earth day – 2021

happy earth day, my loves.

i’ve spent the majority of today contemplating what it means to be a member of a larger global community. i’m mourning today. i’m mourning the continued desecration of Black lives. i’m mourning the recent deaths and continued racism against Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian siblings. i’m still so heartbroken over the fact that i felt a collective exhale (even relief) on tuesday at 5:15PM, only to be thrust back into the realities of misogynoir and police violence that plague us. the deaths of Duante Wright, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant are all weighing heavy on me. this week has been heavy. and to think or speak or write about earth day feels superfluous. but the earth is calling out. she has so much to teach us.

i’m fortunate to have always shared my home with a variety of different species — dogs, bunnies, hamsters, fish, turtles, all varieties of plants and insects.

for most of my young life, i remember feeling very distant from nature. when we were little girls, my cousin and i would run away screaming whenever we happened upon a roach or mouse in our homes. we took pride in being “city girls,” turning our noses up at nature outings and country living. we never knew the pleasure of sticking our hands in soil, or witnessing the majesty of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. i was content to physically distance myself from grass and trees, and found comfort in the concrete. the gray. the lifeless.

the nature that intrigued me then was the tropical. i thrived in sunshine, under palm trees, near vast beaches and rolling clouds. i always felt so invigorated when we visited my family’s motherland – Colombia. it was in Cartagena, Pereira, and Cali that i first knew the freedom and wonder of connecting with nature. one of my first memories of Colombia is from when i was about 6 years old. i was sitting in my mother’s lap as she caught up with one of her neighbors. and i was looking up at the stars for the first time in my life. i had never seen more than a handful at once, and all of a sudden there was an entire night sky bursting with starlight.

i turned to my mother and asked her if seeing all of these stars meant that we were in paradise.

this was the first time that nature filled and inspired. she hasn’t stopped since. my untrained eye began to appreciate the wonders of sunrises, of freshly planted tulips along Park Avenue in the spring.

at some point, i started more intentionally practicing love. and when i experience love, i can feel myself expanding. expanding beyond the walls of my home. when i’m in love, i want to walk endlessly. and those walks always lead me back to nature. and nature always leads me back to love.

over the years, this has looked like strolls through parks, hikes through woods and forests, walks along beaches. and i’ve found that the more connected i am with nature, the more connected i am with the people around me, and with myself.

this has been a serious challenge during the pandemic, one that we’ve been mitigating by bringing more life into our home. i’m grateful that throughout the course of my childhood, i was able to witness my grandmother caring for plants. i never truly understood their purpose beyond aesthetics until last year.

we slowly started bringing our own plants into our home, and i tried to mimic my Chaya’s lessons. many mistakes were made at first. it’s not easy to care for plants in a NYC basement apartment. i’m sad to report that some of these mistakes were irreparable. but i continued learning, and refused to give up on the little ecosystem that we were building.

cautiously, my family and i have ventured into the wild together to witness growth and blooming beyond our home. we’ve mainly restricted ourselves to NY. and then back in april, i had a whole week off from work. and i knew that if i stayed home, i would end up isolating. binge-watching reruns. and i needed to break out of that routine.

don’t get me wrong — as someone who’s neurodivergent and lives with ADHD, i LOVE my routines. but in order to live my most expansive, most brilliant life, i need to give myself room to break out of the monotony.

my beloved and i considered a lot of different places, but ultimately we decided on California for two major reasons: 1) i’ve never been to west coast/seen the pacific and 2) when E shared with me that Cali is home to the tallest and oldest trees in the world, i knew i had to visit them. and so we packed our bags and made our way to San Francisco.

it was strange to be traveling during the pandemic. and i’m still processing a lot of what we witnessed on the west coast. it was a bittersweet experience; easily one of the most important trips i’ve made in my lifetime. i’ll be touching on a lot of what i learned in future posts, but for today, i’ll be focusing on my new friends: the redwoods.

