Raw Vagabonding : Zion, Bryce & The Power of Water

After I finish up odds & ends and death & taxes in Vegas, we flee to Zion National Park to get away from city life and spend some time communing with nature and delighting in uncertainty. Last time I drove cross country with my darling illustrator friend Elliott in 2003, I got sick in the Big Horn Mountains and we had to cancel the Southern Utah portion of our trip so I could make it to SF in time for an interview, so I am super excited to finally get a chance to see such amazing beauty.

We arrive at nightfall, set up our tent and get ready for bed. I feel the earth cradle my body, support my spine, and realign me with its touch. This is exactly what I needed to release the stress from the last 2 days (terminating my lease, organizing friends to remove the rest of my stuff in SF and dealing with the imbalanced sublettor) and reconnect with what is really important. The earth is always so grounding, and sleeping outside in fresh air always feels best (yes, I was nodding with agreement while reading the section on sleeping outdoors in Victoria Boutenko's 12 Steps to Raw Foods. In SF, I loved that the temperature was mild enough all year round to leave my windows cracked) to me, which is a major part of why I love camping so much.

The North Wind begins whispering and I think I'm in for a gentle song to lull me to sleep, but she has something on her mind, and her restlessness keeps me up most of the night. It's a small price to pay for being in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, a place that feels sacred and possesses strong healing energy, which I am very much in need of after LA & Vegas back to back. San Francisco, as a city, is more grounded in it's energy and nature is more accessible and abundant. There is lots of beauty near LA, but the traffic and need to get into a car to get everywhere can be a big deterrent, especially for a bicycle/public transport person like myself.

As I write this, I'm sitting on the edge of a cliff, inches away from the water curling it's fingers over the edge of Navajo sandstone, and the sound soothes me in a way that nothing else can. It doesn't matter that I only slept a few hours or that my hip is experiencing some technical difficulties - all that matters is that I am here, now. The vibrational power of water is astounding. Sound is vibration and the energy flows in all directions; the syncopation of the life force pulses with my own heartbeat, making my soul do a little dance with the molecules embedded in everything. I watch the water drop down into the Virgin River as the sky opens up above the canyon. I close my eyes and listen to the water reverberating around me and within me and drift naturally into meditation. I remember the last words I read last night before I turned off my headlamp:

Survival is in the rivers of your blood. So is death. Open to what you fear.


Raw Vagabonding : More Vegas Connections & The Renewing of Energy

These last few days have been mostly about connections - reconnecting with my cousin after 25 years, connecting with my sanity regarding the sublettor situation, connecting with my friend in Vegas who will join me on this trip for a bit, connecting with a super generous host who allowed me to use his extra laptop to catch up on blogging to connect you all you, and connecting with people at a few raw food meetups. I covered the first few in my previous Vegas posts, but would like to spend some time on the last two.

Michael Nelson, my CS host in Vegas, is an entrepreneur who owns numerous companies, including several with a philanthropic twist. The Nelson Foundation is an organization that focuses on promoting contributions to five specific areas: environment, education, social development, child welfare and animal welfare. It serves as a sort of charter organization that supports several other organizations, all of which are listed on their site. But it doesn't stop there - there's also CleanH2O, which is dedicated to bringing clean water to under-developed regions throughout the world; Feed Others, which believes the problem of world hunger (particularly chronic & persistent hunger) can be solved in our lifetime; and Humancha, a social website that supports charity fundraising petitions and ideas by building human chains and tribes of like-minded folks. Michael was kind enough to let me stay in one of the spare rooms in his loft for several days. He liked my Raw Autumn Granola so much he gave me $100 and told me to buy as many ingredients as that would cover so he could have a stockpile of it after I was gone. It felt nice to spend a morning making some delicious food, and it helped me reconnect with my need to be in the kitchen nourishing people through my creations. Michael was extremely generous with his space, offered me way more than I needed, and let me use his Macbook the entire time I was there so I could keep up on blog posts, event organizing and even e-file my taxes from the road. He was a huge help, and I am extremely grateful for having found such a generous host.

