Monday, November 23, 2020

Writing My Story

 (Recapitulate as I remember it- is to write your story including anything you can remember that ever happened to you- according to the shamanic tradition which Carlos Castenada was trained under.)

Writing my memoir was the most difficult work of art I have ever embarked on. Not because the writing was so hard but because through the process, I had to relive everything that I had experienced. 

The actual act of writing my story first came from a lesson in shamanism called recapitulation, about processing your experiences. I got it from the Naguals tradition of Mexico. For this exercise the apprentice shaman was supposed to write down everything that they could possibly remember ever happening to them. Through this exercise you could retrieve energy that you had left behind in the experience and leave behind energy that you had brought with you from the experience. It was a way of healing and creating a deep clearing in the shamanic apprentice.

I had known since I was a young adult that I would write my story one day but now I also knew that I could not write it until I did this practice of remembering. So that is where I started. I wanted to see what this process could do to help me evolve on my spiritual path. It took me ten years to do it because it was indeed very difficult to relive painful events. I could write for hours about the beautiful things but then when I got to a hard part, I might put it down for months or years, before I felt comfortable enough to continue writing. 

At one point, while writing some of the hardest parts of my life, I was lucky enough to be in the Virgin Islands. I was there volunteering for five weeks with sea turtles. I had made it a priority to continue the exercise while I was there. I found that each time I wrote something super intense from my past, I could get into the ocean and will the pain or sadness to wash away with the current. It was a powerful exercise. An incredible reminder that water is an ally and healer. 

For this exercise however, I did not write all the way to the end of my life. I felt I was still processing the later part and it had taken ten years just to write everything I remembered to my thirties. I was satisfied with the work I had done for the time. (I am determined to start again sometime later in life.)  

After doing that, I knew that soon I would write it again, for others to read. I did not know how or when but I knew I would. I did not push myself, I just waited. It took a couple of years and then one day something said, “It’s time to write your story.” So, I opened my computer and began to write, starting from when I was born. I had thought I might use my notes from the recapitulation exercise but I did not need to. It came naturally.

When I sat down to write the memoir, it just flowed through me. And once I started, I could not stop. For the first two weeks, it was all that I did. I woke up and wrote until I went to sleep again, sometimes for twelve hours straight. It took four weeks to finish that first draft. In a way, the first draft was pretty easy because I think I actually channeled it. 

Then the hard part came. I had to edit it, which meant rewriting and rewriting which also meant reliving it over and over again. This was as hard as the recapitulation exercise because I really had to dig deep to express my feelings behind each event rather than just recording it from memory.  

And this was a different story anyway, the parts I felt safe to share. Though some of those parts took me a couple of years to really feel okay to share. Then my aunt gave me the best possible insight saying, “Your past does not define you.”

That was almost three years ago and now my story is done and ready to publish. I am currently seeking a literary agent. (You can view my query on my new website at Visions and Reflections). It’s is only the first half of my life. Another book is in the works. 

Whatever it’s taken to write this book, I know that I have learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. It’s been an unexpected gift to myself.

Thoughts on My Career as a Body Painter

        Do you know what I first loved most about body art? It is that it is so “uncivilized”. You would never see someone in the so-called civilized world in body paint unless they are on a stage or in a photo shoot. Yet indigenous people have been wearing body art for eons. This is what first drew me to it. It’s timeless and utterly raw art form. 

    Body art is also one of the few temporary art forms I know of. Tibetan sand mandalas or art in nature are also in this category. All of these art forms, despite being temporary, have a powerful presence in the few moments that they exist. 

When I was in my twenties, I developed this primal desire to create art for the skin. I especially loved creating characters through my body painting. Seeing the model transform into a different personality still amazes me. I never know what to expect because each person I work with is so different when I finish from when I begin to paint them. 

When I started, I loved it so much that I found a way to make a living at it. At that time, being a body artist was not a career option unless you did permanent tattoos. Yet, I knew there was a need for it and I was intent on finding my market. I did that and now I have been a professional henna artist and body painter for twenty-two years. At times I have been more successful at it than I ever thought possible. 

(Images from my last create costume and body art shoot. All feathers are cruelty-free/ naturally molted)

 November 2019

Photographer: David Hobbs, 

Model: Katie Baker 

Costume/ Body Artist: Rosemary Kimble

But here is the thing. I love body painting but I hate the sexualization of body painted women in our society. While I can always see it as art, so many other people look at my models as sex objects. I have to admit, I have really been struggling with wanting to continue body painting the last couple of years because of this. 

