Writing

Road Angels

Carine and AmeliaInspirational Female Figure of the Day: The incredible seventeen-year-old, Carine Ferraz.

A couple weeks ago as Mechi and I approached Salvador, Bahia with only 360 kilometers left of our 5,000 km journey, our roadship, Carlotta, finally gave out one last time. Out of all the places we could have broken down at along the last hours of the route, we broke down in an oasis. A posada in the middle of the Brazilian landscape, one that was completely obscured by the thick vegetation with only a simple cheeky road sign “Be curious! Come see us!” to indicate anything existed beyond the forest wall.

They also advertised free internet. THUS why we stopped.

After all the mountains, steep inclines, insane 18-wheeler drivers, and impromptu trips to the mechanic for many (many) other fixings… a final short cobbly hill was her demise, rupturing her front left wheel well cylinder.

Like I said, OUT OF ALL THE PLACES WE COULD HAVE BROKEN DOWN AT…the Universe conspired us to stop there. We arrived right as they were setting up the lunch buffet… a spectacular display of a variety of Brazilian cuisine. We felt like queens that forgot they were queens until we bowed down to the great, big Universe for reminding us that we were. Even though we were covered in grime, smelled like strays, and wore 3-day old clothing.

Trying not to freak out, as it was the day before Easter and I had only 2 days to catch my flight back to the U.S., we just tried to be patient, allow ourselves to be with the moment and trust that everything would work out. (THIS IS VERY HARD TO DO BTW.)

A mechanic was called. He came. Took Carlotta apart. And said: “I will either come back, call you, or you’ll call me, or I won’t come back at all.” He didn’t come back, and we couldn’t get in touch with him.

Commence Not Freaking Out Freaking Out.

It was also the full moon. Coincidence? Me thinks not.

Then that evening, Carine came along with her friend, Mateus Gonçalves. And they helped ease our (my) troubled brains. They explained that I could get a bus from the nearby town to Salvador, and Carine said her boyfriend could give me a ride!

Not only did her boyfriend (who looked like a young Brazilian version of Channing Tatum) give me a ride the next afternoon, but Carine WENT WITH ME, took me to the bank so I could get out more monies, sat with me as I waited for the bus, and helped carry my backpack until I was safely onboard.

There were many, many road angels along the way. But, she took the halo cake. I am forever grateful for her generosity.

I’m also happy to report that Mechi and Carlotta finally made it to Salvador on the back of a tow truck.

Where there is a will, there’s a way. And the Universe will send help, always.

Muita, muito obrigada, minha amiga.

Photo credit: Carine Ferraz

When Mustangs Reincarnate

Me and Jessie in Costa Rica

It is said that everyone you meet is a mirror of you — a reflection of some part of your unique majestic makeup. Some will show your flaws; others will show your beauty. And, if you’re lucky, a rare few may even show you your wild buckin’ heart.

In 2008, I left to study abroad in Costa Rica for three months, never imagining I’d end up finding a job and staying there for four more. It changed me at a molecular level. I went in one person and came out somebody totally different. Sure, living in the flora and fauna of present-day jurassic park had a lot to do with it, but in reality, it was the people. Especially, this woman.

Jess is the reincarnation of a wild mustang in human form. She was the first to show me that it was ok to wander away from the group. That it was ok to stop in the middle of the trail — night or day — and look up for hours. That it was ok to not know what you were doing, but to do it anyway. That it was ok to ask questions. That it was ok not to wear makeup or deodorant or high heels. That it was ok to fall, as long as you got back up, no matter how much time it took.

She was the first badass I met in my entire life.

She made riding a horse bare-back look easy (she had never even ridden a horse before Costa Rica!). She could walk for hours, never complaining, even leading the pack for a 10 mile hike through the rain, mud, and horse flies of the jungle. She adopted shoes she found on the road, and would say, “Oh, GREAT! I can use these!” often fixing them with duct tape and proudly wearing them way past their expiration date. She even learned to climb trees with a machete hanging from her belt, so she could bring back mangoes and avocados for us to share. She is my opposite in so many ways, but my twin in so many others.

Most of all, she taught me to laugh in the face of life, and to follow my dreams mercilessly. I know that when I look back at the narrative of my life, my heart will sing knowing it was her who first taught me to be wild.

