Email 5: end of the camino, end of the emails. (short! promise! :)

From the final email update, June 7th:

dear family and friends,

i hope you are well, and smiling, and excited for the coming of summer.

this email will be short — partly out of embarrassment at the ridiculous length of the last one, and partly because, well, what i got to say is pretty simple.

first of all, the 25-day, 700-kilometer walking pilgrimage i made across spain last month reinforced, among other things (including calf muscles — with which i could now easily heel-kick all four noses off mount rushmore), my tremendous gratitude for the love of folks like you. i don’t know what i did in past lives to deserve such great people in this one, but whatever it was, it must have been good. like, mother-teresa-type good. or nina-simone-type good. in any case, every stunningly beautiful experience i had — every charming plaza and thrumming cathedral and cheerful bloodbath of red wildflowers; every peaceful moment alone and every joyful moment with others — i owe in part to you. i owe it to you because i can only see such beauty when i feel very beautiful, and i can only feel that beautiful when i understand myself as a composite of the people i love.

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Email 4, Part 5: Newly Armstrong/Watermelon Woman

From email update May 5th:


I’ve had a lot of different muscles in my life. Golf muscles, gym muscles, bharata natyam muscles, yoga muscles. So far, these volunteer muscles from the meditation center are my favorites. Stirring mammoth cake batters gives you serious triceps, folks.

And in other news of changing bodies, my head now looks like a watermelon. Not in a bad way, just in the sense that I have no hair, because a friend buzzed it off for me. The effect is somewhere between the Dalai Lama and Ani DiFranco. And it seems to have heightened the ethnic ambiguity. But it’s wonderful, tingly, and perfect for a pilgrimage (see “WALKIN’ “), where showers will be scarce and too much hair would prove a nuisance.


Well friends, that’s it for now! Wish me luck — at least half of what I wish for you.

Con amor y abrazos,


Email 4, Part 4: Death Of The Cool

From email update May 5th:


Lately I’ve noticed that The Cool is slowly and steadily dying away from me. Can’t say I’m sorry for its passing. Despite its beauty and allure, The Cool gets in the way a lot. It crowds out the tender, more delicate qualities — sincerity, earnestness, silliness, openness. Chokes their roots, hogs the water, blocks the sunlight.

I got rid of a good deal of it in high school, and shed some more in college. But The Cool is sneaky, and very tenacious. It can assume different forms. Some are cliché and therefore easy to spot: Beautiful Woman, Brilliant Student, World Traveler, World-Weary Activist. Others, though, are harder to detect. Some of The Cool’s most clever disguises include Polite Young Lady, Devoted Daughter, Good Friend, and more recently, Serious Meditator. It catches you off your guard.

Still, I’m getting wise to the tricks of The Cool, and I see it weakening. If there’s ever a funeral, you’re invited to come and celebrate. :)

Now That I Have Your Attention

Hehehe.  :)

Bienvenue, folks.  Especially folks from Facebook who came here hoping for nudie pictures on the beach!  (My stat count shot up like three times the normal hits after I posted that picture of my bare back.)  Hope you’re all doing well.

Just a coupl’a quick announcements.  First, I’ve added a Friendly User Guide with a few tips on interacting with the site, so check that out and let me know what you think!

Also, for the next two weeks or so, starting tomorrow, I’ll be serving at another Vipassana Center (this one in France).  Which means no internet for this little dhamma elf.  However, thanks to the wonders of technology, I can set up posts to publish themselves automatically — so every other day there’ll be a new batch of photos or a snippet of email.  (We’re almost all caught up, by the way!)  So stop in while I’m gone, have a look around, and we’ll reconnect when the month changes over.

Ok, I think that’s it.  Je suis très fatuigée après d’un voyage de 15 heures en bus de la nuit, de Barcelone á Paris.  I am thinking of the African couple and the South Asian man who were taken off the bus by the police in the middle of the night, when we stopped for checks at the French border.  I hope they are doing all right.  The whole episode, difficult to watch under any circumstances, seemed especially surreal at 3 in the morning, after having being quasi-awakened by a grim-faced officer demanding my passport.

It’s a crazy world, friends.  I’m grateful to be going to the meditation center, to keep learning how to handle the craziness, and to help others learn how to deal, too.



Día En La Playa

My friend Nuria grew up in Catalunya, so she knows where to find the quiet beaches here.  No screaming babies, squawking vendors, or complaining tourists.  (Though those scenes have their own charm, too).

This Sunday she took me to a tiny one, 45 minutes by train outside of Barcelona. Maybe two dozen people in the little nook we picked.

We had a simple day, enjoying the sun and sand and water on our skin.  (Bathing suits: unnecessary.  Ya feel me?)

But even the simple days are also, inevitably, complex.  When you escape the crowds, sometimes you find the loners.

First there was the white guy crouching in the rocks above the beach.  Nuria’s eyes narrowed.  “Qué hace?” she hissed, hackles visibly raised.  She stood up to get a better look.  When she was reassured that he had left, we talked about the violence of voyeurs.  Men who spy on naturist beaches to ogle and masturbate.  A couple of shady characters I encountered on The Camino.  Nuria is one of the most loving people I know, toward everyone she meets, but she also has a temper, and this behavior is a big trigger.  She has been known to throw stones.

So we talked about the ways in which these men are suffering from addiction, lost deep in their own pain and ignorance, and doing such harm to others because of it. How almost everyone on Earth, including ourselves, at times, is addicted to pleasure in some form or another.

And how, fortunately, most of the time, the collective, family vibe among nude beachgoers (who tend to have a higher level of comfort with their own bodies, and less sexual neurosis about nudity) overwhelms the negativity of predatory intruders.  As we talked, Nuria opened up about her past, her own painful histories.  Even on the simple days, these things tend to resurface.

Then there was the long-haired argentino dude who sat down next to us, asking for rolling papers and tobacco.  His speech was so rapid and his accent so heavily Italian that I gave up trying to follow.  One thing I did catch: “. . .parejas?” “Partners?” Pointing to both of us. Well, we are in Spain, a country that recognizes same-sex marriages.  Maybe assumptions here are different.  Maybe this was a heartwarming break from heteronormativity.  Except that…it clearly wasn’t.  I didn’t have to understand this guy’s words in order to see his intentions.  Just the same old sexist fantasy: girl-on-girl action. And even better — a white girl with a brown girl.

Oh, dear.

Why does a day at the beach have to be so complicated?

Except that…it doesn’t.

There’s a lovely saying I’ve heard a couple of times recently, in different contexts.  Just as darkness cannot survive the arrival of light, suffering cannot survive the arrival of equanimity.  When you become equanimous — that is, fully present and accepting — toward something that is bothering you, it stops bothering you.  You just see it for what it is.  Someone is acting out their insecurity.  Someone is doing harm. If the harm occurring is severe, requiring action to stop it, take action. If not, let it be. Let it pass. Either way, the first step is to observe, without a knee-jerk reaction.

Eventually, not finding the response he wanted from us, the long-haired dude left.

Did racist patriarchy spoil our day at the beach?

Well, we took some photos.  You tell me.

[Heads-up: nothing explicit, but maybe not the safest for work]

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