And on to the meetups, both of which were full of great energy and connections...
There weren't a lot of people at our raw potluck brunch but I kind of like that sometimes. It gave everyone a chance to have a group conversation where everyone could join in instead of multiple side conversations, making for a nice intimate afternoon. We ended up lingering for a few hours after the event was supposed to end because the conversation was so intense and spirited. The event took place in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, just outside Las Vegas, amongst the jagged red peaks and a desert spring.

Dennis Raatz was one of the people to attend. He is writing a book that's mainly about form, space & "the unseen" and will cover topics such as living in harmony with the earth, how we use energy, living machines, and our need to stop playing with fire to produce things and seek out alternatives. He hopes to teach people to step into their power to live in accordance with their will and life force & is stiving to create a culture without fire and find more sustainable ways to manufacture things. Dennis was a raw foodist back in the 70s when he was a truck driver, and used the diet to maintain his energy and alertness while driving long distances. He eventually stopped eating raw for a few decades, and ironically enough, was working for some time as a pasteurizer, where he acquired a lot of knowledge about killing and destroying life force in food. He rediscovered raw several years ago and has experienced many benefits since, and it seems to have helped strengthen his desire to live in harmony with the land and deepen his involvement in renewable energy. He was kind enough to share his wealth of knowledge with us.

He also blessed us with the most delicious Thai Nori Snacks and shared the recipe with me:

Thai Nori Snacks (from Chad Sarno’s book “Vital Creations”)

2c sunflower seeds soaked 10-12 hrs
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp raisins soaked 2-4 hrs or 3 dates pitted
1 ½ Tbsp ginger chopped
1 Tbsp garlic
T lemon grass chopped (opt.)
T curry powder
T Celtic salt
½ t cayenne (opt.)
10 sheets raw nori

In a food processor, blend all ingredients, except the nori sheets, until smooth. Continue by laying out a sheet of nori, spreading an even ¼ inch layer of pate to the edges. Sandwich with another nori sheet, slice 6x6 and put on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 105 for 10-12 hrs. Will keep for several months in sealed container.

Then there was Robert Westhoff, who brought enough food to feed an army. ;) It was all amazing...cucumber salad, a delicious soup, and the corn salad pictured at the beginning of this post.

Robert is an accountant who previously worked for a chemical company. In addition to his delicious food, he also shared some wonderful stories. One was about his doctor friend who was studying disease instead of health. He was good at his craft, but knew nothing about health and the conversation reminded me of this great Macrus Buckingham quote about how studying depression tells you nothing about joy. It was also great for me to hear about methods for shading homegrown veggies in the hot Nevada desert, because living in Northern California, it's not a challenge I have had to face, and I'm trying to learn about growing conditions in different climates.

We all had such a great time talking about a multitude of topics outside raw foods, and had a nice lively debate about energy and how fast the world was changing, that we decided to meet at the same place in 10 years to see if any of our predictions would come true. I know I'll be curious to see if I have a lightning farm to harvest natural glass to make my own bowls, plates and cups by then. So if anyone wants to join us in 2019, we'll be meeting at the picnic area in Red Rock Canyon on Saturday, February 23rd at 1pm. I'm looking forward to it. :)

The following night, we went to a potluck at Dixie & Ted Story's place in Vegas. Dixie and Ted are two of the sweetest people I have ever met. Dixie has been a home birth midwife for almost 30 years, and has helped bring over 500 babies into the world. She's worked with various forms of healing, and has almost a decade of experience with raw foods. Even though she and Ted have been on this journey for awhile, they've just begun facing some of the deeper-rooted emotional issues that can become tightly linked to eating, and it was great hearing them discuss their personal journeys of growth and discovery so openly. I think the ultimate goal of all of us is to have a healthy relationship with food, which can change for everyone throughout their lives. While 100% raw can feel great for some, it's not for everyone all the time, and I think being too strict and dogmatic about any one thing can be even more unhealthy than eating the occasional cooked meal. Even within raw, what one eats changes so often as your body shifts and progresses. For me, I'm currently at a place where I make fruit smoothies in the morning, and eat mostly greens throughout the rest of the day in juice, smoothie & salad form. I still eat the occasional nut-based raw restaurant dish, but it's nothing like how I ate when first transitioning. As your diet evolves, so does your body, and listening to it is the best thing you can do to achieve optimum wellness.

