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.

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wedged between birth & death . . .

sweet baby aria

When Larry and I were getting ready for our Big Bohemian Wedding in Austin last May, our neighbors on one side were preparing for the arrival of their sweet baby girl, Aria. The big brown UPS truck with squeaky brakes would pull up outside our house and drop two to three large boxes on their front porch nearly everyday. They were playfully battling over what name was appropriate for their little Texan on her way. She is a Francophil and wanted the name Amalie; he wasn’t having anything to do with that. Aria is a great compromise.

All the while, our neighbors on the other side were struggling with news of a lymphoma diagnosis. Her parents arrived to take care of their 2-year-old while she succumbed to a brutal bout of chemotherapy treatments that latest months. We only saw her occasionally after arriving home from the treatments and being carefully escorted from the car to the house a tiny shell of the woman she used to be, scarf over her head, and sallow face. I prayed for her recovery and painted her a painting that came through me intuitively. There was a bleak, exhaustion emanating from that side of our house and my heart held them quietly, unobtrusively in love.

We are not close to either of our neighbors although they are only six feet away on both sides. They will not be reading my blog (I chose not to use their names). However we are friendly with both of them and truly like them but I think they are not so sure about us when we dug up our front rose bushes and planted an urban garden that quickly took over the entire yard. Or when we moved the air conditioners up to the second floor balcony and put a pool in the tiny space that is our backyard. Or maybe it was painting our house in colorful colors that definitely stand out. Who knows?

Despite this I couldn’t help but feel the strange juxtaposition of our life events sitting side by side. I felt wedged between beginnings vs endings, birth vs death, growth vs depletion and abundance vs scarcity. All the while we were planning for our big luscious matrimony with the intention of deepening our roots in ourselves, each other, our family and our community of friends. Reading our houses from right to left (like the Chinese) it’s the cycle of life; birth, the richness of life and then death (death to the cancer, not to her).

our house in the middle

Today we sit between the proud parents of sweet baby Aria and a family with a cancer free mom on her road back to full recovery and Larry and I are deeply rooted in ourselves, each other and our ever-expanding community.

Life just happens doesn’t it? And then we make a stew, take our kids to school and walk the dog; someone dies and then a baby is born.

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

 

 

sculpting with polymer clay

Lately I visions of a large sculpted women dancing through the air have been settling into my psyche, so I decided to make a mini-replica (a rough cut) of my idea out of polymer clay so I could show my art teacher, Armando. I want her to pivot on her foot and turn on a lazy Susan style device. I call her Bella Donna. (her butt was flattened in the baking process, yikes!)

This is what emerged from deep within me; a woman without arms, instead wings, a large booty, slightly arabesque, no ears and a crown on a bald head. Now that she is out and in clay formation. There are so many more at the door waiting to be formed.

There is something about art in this tangible, structured form that feels so easy, fluid, & capable of saying everything within me.

Now, the only question is how do I get her to be life-sized so she can float in our front yard!!!

bella donna by Katariina FAgering

feeling full . . .

I just returned from a weekend in Temecula with my ever-so-lovely BFF, Ginger & all that orbit in her world. She hosted a Sophia Conference that was magically life-changing for me in so many ways, that I can’t begin to articulate (blog post to come). We had such a deeply, powerful, sweet, connecting time together, laughing, talking & making art.

Once I got home, Larry had to take off for the East coast & our dear Nanny Anna had to fly to Mexico to see her brother before he passed away at only 36 years old. This left me with the Finnegan for the past two days solid, no nap, no relief, no break. I know I can hardly complain with what is going on with Anna’s family, but I’m not used to it, & on top of that I’ve been a bit under the weather for a week or so – okay more than a little bit (I hear Ginger saying) so it’s taken it’s toll, however minor toll. I’m just feeling too full for much else.

There are mountains of creative projects I want to start, blog posts to write, so much swirling in the full-ness of my life, right now, so rather than share something really cool & wow, I just felt compelled (like jump out of my seat, hand in the air – must share kind of compelled) to just share some recent photos & say I’m feeling pretty full – happy & full!

One thing is for sure, this will pass & I will start rocking again.

One thing I’m noticing about all these photos I’m sharing today is their lack of intense color. Sara who is my beige, bone, burlap, eggshell girl must be rubbing off on me. The subtlety is nice. See Sara, I didn’t know this side of me, until I knew you. Ubuntu.

ubuntu . . .

A few years ago I was admitted into the VA Hospital for a month stay in a lock-down unit on the Mental Ward for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The years following my return from a year in Iraq with the Marine Corps were challenging to put it mildly. It turned out I wasn’t equipped to find my way back from the war zone with all of its death & destruction on my own. Although I was very aware & educated on the subject, I still lacked the skills to manuever around triggers & keep myself safe. I think the biggest problem was that I was in denial about my skills, abilities & the depth of how depression & PTSD were truly affecting my life.

in the in-between

I was spiralling down fast when I finally admitted to myself that spending some time away from my life focusing on unravelling the meanings I made of everything witnessed & experienced in Iraq would be empowering. I knew I had to do something.

