europe, travel log

samhain – november

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costume design

when i was preparing to cross the channel, set on exploring my ancestral lands, i had this feeling that my stay would extend beyond the few weeks planned. an intuition that i would spend the autumn threshold there, to meet my dead in a proper introduction, such as i could not yet imagine.

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the samhain gathering was a sunrise, a nest, a bubbling cauldron. four days dreaming in the moss with a colorful tribe of newfound brothers.

catapulted to another tor, i head to dartmoor under the gaze of a sheep skull with a string of pearls. first day, new faces. each one voices an intention and pulls a card – as effective an introduction as i’ve ever seen. the hanged man stares back from between my fingers, and the feeling of hovering persists. my senses sing in rapture : there are songs like golden feathers drifting in from another plane, group massages in front of a red stove, bare feet in the grass and slow breathing in the morning. the clinking of cutlery, whistles and miming while our silent lunch slips into clown, the grazing of charcoal on paper. the naked man’s voice sweeps us into a conversation under a teepee. i give tarot readings in the bath. we have casual cabaret, a casualabaret in the drawing room. ellie tells us a story of the handsome young man trying to escape from the love of the fairy queen, and  the tale leaks into our dormitory that night. in my dreams, the fairies steal from you “your laughter and your sadness”. meanwhile a scared man seeks a refuge among the slumberers, then disappears without a trace. 

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the day of the feast feels like something i’ve done many, many times before. the women go shrieking with pleasure into the frozen stream. we call the ancestors. cows answer the wolf howls. the dances and tears and offerings make the air crackle and thicken, i can feel them, the countless generations that sail in us, witnessing, humming in our blood. breathing down our necks, just outside the circle. after cleansing and paying our tribute, we paint our faces, don our finery. we feast : each of the 22 arcanas finds a seat at the table, a card for each passer-by,  child, trickster, and the lord of the house in a plushy animal costume. we toast and name our dead, we fill the room with their stories. the ones whose names have been almost forgotten, the ones we didn’t know and the adventures that we sometimes took part in. the devil and i strip and strike a pose before dessert : the drawings are passed around, a casual reminder of the diversity of our visions in the myriad interpretations of our curves and muscles. at some point my head starts swimming with too much stimulation, the scene, the songs, the food, the presences. red ribbons dance from the conifer bonfire and the sky pelts down ice from the full moon.

 “you are a miracle, and a landmark on the territory of a new world”.

it felt like home. we emerge filled to the brim with love. stronger.

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i volunteer once a week, working in the garden at paddington farm

back into my new home, i settle into a rhythm… little eden screaming MOMMY LOOK ANELICOPTA. i rip open the blackened, dry skins of the beans. hard caramel seeds rain down into the pail at my feet. the beans climb up, the dry branches of black quinoa, the kale that i’d never met before. colorful home-schooled kids mill around, prodding at the earth while a mum gives me golden words – “there’s no lesson, no plan. we just do what they want to do. they’re learning to learn, and we try not to get in their way.” michelle wanted to teach eden about the trees, and instead got a lesson about how to evade monsters and aliens in the forest. i’m sitting in a pool of organic learning. the esoteric library, with its dusty crammed shelves of witchery, druidery, magickry, its string of muttering, beringed midde-aged men, delivers its treasure into my hands, but. it’s a trickle, compared to the rest of this river. friends made on the way to the sunset. promises of black clouds of starlings above a lake. the frost fair, where all the tribes of celts, fairies, witches and muggles mingle in their winter finery to watch morris dancers,  buy sheepskin slippers and gather to watch the man beating an arrowhead on the anvil.

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i spend a whole week dancing. the five rhythms unveiling its surprises as i watch my body shake in ways i’ve never felt before. like taking a walk down your dna trail, responding to the drums with convulsions, spinnings, percussions, low sweeping motions that i suddenly recognize, sowing seeds, bent over a field a few days later. my body caresses itself, stomps, breathes in the whirlwind of other dancers with only the slightest impulses coming from me. the house and techno music make my soul shrivel and wail, but no matter where i turn, they are honored guests here. i work on my patience – people go wild and love it, they’re a delight to watch. we’re all so beautiful when we stop trying. contact improvisation turns out to be SO MUCH FUN, halfway between dreamy hibernation and a playground. the barriers between your body and other bodies, between the kid and the adult blur as we run around, rub up, and throw ourselves onto the ground, breathless, screaming with laughter. like post-coital frolicking, with random strangers.

speaking of drugless trance : i find myself watching amma, hugging. a man on her team tells me she simply does not sleep. with each step closer to her, my body flushes with heat, and the inside of my arms tingles, anticipating the imprint of her embrace. i get dizzy and slightly nauseous, like when you’re falling, falling in love, hurtling down. i watch her for hours. a queen bee, surrounded by a buzzing mass. she the dreamer, and we the whisps of her dreams. she clamps the side of her forehead against another, mutters some syllables and jumpstarts an earthquake. watching a miracle – five hundred times. a fox greets me every time i go for some night air on the racetracks. the glorious sunrise welcomes us back into the real world, and i glimpse a buddha statue between grazing sheep on the motorway.