I also got the chance to spend some time talking to Poly Arcos, owner of Arcos Design, about art, sustainability, the challenge of obtaining healthy food in Vegas, thyroid issues, and having a relationship with someone who doesn't share the same dietary beliefs. It was great hearing her good humoured accounts of her boyfriend and how they support each other even though they think what the other is into is kind of crazy. They are able to accept it and be supportive and agree to disagree. I personally find healthy eating sexier, and find myself turned off by guys who eat tons of meat & junk, but am glad to see other people make it work and have a healthy relationship despite their differences. It makes me think maybe the dating pool hasn't shrunk as small as I'd thought.

A few other highlights were the amazing raw garlic bread Steve Pavlina made from Juliano's recipe, the positive Czech enthusiasm of George, the kind offer of Ashleigh to connect me with some folks in Oklahoma, a delightful Aussie, and the abundance of dishes Darlene brought after the photoshoot for her latest book. We feasted on Spicy Sweet Peppers, Mexican Pilaf, Au Lac Salad, Zucchini Pesto, Banana Cream Pie and a ton of salads, dips, crackers and good vibes. Thank you everyone, for sharing your creations and filling my evening with love.


Raw Vagabonding : Vegas, Baby! It's All About Connections

I woke up to some crazy sublettor apartment drama. TOTALLY my fault for going against my gut and subletting to this girl in the first place, because she is super high maintenance and somewhat of an opportunist. My landlord, though not thrilled at me subletting without his permission, is being unbelievably cool with the situation and being nice to me. What was I thinking by letting someone live in my apartment who had asked me what would happen if she died in there and they found her body and thought it was me? That set off a giant red flag, which I ignored. Why did I go against my instincts? Well, perhaps I needed to be reminded to always listen to them, so I don't end up in situations with people like this who take their own personal trust issues out on me. I am not a victim - this is a place I put myself into, and now it's up to me to get myself out of it and make the best of everything that comes my way and embrace the challenges life presents us, or the nudges to remember all the answers are within. In that moment that I told her she could move in, I chose fear instead of love. I think I convinced myself that because she was the one who wanted the place and could give me a deposit, I should trust she was the one who was meant to be in there. Somehow I let that override the 20 other red flags and her overall behaviour. What I should have been trusting was that maybe, just maybe, the fact that none of the sane sublettors worked out and she was my last chance meant that I should just give up my apartment all together. I mean really, what was I holding onto? I love my neighborhood, and my place was cheap for Hayes Valley. Maybe I thought I might not find another deal like that, which was ridiculous considering that apartment fell into my lap just when I needed it most. I walked in, knew it was meant to be mine right away, and then it was mine. It was that simple. Had I learned nothing? :) Also, I had been having lots of feelings (as well as numerous conversations with people) that while living alone had been really wonderful when I had a stressful office job and needed to come home to a sanctuary to devote time to healing and things, that time has passed and I needed something new. Now that I was self-employed and trying to make a living by blogging, writing a recipe book, consulting and preparing raw food for people, I spent a lot of time at home in front of the computer or in the kitchen concocting. I truly love playing in the kitchen, but being the social creature that I am, all this time alone was making me feel the need to live with people again. Add to this my growing desire to live in an intentional community, and I realize holding onto my apartment was me just grasping at the last threads of my old lifestyle. So I am going to find a way out, and feel free so I can embrace every moment of the changes in my life.

