’s a lot of time in between things, so I don’t run the risk of being late. The thought of that troubles me and it’s likely that I won’t go if I think I will be. I show up like two hours early for everything. Everyone makes fun of me for this. And it is kind of funny at this point because of how true it is, but I’m going to be ready mega early for whatever event it is, so I might as well sit in the car outside the building, instead of pacing around my room.

Anxiety appears most often when I’m minding my own business. I’ll be at a social gathering or sitting in my room, listening to music. If I’m not already anxious, it stops by to remind me that I should be. The world starts closing in. The volume on every sound in the room, as well as my thoughts, goes all the way up. And all I can do is sit through it. I become silent because I can’t ask for help. I’ll try to focus on one thing to stay on the ground, but that can be really hard for me. It’s much easier to let go- to dissociate. This way, I can leave my anxious mind and body and go to a place where those feelings don’t exist. It looks like zoning out, like I’m hollow. But dissociating means missing out. You’re there, but not really- you can’t even be present with friends or family.

photo via @yourfriendjuls on Instagram

Anxiety makes me feel like it’s always possible that the floor will fall out underneath me. It leaves me with constant fear and turns my thoughts into negative ones. It makes me doubt the future and feel unsure about the world. And a lot of the time, it prevents me from doing things with myself. I’m used to having to jump through hoops and trying to find pathways to help avoid the things I noted above. But there isn’t always a hack to it or a crutch for it. I have to be uncomfortable sometimes.

On my good days, I feel optimistic and excited- like I can go out and do anything. That doesn’t mean the anxiety has disappeared- it waits and plots. But it does mean that if those emotions do come up, I remember to talk myself through rough experiences. Or I’m able to control the anxiety in a different way. I just have to remember to take my time.

Hitomi Mochizuki explains dealing with anxiety really well, in her “How I Evolved Spiritually” video on Youtube (link here– that part begins around 26:30). When you struggle with anxiety and sadness, you fall down the rabbit hole of negative coping mechanisms really fast. Anxiety, in the past, made me want to hurt myself. It made me put myself down for not being able to do certain things. But she explains that these times are opportunities to show yourself more love. Something she said, that I thought was really important, was, “The mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and an internal experience, so anytime you’re having anxiety, your whole body is responding as if you’re in danger.” It makes sense that it would make you want to flee from whatever is causing the anxiety- fight or flight. And it can be difficult to calm yourself down when you’re in it because not only is your mind freaking out but your body is also.

We can train ourselves on our good days for our bad days. We can practice showing ourselves more love. And we can train ourselves in the ways that work for us. So eventually, it becomes muscle memory that we do so when we’re experiencing emotions of anxiety, panic, dread, etc..

I’m constantly navigating and learning. I don’t think enough people talk about the long term effects of stress on your body and mind. We may not even realize that some of what we experience outside of our anxiety is actually linked to it. The What’s the Juice podcast by Olivia Amitrano outlines and explains stress/the response system amazingly in episodes #1 and #7. She also provides ways you can handle your stress and take care of yourself. I highly recommend- you can find it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

With Love,

Visionary Orchid

The Divine Feminine

art by Sage Shakti

Lessons from Me, My Mama, and Other Wise Women in My Life

“Self care allows me to tap into my divine feminine energy. This energy is the force that connects mother nature and all souls. It is an interwoven essence that speaks to authentic power. Keyword; authentic power. As a woman, I am connected to Mother Nature. She is me and I am her. It’s the energy that is deep within me; surging. Becoming.

What does self care look like to me?

Speaking my truth. As a woman, we are told…don’t be so loud, don’t feel your feelings. Think without heart. My heart, my pain, is my power. I tap into the energy of all by allowing myself to be. To be. Repeat that, to be. Whatever that might be, I’m unapologetically myself. “

Sage Shakti

For so long, I felt uncomfortable in my body. Not exactly self-image wise, but I felt like being a girl, a woman, was a burden and that I should be something/someone else. I felt like I should hide or be ashamed for being this way. I was never taught what it meant to be a woman, or anything deeper than physically why our bodies were different from men. I was never explicitly taught how to take care of myself. I felt embarrassed to ask questions, to discuss anything out loud, and to talk about my body.

I always wondered why no one talked about anything. Why my friend group growing up never really discussed what we were going through until we were older. And why as women we are so hard on ourselves and despite belonging to that collective, we are hard on each other too. Was there a safe place I could go?

As I got more mature and more serious about myself and my body, I began searching more. Thank god for the internet because whenever I didn’t feel comfortable saying something out loud, I usually looked there in private. Beyond that, I was just learning through observation. Then I got past caring about what anyone thought and started to ask questions- talking openly with my mother and my friends about everything. I started to realize how incredibly awesome it is to be a woman and to share a space with other women. I also realized how much they had to share and how learning from them was the best way to do it. They understand because they are.