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weeping willow

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europe, travel log

a month of yang

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life on the road, how i’d missed it. its crazy coincidences and intensified everythings.

the on-the-roadness is a space in which i’d circulated a few years ago -that was the reason i started this blog at all -, and my journey through this space has lately seen of a lot of new parameters. traveling with a steady companion –  and through the pairing of two loners, to boot – is new and surprisingly easier than i might have thought. traveling  with a huge bunch of Things (and in a Car!) is also a huge leap out of my backpacker routine – being able to lug around all of the paper, candles, tattoo equipment, food supplies, herbal medicine books, presents for hosts and musical instruments is a luxury i’m greatly enjoying. the years i’ve spent resolutely not accumulating belongings, which would stay behind at the next move, have honed a great appreciation and reverence for any tool. i’m feeling grateful as hell.

this is also the first time i‘ve worked as a team and the energy is so different to working just for yourself. you fight harder for your partner, you sell with more sass, you regard your  joint forces like a proud mother her baby. your focus is sharper, your boundaries clearer. the difference is palpable for both of us within and in other people‘s reactions as well – every time we leave a host‘s home, we are begged and pleaded with to stay a little more. it‘s interesting to observe another‘s way of communicating who we are and what we do to another fresh batch of strangers – whether this is my colleague luz or whoever happens to be introducing us to their social circle. luz and i have been tattooing and mixing that with seemingly little-related passions for so long that it‘s been a challenge to describe why we do it, how we do it. in the website that we‘ve already redesigned three times, i‘ve sweated and groaned over a way of explaining our path to the three-minute-concentration audience.

it‘s kind of funny explaining my relationship with luz a few times a week. the story starts with “so we met about four years ago”, and because of the number of incredible connections and coincidences involved, people will assume that we‘ve been intensely working together since then. before june, we‘d actually barely spent more than five months in the same city or even country. we seem to swim in and out of each other‘s lives, always popping up a few months later with exciting discoveries to share, amazed to find out we are still walking in the same direction, however different the paths. many people express a sort of envious wonder at how we have found each other. again, i‘m feeling grateful. common interests branch out into each other‘s familiar field and before we know it we‘re practicing group meditations with the moon and our hosts, matching chinese medicine elements with tarot cards and geeking out on herbal legends. i‘m so used to picking up odd bits of information left right and center, then isolating myself to study and delve deeper to work it into my art, just like she does. the sharing is beautiful and nutritive. we can feel our power growing.

so people don‘t want us to leave anymore, and more coincidences come to tug at our skirts. we dreamed of a boat ride in amsterdam, and two hours later we were suddenly in a boat. we got lost in creative ways and confused by absurd bureaucracy. we marveled at the beautiful boat-houses along the canals and wandered inside van gogh‘s paintings in a different way, now that we‘ve breathed under the same intense stormy skies and spent days walking by those pale redhead dutch faces. after a delicious shower of icy rain, we had a cup of tea with a young woman in a spiritual centre, telling her we were only staying a few days, looking for clients.

“but you work with tattoos… doesn‘t it take a while for people to know your work, then trust you, then decide to work with you?
– well no, actually. it‘s a funny thing, but people usually meet us, then we all fall in love, and the next day they get a huge tattoo even though they never felt the need for it before.”

her skepticism was camouflaged by a dazzling smile. ten minutes later a boy walked in, had a cup of tea with us, invited us to stay in his home for a week, and had three huge tattoos – we did him the courtesy of leaving before he got into huge debt to get more, always more.

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eric lived in an appartment squeezed between two blocks, but still had a beautiful view

eric
four-hand tattoo

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we met sofia back in brasil. little did she imagine we would go all the way back to her home, to tattoo all of her friends

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girls’ quiet sunday drawing session

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“have you ever tried spaghetti ice cream?”

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(by luz)

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adrian

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leon

work in progress snakes int

snakes for daniel

we have been simply swimming in masculine energy. men who suddenly stumble across us in their homes, get their first tarot readings, confess recent spiritual awakenings and dreams of travels to take medicine in exotic landscapes. men running from broken hearts or the mothers of their children. men living in beautifully adorned home-temples and claustrophobic rubbish heaps. men with whom we watch rabbits run around a back yard in the evening. men recovering from depression, artists struggling to make a living, political activists and ex-soldiers, construction workers and students and foreigners. a little boy with a gap in his gums that makes him look like a vampire, a little boy who lost his dad and could‘t stand my presence. a man who loves motorbikes, but doesn‘t “have the patience” to travel without a woman by his side. men madly in love with women living far away. a naked man standing in a lake, doing tai-chi in a golden sunset light. men in positions of spiritual power, not listening. everywhere, the carved face of the green man, the old pagan god of summer, creation, and all things growing – the european ambassador of yang energy, winking from stone walls. so many men! so many men to whom we deliver the messages from the cards and their own bodies. we watched them laugh and cry, stare into empty space and fall asleep and unblock and let go. we are coaxed into inventing a joint therapy marrying tarot and acupuncture which seems to delight our friends, so as the french saying goes, we add this string to our bow. it‘s been touching, swimming this great wave of manliness, and giving them a little care. the tarot kept spitting out apocalypse cards and great big storms of unmerciful change their way. so many people we came across had not had a simple pat on the back, a lovingly-prepared dinner or a kind word in a while, and needed it.

so it‘s been quite a ride. with some spare time to watch black squirrels, bats in waning light, swallows fishing in lakes, going to an earth-sauna looking like the oven from hansel and gretel. watching existential graffitis on the highway saying “i am the gate of the world”. discovering a place i‘d visited in my dreams and gardens full of sculptures and swings. painting bathrooms at two in the morning, drunk on wine and music from our rock‘n roll teens. listening to hang-drum or yiddish gipsy swing in parks, visiting vertical salt-water walls, a main street with house facades drooping like melted candles, a village of container homes and a punk community kitchen.

i‘m having quite the wild love affair with rumi, so i will let him add a last pinch of masculine beauty:

Who gets up early
to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his lost son
and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down and brings up
a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?

Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Soloman cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow on drop.
Now there’s a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins.
Suddenly he’s wealthy.

But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you’ve grown,
lifting.

The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

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