Happy birthday, gemela.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Expansion: An Honor

Expansion sculpture by Paige Bradley featured here in Brooklyn.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling through a very dark internal war of searching for purpose in the world. A dear friend passed this image to me to help me cope with my darkness. Something stirred inside me, and a poem sifted itself out of my brokenness. I realized it was my LIGHT I was more afraid of, not my darkness. I decided to share it with Paige Bradley, the creator of the “Expansion” sculpture (featured here in Brooklyn), out of gratitude for giving me a guide post out of my despair.

She featured it on her blog this morning, as the very first poem to be written about the infamous piece. What an honor!

Life is much brighter today, and it feels all too easy to forget dark times exist when you’re basking in the morning glow. Those dark places are truly the most fertile grounds for hope and expansion. After all, not a darker place exists than the moment right before the sun begins to rise.

Love on this day and every day,
Amelia

Photo credit: Paige Bradley

LeVar Burton: Inspiring the Next Generation

LeVar Burton speaking at Book People  Image of The Rhino who Swallowed a Storm by LeVar Burton

Woke up singing the Reading Rainbow theme music this morning, y’all. Meeting LB last night at Book People and listening to him read a book live and in person was one of the COOLEST experiences of my life. I felt like I was 5-years-old again. When we got into the book signing line and it was my turn to meet him, I knelt down in front of him, folded my arms on the desk, and rested my chin on top. I wanted to look at him at eye-level, just like I did when I was a kid. A real childhood hero in the flesh.

I didn’t know that I would be so emotional. Tears were flowing from my eyes all evening (even now as I write this!). He represents a time of pure innocence, a time when anything was possible, once you opened a book. He was kind and compassionate, funny and patient. He took his time answering questions, and gave special attention to the young people. A class act.

One young girl asked him what his favorite Reading Rainbow episode was, and we all eagerly awaited his answer. He responded, “You’re trying to get me in trouble aren’t you?” Everyone laughed. He said they were all special to him, but the ones that stood out the most were when he visited Kīlauea, the most active volcano in Hawaii, and when he learned to fly a plane, and learned how to scuba dive, among countless others.

After listening to the RR theme music for the 20th time this morning, I found his Kickstarter campaign video, and if you haven’t watched it — DO IT NOW! It’s hilarious (many of us reacted to meeting him just like these people in the video!), and above all, he inspires hope. Like LB said, our children are growing up in very different times from just 20 years ago…and they need quality educational tools to inspire them. Just like he did for us.

You can still donate to the Kickstarter campaign here. Their goal is to get the program in ALL schools and be able to grant licenses ad infinitum instead of the current single school year: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/readingrainbow/bring-reading-rainbow-back-for-every-child-everywh

“Take a look, it’s in a book…a Reading Rainbow…” God bless you, LeVar Burton.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Naked

Amelia in profile, headshot

To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous. — Elizabeth Gilbert

This summer, my new friend, Alberto Martinez, said to me, “I would love to shoot your picture.” My ego instantly glowed, because what cooler feeling is there than for a stranger to see you as art? (Especially since this is the first time someone has ever said this to me when I’ve only barely walked into a room…)

Then, I realized HOLD ON. There is great risk to be fully seen by someone! To trust another person with your Essence. To look into the eyes of a camera and stand there as broken, unattractive, or unworthy as you might believe. You feel naked, vulnerable. Yet, somehow strong, empowered. Someone SEES you, and you are allowing yourself to be seen. Granting permission to be captured, flaws and all… into a work of art.

What greater freedom exists than to be naked?

I am proud to share this redesign of my website, which features some of the pieces from our recent creative project! (See them on the Home page and under About.)

Go on. Be naked with someone today. ❤

Photo credit: Alberto Martinez

Spokefly Summer

This Summer, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute three blog pieces to Spokefly, Austin’s local bike rental and bike sharing app. Nate McGuire is the Founder and Coolest Guy Ever. From just one conversation, you can tell how passionate he is about bike sharing as a way to really open up the doors of peer-to-peer commerce and enhance alternative transportation. Oh, and he really values creative freedom, which makes him that much cooler.

Fun Fact: Spokefly is also working with the city of Macon, Georgia, to encourage bicycle commuting in the College Hill Corridor. Macon is also just 14 miles from the city I grew up in. Small world!

Check out the three pieces here: The Zen Guide to Commuting by BikeCity Bike Riding: How to Stay Safe in Traffic, and Top 6 Yoga Poses for Cyclists.


