The Summer of 16 Hotels

southern arizona prairie by Katariina Fagering

Larry couldn’t take living in our poorly constructed caravan any longer so he gutted it and hired two amazing craftsmen to rebuild it. While they were busy with the rebuild, we kept moving and traveled for six weeks across five states, staying in 16 different hotels. We drove through gorgeous scenery in New Mexico and Colorado, paddle boarded in Austin, swam at Barton Springs, caught up with old friends in Portland, Houston and Santa Fe, and slept at too many Hampton Inn’s.

IMG_1164  by Katariina Fagering

I’ve discovered that although Hampton Inn’s are a soft, comforting, consistent place to lay your head, it comes with a sort of “soma” sedation effect. The sheets are soft, the staff is very friendly and in the morning they serve waffles. But built into this seductive comfort is disconnection from the diverse and inconsistent world that exists outside those walls. All of this doesn’t really matter very much except that it has a sneaky effect of putting us to sleep to what is possible. It dulls my creativity and makes it hard to get back to the woman who connects deeply with trees, the stars and birds. It hints of A Brave New World by Audis Huxley and The Matrix, if you know what I mean.

I was talking to a new friend, Athena Steen (a natural builder and extraordinary woman), one evening about the relief and softening I felt sitting under the stars outside one of her straw bale casitas. She shared with me her belief that all buildings carry the energy of the people who built them and those that have slept within those rooms. I concur that sleeping in a straw bale home is healing and vastly different than my Matrix-like experience of a Hampton Inn. The sheets may be clean and the waffles tasty but on the subtle level something isn’t right.

In nature we see immense diversity that requires all the disparate pieces and parts to survive. This creates a healthy ecosystem where life thrives. The more diverse the healthier it is. I don’t desire to live life in padded comfort; instead I crave the crackling energy that exists on the edges of diverging cultures, and belief systems. This is where I feel most alive and yet I am still seduced by the Hampton Inn’s and Starbucks of the world.

starbucks-dada.jpg

As humans we crave and seek out consistency out of fear of change. We induce an illusion of stasis so that it doesn’t feel like there is change or even movement. This is why Starbucks is so popular; you can get the same Carmel Macchiato in Hong Kong as you can in Seattle. It is always soothingly consistent. The same goes for McDonalds, Hampton Inn and every strip mall across the states. I can pull off the highway and find a Subway, Chipotle, Taco Bell or Chili’s and even the design and often the layout of the mall will look the same from Indio to Albuquerque. This is all part of the illusion of stasis.

It’s brilliant psychological marketing! It’s so embedded in me that after four months without drinking coffee when I see the Starbucks logo I still get a surge of desire for a “Grande Mocha.” The corporate siren on their logo calls to me to come in and order a big cup of soothing consistency, despite the fact that I never really liked their coffee much. I did, however, love the aroma, the music, the soft cushy chairs and art on the walls.

the couch

not a Starbucks couch

I recently heard the creator of Orange is the New Black, Jenji Kohan, describe the States as a mosaic. She stated that we are not the melting pot that we claim to be but instead we are a mosaic of cultures, economic states, races, etc. What she is interested in is the places where the mosaic is disrupted and people from extremely different lifestyles are forced to mix. In Orange is the New Black, that intersection is a woman’s prison.

I experienced something similar in the military. As a white girl raised in a Washington State suburb, I was suddenly working alongside people from incredibly different backgrounds. I was thrust into a diverse world of contrasting colors, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds. The experience was at the same time exciting and disorientating.

waters edge

waters edge

On the edge where the mosaics blend is a juicy place to exist; it forces one to expand their perceptions of what is appropriate, what is the “right” way to interact, communicate, and exist. I wish I could report that I handled it with eloquence, but the truth is I fell flat on my face many times. I experienced the pain of living in the juicy edges of existence as I was forced to expand my sense of reality and yet this is where I most want to live: on the edges where the mosaics blend.

Birthing a New Lifestyle

chula vista marina

This morning, as the sun rose I practiced my yoga asanas out on the lawn next to Chula Vista Marina in southern California. The cool breeze carried the taste of salt as the sun warmed my face. I felt cradled in the beauty of Mother Earth. My heart filled with gratitude for the freedom to make new life choices and know that Mother Earth will always catch and embrace me when I fall.

crow

Crow (keeper of the Sacred Law) keeps showing up to remind me to step deeper into my own integrity and live in congruence with the woman I know I am. Crow wants me to stay present in this timeless moment where past, present and future exist as one. Where I am standing in my full expression of self, creating audaciously connecting to the deep wisdom held by my ancestors. I’ve missed crow’s gentle reminder because in Houston there are very few crows, seldom heard or seen. Can you imagine going a day without conversing with a crow? I can’t and yet I did for 3 years.

