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Day 14: Magical ride

Yesterday was so exhausting that I sleep for nine hours on an air mattress without waking up once, while the soft slow bass of far off electronic music mixes with the wind and dust outside my tent. I wake to a chaos of supplies I dumped randomly, in the hope that I would wake with the energy to sort through it. I do, and, after a cup of coffee, I do.

This day is as dusty as yesterday, with short bursts of almost no visibility. I’m determined to survive in this and I fill the day with getting settled in to my camp and doing a little preliminary exploration. The beach bike I have brought to the playa is perfect, its fat tires riding smooth and sturdy over the desert.

As twilight comes, the winds stop, and the world takes on a carnival glow. Color is everywhere, blinking and twinkling in the most unexpected of shapes. My camp mates invite me out for a bike ride on the deep playa, that place away from the campers where art cars roam and art installations glitter, waiting to be admired.

Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a day determine for you how the evening will go. I shrug off my dusty scarf and join them.

Our first stop is at the DMV, Department of Mutant Vehicles, where many of the art cars are lined up waiting to get their permits to roam. Yes, even at Burning Man one stands in line to get a permit.

We pause to take in their beauty, then we head out, each stopping to admire whatever shiny thing takes our fancy. Groups seldom stay together out here, as I learn, but often find themselves magically reuniting.

Magic is the word of the night for me. The world around me has turned from a dust bowl into a dream of a fantasy tale set in a science fiction world created by a magician. It goes on as far as my eyes can see, with a depth and scale no screen could capture.

I stop my bike and just stare, somewhere between amazement and disbelief.

Many camps near the edge of the open playa offer drinks or dancing. One has set up a roller rink.

Music of all kinds plays around me. I am surprised by the number of classic rock tunes I recognize as they mix with the ever present dance music. I hear this particular old favorite at least twice, and deem it the song of the day.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 5, 2018 in travel

 

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Day 13. Dusty Virgin

I’ve decided to not set an alarm, but to let my body pick when it is time to go. It must be ready for the adventure ahead, because I’m up at dawn and wide awake. I load the last of my things into Olive Oil, my trusty FJ Cruiser, and she and I begin the 100 mile drive that has worried me since I left home twelve days ago.

I’m headed north from Fernley Nevada to the Black Rock Desert to participate in an annual ritual of creativity, self-reliance and playfulness known as Burning Man. I’ve never gone before, making me what is known as a virgin burner. It’s been a few years since I’ve been called a virgin anything.

Law enforcement officials are known for lining this drive and pulling over drivers for minor infractions during the start of this event. I’m not carrying anything illegal, but the prospect of being searched on the side of the road has me nervous.

I have an early access pass, but it looks like a lot of other people do too. I join the line of ants making its way towards the playa as we all scrupulously follow every speed limit, and always come to a complete stop. It’s my lucky day. No one bothers me or anyone around me.

By 9:15 I’ve reached my destination, or at least I think I have. I don’t realize how slow a process it is to enter this event. I inch my way forward to the gate in eight lanes of traffic. The dust is sometimes so heavy that I cannot see well enough to stay in my lane so I move over to the edge, so I can follow the flagging. At one point I can’t see more than five feet from my front window and I start to have serious doubts about the wisdom of being here.

As the hours wear on, I text my family final farewells. I eat my lunch. I play yesterday’s theme song, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a couple of times. After a while, I need to pee so bad that I leave my car keys with the strangers in the car behind me so they can inch my vehicle along for me while I run to the porta-potties. Such trust seems perfectly natural here. Besides, where exactly could they go with my car, anyway?

Nearly four hours after arriving, I arrive. My ticket is examined, my car is searched, and I am officially greeted. Virgins like me are invited to make a dust angle in the desert’s fine alkaline soil and to ring a bell to let the playa know we are here. I realize this is a more emotional moment than expected when I hit the bell with a vigor that surprises me and everyone else.

As I make my way through the labyrinth leading to my camp, I put on my goggles and my scarf. I’m about to set up a tent in the dust. I don’t know why, but I am so glad to be here.

Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.

And today’s song. What else could it be?

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful
 
13 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2018 in travel

 

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Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.