This is an ode to the village that raised me. There are parts of me that have wandered off (and still do), out of curiosity and thirst for knowledge and intellect. But there have been many who touched my soul so deeply, it’s impossible to deny. Each print on my spiritual body expanded my mind and thought process. I would not be the woman I am today without their gentle voices, their soft eyes who have lost, been disheartened, and silenced, but have chosen to share their stories and wisdom with me. It’s an ode to the knowledge I’ve picked up along my way. To all the women that taught me what taking care of myself meant beyond physical terms- I want to share their unfiltered voices with you. So all I ask is that you bask in that, open your mind to receiving the energy of these magical women.

photo by Brea Carlstrom

What is The Divine Feminine ?

Lessons from my mama;

The Divine Feminine (and feminine energy) are the heart’s love and all it encompasses; purity, nurturing, creation, allowance, compassion, caring, etc. They are the awareness and understanding that all life is sacred. And paired with The Divine Masculine, there is a powerful union and balance.

Therefore, self-care is not about cancelling out The Divine Masculine. It is not one or the other. It is both. Self-care is just accessing that feminine part of yourself and bringing it out. There may be masculinity in excess-due to the state of society or what you’re being told. The Divine Masculine is that of action and reason, but when we overdo that, we become overwhelmed because we’ve spent so much time suppressing our true nature. We neglect the part of ourselves that needs to relax and feel. Maybe because sometimes we’re told that being soft and vulnerable are bad traits. When in reality, that’s not true.

You support The Divine Feminine by being grateful (giving thanks) and expressing that- staying true to your heart. It is such an important part of us stepping into our power as women because it lives so strongly within our bodies. Love (feminine energy) reaches out its arms, embraces you, and shows you- you were born worthy. No one can confirm or give you that because it was yours all along. And that love is unlike any other. My mom compares it to that of the love from a mother to her child- that unconditional pure love. And that’s how it should be with yourself. You treat yourself with the same kind of care and gentleness that you would your own child.

“I find that regardless of what happened or what is happening at this moment, love’s purity, wisdom, protection, and power, are the simplest, easiest courses of action. Real love wants what is best for you and all that you deserve.” Love delivers peace of mind. You heal in that light. It keeps you youthful, joyous, and present. And remaining and channeling that is what can and will guide you. Self-care is inviting that kind of love in and letting it wipe away anything negative. When you’re living in the light of love, it’s hard to have anything penetrate that and knock it down. And it becomes much easier to quiet your mind’s chatter and really listen.

I have yet to come across anything stronger than the power of Divine Femininity. It’s the life force that exists the womb and surges through our veins. It’s what keeps us from breaking (even if we may feel like we are), while carrying generations and generations of weight. It’s what keeps us going when we are tired, why we continue to fight. It’s the quality of being resilient. It’s the flowers that sprout from our palms- a peace offering. It’s the healing vibration of laugher and touch. It’s the effortless beauty in every woman. It’s the reminder and knowing of the vast aptitude of our existence.

What is Self-Care ?

It’s more than just face masks and painting your nails. Although that can be where it starts- physically. I like to think that self-caring means nourishing and nurturing yourself through different means, in all aspects of your health. That being; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. At the end of the day, it boils down to the journey of self-loving and being happy- meaning you don’t have to look outwards and nothing can change it. Self-caring is learning about yourself and practicing that.

Beth Killip: I love that question! I love it because self care is such a beautiful energy that equates to not only self love, but self knowing. And that to me, is the most important piece of self care right now. I care best for myself by knowing myself. Self care is knowing some days I remember, and some days I forget, but I ALWAYS have access to listen to her, my truest self.

I know myself more and more by taking time each day to question everything; to critically think, sift through the bombardment of information, and then the most important part…feel gratitude for my life, all of it 😉. To sit quietly and listen to my soul, my expanded self- that part of me that is connected forever to the big ole’ Universe.

It is not always easy to look at and release thoughts and beliefs I’ve been programmed with my entire life; the stories I’ve created in my mind based on these programs, the agenda driven, manipulated, and infiltrated information I hear in the world- the overly positive messages swirling around. But as I do, I get quiet and let in the part of me that holds wisdom and truth and love beyond this world. It is the most self caring thing I can do.

I get guidance, I hear messages, I feel love. I remember who I am and then I can live with more lightness, more purpose, more appreciation for this fantastically beautiful Earth (and my place in it), and a boatload more joy.

So my self care advice? Listen…to…yourself…the You that is connected to All. You got this! And also I’d like to mention getting massages and belly laughing with friends- those are ranked way high up on the self care list as well.

Sonal Madhok: Self care looks different for everyone and every day it could be different. There are days where my self care is a healthy meal or a workout or a long walk. I think the common denominator is that self care is rest. It’s a rest of the mind, body, and soul. And it’s necessary so that we can become even stronger and honor ourselves.

