Monday, April 30, 2012


Adventure, broken suitcase, curls, dirty clothes, ex-pats, freedom, girlfriends, hour of silliness, impala, Joshua Tree, Kalk Bay, long flights, migration, night swimming, orange sky, photographs, quest, rainstorms, spit it out, tears, umbrella tree, volunteering, warriors, xo, youth, Zanzibar

April was an astounding month. Blessed to have traveled to Africa, to experience new cultures and habitats. Seamless reentry to life in LA. Still beaming from the days I spent with my childhood friends. I feel so incredibly loved, and lucky for this life I get to call mine.





Sunday, April 29, 2012

Five Days

After dropping SJP and CB off at the airport this morning, Al and I killed the hours before her flight  with one last chat by pool, a successful pit stop at Trina Turk, and lunch at the Viceroy.  When I returned home, I already missed hearing their voices, their bursts of laughter, and their scents.    The house was incredibly alive these past five days with their energy and love.   Being together again, reuniting after, we actually couldn't remember the last time the four of us were together, brought me so much joy.   They are my touchstones.  Our experiences, and the influence they have had in my life are forever imprinted on my soul.  Not surprisingly, being with them was emotional -- a reminder of how fast the years pass, how full my life is without them in the day to day, and yet the evident void created by their absence.  Our connection is more than just nostalgic, it lives in the present.  I love the women they've become, and I believe we'd still be friends if fate introduced us at this stage in life.  I wonder what it would be like to have them in close proximity again, to share the random weekday dinner, or Saturday afternoon museum exhibit.  Anticipating their visit, I was aware some experiences are significant in retrospect and others, like these past five days, would be remarkable from the first hug hello.

Friday, April 27, 2012

J-Tree and P-Town

Mini road trip to Joshua Tree to explore the miraculous desert flora and fauna.  We walked the trails guzzling hot water, reapplying sunscreen, and, of course, laughing.  Our silliness seemed amplified by the rising mercury.  We oohed and ahhed at the massive boulders and spectacular landscape.  In Pioneertown, parked on the side of the sheriff's station on Main Street, we changed out of our dusty clothes into jeans.  The baby wipes bath left us surprisingly refreshed as we ordered BBQ at Pappy Harriet's.  The eclectic crowd and rockabilly band offered plenty of entertainment.  Drove home under a blanket of stars, heart bursting.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

For Life

So much catching up to do, yet we can't stop laughing -- at the past, at ourselves, at each other, at life.  No subject matter is too serious for a sudden outburst.  I continually clutch my stomach and wear a perpetual smile.  We're friends for life thrilled to be back in each other's company. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Believe in Friendship

I believe in friendship, and the sweetness that comes from truly being known.  I seek relationships that provide the safest of havens to explore all questions, beliefs, expressions, dreams and fears.   And so begins my five day holiday with three friends I share a past, an understanding, and a profound love.  I met SJP and CB in first grade, we skipped across the asphalt during recess in our Catholic school uniforms, and celebrated birthdays with pin the tail on the donkey.  I recall meeting Al in junior high, but our bond didn't solidify until high school when we spent Saturday nights at KP parties drinking Michelob, or using fake IDs to gain entrance to the Royal Manor.  We visited each other at college, and had an annual champagne brunch/football game on Thanksgiving morning.  In our 20s, as we were breathing life into the dreams of who we were going to become, we were all on the Eastern seaboard, and for a couple of years even shared NYC as our home base.   On the eve of moving to LA, I held SJP in the middle of 26th Street and sobbed.  I knew distance wouldn't threaten our friendship, but with growth comes inevitable change.  Seeing them became a special occasion, a celebration, made easier by frequent business trips to NYC.  Several years ago, when Al was relocated to Europe, we became even more geographically splintered.  Factoring in children, relationships, and careers, being all together does not happen with ease anymore.  I'm incredibly grateful to have the next few days with them, suspended in time from our daily schedules, to reconnect and honor this thing called life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It was autumn in Africa, marked more by intermittent rain than cool temps, but the flowers were past their prime, and the grapes had already been harvested.  So I kept thinking about spring in the US, even on the west coast where the transition is subtler, flowers and trees still burst with color.  I returned craving  blue skies, warm breezes and blossoms.  Instead it's been gray, cool and drizzling since I landed at LAX Saturday night.  Jet lag is harder to shake when the world outside my window is a monotonous shade of gloom.  Thankfully, I'm getting through the days without feeling like a narcoleptic.  I brazenly had a full schedule today and made plans tonight, but all I can think about is sleep!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dar House


Sometimes you're just meant to see something. Sometimes the universe lets you know you have unfinished business, memories that will linger forever.   That's how I felt when I was leafing through a stack of old British Vogues in a cafe in Arusha waiting for lunch.  I turned the page, and there it was, an arresting glossy spread by Mario Testino taken outside Dar House on the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar.  In the days ahead of me, like stacks of unopened books, I know pages will be dedicated to the time I spent there.  I'm haunted by the dramatic evening backdrop witnessed from the upstairs lounge. As the full moon ascended over the sea, the tide slowly moved out, leaving almost a mile of beach.  Where the sea once flowed, where anchored boats swayed in the current, there was only stillness like thick paint left on the canvas from an impressionist's brush.  My mind was tricked by the memory of motion, of cresting green waves, but the seas was gone.  At first the silence was unnerving, than calming.  The fine white sands glowed under the moon like phosphorescence.   It's only been weeks, and I already find myself revisiting this image in my mind like a dream I can't quite shake.