And these days I mostly only enjoy it when I get to choose my own design. After twenty plus years, I have frankly become a bit bored with it too. Regardless, I have been a part of so many amazing projects with this artform that I know I will never completely let it go. I still have so many ideas to execute with body painting.

But if you know me you probably noticed even before the pandemic put us in quarantine, that I have been producing very little body art in the past couple of years. I have secretly been working on a career change for the past few years and I have a few things that I have been focusing on, photography, animal communication and writing. I am not sure how I will make a living doing this yet but I know I have been here before and found a way to succeed. So for now, I am just setting my intentions on the end goal, just like I did with my first career as a costume and body artist, and we will see where it takes me. After all everything is temporary, right?

(I wrote this just before the pandemic. Since then I have started the new business Visions and Reflections and have a new website. )

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Passion for Travel

For most of my life, I’ve been excited about the future. And lately the near future, even just two days from now or two weeks from now, is enough to excite me. It’s exciting not knowing what exactly is to come but being wide open to the possibilities. That is why I love being a traveling nomad. Driving down the highway towards the next adventure and not knowing what to expect. When you’re a wanderer the way that I am, nothing is defined or routine. You have very little expectations for what’s to come.

I don’t typically do any research before I travel somewhere either. I never went to college and have a terrible knowledge of geography. I usually know very little about a place I am going, preferring to keep things mysterious until I arrive. Then it feels even more exotic. I might come to find out, “Wow! I can go on safari here?” or “How fascinating. They still practice animism here!”. It’s never a problem... always a surprise.

What I also love about traveling is how it inspires me. I am constantly intrigued when I travel, always exploring. Even if I am going to a place I have already been to. Traveling makes me feel like I did when I was so passionate about my art while I was living in New Orleans. I get so excited about creating the journey and the art from it, that not even sleep is important anymore. I don’t want to miss a thing. I eat, breathe and sleep creating. I want to photograph everything! And write about it! It’s a wonderful feeling to be passionate about my life again.

When I travel I am always planning my next move. Aware of things like, “If I get there in the next hour I can catch the sunset!” Or “I have a little time before the train leaves so I’ll take a walk and see what I may have missed here before.” It feels like every moment has great potential for creating- art, connections, friendships, memories, stories!

Even when I am already exhausted, I am still excited to explore more, right up until my last day in a place. I might get up in a small town at 4 am to go to a sunrise Buddhist ceremony. Then end my day in the city I will fly out of, at midnight, after a great meal and a walk on the beach.

I feel like it’s an investment just to travel and I want to make the most of every single moment. And when one trip ends, I cannot wait to start the next adventure. I am excited to see where it leads me and what will be created from it. And I am open to all possibilities.

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Reward in Losing Everything

To achieve great things, you have to lose everything- Che
           I believe this is true. I have lost everything before and it was a blessing in disguise. Even though it was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.
           I moved to New Orleans when I was twenty-five to pursue my dream to be a costume artist. I willingly left one life behind to dive into another life that I knew would be much more fulfilling as an artist. The drive in me was so strong that it only took a few years to become recognized for my work as a costume artist and a local celebrity. My art was featured on the cover of magazines, I was being recognized by national media and receiving awards in the New Orleans fashion industry.
           I found a wonderful community of other artists that were like family through a reuse organization that I started called Recycle for the Arts. Besides the costume business, I made very good money doing henna at my booth working in Jackson Square. And with the help of my father, we renovated a beautiful Victorian home in the popular New Orleans neighborhood of the Marigny. It was complete with a small studio and storefront window to display my costume art.
           I was living exactly the life I had dreamed of and so much more. I loved New Orleans and even just leaving for a vacation I missed the city that had become like a very dear friend to me. So much magic happened for me there and there was nowhere I would rather be.
           And then Hurricane Katrina happened. I was blessed to be able to evacuate but the aftermath completely changed life as I knew it. On my mother’s TV in Atlanta, I watched the destruction my beloved city endured from flooding and then the chaos and looting, followed by the obvious genocide that consumed hundreds of people. It looked like the city and its’ culture had been destroyed and may not survive. My community was now displaced all over the country and some would return to nothing. Some would not return at all. My home was damaged, and though it was repairable, it seemed fruitless to stay. I knew that it could easily happen again. The New Orleans levee system was now in worse decay than it had been before the storm. It still is.
           I remember going home right after the storm and putting my hand to the ground. It felt like the pulse of the city was almost dead. Like it would be a miracle if it survived this catastrophe.
           Leaving New Orleans hurt. It had become my closest friend and ally. But I knew I did not want to risk losing it all again if a worse storm hit. It was time to start a new life.
           It was really painful to leave New Orleans behind me, but it was also an experience that taught me that losing something does not have to be a complete tragedy. It is a path to invite a new way of being. When you are losing it, it can be hard to believe that your new life will bring many more rewards than you can imagine.
           I willingly gave up everything again two years ago. I had already lost another home and left my partner who I had hoped I would always be with. Remembering the experience of leaving New Orleans helped me to see that I could create an even more satisfying life this time. I gave up having a home at all and became completely nomadic. I had always wanted to travel the world full time and I knew that if I did not have to pay rent and bills, I could make it possible.
I travel the world a good part of the year now and I am happy to say that yet again, my new life has been more rewarding than I ever imagined.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A Visit to a Sri Lanka Hospital