I usually shut everything off and listen to music. Journaling is always a go-to for me. It feels good to write down what I’m feeling and what triggered it because otherwise, I’ll feel tension. And overtime, I’ll forget how it came about, and I might release it onto others or myself. By addressing it, when I feel it and accept it, I make it easier for the emotion to pass. The more I spend trying to push it away instead of accepting it, the harder it comes back to remind me that I’m hurt. So journaling helps me alleviate that.

I also like to keep affirmations around me- whether that be in reminders on my phone or on notes around my room. Sometimes, I self-care by remembering the things and/or people I’m grateful for. Recently, when I feel like I’ve been in my head too much, I remember a loved one, and I write them a letter about how I appreciate them. Then I send it to them in the mail. This has been such a powerful way for me to rejuvenate, remember that I am loved, and ground myself. It feels good to make others feel good and especially, when they are words that you say in your head and are conveying them on a random day- not only on their birthday or a ‘special’ day.

It really is such a beautiful process. So I think keeping a gratitude journal, and/or writing letters to those you’re grateful for, does wonders for your own mental health.

Julia Forsyth and her mama, Marcie Forsyth: When you’re talking about mental health, it is so okay to be selfish. You have to do the best thing for yourself in that moment. I like to take the time to figure out what I need, and sometimes all that is, is water. I struggle with keeping things in now and again, so it’s very therapeutic to communicate and talk about how I feel. Overtime I’ve learned what I need. Thankfully, I have the emotional support to lean onto, which I couldn’t survive without. Sometimes all you need is a little push. And it’s okay to ask for it.

Along with that- having a schedule, eating good, and doing things you love every day has helped me tremendously. I would tell someone who has not found inner peace yet, to never stop because you are the only thing that can give yourself happiness. It’s worth the journey. (Julia)

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keeping everything in perspective is so important. Since I teach kids everyday, I’m always thinking about the impact I have on other people. Listening to them, giving them confidence, and making them feel good about themselves is my #1 priority. Having a schedule helps me do any day-to-day tasks, such as waking up at a consistent time, taking a shower, getting dressed, and getting ready for work. Getting outside is also very important to me. I always feel so much better after I walk. (Marcie)

CJ Howley: Self care, for me, can seem to take on various forms; from certain actions to eating exceptional foods. Practices like yoga, which in Sanskrit means “union”, have helped me throughout the years in countless ways- rehabilitating my mind, body, and spirit. Meditation taught me that I’m able to find the stillness, the acceptance, the love, that is always present among the thoughts.

Buying, growing, preparing, and eating beautiful foods, free of chemicals and poisons, has been a commitment of mine now for two decades. I feel better- my body feels lighter, more healthy, ever stronger, and I’d like to think that my impact on the Earth is a positive one.

All of this is great and has contributed to my overall wellness, but still, each of these can be singulated to be put into categories for health, but for me- there’s a bigger picture. In my humble opinion, it all boils down to one practice- one monumental thing – the ultimate self care. For me, self care is self love.

Learning to hear, then to listen, trust and follow the knowing of your heart (spirit, soul) is perhaps our greatest quest on this Earth. I know it’s mine. The desire to want to feel good is not necessarily shelving the things that you may think feel bad- but rather it’s identifying what about it that brings misery and suffering and getting curious about that.

Perhaps if we look at the things- (feelings, people, places, actions) that “scare” us, “challenge” us, “dominate” us, etc..- if we face them, get curious about them, start to understand what is going on inside of us when we are feeling scared, lonely, rejected, abandoned- maybe then we can learn to feel the discomfort, recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it.

Maybe the more we do this, the louder the whisper of our heart, our spirit, our soul becomes. Maybe we start to differentiate our heart’s wisdom from the voices in our heads, the opinions of societal and cultural “norms” and we begin to navigate our life on our own terms regardless of what the outside world is saying. And maybe even demanding of us.

Yes, this takes practice.
Yes, this takes fastidiousness.
And yes, we may falter along the path at times.
But this, we can do it!

And the beauty about it is; the more we listen, the more courageous we grow. The more courageous we grow, the more we may open up to greater compassion, more softness. The more softness can be found for ourselves and then authentically, we can forward it towards others.

From this place we learn to love, to truly love, the voice of our heart- the wisdom of our soul. Self Care, therefore, is an inevitable byproduct of Self Love. And thus, Self Love is Self Care.

To the people in my life who continue to raise me up, keep me in check, and show me love- the women I’ve found home in, where I can be myself, where I don’t have to apologize for being me, but instead am celebrated. Thank you.

With Love,


Phoenix Medicine

Moving Forward from The Past and Knowing Who You Are Now

You can come back from anything,
the Phoenix rises from its ashes,
burns its past in the wake and when
it turns its head in fury to peek,
nothing remains.

The Phoenix is the opposite of its past,
acknowledging the misfortunes and the blessings,
but no longer exists in that timeline.
Is reborn in spirit, soulful in blood-red fire,
no revenge, no uncertainty,
her grief peacefully departed.