Heading down the road this morning, and my sister wants me to turn my 5 /12 hour, 367 mile trip into a six hour trip. The mileage is about the same but I’d be keeping to the less driven State Highway 20 which, she swears, lacks the wall-to-wall trucks Interstate 80 is known for. You will have a better day, she insists.

Okay. What’s half an hour? I figure out early to turn my phone off, so I don’t have to listen to it trying to reroute me down to 80 every five minutes, and I head out into the corn fields. Literally, there are corn fields on every side of me as far as the eye can see.

Should I have gone the other route? Should I have planned for this route ahead of time and found a place to stay in Sioux City instead? Should I have filled gas before I left because it doesn’t look like there are a lot of gas stations out here in these corn fields? Should I this? Should I that?

I hush myself. Rule six needs to be no second guessing, I decide. The cornfields are lovely. The trucks are few. Iowa stretches on out to the sky. The day is mild, so I roll my windows down low and turn my music up high. The corn won’t mind the noise at all.

I open my play list of songs about being on the road, and sing along with the first one that happens to play. It fits right in, and I think even the corn likes it.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 19, 2018 in being better, travel

 

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Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.

I’m five days into this road trip, and yesterday one of my personal heroes died. Aretha Franklin was lots of people’s hero, and today the media is filled with tributes to her and snippets of her music.

I’m also into day three of a visit with my only sister. We live nearly a thousand miles apart, both of us in small towns not easily reached, We try to see each other once a year. The first couple of days are always of flurry of missing each other and getting caught up and then by day three we rediscover the many ways we are different.

We’ve gotten better at smoothing over those inevitable rough edges, I think, and it all boils down to a single word. I respect the person she is, and vice versa. She respects my beliefs even when she doesn’t share them. I respect her right to have different tastes. She respects my right to have different priorities. She gets to be her, I get to be me. And we both treat each other with — let’s spell it now — R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

It does wonders for us and I swear it would do wonders for the rest of the world too, especially in those areas where it is sorely lacking. I’m going to make it my personal Rule of the Road #5.

Thank you, Aretha Franklin, for all the music you gave us, and for all the inspiration. Tomorrow, I’m heading southwest into Nebraska, seeking song #6, and my sixth rule of the road. Tonight, I’m just going to enjoy the music.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 

 
12 Comments

Posted by on August 18, 2018 in being better, music for peace

 

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Building Peace on Blue Mountain

I’ve just spent a week in Paradise. Okay, technically is was Costa Rica and my paradise was created by a genuinely loving but also savvy retreat center. I was fed fresh picked fruit, gently steered away from news and conventional entertainment, and encouraged to walk through lovely gardens and reflect. It worked and I did.

I also knew I was in a paradise created for those with the cash and support system to allow them to go on this sort of retreat. The idea of having people less fortunate than I conspire to create an idyllic week for me would normally give me at least some first world heartburn, but it didn’t. Here’s why.

I’m lucky enough to know more about this place and the people who run it. Human beings simply don’t come more compassionate. Employees are rewarded and respected and most have become family even if they didn’t start out that way. The degree of affection they have for each other is well beyond what any staff could be coached to fake.

The center, known as La Montaña Azul, is dedicated to sustaining the local environment. Located along the Talari River southeast of San Jose, the retreat has allocated 95% of its land (116 acres) as a natural sanctuary to protect the river and its flora and fauna. In addition, its proceeds support the local schools, help maintain the roads, and allow the center to provide free classes for the community. It’s hard to argue that you are doing harm by forking over your hard earned vacation dollars to this oasis of love.

IMG_5816This visit was my fourth one. I come here to study qigong, an ancient Chinese form of moving meditation that emphasizes energy flow and has helped both my writing and my wholeness as a human being over the last five years. I’m a different person without qigong, and not nearly as pleasant a one.

At this particular visit, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the center has taken on a new cause. They wish to bring about world peace. One might argue they’ve been slowly working at that all along, but this new approach is rather specific.

They have joined forces with an international group known as Peacebuilders. This amazing organization is striving to use restorative practices like meditation to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, to assist those of all ages in prisons and to further social justice. Though it has a presence in many countries, Peacebuilders is based out of Toronto and most active in Canada, where the organization began.

