“You are okay, dear soul.
Every living thing aches as it changes.”
~ Jaiya John
Dear One ~
I was driving down State St. in beautiful, perfectly sunny Santa Barbara sometime in late July 2018. I had recently returned from my incredible travels abroad. I’d driven this street countless times over the last 19 years.
“I don’t belong here.”
This thought wafted in like a stank odor and I made a yucky face and quickly tried to shoo the thought away.
“I’m done. Shit!”
I had had a particularly magic-filled spring and beginning of summer as I wound down my 3 months of dance studies in Rajasthan and then a May holiday in the lush mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India. I then spent 3 weeks in Greece…first Athens and then 2 weeks in Crete to help run and study in my teacher’s first ever Summer School.
I was floating on a cloud when I returned to the US. I had boundless energy and so much love to share and spill all over my beloved home town. I couldn’t wait to see everyone and teach and dance and drum and give all of my heart to my students and my town and work hard so that I could do it all over again starting that fall.
As the days and weeks passed, that sparkly energy that accompanied me slowly was replaced with anxiety. Fear. Mild depression. Disappointment.
I had no idea that the beautiful and beloved Santa Barbara chapter in my life was giving me a kick in the rear.
Most of the projects and ideas I was so ready to share were somehow slowed, stunted, shut down and I was left feeling rejected and abandoned. Things were no longer gelling. I was waking up daily with a gripping anxiety in my stomach.
Then that day, the message came.
“Go on now. You’ve completed your work here. You are ready to fly again. No offense, but it’s time to go.”
“But where do I go? Where do I belong now?”
Then, clarity. Grace. Excitement.
I was done. I needed to move on from my home. I had nurtured and nourished a career and community in dance and drum and art for nearly 19 years. The chapter…the book…the epic was now complete.
Once this realization and clarity set in, a newfound freedom washed over me and I suddenly felt lighter and like I was 24 again.
Thank you, Santa Barbara.
photo: Rachel Sarah Thurston
I can’t properly express the gratitude and also the honor I feel to have lived in this community for so many years. It was a dream come true. I visited my grandparents for much of my childhood every other Christmas in SB and fantasized about one day living in such a place. A place that felt more like me.
On Aug 29,1999 that dream came true. It will be 20 years ago this Aug 29.
While the land is extraordinarily beautiful, it is the people I will miss. My peeps. My music and dance family that have been with me through my many transformations… from student to teacher to singer-in-a-rock-band to vocal coach to professional dancer and now back again to student.
Those inspiring artists in our community who gave me permission to actually be an artist. To make my work a living art. To bring my art alive! From being a drum student in Budhi’s classes at the Hermosillo house, to drumming with him for years in Vanessa Isaac’s Brazilian dance classes, to singing back-up with Vee on stage and teaching my own singing classes, to drumming West African for Hunter and then becoming a teacher for 5 years and then passing the baton to our beloved Leida. Creating the Djun Djun Mamas and spreading drumming joy to women in Central and SoCal and even in my home state of Minnesota!
And not to mention all of the parade performances and Winter Solstice concerts!
Those students who blew me away by their dedication and support and love of all the many forms of music and dance I’ve shared… West African, Afro-fusion, Bollywood, Indian Fusion and Odissi. Drumming rhythms and singing songs from Brazil, Cuba, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and more. Performing on so many stages… from the Music Academy of the West to the opening of the Granada Theater to Bollywood flash mobs at Lotusland and the Arlington to countless Earth Days and Summer Solstices and fundraisers and on and on. I bow to each one of you. My glorious, wholehearted students who really were my teachers. You nurtured and supported me into the teacher and leader that I am… into the person that I am. I love you and I take you with me everywhere I go.
A small but mighty shift
Then… meeting Hemalayaa somewhere along the way and getting my world completely blown apart by Odissi Classical Indian Dance.
And then. Meeting Colleena Shakti. And traveling to my beloved India.
Connecting with this beautiful teacher and realizing that I wanted to be with her, learn from her, learn how to live more of a yogic lifestyle and dedicate my life to this extraordinary dance! The dance that was more me than any other dance.
Then…collaborating with Kathy Hayden to lead women’s tours in North India and Aparna in South. Then…being invited to work on the administrative team for Colleena’s Shakti School of Dance. Then…being invited to teach morning yoga and basic stepping in my school…and last year signing on to a 5-year diploma program in this art form.
After that first trip, 5 years ago this January, I knew that my life was about to shift dramatically.
It has been at times super painful, confusing, lonely and challenging…but mostly soul fulfilling, nourishing and heart expanding. I have experienced some of the highest highs of my entire life dancing in our beloved Krishna temple in Pushkar, offering my prayers to the Ganga River in Rishikesh, seeing wild elephants devour the leaves of trees in Karnataka, spending Christmas Eve in one of the most powerful Devi temples in Kerala. Riding high upon the back of a camel (the ships of the desert) in Rajasthan.