The Phoenix does not fear,
instead lets go, to leave behind its shadow,
not to turn a cold cheek, but to offer peace.

Remember that pain is a feeling.
It is a gift to feel,
tears are a godly gift, sent to cleanse.
Become One with the holy, water element,
create ponds for yin and yang to bathe in.

The love in your heart never parts,
does not yield, no matter
how much you revisit your pain or
tear open your wounds.
A little glimmering light at the bottom
of the pool, choose to allow it to fill the voids,
let them mend and scar over,
choose to bask in the flame’s eternal glow.

Pull great strength from your ashes,
tear it from its ties to inferno,
dust it off with your wide Phoenix wings
and with the immensity you carry,
blow the ashes.

They will disappear
into thin air, back to their war ground,
where others may come for their own battles.

This no longer belongs to you,
it has served its purpose.
It must go.

When I cry, with it comes a storm. I unlock a whirlwind of emotions, tears that lift the veil on years of buried thoughts and memories. They just seemed to stick even when I tried prying them off. I feel the bad filling up my belly, marinating and rising slowly until it hits my heart and burns a hole. I suppose that’s how it creates a way to leak through. But is somehow always a surprise. I shudder at their entry, trapped in a neverending loop, but let them play back like I’m living through it- slipping on my old skin before bed, when the world is quiet and there are no distractions.

They appear in broad daylight too. A look in the mirror a certain way, a song playing in the wrong place, or an interaction that mirrors the past. And I can hear a voice lingering, repeated words of harm over and over. It leaks in the way I behave or something I say. Ways that don’t feel like me. Other times it’s just a weird, empty or eerie feeling. But I always question how it can so seamlessly slip back in.

I feel stupid because it’s almost out of my control. I feel completely haunted by them. It eats at you, the fact that you can’t go back and change any of it. It lies in the way I smother and overthink. In the feeling that I can’t receive the love and care I deserve. The way I fear certain situations or interactions. The reason I expect to mess up, to be pushed away. I fear the past even being brought up in conversation or being thought of in that way. How would I respond? I’m always thinking of what I could say. It’s the reason I spent so long entombing my voice and hiding my expressions from others, letting it all collect inside so I can unleash them when I’m alone. But at the same time, fear that same voice being stolen- when I haven’t even given it a chance to speak. Do I think I am too much?

I have given my past too much power. When you get used to it being a part of you and then try to tread through it or leave it behind, it fights back. How can you rip me from creator? I find trouble in differentiating the old me from the new me, although I’ve put so much hard work into myself. Every day I have to be reminded to let the real me decide how things are going to go, what they’ll be like.

What Starts Every Storm

It would be much easier to run away if there weren’t things that could pull us back in. Triggers can be anything that set off an emotional response within us. They can make you feel disconnected from your surroundings or people in your presence. It can make you all choked up. And you might result in dissociating to escape or feel more comfortable- going to a void place where these emotions can’t get you.

Our Bags

We carry our belongings for so long, we may forget we’re holding them. They brand themselves onto our skin, but there’s no means of treating the burn or fading the scar. And it’s strange when you’ve built a fortress so sturdy and a moat so deep, you thought nothing could pass or topple it over. Layers and layers of walls so thick even the ghosts get tired of floating through each one. But slowly you realize that your fortress can’t save you from yourself. Your ghost is deep inside and locking it away doesn’t get rid of it. Setting it free does.

We hold onto to our baggage or keep things around that drag us down because it’s what we know. And when we don’t know anything outside of that, it feels normal and safe. We may even be presented with something that’s good for us, but instead turn it away because we’re scared and it doesn’t seem right.

As we gain the ability to understand where we’re coming from and our emotions (as we grow older or through the things we learn), it’s OUR job to take care of it. We don’t grieve or allow ourselves to feel it fully because of the notion that going through it is much more painful than burying it, or putting it in a drawer to hide forever. But when you let one weed grow in your garden, or ivy grow on your tree, soon the entire garden is spoiled and the tree- strangled.

We have been through a lot. And whatever is staying with you may be something very heavy. It’s impossible to do all at once. We must be patient with ourselves.

Ego Speak

The ego comes into play when we’re trying to understand who we are right now and how that person is separate from the old self. Within it lies the past.

Your ego is the idea of yourself you pieced together. It is your self-image and you may overly identify with it to try to understand who you are. It is the mindset that ‘you are a product of our past’, hiding in the way you think and behave. It desires to keep you separated from the world, making you feel detached and alone. And you can stray so far that your ego becomes you, through your devotion, and you are unable to move past your physical bounds.

What’s behind your ego is your true self, the entity that exists without words or anything to make it up. It is completely raw. And that is who you are. It’s the part of you that’s free from the constraints of your mind. It’s not chained to old memories and only exists in the present. It flows swimmingly through you and cannot be tainted- only your ego can. Your soul exists in simplicity, while the ego is a complex. We can positively use our egos to aim for what we want to be or to build that loving image of ourselves. We can use it for definition, but not to get lost in.