In Costa Rica, efforts are concentrated on the prison system. Inmates with sentences of forty or more years are trained in meditation, voluntarily spending hours a day in the program. The results are amazing. Recently, several such prisoners were certified to instruct others, as the program grows.

La Montaña Azul’s involvement began when the diminutive older woman who is manager and part owner of the retreat center walked, without guards, into a locked room filled with some of Costa Rica’s most hardened criminals. She laughs as she confesses she thought the guards were coming in behind her. The prisoners listened to her offer of an alternative, and today the retreat center provides instructors, resources and funds for the program. Guests at the retreat are asked to provide funds also.

You know we all did. After a week in Paradise, world peace seems like a totally reasonable goal. I hope the feeling will last.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 22, 2018 in peace, travel

 

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Review: Cloud Whispers

I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. How could I pass on reviewing this novel?

Review summary: Sedona Hutton has written a well-constructed contemporary romance novel with interesting characters, complex subplots and a splash of metaphysical theory. This is a book that many will enjoy. Details are below.

About this book: Katie Callahan longs to start a family of her own. Infertile and unable to convince her relatives to accept the man she married, she regrets giving away the daughter from her secret teenage pregnancy. When a twist of fate brings a second chance at motherhood, she’s caught between joy and the fear of her husband’s rejection of another man’s child… until a devastating motorcycle accident rips the decision out of her hands.

 

With her body trapped in a coma, Katie finds herself in the dreamlike space between Earth and the afterlife. Guided by spiritual forces and the soul of her beloved dog, she learns the life-changing power of intention and self-transformation. From her ethereal vantage-point, she watches as her loved ones work together to connect the pieces of their broken hearts. As she finally realizes her true destiny, Katie’s only chance to fulfill her purpose means completing an impossible journey back to life…

 

Cloud Whispers is a mind-expanding women’s fiction novel with a strong spiritual message. If you like headstrong heroines, heartwarming stories of family and forgiveness, and new age concepts, then you’ll love Sedona Hutton’s empowering tale.

 

About the author: Author Sedona Hutton finds inspiration in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and curly-coated retriever. In addition to writing, she’s a Reiki Master and a certified Chopra Center Meditation instructor. She enjoys reading, yoga, gardening, playing with her dog, and riding motorcycles. Her “Peace, Love, & Joy” blog can be found on her website. Visit her website, find her on Facebook at SedonaHuttonAuthor, and on Twitter @SedonaHutton.

Buy the book at Amazon

Giveaway: Sedona Hutton will be awarding a $40 Amazon or Barnes & Nobel gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win.

Review summary: Sedona Hutton has written a well-constructed contemporary romance novel with interesting characters, complex subplots and a splash of metaphysical theory. This is a book that many will enjoy. Details are below.

My full review: If you don’t like coffee, and I prepare you a well-made cup and then flavor it with French vanilla (which you love) you probably won’t like the beverage, no matter how well made it is or how much French vanilla I add. Right?

That’s the problem I have with this book. I happen to not enjoy romance novels, with all due respect to those who do. There’s nothing inherently better about the science fiction and crime novels I relish; it’s just personal taste. I try to avoid reviewing genres I don’t appreciate, but it happens.

And, at its heart, this book is written in the romance genre. From the large amount of time characters spend lusting to the focus on appearance and clothes (always beautiful, always hot) the book speaks the language expected by romance readers. I can’t fault the author for doing that, and doing it well, but it’s not what the blurb led me to expect.

What I liked best:

  1. The book is well crafted. The pacing is nice, the changing points of view are well-handled, the mix of dialog, action and description is effective.
  2. The characters are the best part. They have quirks and interesting back stories and occasionally behave in unpredictable ways. I also liked her multi-generational approach. Teens act and talk like teens, older adults are believable and not relegated to bit parts. The emphasis on families is warming.
  3. I genuinely enjoyed the story line about the daughter given up for adoption and her reuniting with her birth mother.
  4. There is this one scene where Katie-in-a-coma gets to see the energy that connects all of humanity. I loved it.