Laura Joy DeBolt

(Featured: Laura Joy DeBolt/Credit: Amelia Isabel)

Gratitude! Gratitude! Gratituuuuuude!

The support and feedback from my talk on beauty has been nothing short of amazing. My soul is overflowing with so much gratitude from truly phenomenal people. On top of the audience feedback I got from my first Open Mic last week, here are some more comments that truly touched me:

From a beautiful and brave family member who has battled breast cancer:

Thank you for sharing this wisdom Amelia. You’ve shown me that I don’t have to be afraid of the way I’m changing physically due to having a mastectomy, or due to my age, or due to my particular feelings that day that tell me that I can’t go out of the house and see people. Your experience of coming to know that your true beauty is all parts of you has helped me to not be sad today as I realize there is more to me than my face, hair and clothes. I will accept who I am as a whole. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self!

From a dear friend who recently had a baby:

I listened to your open mic and it got me thinking about how after having [my baby] I’ve been avoiding pictures because of how I feel about my after body. Thanks lovely for the reflection.

From an inspiring new friend after having too much bourbon last night (paraphrasing):

Your talk was really inspiring. It made me realize just how much I’ve been picking at my flaws recently and how it’s been getting me down. I’ve always thought about how my hair part goes the other way, because I can see it in photos, so I’m conscious of it. You helped me to step back and see myself for who I really am. I really want to experience the True Mirror, too.

I was also recently spotlighted as a “Bald Beauty” by The Bald Movement, an organization that empowers women who are bald either by circumstance or by choice.

Spotlighted on The Bald Movement Instagram

AND if that wasn’t amazing enough, Daniel, the facilitator of Austin Java Open Mic wrote up a FANTASTIC review on my performance, saying, “It was really easy to take in all the emotion of what she was getting across and I felt like Amelia and I had a lived a lifelong friendship together by the time she was done.” Aww, shucks. 🙂 Read the entire review here.

My next Open Mic will be at BookWoman on North Lamar at 7:15 tonight! Come and share your own poems and stories!

I Shaved my Head. And This is Why.

A month ago I shaved my head. Last night at an Open Mic at Austin Java, I explained why.

The audience feedback was incredible. My heart is swelling with so much gratitude. In my piece, I discuss the history of the reflected self and our culture’s obsession with mirrors. Well, right before the evening began, a group of visually impaired students came in, and I though Oh my god…how am I going to be able to do this talk now?! But, it could not have been more perfect. They were the most supportive of my talk, as it resonated with them, too. One of them actually told me that she recently “came out” and that my presentation encouraged her. I was so humbled by her bravery. What better compliment can you ask for! Another woman came up to me later and thanked me for my existence. I have never been thanked before for existing! She told me that I needed to share this story far and wide, so here I go.

This piece is dedicated to Joanna McAfee and her brother Paul. My journey over the years started with her sweet courage. I have never forgotten her story, nor will I ever.

Screenshot of Why I Shaved my Head You Tube video

 

The Seal Pose of Creativity

Last week in my Dimensions of Creativity class,  we were asked “What is your creative process?” The following is my response.

There is an exercise in Pilates called the “Seal Pose,” where you begin by sitting on the tips of your sit bones as demonstrated in the picture below:

Pilates - Seal Pose

 [Photo credit: Marguerite Ogle as featured on About.com – Pilates]

As you engage your core muscles, you literally tilt your pelvis under ever so slightly and your whole body rolls back — like a big musclely beach ball, and the momentum of the movement and your abdominals propel you right back up to sitting. It is easily one of the most fun exercises in Pilates, reinvigorating your playful (and creative!) side. Sometimes, simply sitting in the prep position is good enough for me. Inner congratulatory dialogue going something like this:

Hooray! Look how strong I am that I can sit in this position and my tailbone isn’t screaming in agony! Hooray! Look at how my abs are engaged so they can support me, and I look so beautiful doing it, I could be on the cover of a fitness magazine! Hooray! Does everyone see how awesome I look? I can just stay like this and not have to do a damn thing more! 

However, having done this exercise many times, I am acquainted with the joy it brings just by finally LETTING GO and entrusting all that potential energy to tip me past the brink, giving myself the freedom to get caught up in the merriness of the movement.