in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

john Muir

i didn’t know exactly what to expect when we drove the 90 minutes out to Muir Woods. i’ve hiked along the hudson, up by buttermilk Falls, in el yunque, in my local park. those experiences have all been satisfying in their own way. but Muir Woods is like nothing else i’ve ever experienced.

because of the pandemic, we had to book an appointment beforehand to visit the park. we were warned that slots filled up quickly, and they did, but we were able to secure a late evening appointment.as we drove along the winding hillside path to the national park, i’d ask E incessantly if every tree we passed was a famous redwood. you’ll know them when you see them. i couldn’t quite understand how tall the tallest trees in the world really could be. we finally parked the car, walked the mile to the entrance. the park wasn’t too overcrowded and we rarely ran into people along the path, which i am grateful for. because the experience was overwhelming at times. to be surrounded by so much life, by so much time and energy.

tree hugs

this was one of the first trees that we came across. it was love at first sight. i’m grateful that i was able to share these moments with E. as always, he was able to ground the experience in history and wisdom. this wasn’t just a walk in the park. this was transformative.

reverence

one of the first things that E said to me was: this is the closest thing we’ll know to gods. each one of these trees is over 2,000 years old. look at how much they’ve grown. think of everything they’ve witnessed.

bark

2,000 years. 2,000 years of growing. of stretching. of nurturing. 2,000 years of witnessing. of resilience. what could these trees tell us that we don’t know? what wisdoms are they harboring deep within? can you imagine this guy as a sapling? as a seed? nature is slow, and it gets everything done.

roots

the park is incredibly well preserved, but throughout we also witnessed trees and plantlife that had fallen over. we were told by a park employee that the trees survive all kinds of natural disasters & manmade disasters — earthquakes, fires. and life carries on. they keep climbing towards the sky.

shallow roots

so much of our beauty and growth and power is hidden. in the era of social media, so many of us have learned to only value surface-level beauty. it’s rare that we take the time to consider, acknowledge, appreciate everything that happens below the surface.

lifelines

it’s strange to think about all of the details, the nuances and complexities, the histories that we’re missing because our days are so full. so rushed.

details

we’ve learned to only see with our eyes. what happens when we slow down and perceive and understand beyond what’s directly in front of us?

height

the redwoods shared so many lessons with me. they gently reminded me:

if you want to go fast, go alone. if you want to go far, go together.

lichens, roots, “imperfections”

there is no such thing as coincidences or imperfections when life is present.

scars

when you are hurt, heal.

awe

keep growing.

no matter the circumstances, nature always moves towards growth & healing. in the midst of so much trauma and harm, i believe it’s urgent that we take our cues from earth’s proclivities towards evolution.

empty spaces

amores,

it’s finally warming up outside, and i feel like i’ve been calling spring into my life since the pandemic first started a year ago. i’ve been waiting and aching to soak in sunshine and florals and rooftop mimosas. but, as we know, New York came to a full stop last year. i visited the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens once in may or june with my mom, and the experience was eerie. and not spring-like at all. for the first time i can remember, the gardens were almost completely empty, desolate. we were told that, like the rest of the city, the gardens had to close because of the pandemic, and so a lot of the seasonal planting and cultivating that normally takes place didn’t happen. it was surreal.

does spring still come even when there are no flowers to bloom?

and what exactly happens when the seasons don’t arrive the way we expect? as my mother and i made our way through the dormant gardens, i thought to myself: does spring still come even when there are no flowers to bloom? what is spring without flowers? and that’s exactly what 2020 often felt like for me; a lot of: “can this be without _____?” without. without. without. can NY be NY without Broadway? without restaurants? without brunches? and tourists? who am i without…a job? school? a romantic partner? a specific friend?

at some point, my piscean tendencies led me to this conclusion: in order to confront the without, i’d have to look within. but that’s so esoteric, it’s painful. i found my attention wandering constantly, and because i was home, i found my sight settling on all of the things around me.

i was Sisyphus and all my clutter was my rock.