Sweet Surrender

The bridge between the two is vulnerability. It’s how you get to the center and confront. Closing up (or preventing access to the bridge) closes us off from loved ones and from the future. But it all starts with you. Can you be vulnerable with yourself, shed your skin in front of your own eyes, and love what’s underneath? Because if not, how will you share that truth with someone else? Understand what lies beyond your walls so you are no longer afraid of it. We may be harboring things that are extremely painful to revisit. My dad once told me that if we practice enough times, we realize that the challenge at hand is not as scary as it once seemed. We will get there. We choose how our past defines us and have been told for so long that it’s a part of us, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s over and done with, so why does it trail behind? Because we haven’t been taught to let go.

Surrender to your entirety in the way a great waterfall surrenders to its drop into the unknown, but understanding it will enter into a new body of water. Or the sun descending every night into darkness, knowing it will come up on the other side. Feel it so it can fall away, so you can become again. Allow yourself to grieve and allow it to heal you. Acknowledge the misfortunes and the blessings that came from them. Offer peace to your past in exchange for a lesson- that’s what you take with you. Self-sovereign and no longer existing in that timeline. You’re only a product of your past indirectly. You make the choice of what you’ll take with you.

Allow your past self to leave. You’re allowed to leave behind what was toxic. Rise from it like the phoenix. Leave room for the fact that you change every day. Reborn every morning.

Getting to know yourself is like getting to know another. That definitely doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not ‘one day I’ll get there, but for now I’m like this’. It requires time, contemplation, attention and silence. Devote yourself to your self. Put in the effort to change the person you were before. Question everything- it’s a lot of, “why am I like this?”. Be picky and choosy about what you want apart of you. Let go of what no longer serves you or exists in the vibration of who you are becoming.

The complicated part is putting this into practice. The past is very sneaky. How do we draw the line? Can we cut it off completely?

This is what I have as an answer for the moment; we draw the line by stepping into our power. This means what we have control over what is our current self. I know we can divide both versions of ourselves. I can’t promise they won’t come into contact down the line. I know that visit is frightening and possibly disabling. Perhaps it’s a test of our strength. We can take precautions to prevent backtracking and help grow. It’s okay if we fall during that process.

Remind yourself who you are as you’re picking back up. You can let your past be a reminder of how far you’ve come. Be proud and find the light. Every second, every mile, and every effort is a step further away. And it is not shameful to ask for help. Our loved ones, healthcare professionals, and even strangers can be there to lead us to water.

Be conscious of yourself. Listen as best you can. Think before you speak and when you do, speak with your heart. React with care. Be real with yourself and everything around you. You don’t have to hold back or hide anymore. It’s safe to live in truth.

The great thing about individuality and freedom is that you get to choose. The possibilities can be a little intimidating. There’s so much I want to be and many different directions I’m pulled in. It makes me forget that I’m just me. I can absorb bits and pieces, but in the end I am me.

With Love,

Visionary Orchid

Let’s Talk About Wellness: Alternative Medicine

Mom’s Medicine Cabinet

How Alternative medicine changed my life

On a particularly ill-feeling day, my mother and I hopped on a train to New York City. We were to visit a Chinese herbalist on Canal Street. I’d never been to any type of Eastern doctor previously. Instead, I grew up on cold, stale waiting rooms and busy doctors- ones who were too busy to listen to me.

Prior to this endeavor, I was suffering from debilitating anxiety, migraines, and a raw stomach. It was hard to hold down food and even when I tried, I’d have this burning sensation run through my abdomen. The best I could do was apply pressure and stay still to help dull the pain. I was shaky and in knots- on edge and tired. It felt better to not put anything in my body at all to avoid what I was feeling. I spent months switching doctors to figure out what was wrong. They ran tests. Did blood work and gave me ultrasounds. I even visited a gastroenterologist, but left with the discovery that I had high blood pressure, which is strange for someone who’s ‘young and healthy’. I waited weeks for some kind of response, but there was never anything returned or that they could find. Still, I knew something was wrong, regardless of if I had something to base it off of.

It had taken some convincing. My mother has a strong distaste for the city, but I could tell that upon entering the building, there was an excitement between the both of us. A ray of light. Three flights above us held an office-like space with dull lighting. It was decorated generously with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) books, calendars, notebooks, and acupuncture tables- which at the time was a sight to marvel at. I didn’t even know what acupuncture was exactly and the sight of needles in people was a bit unnerving, but at the same time interesting.