Tears streaming down my face as the Langa musicians of Jaisalmer pour their heart and soul into their music at our school to share with us…because that is all that they know and all that they have done for hundreds of years.
Sitting next to my Nagara drum teacher, the incomparable Nathu lal Solanki, on stage with Prem Joshua at the Pushkar Mela and looking out at the adoring crowd and wondering how I ever got to be up here!?!?
And now, Greece. Another second home. Add it to the list. I can’t even begin to tell you how this place has reconnected me to my true love of nature and being in the countryside. Eating the biggest, juiciest, sweetest red tomatoes from the garden. Olive oil that puts butter to shame. The cleanest, clearest turquoise waters to nourish my skin and muscles and nervous system after a day of hard dance training. Waking up to the glorious sounds of the birds – no cars, trains, planes, machines, nothing else!
How did I get here? I just followed my heart. I just keep doing it. It has not let me down.
And so my big announcement?
It’s time to officially say “good bye” to California. Many of you already know or maybe could have guessed.
For now I live mostly out of my suitcase and I go from land to land, continuing to follow this beating heart. I follow this dance, my teacher and those endless and beautiful opportunities to learn more. To share more. To commune more with the divine.
Thank you to this man
For 19 years I nested and cultivated a wonderful “home” and nurtured a beloved community. I poured my heart into my dance and music classes and epic performances and programs. I have my dear friend and former partner, Budhi Harlow, to thank for being my teacher, confidante, mirror, co-creator, rock and huge supporter through all of the many transformations and transitions that have taken place since 2000 when we met. I would not be who I am without this man’s love and support and friendship.
Home means community and connection.
For those glorious 19 years, home meant beach walks at Butterfly, hiking Romero Canyon, community events like Summer Solstice and Earth Day, hot tea on the couch on a cold fall evening in November, cuddling my pups in the early morning hours in bed on Ruth Ave or Church Lane in Carpinteria, performing my students at the Music Academy of the West after months of training, laughing and crying and then laughing again with some of the best girlfriends on the planet.
And now? My home, like my heart, has expanded. It was always expanded but I’m finally catching up to it and realizing the endless possibilities and that infinite sea of love and light that comes from this place.
Home means…my sweet room at Hotel Diamond in Pushkar, just a 5 minute walk to the Old Rangji Temple where I dance the last drops with Colleena Shakti and my dance family. Home means that same Old Rangji Temple where I spend countless hours stomping, refining, polishing, getting my ego handed to me, laughing, crying, celebrating, loving it so much that it hurts. It means performing in palaces and grand stages for weddings and other fabulous functions in Jaipur and beyond…sometimes not performing until after midnight.
Home means sitting in my absolute favorite spot along the Ganga River near Rishikesh, listening to the sound of the water and the wind and making prayers to Ma Ganga to wash away all illusions and darkness from my being. It means walking across Laxman Jhula to my favorite corner store to buy more foot cream because my feet are dry and cracked from so much dance and being barefoot most of the time. Home means sitting with a cup of chai with my dear sweet friend Kavita as we talk about her 2 beautiful children and her young students at Ramana’s Orphanage. It means a 5 minute walk from my favorite hotel in Tapovan to take Veer’s amazing yoga class at 8 a.m. It means diving into Hatha and Ashtanga yoga, pranayama and meditation studies from dawn to dusk at Phoolchatti Ashram just up the Ganga.
Home means waking up to the sound of thousands of cicadas and gazing out over the rolling hills and olive tree orchards down from Villa Shakti near Topolia in Crete, Greece. It means adorning our dance and yoga altar with fresh flowers from the garden. It means gazing up at the Milky Way and howling at the full moon in the countryside of this gorgeous island with my Shakti family! It means eating an endless supply of olives. And dakos. And boureki. And mizithra cheese. And…
Home sometimes means falling into my mother’s lap in Minnesota, sipping morning coffee with my dad and making endless jokes with my brother and sister. It means going back to my roots to reconnect and recharge with my birth family – full of love and food and laughter and reminiscing…
Home even means living out of a suitcase, delayed flights, missed connections, depending on the kindness of strangers, bargaining in markets, loud wedding music blasting next door while I try to sleep, feeling lonely, scattered, unsure…but always always ALWAYS following my heart. This is where I reside. This is home.
And… I will continue to visit Santa Barbara and the land of California to visit, maybe even teach and perform a little. I’ll be there for a few weeks in Sept and again in October! Stay tuned for an announcement about a farewell gathering of sorts…
Again, I thank YOU, my friends and students and the glorious communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ventura, Ojai, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles… for your support, love, guidance, friendship… and to all of you all over the globe!
Wherever your physical presence on the planet is right now, I invite you “home”. And I hope to meet you out there in this big beautiful world of ours. To travel is to really LIVE. To experience all kinds of realities.
And I know one day I will be ready once again to settle and nest and nurture predominantly in one (or two) places. For now, I nurture my heart home.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end! Bravo!