is there a better way to bring spring energy into your life than some spring cleaning? personally, i prefer sundresses and mimosas, but i’m always down to try new strategies. like so many others, i was and am OBSESSED with Marie Kondo. i’ve read her books, binge-watched her show. but no matter how hard i tried, i just couldn’t bring myself to implement her methods. i won’t tell you how many times i’ve piled all of my clothes on my bed, asking myself over and over again “does this spark joy for me?” the process is difficult. and exhausting. and honestly, some days tidying up just felt like an insurmountable task.

most days, i felt like i was Sisyphus and all my clutter was my rock. no matter how much time and energy i dedicated to “the life-changing magic of tidying up,” the clutter always seemed to re-appear, bigger and more suffocating than before.

i couldn’t quite put my finger on why i was having such a hard time. and then early this year, while i was visiting with my mom, i noticed a book on one of her shelves– The Abundance Project. i’d never noticed the book before, and my mom has no idea where it came from. i don’t know why this impulse rose up in me, but i decided that i needed to read that book.

you see, here’s another thing i’d been struggling with: i barely read in 2020. anyone who knows me knows that reading is a must in my life. books follow me everywhere. there was a time when i chose to read over sleeping…and i LOVE sleeping. but mix a pandemic with job hunts and ADHD and anxiety…and well. my books started collecting dust. fortunately, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche had recently blessed us all with this gem: “if you want to read, then read!”

and so The Abundance Project made its way to the top of my to-read list. i’m not familiar with Derek Rydall’s other works, but this particular book felt enjoyable, i won’t do a full book review here (maybe another time), and i’ll also admit that i did have some qualms with some of his ideas, but i will share a few bits of wisdom that especially resonated:

much of [the clutter we keep] is unresolved emotional material; a futile holding on to your lost youth and better days; an act of self-preservation for some future lack when you’ll need those twenty boxes of sterile wipes you bought at the Dollar Store! it’s also a form of control, a way to feel like you exist–a means of giving weight, literally, to your existence.

Rydall (2018), The Abundance Project, p. 93

Derek Rydall read me for filth. but he doesn’t stop there. he goes on to talk about the process of clearing away the clutter. he talks about acknowledging that our things carry energy too. and when they just sit there, existing as monuments to our pasts or the dreams we’ve abandoned, they prevent our energy from flowing.

when we clear the clutter, we’re breathing new life into our spaces. but here’s the trick: because we live in a capitalist, consumer society, our instinct is to fill our spaces back up again. because we’ve learned to identify ourselves with the things we own. think about it…everyone is selling something these days. it’s easier than ever to get everything delivered directly to you. and we’re all buying. whether it’s cars, clothes, subscriptions, plants, books, degrees, stocks, environmentally-conscious straws, masks, games, furniture …(i could literally go on for days)…we’re all buying. so Derek invites us to resist that urge. to instead learn to sit in and with the emptiness. why? because an empty space is very much a blank canvas…a place where possibilities become endless: “There’s a reason the Bible describes the promised land as a desert, because it’s not filled up with a bunch of old stuff. It’s pure potential, where anything is possible” (98).

embracing empty spaces has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

on their own, these passages ignited something inside of me that i haven’t experienced before…something akin to desire. i deeply wanted to experience emptiness, expansiveness, possibilities. and so i emptied. i started with my closet, and soon found myself reimagining all of the spaces i exist in. (even the virtual ones.) and let me tell you, embracing empty spaces has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. because suddenly, i’m engaging with these spaces. my imagination comes to life. i’m able to open myself, to expand into these spaces. i am vast.

i can feel potential and possibility swelling all around me.

and now, dear reader, i’d like to ask: do empty spaces scare you?

lessons from water

1. to find peace – be still

2. reflect

3. always move

4. nourish life whenever possible

5. your presence will go unnoticed, but

6. make sure they feel your absence

7. adapt. learn to exist in all circumstances

8. pick things up. let them go

9. FLOW

10. drown fuckers if you must