Amelia Isabel

I Wonder, Black Brother

I see you, black brother
dancing in the subway
Your children and wife laughing,
ready to exit the train.
And I wonder: May I go with you?

Black brother, I see you
with your loafers and backpack
and physics book in hand,
Waiting to sprint once the doors slide open.
And I wonder: May I sprint along with you?

You, black brother, I see
sitting on the platform bench,
resting against your shopping cart
of hand-picked bottles and rags.
And I wonder: May I sit and rest with you?

Black brother, you, I see
wearing your dinosaur shirt,
beaming a proud strawberry ice-cream-coated grin.
And I wonder: May I scoop you in my arms and never let you go again?

I worry about you, brother, every time we meet, and I wonder
if a young white-skinned woman is what you need in your possession to keep you safe.
To get you home alive.

Because I see you, dear brother,
as a human being.
One that matters so goddamn much to me.

Episode 4: Mountain Lion Time

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I first met Hope Ruiz two years ago at a writing retreat in the Texas Hill Country. We bonded over our shaved heads and her tale of an encounter with a mountain lion in Colorado. But, that, of course, was just the beginning — the tip of her extraordinary life story. From a life as a young monk to a landscape artist to a love story on the Mexican/American border and the inevitable battle with U.S. Immigration, Hope proves that no matter the plan (A, B, C, D, or E), the next big leap may turn into the greatest, most rewarding adventure of all.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.com and Soundcloud.

And iTunes and YouTube, shortly. xo

Photo Credit: Jöshua Barnett

Creative Mornings: Risk

26237724474_789df64ee1_oPhoto credit: Thomas Meredith

“Sometimes, great tragedy is the catalyst for great adventure.”

Two weeks ago I had the honor of speaking at Creative Mornings Austin, and it gives me great pleasure to officially share it with all of you. This story is the culmination of the last two years of my work and my life, and I am so proud to post it here today.

Thank you to my friends, my coach, my professors, my family, Mechi, and  every. single. person that hosted me on my journey last year. This talk would NOT have been possible without all of you…

And last but not least, thank YOU, dear friend reading this now. This story is for you.

May your next “Yes” turn into the best risk of all.

xoxo
Amelia

 

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Episode 2: Great Expectations

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Have you ever had a friend that when you’re with them, it feels as if you can conquer the entire world together? That anything you can possibly dream really can come true?

I’m fortunate to have a friend like that, and her name is Mechi. Though we started out as polar opposites, she has become one of my greatest teachers. One who was crazy enough to invite me along on a 5,000 kilometer road trip across South America for one of the greatest lessons of my life: a crash course in letting go and learning to let the Universe in.

Now, a year later our story is Episode #2: Great Expectations on Shaping Sapiens! Who knew all you needed to drive across a continent was faith, trust, and a little bit of Mechi dust? 😉 We’re ready for your earbuds on ShapingSapiens.com, YouTube, and Soundcloud. And on iTunes and TuneIn tomorrow.

Happy #TBT, y’all! xo

 

 

Shaping Sapiens: My New Podcast Series!

Shaping Sapiens Album Cover Art

It is with great pride and a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hair grease, that I am pleased to officially announce the launch of my new podcast series: Shaping Sapiens! Currently available on Soundcloud, YouTube, and this RSS feed. And coming (very) soon to iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and TuneIn, and other podcasts stations near you.

I won’t promise it’ll be great. I won’t promise it’ll be the podcast to end all podcasts. But, I CAN promise it will be real. As real as I can possibly be, featuring some of the greatest humans to walk the planet. If you’ve liked anything I’ve written, or like me even just a little, then you may like “Shaping Sapiens.”