Dr. Fu Zhang’s waiting room was warm and welcoming. Quiet with the permeating scent of herbs filling my senses. I vividly recall the soft face of his daughter waving us over from behind a wooden panel divider. I sat down, pulled up my sleeves, and laid my arm across his empty desk. He placed his steady fingers on my pulse and asked me to stick out my tongue. In my head, I sort of wondered why he needed to see my tongue to diagnose, but I was far beyond the point of questioning- I saved that for later. I didn’t have to say much, only answered a few questions. Before I could settle, his daughter was concocting a set of powdered herbs from the wall shelves.

A cold stomach, or an invasion of yin. Our bodies work on a balancing system of energies. They work tirelessly to keep everything equal, but not without our help and effort. It works in a balance between yin (cold) and yang (hot). When too much of one is present, it throws off the balance, overwhelming the other. This can lead to physical symptoms. And where it comes from just depends. Anxiety and worry happen to affect the stomach/spleen. The stomach is where your digestive fire lies. And those emotions weaken the corresponding organs and make them more susceptible to illness. What you consume also greatly affects your organ function- eating iced, cold, or raw food/drinks in excess can deplete your digestive fire and make it more difficult for your body to perform digestive function (more energy is used to digest those kinds of foods).

I was instructed to eat warm, cooked foods and to avoid any dairy, cold, and greasy foods. Then, I was given the set of herbs to boil into a tea every night for twenty minutes. Within weeks, I regained my strength and started slipping back into myself.

But that wasn’t without the internal work too. Before my visit to Dr. Fu Zhang, I wasn’t taking care of myself properly in any aspect of my life. I didn’t even know how. And for a while after that, even after getting better, I still struggled. I do now. Though, this did mark a major point in the way I looked at myself, my lifestyle, and health as a whole. It was just the beginning.

Around the same time my anxiety was at its worst, I started getting a rash on my face. It was mostly under my nose and around the sides of my mouth- red and irritated, only getting angrier the more I tried to cover it up or use over the counter remedies. So I decided to visit a dermatologist. The minute he saw me he knew what it was. Perioral Dermatitis. He handed me a pamphlet and said he’d have a prescription sent to my local pharmacy. No questions asked.

With a bit of time, it went away. And I thought I was good, but it came back with vengeance. I used the cream again. And it went away and came back. Again. And again. And again. This happened for years to come.

So I started to experiment. First, I tried just leaving it alone, which yielded no result. Then I started doing my own research on its causes/the root of the problem- beyond what I’d been told. I read other peoples blogs and experiences with this form of dermatitis. I tried different creams and essential oils. I dove into nutrition and gut function and explored different foods/their effect on my body and skin. I discovered how important what I was putting in my body was. And began taking internal supplements and herbs to help eliminate whatever was going on inside my body. Then realizing that even things like toothpaste and detergent had an effect on my skin- so I changed all the products I used previously. I started actually reading the labels of everything I use.

I then discovered the wonderful gift to this Earth that is acupuncture. I found someone I could talk to about what was going on with me, whether it was big or small, whatever I thought was relevant. And he listened and understood at a deeper level. He took everything into account when treating. In turn, I was able to learn from the knowledge of another. There’s only so much you can get from the internet and just plain reading. It helps to be able to discuss your findings, get some sort of validation, and learn further. It showed me that any type of physician or specialist should truly care about the wellness of their patient and also everything that goes into what caused the trauma/illness/disease and the healing process. It’s not all cut and dry.

Everything began to come together. I began to understand my body and that it needed certain things, attention and treatment, that it wasn’t getting before. And that other things I was doing hurt it. My emotional health carries so much weight. With a lot of patience and time, I eventually discovered a ‘No BS’ skincare brand specifically tailored to people with skin conditions like Perioral Dermatitis- that focuses on healing the skin/protecting it and nurturing it with the use of herbal salves. Within two weeks after using their products, my skin cleared up. And has stayed that way as I’ve focused more on identifying my emotions, switching products that are harmful to my skin, and paying attention to my diet.

Alternative Medicine is basically any method of healing Western medicine considers unconventional. But these practices are ancient. They’ve been around much longer than the modern world has. It includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Naturopathy, and much more. Their methods of healing recognize you are not just a hollow body. Everything is both physical and non-physical. It recognizes that there are different pathways to explanations and answers. The remedies work with your body’s natural rhythm to get the job done.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with a perfect body or perfect skin. I have to be very careful when it comes to most things because I don’t know how it’ll affect me. It’s frustrating to say the least. On a daily basis I ask myself what’s feeling off, what can I fix, and how. Everything I put in my body has a consequence sooner or later (positive or negative). Everything is so seemingly easy for everyone else. There are things I used to be able to do that I just can’t now. But I am still grateful because it has opened me up to this world.