Our meals, beautifully presented tuna steaks, king fish, and salmon from our backyard sea, served with crisp, tart greens, and grains, were delicious. South African Shiraz, rich Tanzanian coffee, fresh mango juice, bottles of water.  Heaven.  Time was suspended from life in Los Angeles, from the hideously long flight to get to this magnificence,  and from the poverty surrounding our oasis.  And yet by the end of our three day stay the truth had found us.  Yes, we were perhaps fooled and disarmed by the tranquility within the walls of our compound, especially since our staff included three night guards, and two day guards.  Inside the house, Richard, the manager, was also the amazing chef.  He employed a housekeeper who kept things tidy and helped in the kitchen and a grounds and pool boy.  Organizing my suitcase Sunday morning before our post lunch departure, I checked my wallet for my passport.  My heart sank when I realized four crisp hundred dollar bills, needed to pay for our safari, were gone.  I hoped I had misplaced them.  I didn't want our stay at Dar House to end this way.  With regret, I announced to the others my loss.  Upon looking, D was missing three C notes, and L two.  I felt like I had played a role, wealthy white tourist with cash in semi-plain sight for the taking.  It didn't matter how appreciative, complimentary or grateful we were, someone saw us simply as a bank.  The disparity between our circumstances too great to ignore.  Confronting Richard, we watched his face fall, and lip quiver.  He didn't want to believe this was possible, neither did we.  Our leaving was awkward and rushed.  We departed before lunch.  No one helped us with our bags, but they did all come out into the driveway as we loaded up.  The pool boy approached, stopped a few feet away, and sought eye contact.  His soul was heavy, apologetic, sad.  The women, in her soft yellow cotton dress and head scarf, sat on the ground with her back to the wall.  She was angry, wouldn't look our way, tears pooled in her eyes.  She played with dirt between her hands and as we drove passed she let it slide between her fingers, then wiped her hands together as if to say, "good riddance".  Like in a bad movie, backing down the dirt driveway, we slammed smack into a tree.  Minor dent, nerves frayed.  We'll never know what happened, who stole the money, or why.  We did learn the police had to be notified, a report filed and Richard spent the night in jail.  We were deeply saddened.  None of us believed he was guilty, but according to the law he was accountable.  We're not sure how the owners handled this situation, if one or all lost their jobs.  As compensation they offered us a free night, which at some point Joey will use with his friends and we'll be reimbursed.   A bittersweet way to end three extraordinary days in a magnificent place.  The good with the bad.  The ugly with the beautiful.  The yin with the yang.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


You have come this far...
keep moving...don't turn back.
No one holds the measure
of their own one,
the meaning of their dying.
Hold what lives
behind the masks
of your own making...
the music of your wild name.
Know that every tumble,
every turn on your twisting path
is a dance within a living
church of elements...
a sanctuary of stars
wings, breath and bone
where the masks of your making
are undone.  ~ Ian McCallum

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lost Days

Adventures half way around the world result in lost days due to travel. My internal clock gets jumbled, as I fly through multiple time zones.  Hours in limbo spent in airport lounges wondering if I'm hungry out of boredom or if many hours have passed since my last meal.  The closer I get to LA the more I long for a hot shower, clean clothes and sleeping in my own bed.

Returning to Nairobi post Cape Town was an anticlimactic pit stop. Selecting a hotel equidistant to the city and airport, we had planned on a few hours of exploration followed by dinner before I had to leave at 230 am for my flight.  What should have been a 20 minute ride to the hotel was 90 minutes due to horrific traffic. Armed guards ineffectively tried to aid the flow of cars. The hot, stale air, toxic with diesel fuel and burning garbage, stung my throat and nose. Our driver turned off the paved road, a short cut he claimed, but the cars didn't subside. The landscape changed drastically from poverty to extreme squalor, perhaps the worst I've ever witnessed. Corrugated barriers served as makeshift dwellings and storefronts. The streets, albeit alive with children playing, men gathering, and women cooking, were gray and churned my stomach. When the driver announced we were close I prayed he was wrong, but 15 minutes later we were back on a paved road which lead us to our hotel. Perhaps after a shower we'd be refreshed and able to consider a five mile taxi ride into the city center. When only cold, brown water flowed from the shower head we were resigned to spending the last night of our trip in this odd limbo. Around 10 pm when I hoped to go to sleep, a heavy pounding rain, and intense electrical storm, invaded the silence. The metal overhang outside our window drew the lightning close. The sky glowed, the air smelled from the currents and I feared for those living in the metal village. I wondered if the streets would flood, and if the storm would subside in time for me to take off in the pre dawn light. It did. The first leg of my journey is behind me as I sit in the lounge in Cairo waiting to board my next flight to Munich. I think it's Friday night in LA, Saturday morning here in Egypt. If all goes well and I make my next connection, and I'll be home in 24 hours.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Rising