In February our lives took a left turn and suddenly we were packing up our house to be sold, buying a travel trailer (I like to call it our Caravan) and making plans to head west to study yogic living for a few months. It felt like such a quick birthing of a new lifestyle but as I thought further I realized this idea was first conceived nine months ago at our wedding.

Larry at wedding

The weekend of Big Luscious Matrimony in Dripping Springs, Texas was really more of a coming out party for Larry and I. It was the first time we had experienced our imperfectly, authentic dream of cultivating our creativity, connecting with our community and exploring sustainability. We planned the minute details of the wedding for over a year so that it would be a direct reflection of ourselves. We had local ice cream, local beer, local pies, local dinner. We collected mason jars for the year to use as reusable water glasses for the guests. We got he flowers from a flower farm down the street.

wedding flowers

Then we allowed for mystery to show up and help us complete our dream. The ceremony was planned that morning before the wedding and it was perfect. We had a circle gathering of all our guests just before the rehearsal dinner and I wasn’t sure what would happen but we wanted to create an opportunity to share our intention for the weekend and for people to meet each other. What happened actually blew me away. Deep sharing, tears, laughter, and bonding. We only planned to hold the space for coming together. kat and larry wedding day

On our last morning at the venue, sipping our coffee on the front porch, Larry and I decided that we needed to live this way. So we figured naturally that meant to buy a ranch and create our structures and call in our tribe. We dreamed of swimming in our natural pond pool, hosting gatherings of all sorts while we raised our feral children to run wild and free.

the land that heals

Nine moths later when we are getting ready to put some money down on 50 acres in Hill Country, Texas, Larry asks if we might want to postpone the buying of land and instead travel a bit in that “caravan” we were buying to live in while we built our first structure. With only a few seconds of thought I shouted, “YES” and we were off to pack up, haul out, donate, toss out and give away our collection of stuff so we could easily live in our tiny caravan.

As it turns out the baby we birthed didn’t look anything like we expected. Instead of us living stationary calling in our tribe, it looks like we will be riding with the wind at our backs with our hearts full of honey gathering new members of the tribe and visiting and “talking story” with our antiquated tribal peeps.

Goodbye Happy Home!

Goodbye Happy Home!

This labor was arduous, both physically and mentally taxing as all of my labors are. Then there was the painful limbo period between contractions where I wasn’t able to express my creativity and our dream didn’t quite look like we had planned. Yet the further we traveled across the Sonoran Desert away from Houston the clearer the path became. It’s as if the fog of living in the humid urban hub of concrete and strip malls had lifted and I could breath again and the scent of the pacific ocean was calling us home.

Sonoran Desert

Our passage to California is just the first stop in our new mobile life. We are attending an intensive yoga course called, Mastery of Life Course by Laura and Bhava. I will write more about this experience now that the wild, salty winds from the sea are cleaning out all the sluggishness and waking up my feral, creative soul.  The sea and crow will bring me back to my balanced stasis of audacious-ness.

Where will we go next? We’re not quite sure yet, perhaps north, perhaps east, we’ll have to see what plan we conceive and hatch during the next few months in glorious San Diego.

the making of a happy house

Sara with her "Texas Birkin" by Cheryl Shulke

If you were starting new in a new home, in a new part of town with a new outlook (less baggage), new intention, what would you drag across town to join you in this new life in a “Happy House?”

My dear friend and fellow artist/designer, Sara, is in the middle of this process and when I visited her the other day, I was delighted to see that a sign clearly stated on the front door that I was entering a “Happy House” and that no fighting was aloud (allowed). I think this is a beautiful way to step into a new life, state your intention, make it colorful, post it on the front door for all who enter to know that they are now treading on sacred happy ground.

The next thing I noticed was that although Sara had very little in the new house, she did have her beloved collection of vintage Architectural Digests, which are not only individually interesting but when stacked like they are they bring texture and subtle color to the room. I love it!