I am so lucky to have been able to have access to this community. To have it revealed to me at a young age- through a mother who chose to use homeopathic remedies whenever she could, teaching me indirectly. And through the many, many people I’ve come across who share the same interests, who have also taught me. To have had the jobs I did that exposed me further to herbs and horticulture and nutrition. To have been open to the love they have to offer. And to be able to explore as I please at whatever pace I’ve chosen. I’m grateful to even have this interest and feel my heart grow every time I gather a piece of information. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It gave me the opportunity to focus on my wellness and to know myself, to be in tune with my body and soul. It gave me hope. It was there for me when nothing else, or no one else, was, and taught me how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way- to build healthy habits and to dig deeper. Not everything lies on the surface. And I’m not saying I don’t slip up, I do. But I try.

I’ve learned that plant vessels are not silent. They do speak and each has its own beautiful, unique voice. So much is offered when being a part of these forms of medicine- whether it’s what you grew up on, if you’re a teacher, a student, or someone who receives this kind of care or are just discovering it. This knowledge is acquiring a greater understanding of everything encompassing you- to learn it is all intertwined and purposeful, flowing together. It’s learning the knowledge of eternity on this planet. Plants were here long before us, hold more information than even the most acknowledged scientific journals. All you have to do is listen and pay attention. Let them speak and show you. It would be a crime to discredit all that came before you were even a seed on this humble Earth. The one that gives and gives and gives until there is nothing left. The one that has everything you need to live and breathe.

What I’ve learned is there are things modern medicine cannot do. There are bounds it does not reach. But what I’ve ALSO learned is- there are things alternative medicine cannot do either. There isn’t supposed to be a constant battle between the two and neither should be invalidated. They are to work together for the sake of wellness and betterment of humanity.

While there have been more experiences since, and run-ins with Western medicine, where I was unable to figure out what was happening to my body- these two experiences jump-started my fascination with ancient medicine and native healing practices. Each moment has only left me hungry for more. It has even pushed me towards studying Western Herbalism. But if I wrote about each and every one this post would be endless. Perhaps I’ll share in the future. 🙂

With Love,

Visionary Orchid

Shelter in Place

Art by Clutch Cabin

Staying Positive During Quarantine

In high school, my global studies teacher would assign songs to his students. He’d play one of the tunes at the beginning of class and you’d have to guess if it was yours. On my day, there played a cheerful 90s jam from his computer speakers. I had a feeling it was mine, but was too embarrassed to proclaim so in fear of being wrong (even though it wasn’t that big of a deal). ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ by Deep Blue Something- a little tale of two people who are in a relationship, but aren’t really getting along. They have nothing in common…except for one thing. They both like the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And that’s enough.

I complained to my teacher for a while after that about why he chose it for me. And for a while he told me to figure it out- eventually caving and conveying his reasoning as his thought of me as a starry-eyed optimist. One thing isn’t actually enough to keep two people together. At first, I took it as a compliment. Being an optimist is a good thing. And starry-eyed is a pretty word, but I am neither naive nor foolish.

I make a conscious effort to pick out the good in most because I’ve seen the bad. I don’t want to carry that around with me. Good is glorious. Love is light- much lighter than that of the weight of dark. So I choose. I set out what I want to come back. And I manifest. For myself and for the world.

To say it plainly- things are hard right now. The world’s current predicament is stressful for almost all of us (the almost being 99%). People are falling ill. Millions have lost their jobs and hang at the mercy of the way society is structured. The media is practically spoon-feeding fear. You can see it when you go to the grocery store or even for a walk around the corner- everyone is on edge. And to top it off, 2020s plans were swept away so effortlessly, like the ocean reclaiming its last grain of sand. We are unsure of what’s to come- our lives at a standstill.

It kind of came out of nowhere and threw us way off balance, although we should’ve anticipated something of this nature happening sooner or later. We’ve been put in the corner while all is sorted out. If you aren’t on the front lines, it feels like there isn’t much you can do. There’s just a lot of time to overthink and pace around our rooms, waiting for the next New York Times article with the latest updates. The negatives are poised in our faces and feel like a massive loss for humanity. There’s no kind of reassurance out there, except whatever I conjure up in my thoughts.

I’d like to think there’s a silver lining to this. Just searching for it and basking in my discoveries give me something to do and help fuel positive energy. Regardless of the situation, everything will be alright. Whether the journey to that be long or short.

Times like these, though devastating, happen for a reason. We need to take a good look at the moment. It’s necessary for healing. To show us what we need and what we don’t. For us to realize what really matters. To be grateful for all that we have, even in simplicity; food on the table, a bed to sleep in. It’s funny, things that should normally be priority have now been given immediate importance. We’ve become more aware and compassionate than ever. We have the opportunity to care about our health, to be cautious and to rest– something so valuable to our mental and physical health, but what we practice the least of.

While we’re doing so, the planet is getting a bit of a break from us. The spotlight is on the faulty in what has been built up to now. It was always there, but is now amplified and is not for us to point fingers and blame. This is collective and as a collective, it is time for us to rise together. Right now we wait, but while we do, we prepare for the work of the future. We must lift each other up- doing what we can, supporting as much as we can. And emerge from this better than we came.