I am at the ENT in a hospital in Sri Lanka. I am trying so hard not to be the rude American but I am in so much pain. Even so, I look around and I want to photograph everything. The nurse’s shoes, all white with the pretty little design on the toe, looking like they were made in the 50s. The antique hospital beds against a backdrop of walls with peeling paint.


 The orderly pulls my backpack to the ENT for me

I guess I am writing to try to take my mind off of the pain from an earache. My ears are a chronic issue so this is no surprise. I pretty much know what to expect, however, I am in a foreign country.
The Ayurvedic doctor I saw this morning could not help me. I was excited to go to him because I always use herbal medicine and had heard before that Ayurveda might help with my ear trouble. He alleviated some pain with herbal oil and massage and I thought I was ok. Then I got on my bus to get to my next stop in Kandy for the night. And on the way here the pain got even worse. I might even say excruciating. When I thought I would burst into tears from the pain I jumped off the bus with my big bags outside of the city and got a tuk-tuk to the hospital. I knew I’d get there quicker that way than waiting on the bus to get through traffic. 
Emergency entry was not too bad, just the payment took so long with the orderly talking me from the right billing station to the wrong one and back again with a stop at the ATM. 

I took out way too much money because in my delirious state I heard them say 40,000 rupees, not 14,000. Which is $200 versus $75. A bargain for emergency room care to someone from the US at either amount. This morning the Ayurvedic doc asked for 800 rupees. I gave him 2,000, a little more than $10 US. 

His office was in his home. Dusty curtains that kept it dark with a dirt floor and wooden furniture. His desk has a stack of antiquated traditional Sri Lanka style books. I only assume they are ayurvedic. I wouldn't even have known they are books had I not seen something similar. It was a book about the story of Buddha, hand made by an artist. Thin rectangular slices of bamboo for pages with drawings of Buddha's journey and Sigirian writing, stacked to open like a fan and twine that wrapped around it when closed. 


After a question and answer session through my Sigirian translator, the host of the guest house I had been staying in who referred me to him, he took me to another room simple room.
Inside was a large open wooden chest with a rack that had several ounces of leaves drying on top. He had me lie down on a massage table. He picked up a wooden bowl of oil that he used a metal spoon to scoop some out of and then heated it with a lighter under it. Then he poured some of the warm oil into my ear and vigorously massaged around it and along my cheekbone, throat, and scalp. He blew into my ear to get the oil to go deeper inside. My unbearable pain was relieved within a few minutes. I thanked him profusely thinking the worst was over but somehow knowing that what was in my ear still had to come out. Then he sent me off with some of the ear oil in an old bottle that he rinsed with water first and blew in it to help it to dry. 

I guess the writing is helping. Or the pills they gave me for pain are working. The language barrier is so bad I did not ask what the pills are. Not my usual MO with western medicine but I just barely had the where with all to make it here despite asking many questions. I’m hoping the pills actually work. 
So, I lay here on a hospital bed with a clean but stained sheet and a pillow with only 15 feathers left in it under my head. The nurse came in to spray lidocaine in my ear but I suggested we wait to see if the pills work first. I have been to numerous doctors with Issues with my ears but that method has never been suggested. Although usually my ears are just clogged and rarely infected.

Over the past several years I have taken special care not to put my head under the water when I swim because my ears tend to get water inside. Since I have an extra flap of skin inside my ears and it makes it hard to get anything out that goes in, including wax build-up. Perhaps a mutation from a previous life as a mermaid that did not evolve when I became human. I went swimming in a lake a few days ago at my volunteer project and this time, for some reason I dunked my head under the water once. I guess hoping that perhaps I miraculously have the freedom again to do something so bold. Clearly, that is not the case.
The nurse just brought me a cup of hot chicken broth and a large slice of papaya. Healthier food than I would be offered In a US hospital. 