I’ve been reading a little here and there about how after our basic needs are met we don’t really glean any happiness from acquiring things. In other words, more things don’t bring more happiness. The only problem I have with this idea is that the basic needs that they are referring to are food, shelter, clothing, etc. But as Sara and I sat in the happy house and admired the choices she had made thus far, we talked about how some people would not feel the essential need to have beautiful objects like stacks of old magazines or broken pieces of drift wood, or old bottles, but that to us it was essential to our souls to be surrounded by objects that feed us on that level.

It sort of reminds me of The Burning House website that chronicles what one would take if their house was burning. It was given to me as an assignment for a Madelyn Mulvaney’s e-course, Persisting Soul, which I totally recommend. It’s brilliant, inspiring, and a breath of fresh air. I actually didn’t do this assignment but still think about it often.

These are two very good questions for me to ponder; both similar but very different. I don’t think the things I would save in a fire would be the same I would bring to my new happy house. I like the idea of weeding out things that aren’t important and getting to the juiciness of life.

What are the essentials that truly feed my soul? I would love to get to a place where every plate and mug in my cupboard is a work of art that makes me smile from deep within. It would be magical to have every piece of furniture be not only useful but inspiring to look at. Lastly it would be wonderful to have  a closet with minimal clothing that was an expression of my inner life. Here is another site that is an interesting experiment to ponder (yet more to ponder), The Twenty Pieces Project. What twenty pieces of clothing would you keep to wear for a year?

I like how living outside of consumerism really is a breeding ground for creativity. I’m nowhere near here yet, but I love to ponder and flirt with the idea.

what’s up today . . .

Today is a sweet Sunday in Houston & in the Happy House. It started with a dip in the pool, a little naked sunbathing, a run/bicycle ride to the nursery to pick out some new flowers & veggies for our garden. Then back home to a meandering of creating collages, dancing, painting, planting & cooking.

I think it is possible that I am living my dream! Of course, there are things I want to explore, places to visit, but today was perfection in my book. I was surrounded by love, got to feel the full health & strength of my body, used my imagination & creativity & dug my hands into the sweet richness of mother earth.

I took some photos along the way today, just to share.

found objects on morning run

 

 

I see you! I am Here!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve been trying to get to my computer for a few weeks now to write down some thoughts but things have just been too busy with family, extended family & kids. Our nanny left for Mexico to visit her family & that kept my hands full. Thankfully she is back – we LOVE Anna!

Tonight, on the eve of the New Year, Larry & I are having a reflective evening alone. Finn is in bed & Raine is at a friend’s house. We have been compiling all the favorite moments from last year, basking in the gratitude of all that transpired, all that we created, accomplished & experienced. It’s quite a big list.

My highlights were winning the final court case to have full custody of Raine, receiving my first EVER child support check (we’re putting them all away for when she is ready to take off on her own), attending Squam Workshops, visiting my sister in NYC (staying in Village), finishing our pool, attending the Sophia Conference & deepening my friendships. with Ginger, Sara & Judith.

"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Lewis Carroll

Oh & starting this blog & keeping up with contributing has been another highlight. It’s been validating to share my thoughts & creativity with everyone who pops on in to see what’s going on.

Tonight I was reading Mark Nepo’s, The Book of Awakening (which you may know, I love),  the December 31st entry is about an African Bushmen greeting. He explains that when one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the bush, he exclaims, “I see you! and then the one approaching rejoices, “I am here!”

This warms my heart because I know the sweet feeling of being witnessed by all of you. I went out on a limb & shared with you my creations, my vulnerabilities & things that perhaps could have been shame-filled. But you all absorbed my words & images with grace & joy. You witnessed my unfolding as one would witness a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. And for the gift of your witnessing, I proclaim with joy, “I am here!” And in the light of this bushman greeting, I want to proclaim with JOY, I see You!!! All of you! (You know who you are).

Mark Nepo goes on to write, “For as stars need open space to be seen, as waves need shore to crest, as dew needs grass to soak into, our vitality depends on how we exclaim & rejoice, “I See You!” “I Am Here!”

Happy Dance!

May we continue to see each other with joy, may we let go of competition & embrace our one-ness, may we all shout from within with our own unique expression, “I Am Here!” AND May this next year be the best year of your life! EVER!

With so much love,

Katariina

66 million trees lost this year

As I walked along the path down the middle of the boulevard this little shiny star caught my eye. So tiny, so bright, so misplaced. My hope is that everyone that notices it will smile upon seeing it.

We have had such a severe draught this past year in Houston that the water table is lowered considerably & trees that were taken care of by the water underground and the regular rain are now suffering & dying. This is a little memorial I created this morning on my walk to commemorate all the trees that have been lost this year, changing the look & feel of Houston for years to come.