The introvert in me wants to say this has been relieving. I no longer feel an obligation to anything. All my ropes have been set loose. I run free in my alone time, and I’m not on overdrive. I do things by my own will and the options are endless creatively. I revisit what gives me joy.

But I know that it can be especially difficult to spend so much time alone in quarantine. Forced isolation and limited contact is lonely- and socializing is vital to some. Stripping that away can make them feel like they’re completely left in the dark and may fall into stressors or harmful thoughts. Without the outside, it makes it easier for past trauma to seep in. We may face the things we’ve been pushing away- which is good, but can also be too much at once. Our friends and family, even just strangers in passing, are life-savers. Technology has made it possible for us to just shoot out a text or be able to talk over the phone. And a phone call can mean and do a lot. It’s important to reach out to your loved ones as a reminder you’re there. Let them know you care and just because you’re not immediately together doesn’t mean you’re not there at all.

I also know that some of us tend to get “lost in the sauce” when there’s no structure or routine set in place to follow (including me). The good stuff came after days of laying around, oversleeping, overeating, and starring at a phone screen- feeling like garbage. You fall into this endless wash and dry cycle without question and kind of let yourself go. And suddenly, you’re having an existential crisis. Bottom line: Overindulging? Not so great. We overindulge out of boredom or avoidance. And try to fill the time with excess of everything.

Creating some kind of routine for yourself helps benefit the mind and body. Consistency is good, especially for forming better habits. Even if it’s just for the morning or night, it’s something to religiously follow each day. Parent yourself; set a bedtime and an alarm to wake you in the morning. Get in the flow of rising with the sun. It helps you get every second out of the day and clears the space for more. When you establish your space, you leave the room for things that make you feel whole- that leave you present and grounded. Because being mindful allows us to stay in the here and now, rather than wander off into the negative again. When you are fully engulfed in a task, it’s hard to go elsewhere. We’re fully in control of boosting our mood and learning things within/outside ourselves.

photo by Clutch Cabin

Below are some examples of To-Dos you can implement in your every day, plus an example of a daily routine. Enjoy 🙂

  • Nourish your body. Make a smoothie or juice. Cook full meals in place of snacking. Follow a new recipe or reach out to relatives to learn how to cook from your roots.
  • Get Outside. Go for daily walks. Do yoga on the grass. Explore a new way of moving your body and get your blood flowing. Moving your body helps ensure that your blood is getting the oxygen it needs to carry to all your organs. It helps them stay strong and improves circulation.
  • Educate Yourself. Take an online class. Explore something you’ve had interest in. Or learn something new. Set a time for it each day. Read a book and find yourself parading through a new world.
  • Make a vision board. On a big, flat surface, like a poster board, collect images/positive phrases that inspire what you want for yourself. Paint the board, place them on, and add affirmations. Then put it somewhere you can see when you wake up. A reminder.
  • Clean. Spring Cleaning! Do the laundry you’ve been putting off. Tidy up the house or your room. Go through your belongings and prepare bags to get rid of the clutter. What do you really need?
  • Create. Build something in your backyard. DIY. Get crafty.
  • Rearrange. When I’m feeling stuck, I rearrange my room. It helps to shift the energy around and give it a new look. What best suits you?
  • Dance. Sing along. Feel the note in each breath. Feel each movement you’re making and let the music take over.
  • Go Earthing. Go walk outside on the grass barefoot. It can help ground you. Feel the Earth’s vital energy flow.
  • Journal. About the thoughts in your head. Have discussions with yourself. Find prompts and write a story.
  • Garden. Tend to what you’ve planted.
  • Walk your dog. Or your cat. They like being outside too.
  • Self-Care. Treat yourself to a face mask. Dry brush or self-massage. Give yourself a mani/pedi. But also if you’re up for it- throughout the day, when you’re feeling a certain way, try to identify where the feeling is coming from or why it’s present. (Because self-care isn’t just physical.)
  • Connect. Say hi to your relatives. Have a facetime date. Virtually hangout with friends.
  • Write Letters to Loved Ones. A little old fashioned, but let them know you care a different way. Who doesn’t like getting mail?
  • Support a Local Business. Order out. Money is tight at the moment, but if you can, support a small business in your area.
  • Play Dress Up. Put on something that makes you feel beautiful.
  • Origami. It requires focus and yields a beautiful result. (If you make paper cranes, you can tie a string to them and hang them from the ceiling.)
  • Ask Questions. Make note of your thoughts and questions that pop up, then ask your friends or GOOGLE.
  • GAMES. Board games. Video games. Card games. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Start or Finish What You’ve Been Meaning to Get to.
  • And whatever you do…don’t cut or dye your hair, unless you know what you’re doing. It’s not worth it.

Remember it takes the job of all of us to help slow this down. Practice Social Distancing. Go out only when you have to. Not all of us are susceptible, but when we stay home, we help those who are.

With Love,
Visionary Orchid