 The Rising
One day your soul will call to you with a holy rage.
"Rise up!" it will say...
"Stand up inside your own skin."
Unmask your unlived life...feast on your animal heart.

Unfasten your fist...let loose the medicine in your own hand.
Show me the lines...I will show you the spoor of the ancestors.
Show me the creases...I will show you the way to water.
Show me the folds... I will show you the furrows for your healing.

"Look!" it will say...the line of life has four paths -
one with a mirror,
one with a mask,
one with a fist,
one with a heart.

One day, your soul will call to you with a holy rage.
Ian McCallum


On our last day in Cape Town, before my journey half way around the world to my bed begins, I stumbled upon an amazing art exhibit at Kirstenbosch which encapsulated my entire experience on this trip. There are no accidents! I was blown away by the synchronicity of Ian McCallum's words and Dylan Lewis' bronze sculptures. Dylan sees a parallel between wild and pristine uninhabited areas and the original untamed human nature that resides within all of us. His evocative figures are a fluid combination of man and animal, nature and humanity.
Strictly speaking, there's no such thing as human nature, there's only nature and the very human expression of it. Nature then, is not something "out there". We are of it and in it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


After a much needed leisurely-paced morning, the last few have started at 7am, we packed a lunch and headed to Kirstenbosch, the national botanical gardens. Established in 1913 for the protection and study of southern Africa's indigenous flora, the 1300 acres are majestic, lush and beautifully maintained. It's backdrop, the jagged eastern slope of Table Mountain, juxtaposes the manicured lawns and flower beds. I immediately thought about yesterday's infertile landscape and wondered if the children we meet ever visited Kirstenbosch on a class trip. If so, did they run on the grass, like the children I saw today, chasing birds and butterflies? Did it make them embrace all that is possible, or fill them with dispair knowing what they have been denied?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Pop of Green

Several months ago I made a delightful new friend, KAE, who grew up in Cape Town. Over a long dinner I heard about her childhood and recent visit home. She spoke in detail of a day spent planting trees for a friend's organization called Greenpop. When I was in the planning stages of my trip she put me in contact with two friends and suggested a day volunteering. To underscore how small the world is, KAE's friend who started the organization, Misha, is also a close friend of L's colleague, Ian. In fact, several years ago the guys took a six month road trip to London. Ian, who just left his job, asked in lieu of a going away gift for a donation to Greenpop. It seemed bizarrely coincidental when Ian asked us if planting trees was something we would want to do. It was obvious, L and I were destined to get our hands in the dirt in Cape Town.
Even though I had heard about Greenpop's initiative I didn't really understand it until we drove to Heideveld Secondary School in Woodstock with 30 plants, six of them donated in Ian's name, mulch, fertilizer, spades, and tubing. As we turned into the neighborhood the landscape turned bleak and barren. The huge disparity between the leafy privileged areas and desolate under-privilege areas was disconcerting. I wondered if thirty trees could make a difference in this community littered with trash and stripped of nature and pride. In the auditorium, we were greeted by 100 well behaved 16 year old students. Several of them rose to the podium and shared poems and essays about trees and what this initiative meant to them. I was moved, and my concern they would think this effort trivial, dissipated. Misha had their full attention when he spoke about reforestation, and the importance of coming together to replant under-greened communities. Since the social enterprise started 18 months ago, over 9000 trees have been planted. The best part of the day was interacting with the children. After Misha demonstrated how to properly plant and care for the trees, we split into teams of five and started mixing nutrients in the sandy soil infested with broken glass and trash. At first my group was shy, whispering to each other in Africaans, but they become more extroverted as the day progressed. After each planting, the tree was named for one of the students and we celebrated with enthusiastic high fives. When the recess bell rang their classmates hovered, one questioned if it was arbor day and another looked me in the eye and said, "It's just going to die." i vehemently disagreed. Back in the auditorium for a debriefing one of the students asked when they could get more trees. Greenpop will regularly monitor the trees and if in six months they're healthy and thriving, another day will be scheduled.

The experience was a gift, a day to interact, get dirty and reflect. I never thought about life without trees, a subject I photograph often, a place I go to seek shade, a source of fruit in my backyard. A life void of trees is a life unfathomable just like the atrocities suffered in this country.