This was a freshly cut tree marked with the orange spray paint. I gathered the sticks from its branches & built a little raft with a shell of berries for sustenance. I covered the hole with a web of sticks & then honored the hole with other natural do dads from around the stump. I didn’t actually give it much thought, just threw it together with what was available.

My hope is that everyone who walks by & sees it will smile a bit & think about it. Perhaps they will ask a question or just get it immediately & say thank you to the trees that have passed & love the ones that are still thriving.

shell of berries

Walking is getting more difficult as I have to photograph everything & now stop & build little natural sculptures. Perhaps nature isn’t the best place for me to move my body!! To much beauty & intrigue catching my eye. It’s much too distracting. :o)

painting tilapia . . .

notice next to the fish's mouth, "executive benefits" on the other end, "diets."

The Friday after Thanksgiving we invited some friends over, got the ma-mas ready for creative time, bought some tilapia, anchovies & a few trout at the local market & got busy.

Raine's fish print masterpiece age 6

This project was inspired by my brilliant daughter, Raine, who came home with a fish print in first grade – which I have kept to this day vowing to someday try this myself. And I guess nearly 10 years later was the perfect time to slap some fish on paper.

The idea behind this project is simple. Paint a fish & slap it on paper. I was using it as a warm-up to further painting or use the fish print & expand on it. I cut mine up & collaged it onto a board, other’s forgot about the fish altogether & ran in a different direction.

All in all, it was fun, smelly, bringing about lots of playfulness, laughter, a need for gloves, cats & the need to double bag the remains & discard in a dumpster down the street.

Ellie's fish face

subtle palette

sara pressing anchovies

tilapia & anchovy

Larry getting ready for a smooch

Grandma Karen jumping in!

my mama's fish

the catch is driving the cats crazy!

communing with fish

fish hands

I hung the fish on a laundry line with clothes pins across my window to show them off. Later I moved it up a bit as a window treatment.

hanging them out to dry

look at those fish!

installation piece in our dining room

my fish print collage

this morning’s walk . . .

Feeling a bit thin & fragile, like a tiny piece of transparent Belleek china, I decided to take a walk on the Boulevard amongst the trees listening to Kirtan (Ong Namo by Snatam Kaur). Something about that music seeps into my bones & transports me to another dimension where I am floating whole & no longer thin.

We had such an amazing Thanksgiving weekend with our family, filled with love, lots of laughter & creativity, with beautiful people streaming in & out of the house every hour of the day. As much as I love this energy, it started to become overwhelming on the fourth day (hence the four-day family visit rule). Too much chatter just to chatter, to many coordinating logistics, planning, herding cats, Finnegan pulling at my dress calling, “mommy, momma, mommy, momma” all day long left me stretched thin.

Then on Saturday a beautiful article was published about my journey with the VA in the Houston Chronicle (click here!). It was a wonderful, soul-filled article that I hope other women veterans will read & seek the help they need. But . . . nevertheless it left me feeling a bit exposed & vulnerable (not necessarily bad things).

On Sunday, my mom, Raine & I went to try on wedding dresses. Raine, being my Honorable Maiden wanted me to at least just get an idea of what I would like or not like. She felt it was time to start trying on dresses & I conceded. It was relatively easy because I was with loved ones & it was great to learn a lot about what sort of dress looks best on me & will work best for the sort of wedding we are having.

Our appointment was at BHLDN, Anthropology’s wedding store, that offers gorgeous unique dresses that I drool over at my frequent visits. However trying them on was a very different experience. Imagine bathing suit shopping, only this time there is an audience, a box to stand on, too many mirrors, your own stylist AND the bathing suits are a size too small so most don’t fit or zip up, but still you are expected to come out, stand on the box in front of all the mirrors & the audience & model them. That was my Sunday afternoon. All my emotions, rejections, & doubts I have about my body & its current size came up just under the surface of my skin pushing and stretching it thin.

All of these things left me feeling fragile, tired, & mostly just done. I cried myself to sleep while Larry held me that night & in the morning I decided to be alone & walk. Something about those magical  trees lining the Boulevard, the soul-full music turned up to its highest setting & the movement of my body washed most the thinness away. The skylines against the vast blue sky begged me to photograph them so I could share with you.

 I’m in the process of growing myself still. Perhaps with intention & follow through next time the thin-ness starts creeping in I can remember the trees on the boulevard & go visit them.

a grocery cart or two