The program was for women only & they called it WISER (an acronym for something clever about women). I expected the other participants to be combat vets from Iraq & Afghanistan, but as it turned out during this session they were from the Vietnam era  & were mostly Military Sexual Trauma victims. In addition, they were all southern women from various backgrounds that didn’t look anything like mine. They were kind but I felt like an odd duck for numerous reasons having to do with education level, income level, interests, time in service, rank, & color of skin. They all seemed to share a common southern language that was spoken quickly & softly using words in contexts I had never heard before. I found myself saying, “huh?” a lot, or just laughing & nodding at everything they said. Most of what they said was usually cracking a joke so laughing was a safe bet. These women loved to laugh, to eat & to smoke.

the little girl within is angry

I spent the first week trying to figure out how I had ended up in a cohort of women who were nothing like me. What was the lesson here? Then one day while reading Brian Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I stumbled upon a page that I had folded, penciled, underlined, & starred with little side notes. It was entitled, Ubuntu. Suddenly I got it!! They were not different from me. They were me & I them. I could not know myself without knowing them with compassion & love. My judgments were more about myself than them. If the women were similar to me, and had been in a combat zone, then perhaps I would have missed my opportunity to focus on myself. As it turned out, I was one of the youngest in the program, I think the oldest was 65 or so. This allowed me to take on a baby role, rather than having to nurture & mother those from the Iraq/Afghanistan era who are much younger. It was serendipitous to land in this pod of women.

the little girl inside is tired of holding it all in

The program was a very intense, life-changing four weeks where the life I had been living, the meanings I made of everything, even back to childhood, & the choices I made were all laid out before me & slowly unravelled to make sense or allow it to just not make sense.

I learned a lot during my stay but Ubuntu was one of the juicier lessons learned.

I wrote this poem below while in the hospital & read it to everyone at graduation.

the gathering

Ubuntu

by
 Katariina Fagering

I came here afraid, alone and lost. I
had forgotten who I was

Wandering
in the shadow lands of darkness, I questioned:

How did I
get here?

Who are
these women?

Do I
belong?

But then a
whisper filtered through my heart ~

 

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Suddenly,
my sisters appeared and I found me in them.

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Because she
is nurturing, motherly, love,

Hilarious

laughter filling the room,

Sunshine-sweet-southern drawl,

So am I.

Because
she is elegant, wise and brilliant,

Seeking,
searching and humble,

A courageous, proud, fierce protector,

So am I.

Connecting
with heart, I take you in my heart.

Because my
sister was raped, I was raped.

Because my
sister has HIV, I too have HIV.

Because my
sister went to war, I went to war.

Because my
sister is an alcoholic, I am an alcoholic.

Because my
sister’s mother died, my mother died.

Because my
sister has been beaten, raped, humiliated, lost, tossed and mistreated,

So have I.

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Together
we are reaching out,

Connecting,

Finding
love, loving ourselves,

Being
Audacious enough. She is enough. I am enough.

All that I

witness in you, my sisters,

So am I.

 Because
you shared the gift of you,

 I now know the fullness
of me.

Marine with Iraqi Children, Karabyla, Iraq 2006

shards of broken glass . . .

shards of broken glass

Turning the corner onto Harvard from 18th I was greeted with the brilliant translucent greenish blue of shattered windshield glass spread across the street. I had to stop & photograph it. As I played with every angle & dimension possible a man drove up, rolled down his window & asked what happened. What happened? I was confused & suddenly felt a bit silly. I had been more interested in beauty of shards of glass on asphalt than I had been curious about the poor car that had been broken into. I told him I wasn’t sure that I was just photographing the beauty of the glass. Perhaps I looked a bit like a CSI agent with my iPhone collecting evidence such as glass trajectory to be able to solve this horrible crime.

The song, Till the End of the World sung by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds kept running through my head. I love how he enunciates “shards of broken glass.” Youtube it to get the full effect.

It was a miracle i even got out of Longwood alive,
This town full of men with big mouths and no guts;
I mean if you can just picture it,
The whole third floor of the hotel gutted by the blast
And the street below showered in shards of broken glass,

broken

The more I lingered photographing the glass, instead of contemplating the reason behind its presence, I started becoming more curious about the usage of the phrase, “broken into.” I know, a bit weird, but the word broken is one of those words that has so many connotations. It can mean; interrupt, mental collapse, soften, begin, destroy, divide, fracture, crush, intrude (broken into), interfere, & become unusable. The one I liked the most was “to separate from the whole” or perhaps “separate from wholeness.”

I feel broken a lot of time, but not the kind of broken that is destroyed completely, more the kind that is separate from the whole, or interfered. I like to think of it as a starting point to finding my whole, audaciously authentic self. Perhaps I have been broken since about six years old or earlier, it’s just that I didn’t have any reference to whole-ness to know of my broken-ness. Thanks to God & the Veteran’s Administration I am now very certain of my broken-ness but in a compassionate, loving, nurturing way. It’s been a bit like introducing my six-year-old self that has been running a lot of the show to my 45-year-old self. She doesn’t have to grow up but she definitely doesn’t have to be in charge anymore.

Notice all the beauty in the broken-ness of these shards of shattered glass.

shards

among the leaves