Yes, the pain is definitely subsiding. And now all I can think of is that I am going to miss one of the events I came here for. The traditional Sri Lanka dancers that you can only see perform in Kandy or for special holidays. Darn!
I have finished my snack and now a plate of rice and curry arrives. The first brown rice I have seen in this country. Another healthy delicious meal I would never expect to get in an American hospital. Spicy enough to kill any infection to no doubt. I am embarrassed to ask for a fork. But I have been traveling all day and I’m in a hospital now, so my American sensibility suggests I should eat with a utensil instead of my hands like they do here.

Soon the doctor will come. I hope. And in the meantime, I am remembering to be grateful. That I can afford to come to a doctor. That I am not so bad off as the many other people in pain on stretchers in the emergency room. That the universe has blessed me with yet another interesting story to tell, despite the hassle and pain that comes with it.

And even though I am missing the dancers tonight, I will not miss the Buddhist ceremony at sunrise tomorrow morning. It will be at the Temple of the Tooth, one of the world's most famous Buddhist temples with a tooth relic from the Buddha. Perhaps that is where I will receive the healing I need... or perhaps the enlightenment that I, like so many other spiritualists seek our whole lives. Anything can happen, any time.
The nurse takes me to a larger room in the ward with several other patients lying in hospital beds with family members beside them. They look at me inquisitively. The nurses are all amused by me, with my two big backpacks and photographing everything. One of them sits me down at a small table and the doctor comes in and puts on an antiquated headlamp that has an electrical cord and makes a loud hum when turned on. 
There is another old fashioned looking machine beside me that will solve the problem. Although I have never seen a machine like this I know what it does because the doctor told me they would suck out any wax causing the blockage with it. I am excited because I know this is the best method and I never get this treatment at my regular clinic, always just the ear irrigation. The last time I had an infection like this I had to pay an ENT specialist $400 to use a much fancier version of this machine. I have been through this many times (but usually without an infection) so I know that once the wax is cleared I will feel better. 

Again I remember to be grateful. I just wish I had one of my own, travel-sized. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wildlife Photography from Around the World

I have been doing wildlife photography for a few years now. It suits me well because I love to be in nature for long periods. Since animals don’t pose and they are usually not in the best lighting, it takes a lot of patience to get good shots of them, and I guess I have a lot of that.
So, here is a post of some of my favorite wildlife photos. I will start with images from my first camera so you can see the progression in the quality of images. Keep in mind that most of these animals are at a great distance so it is sometimes hard to get a fully focused shot.

From the I-phone 5
Sometimes I don’t have time or space to pull out the big camera so I use my I-phone instead, with great results. I still have this antiquated I-phone 5 and I use it regularly. I plan to get a newer model very soon.


These are from the volunteer project I did with wild macaws in the Peruvian Amazon

This guy is from Cusco, Peru



These are from a volunteer project I did with vervet monkeys in South Africa. 

From the Nikon P 900
This was my first pro camera and I bought this camera specifically for its super zoom lens, to take to the Amazon to photograph wild macaws. It was the most affordable camera at the time for me. I wished it had had a sports setting, to be able to get birds in flight.

From the Peru Macaw Project

 From Pine Lake, Georgia, USA

St. Mary's, Ga, USA

The Camargue in France

From the EOS Canon Rebel T3i (European Model)
I bought this camera on a whim in South Africa. The project I was with warned us not to bring expensive equipment so I didn't bring my Nikon. But once I was there I regretted it, feeling completely safe. So, at the first camera shop, I could find to get something to take on safari. It has a sports setting but not as much zoom as my Nikon.

 From Safari in South Africa on Private Reserves (Not Krueger National Park)

From Simonstown, near Capetown, South Africa

From the Canon Rebel Ti7 with Tamron 18-400mm Lens

This is my most recent camera. It was recommended by the camera experts at B & H Camera specifically because it is used in wildlife photography. It can capture animals in the high-speed sports setting but also adjust while in zoom if the animal turns and starts to come toward you. It has a zoom as good as my Nikon. It is an all in one so I did not have to carry extra lenses adding more weight to my huge backpack. It is my most expensive purchase and has been worth every penny.

Gainesville, Florida, USA

Colorado, USA

Pensacola Beach, Florida, USA

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Cuenca, Ecuador