What I liked least:

  1. The book is chiefly driven by a smoldering love affair between the protagonist’s sister and her husband’s brother. I know it’s hard to write a blurb, and I can understand why the author wanted to focus hers on what was unique about this book, but it is misleading. As much as anything, this is the story of how Liz and Shane finally have sex.
  2. I was disappointed in the metaphysical aspect, and it is the main reason I chose to read and review this novel. Maybe a third of the word count during the first half of the book (so like 15% of the story) is about Katie’s time in the clouds where she is being told about the Law of Attraction. Katie is supposed to be an intelligent woman, but her reaction to this philosophical education is in the vein of “I can have anything I want if I believe hard enough? Cool. Good to know.” I am certain that if I found myself on a cloud with two “beautiful” spirit guides and my dead dog and they assured me I could fix everything in my life, I would have a lot more to discuss with them.

While I don’t recommend this book to a nerd like me, who loves sinking my teeth into a hearty analysis of metaphysical theory, I do recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary romance and wouldn’t mind a dab of basic new age philosophy with it.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions. Visit Goddess Fish on Facebook  and on Twitter.

 

Read more reviews of Cloud Whispers at:
Long and Short Reviews
Uplifting Reads
Locks, Hooks and Books
Fabulous and Brunette

My favorite excerpt: Absently, Katie rubbed her wedding band. Now that she knew Savannah was her daughter she had to tell Liam the truth.

She’d wanted to tell him before, and she had almost told him many times. But family was of the utmost importance to Liam, and more than once he had made comments like, “How can a father not want to see his daughter?” and “How could any parent give up their own child?” What would he think of her once she told him she’d given up her baby girl at birth without ever holding her, hugging her, nursing her?

A personal note: I am a writer myself and therefore come to all reviews with biases born not only of my personal preferences but also of my own writing style. In this case, the author of Cloud Whispers and I just didn’t mesh in our interests and our approach in the way I had hoped. I can’t keep that from coloring my review, but I acknowledge my part in that chemistry, and wish her and her writing great success.

I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts and I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 26, 2018 in other authors

 

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What’s the Point?

If you spend too much time analyzing why you do things, you end up doing nothing.

That’s my conclusion after forcing myself to spend a few weeks considering why, I mean really why, I spent the better part of seven years writing novels. The question is reasonable, but enough is enough. I’m cutting myself off at seven reasons.

Reason #7 is? It is my most audacious yet, that’s for sure. I want to change the world.

What exactly do you want to do with the world, you might ask? That is a reasonable question, too.

And here’s the thing. I do know. It’s sort of a problem, isn’t it, when you think you know how the world should be?

Yet, I’m certain. We need more more empathy. More kindness. More gratitude for what most of us do have, and more generosity with it. I want each of us to behave as though we are going to live every single other person’s life, and soon. I have this theory that if we behaved in such a way, we would be entirely capable of  turning this planet into a paradise.

If I’m going to reform something, shouldn’t I start with myself? Yes, of course I should, and I’m working on that. Be the change you want to see and all that. Some days it goes pretty well, other days not so much so. I am trying.

It doesn’t alter the fact that I’ve got this burning desire to tell the stories in my head, and soon as I get started telling them, this desire to make the world better while I’m at it kicks in. If I wrote for no other reason, I would write because it is my way of trying to improve things.

I’ve answered two questions for myself. Thanks to all this analysis, I know I need to keep writing. I understand that I need to write my way, for my reasons, but that I also need to give care and effort to reach more readers, because being read is integral to several of my key motivations.

Thanks to this understanding, and some excellent advice I have received recently, over the next few months I will be revamping the 46. Ascending collection one last time. Then, my books will get new, more market-friendly titles. I will pay a little of my own hard-earned treasure to buy them genre-appropriate covers more likely to catch the eye of new readers. I will do what modest amount of advertising I can, but only after I’ve researched the most effective ways to use my limited funds. It will be a final push to make the most of what I’ve created.

Then, I will move on and create something new. And yes, I’ll probably be hoping to make the world better with it, too.

(The above photos are of three of the six displays I made and hung on the wall of my writing room to motivate me and keep me going over the past seven years. They got the job done. I’ll be posting the other three on my other blogs soon.)

(Read more about why I write at The Number One Reason I Write Books,  My Eye-opening Second Reason for Writing , I write because it’s cheaper than therapy, Nothing cool about modest ambitions, I love to be loved and Remember My Name.)

 

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 7, 2018 in being better, empathy, writing

 

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