Nov 28, 2012

Approval from Mother Ocean

Venice Beach

I’ve been going for a run on the beach almost every other day for the past few years here in Venice. Today was one of the top five beach days I’ve had here in terms of weather, stillness of the ocean, and notably obvious synchronicities.

I have to set the stage. Remember this is November at 10am. The sun was out and it was warm with subdued light and it’s actually supposed to rain. I was wearing only swim trunks and I was comfortable if not warm. The beach was freshly graded meaning there are no footprints or trash on the fluffy part and it’s really neat to walk on. The water was gently lapping the sand. It’s usually a washing machine out there. I only saw a few people and everyone was unusually smiley. The air was still with a slight breeze. Just perfect.

I get a sharp sentimental pang.  I’m moving away from this? It may be a long time before I have another opportunity to play near the ocean everyday I if want.

I remind myself to shake it off, because moving to the ranch in Northern AZ is a no brainer. I can hardly sleep from the excitement of it. 

Ok, back to the moment. I walk past the lifeguard tower and onto the harder packed wet sand to begin my run. I take a few steps toward the pier and a mini wave rushes up the beach and deposits a tumbleweed directly in my path. Of all the times I’ve been out there I have never ever noticed a tumbleweed.

I look around to see if anybody else is seeing this and go up to inspect it and sure enough it’s a tumbleweed. I just start laughing.

Tumbleweeds abound at the ranch. Digging up tumbleweeds and burning them will be one of my major chores out there.

It was as if the ocean was saying, “You are going to leave all this for tumbleweeds?”

I go on my run. The ocean and the ocean birds and other critters are putting on their best show. I'm amazed at how little trash there is. They dont grade where the ocean meets the sand. There has been an upsetting amount of trash on the beach lately due to the extreme high and low tides of the season. I reach the breakwater where I usually stop and touch a certain rock with my foot to say that I made it and catch my breath. As I turn around a much older and very voluptuous woman is fast paced walking towards me. She has her exercise jacket pulled up above her breasts to cool off exposing large swinging bosoms and a wiggly belly. The undershirt she is wearing is the color of her skin and completely see through. I will leave it to your imagination as to what my first thought might have been. The little voice in my head said, “Mother”. I am thinking of the archetypal mother—Not necessarily my mother, but mother in the general sense. I started to run past her and back towards the pier analyzing and wondering about my experiences with the tumbleweed, the Mother, and my connection with the ocean. 

As I get about half way I notice that the waves are getting bigger as the tide is coming in giving the ocean the endlessly chaotic vibe that I’m used to. Just like that! A big wave pops up out of nowhere and rushes up the leg of my trunks depositing a pristine white baby bottle full of milk directly at my feet. I see what’s going on. I stop to acknowledge the ocean and offer my gratitude and thanks for her protection while Jana and I have been living and playing here at her beach. 

From where I am stopped gazing out to the horizon I see another sight I had yet to see on this stretch of the beach. Out on the water and really close are dozens of California Sea lions porpoising and frolicking in the water. It looked really playful as if they were doing it for the shear joy of it all. Most likely, considering the amount of sea birds around them they were probably hunting fish, but it was still quite a timeless and beautiful performance to behold. Every single time I have gone out to the ocean it has been dynamic and awe inspiring in some way, and on days like today—a learning experience. Thank you Mother Ocean.

Structure fire for AZ DECOM 2010 at the ranch.
The effigy was filled with tumbleweeds.
Notice the huge pile of tumbleweeds on the right.

Nov 19, 2012

No, it's not a compound or a cult. It's for the art!

The time is always NOW unless the time is GO!
—Robert Moss

Venice Beach, CA
It’s a new era! Beginning on December 18th 2012 Jana and I have been invited to live off grid on a 80+ acre solar powered ranch in an area 30 miles Northeast of Flagstaff, AZ. The ranch has been used for everything from a Burning Man Decompression site, a host to Tibetan monks, Hawaiian shamans, Djs, spiritual retreaters, sweat lodge meetings, woman's retreats, and other gatherings related to expanding human consciousness. 

Seems like a good time to start a blog...

Our friends that own the ranch founded a school called the STAR school about 12 yrs ago and it is the only off grid solar powered charter school in the country. It is a school for K-8 graders that focuses on the public school curriculum as well as Navajo culture and traditions, peacemaking and off grid sustainability. STAR School is expanding, winning awards and grants, and taking up most their time so they moved into another solar powered house closer to the school. They realized that they needed someone "exactly like us" to live on and and take care of the ranch. Again, it's just going to be us two living there and we will host work parties and events (not a cult). Our immediate goals—aside from making it our home—are to revitalize and continue the owner's vision for the ranch and discover new ways to facilitate creative events, concepts and happenings in accordance with its mission.

A few months ago at a Burning Man related event on the property I really felt a strong connection with the land and all of our friends that live up there. One day while I was out walking with one of the dogs crunching over black volcanic gravel and small scrub brush I wondered if I could rent out the ranch house and art studio to use it as my own "artist in residency" space. It seemed like a good time to get away from the hustle of LA for a bit.  I never had the chance to ask them.

The owners had us in mind at the same time I had them in mind—for the same thing! It is time for a new rugged adventure in Northern Arizona.

At the ranch there are 2 houses on the property as well as a barn, a hogan, an amphitheater, a sweat lodge, a straw bale structure called the Gnome dome and a lot of vast open space. We will be surrounded by breath taking views of the painted desert and mesas on the Navajo reservation. Our closest neighbor is  James Turrell's Roden Crater project. There is an unobstructed show of a gizzillion stars at night. There is more space outside to build giant art and gather folks to do it than you can shake a tumble weed at. I have missed sharing my life with dogs and there are two ranch dogs—Daisy and Duke that love to go on long hikes with us. There is even a crazy studio kitty named Jack that lives in the straw bale structure that sometimes "hugs" peoples legs.

We have much appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to be able to uproot and start a new chapter in our lives. Not many people have this kind of flexibility and I would like to thank our friends and family that have shown Jana and I support in all of our wacky endeavors over the years. On that note I am also very fortunate to have Jana in my life as my partner in mischief and magic. Thanks Jana, I love you.

I intend to start this blog sharing my experiences while living off grid out in the Northern Arizona tundra. There will be stories and observations from my travel adventures, art events, museum projects, and "spiritual" explorations. ...and of course highlighting the general absurdity of it all as I go. 

I will book end this first entry with yet another one of my favorite quotes:  

There are times when we can feel destiny close around us like a fist around a doorknob. Sure, we can resist. But a knob that won’t turn, a door that sticks and never budges, is a nuisance to the gods. The gods may kick in the jamb. Worse, they may walk away in disgust, leaving us to hang dumbly from our tight hinges, deprived of any other chance in life to swing open into unnecessary risk and thus into enchantment. —Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.

Satellite view of the ranch. The house is at the top with the blue
roof. Below that is a straw bale structure built around a bus that will 
be the art studio.  Across the road is the barn and the hippie bus. 
Further below is the Alex Grey Dome and the Gnome Dome. All the 
way at the bottom at the end of the road is a traditional Navajo hogan.