As illustrated in Rollo May’s The Courage to Create, in chapter two under “The Creative Process” section, he refers to a gentleman coping with escapist creativity. Escapist creativity “is that which lacks encounter” (May, 1975, p. 41). The young man knows he has the talent to be a great writer, but simply attaining that point of recognition after he’s done all the brainstorming, all the prep work, and even the full book outline in his head— stopping there is good enough for him. He simply resigns without writing a word, because just seeing the finish line is pleasure enough (May, 1975, pp. 41-44). I share in both his pleasure and his agony in that truncation. I, too, allow myself to get stuck just short of following through with many a project merely because having my potential recognized (either by myself or by others) is sufficient enough for me.

Growing up, my father always referred to me as the “Golden Girl” of the family. I’m the first born, and I’m also named after his mother. He recognized my creative talents at an early age. Most times just expressing a budding creative idea was thrilling enough for him, and he would shower me in praises and encouragement. Going through with the idea, of course, would earn me more recognition and even more praise. He, after all, was grooming me into the “better life” he wished he had. So, having received accolade no matter if I’m teetering or if I propel myself past the brink — this in-between space is where I really struggle in my creative process.

Just called my dad. He, true to form, praised me on my latest submission.

My creative abs are so weak.

Let’s take this blog post, which is a result of a writing prompt posted last week in my Dimensions of Creativity class. Our professor posed the question, “What is your creative process?” and I instantly knew I could write something brilliant in response. So, I readied myself up into the psychological prep position for “Seal Pose” and sat on my mental sit bones ever since. It is only right now, this moment, that I finally found my inner creative strength, engaged my intellectual core, and rocked myself into this assignment.

And what joy there is in being caught up in the flow of writing right now! I can’t be distracted. I don’t even want to look at Facebook or check my email or my text messages or my Instagram account or get a snack, because I’m in it. I’m rolling like a happy seal, content that I’ve finally done the assignment. This, my friends, is what May calls the encounter or the creative act or the “absorption, being caught up in, wholly involved […]. By whatever name one calls it, genuine creativity is characterized by an intensity of awareness, a heightened consciousness […]. We become oblivious to things around us [including] time” (May, 1975, p. 44).

The creative act itself is so delicious and so life-affirming, I can’t understand why so many of us often choose to just settle in preparation. Maybe it’s fear of falling, of failing, of looking stupid, of getting hurt, of not being able to get back up again, of not being as strong as we think we are, of simply believing this is as far as I can go, this is all I am capable of.

To you, and to me, I say: just let go already.  

And the more we engage our creative core, the teetering will ease, the balance will come, and the joy will be infinite.

References

May, R. (1975). The Creative Process. The Courage to Create (pp. 41-44). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Ogle, M. (2006). Seal Prep. and Core Challenge. [Photograph]. Retrieved from:  http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesmat/ss/Seal.htm

FIRST-TIME PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

GUYS, I’VE BEEN PUBLISHED!

Last July while lunching at Central Market,  the eensiest of weensiest of spiders landed on my shoulder  — a magnificent tiny speck of bright yellow topaz — that captivated my attention. It was as if she wanted me to paint her in words. So, I did.  I submitted the poem on a whim back in October and within a few days, learned that it was selected for publication. It was officially published on Every Day Poets yesterday. They even paid me ONE DOLLAR for my work! A whole dollar! My first dollar! Which I now have in my possession and shall be framed shortly.

Tonight at my monthly creative meetup, a friend shared the story of the Spider Grandmother, who, according to certain Native American legends, is thought to be Mother Earth or the creator of the universe. These myths say that when a spider shows itself, it is believed to be the Spider Grandmother communicating.

I am so very glad I listened.

To spiders, the earth, and first dolla bills!

The eight-legged amarillo aerialist

A visitor lands on the fleshy terrain —
only a tickle betrays her presence.

With assistance from my pen,
I help coax her
to a safer location.

The eight-legged amarillo aerialist
repels off my pen

and

onto

            the ketchup bottle,

invisibly cutting her bungee
and swinging
f  r  e  e  .

Suspended from the lip of the catsup’s cliff
she twirls in her harness,
perfecting her tricks.
Dazzling silk
in the sun.

Her audience of one applauds her so.

A breath escapes me,
and the amarillo aerialist

plummets

to the linoleum surface

but stops
just in time to admire her
r e f l e c t i o n
then yo-yos back up the side of Heinz.

Mesmerizing.

I laugh as she casts an invisible wire and zip-lines away into the sunset.

© Amelia Isabel