But before I got back to that trusting, abundant mindset, I went to Red Rock Canyon with my friend Evelyn, who is going to be joining me on part of this trip. We had originally met via Twitter, but shared so many ideas, so we met in person shortly after when she was visiting the Bay Area. She had no idea I was going on this journey, and made mention of her need to just travel with no end date and feel free. I was thinking of inviting her to join me, and then she told me about how she wanted to do something to battle the scarcity mindset and get on the road and promote hospitality with a roving tea salon that would connect human beings in this time of perceived scarcity. We were totally in synch with our goals and intentions, and the slight difference in means would allow us to diversify the trip and allow it to grow, so I got this big grin on my face and said she should think about joining me. Then the next night, I (not-so) randomly ran into her at a GI2MR Raw Food Meetup with Steve Pavlina, whose blog has been really helpful in me acting in alignment with my soul purpose, and she said she had decided to come with me. Later we discovered that my original cross country trip had morphed into it's community building grandeur on January 10th at the Abundance Workshop, about the same time she had posted her wish list for her Hospitality Tour, looking for money for a car, and I was thinking my trip would be much more fun with a like-minded companion. The universe always delivers exactly what you really need, exactly when you need it. :)

So to release some of my sublettor stresses, we went for a hike and talked and plotted and planned and rejoiced, and by the end of 6 miles or so of beauty and kinship, I was totally feeling back to normal. Here's some of the beauty that helped me feel balanced again, though once again, my camera is old and rather shoddy...Oh, and to get an idea of scale, if you look at the first photo, on the bottom right in the grass, that little white speck is someone in a white t-shirt. Everything was so massive, and so gorgeous. Nature is so vital to me feeling balanced, and my soul is soaring again.


Raw Vagabonding: Vegas? I Prefer the Valley of Fire

Mile 995. Las Vegas, Nevada. After wandering around the Mojave Desert and all its Joshua Trees for a bit, I arrive in this strange city. No matter how many times I come here, I still always find it to be odd. I guess it is what it is. When I arrive, I'm in the middle of Manhattan, but its located in Vegas and has a roller coaster winding through it. This shouldn't exist yet it does. My cousin Jovan, whom I have not seen in about 25 years, is here on business and has offered to let me crash in his hotel room here on the strip for a night, and to treat me to dinner at Il Fornaio. I am able to find an almost entirely raw salad of frisee, radicchio, endive, grapes, walnuts and pomegranate dressing that is super delicious and goes really well with the organic red wine he orders (yes, I still have wine on occasion, though less and less the cleaner my body gets, but we're reuniting after 25 years so it's definitely a special occassion.) and we sit for hours catching up and talking about our lives, our views of the world, our family, psychology, nature, traveling, hiking and I realize that we are more similar than we are different, and it's really great to be back in touch. It's even really nice to be called "Baby Cuz" and get taken care of for the night.

After dinner, we head across an aisle of slot machines to Nine Fine Irishmen to check out Ri Ra, the house band, which is amazing! The violinist steals the show with her fantastic fiddling, and there's even a traditional Irish dancer who jumps out every once in awhile to dance on a small side stage. Add to this a small asian leprechaun that knows the words to every song, and can't stop dancing, and you can say it was quite a night!

I crash in my cousin's hotel room for the night. It's super nice to sleep on a firm mattress and my back feels almost back to normal when I wake up. The position I slept on the futon my last night in LA did me in, and driving was a bit painful, but I seem almost back to normal in the morning.

My cousin goes to his morning seminar, but decides to play hooky during the afternoon session so we can go hiking together, since we're both such nature fiends and after spending time on the Vegas strip, we are in serious need of reconnecting with the earth. We decide to check out Go Raw Cafe, one of the only raw food restaurants in Vegas, to get some energy before heading to the mountains. My cousin has never had a raw food meal before and is quite the carnivore (we're Serbs - it's how we're raised!), but is into health & fitness, so he's totally open to trying it and orders the Mediterranean Wrap and a Blood Transfusion (coconut water with a shot of wheat grass) while I get the Purple Burrito and some amazing juice with 3 or 4 different greens and chlorella. Besides the amazing juice, I'm also wowed at their little nook of books. It's really impressive and they seem to carry a ton of hard to find, small edition books. My cousin is surprised at how full he gets. We can't even finish our meals.

After lunch, we head towards Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and see signs for the Valley of Fire and decide that's the place for us! The photos taken with my old digital camera don't even begin to do justice to this place, but I shoot some stuff with my real camera, though those won't get developed until this trip is over, so these will have to do for now...