Every once in a while, you come across a person who has a story that is so extraordinary, it feels like they’ve lived a life destined to become an Academy Award-winning movie. Last September, I had the honor of hearing Barbara Abelhauser tell her story at Fresh Ground Stories in Seattle and, immediately, HAD to meet her afterwards. Lucky for me, she became my friend, and it was because of her encouragement and trusting spirit that this podcast is even a thing. Thanks for being my first story, Barbara, and thank you for showing me how a life lived outside the ordinary is a life that is always worth pursuing. Her story is featured as the very special, very first episode: “Comfort Zone.” Now available for your listening pleasure at ShapingSapiens.com.

To find out more about Barbara, follow her blog, The View from a Drawbridge.

Thank you for joining me here, friends. And I hope you’ll join me on this new storytelling adventure, too. This is me, doing my part, to make America Great Again.

love, Love, LOVE. Always.

Amelia

When Your Aunt is Everything with Wings

Tia Stephanie 1
When your aunt is everything with wings,
Light is her preferred method of travel.
Floating. Skimming.
Air is water
and gravity, optional.
 
When your aunt is everything with wings,
Courage glitters her skin.
Bravery is her cartilage.
Divinity, her flight path.
 
When your aunt is everything with wings,
She teaches what effortless beauty looks like,
How grace is weightless,
and joy, a song.
 
When spring blooms and
stars fall, winds whip
and sea mammals breach —
Power,
strength,
fortitude,
and faith
have names,
when your aunt is everything with wings.
 
Happy Birthday, Tia Stephanie. ❤ What an honor it is to be your niece.
Photo credit: Stephanie Jensen Garza

This is My Church

Sunday morning

Sunday morning
seeps softly
tumbles gently
as early grey light.
Silver air, satin spilling
a winter ghost
exhaling
through the open net
of my bedroom curtains.
“Hush,” whispers no voice.
And I am still
awake for the second time
since rising.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

To the Fathers Who Refuse to Clip Our Wings


Malala Yousfzai and her Father, Ziauddin

Featured: Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin / Credit: John Russo, The Guardian

In the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to share this letter I originally wrote a year ago to Malala Yousafzai in honor of her Nobel Peace Prize win and inspired by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s, 2014 TED Talk. Today, I dedicate this piece to my own father in honor of his birthday and his ever-adamant refusal to clip my wings:

Dear Malala,

Back in October 2012, my dad called shortly after the news broke of your attack and asked if I had heard about you. Annoyed, I said, “Papi, you know I don’t watch the news anymore.” At the time, I was on a serious spiritual development path, strictly limiting my intake of world events since the beginning of the year. My radical and desperate need to unplug and detoxify was brought on by years of severe addiction to every news media outlet. Frustrated, he responded: “How can you live in such a bubble? I can’t understand how you haven’t heard of Malala by now!” “Who is she?” “Look her up,” he answered.

When I learned your story, that you had survived and were recovering in England, my spirit soared. I couldn’t believe it. I cried out and cheered you on as you progressed over the following months. “What an incredible human being! She is here for a reason,” I often thought. I gingerly plugged myself back into the media stream but only to tune into your journey. Soon, you appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and recounted how after you learned of the Taliban’s threat on your life, you would think about what you would do or say if they really came after you:

I started thinking […] that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But, then I said, “If he comes, what would you do, Malala?” Then, I would reply to myself, “Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.” But, then, I said, “If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that […] harshly. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Then, I said, I will tell him how important education is, and that “I even want education for your children, as well.” And I will tell him, “That’s what I want to tell you. Now, do what you want.”

My jaw dropped with Jon and everyone listening to you that day. Since then, I have striven every day to find that same love and compassion for everyone I meet, as well.

Though our backgrounds are different, we actually have much in common, especially our fathers who championed our education. My father was raised by a single mother in poverty-stricken Mexico City in the early 40’s. He grew to understand the importance of education and raised my two younger sisters and I to be strong, educated, independent women. He also named me after his mother.

When your father took to the stage last year at TED 2014, he spoke of people asking what he did to make you so successful. He responded, “Don’t ask me what I did – ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.” I watched his speech with my father, and with tears streaming down our cheeks, he wrapped his arms around me, saying: “That’s exactly how I feel. No clipping of no wings! If anything, I wanted to give you extensions so you could fly faster.”

My hope is that this extraordinary measure can be replicated in every home and in every classroom. You are most certainly doing your part, and I vow to beat my wings right along with you. The flights of future generations of children and of our humanity most certainly depend on it.

Onward and skyward,
Amelia


My father and I on his birthday

Featured: Amelia and her father, Roberto / Credit: Chaveli Torres

In Spite of Fear

Amelia with Paris keychain

As many of you know, I gave a talk this past weekend in NYC about my travels this year. (It was dubbed a “smasheroo” – something I am so honored by and so grateful to everyone that attended and all of you who wished me luck beforehand.) I spoke about my roadtrip in South America, my roadtrip across the U.S., and my recent travels in Northwestern Europe. I spoke about bravery, about risk-taking, about dreams, goals, and about the courage it takes to carry on despite setbacks and the fears that threaten to paralyze us from moving forward.

I spoke Saturday night, barely 24 hours after the Paris attacks, and underneath my spoken words ran a deep tremble in my bones. How could I be standing in front of a crowd talking about my incredible, wonderful year of adventures when such a terrible tragedy had just taken place? Even though I dedicated my presentation to Paris and Beirut at the top of the hour, my spirit was not relieved.

I WAS JUST THERE, I thought. I was just THERE walking those SAME streets… Walking into those same cafes…

That could have been me.

Then, my mind reviewed all the other “could haves” that could have happened this year…

Missing my train from Germany back to Brussels, because of radical right-wingers protesting the influx of Syrian refugees.

Driving through Roseburg, Oregon, a month before the shootings at Umpqua Community College took place.

Leaving the Oakland apartment I was staying in two days before a drive-by took place.

Being at Harbin Hot Springs in California three weeks before it was completely devoured by a wildfire.

Surviving Pike’s Peak in Colorado after a near-death experience of terrifying altitude sickness.

Escaping an Argentinean policeman with rape in his eyes when he saw my friend and I with our hand-painted van trying to park next to a supermarket for the night.

Escaping another man who propositioned me at a gas station in Rock Springs, Wyoming, after seeing I was traveling alone.

Then, I had to stop, because the list could keep going. I HAD to stop, because when I looked at this list… I realized with great clarity: not once did I not keep going. I had to get on that next train. I had to get down from that mountain. I had to leave that gas station. I had to come to New York to do that presentation.

There was no other way.

A friend of mine once shared a passage Charlotte Delbo, an Auschwitz survivor, wrote. It went something along the lines of: “I implore you do something, anything to justify your existence. Learn a dance step, pick up a paint brush, anything at all…because it would be all too senseless for so many to have died while you live doing nothing with your life.”

So, go to Disney World! Drive to that audition! Write that message to that old high school lover you just found on Facebook! Have that baby! Go to the gym! Eat that cheesecake! Submit that book! Post that video! Talk to that cute guy at the coffee house! Buy that expensive couch! Give to that charity! Adopt that elephant! Say “I love you!” Climb that Great Wall! Call that person you haven’t spoken to in years!

STEP OUT OF YOUR FRONT DOOR.

Because fear and darkness lose every time you carry on.

It does not mean that we forget. It does not mean that we ignore. It simply means: honor life by living your own.

Brilliantly.
Beautifully.
Unequivocally.
With kindness for all.

<3,
A

Skipping Stones

Skipping Stone

Last Thursday night, I had the honor of speaking at Fresh Ground Stories​ here in Seattle. The theme was “Comfort Zone,” and to prepare for the event, I DID NOT PREPARE A DAMN THING. I got up to the mic without knowing what I was going to say, hoping divine inspiration would cut me a break and take pity on my blind willingness to challenge myself as a storyteller. As I gathered my nerves and opened my mouth, I could feel all the stories in my head lining up at my mind’s door, clamoring to be heard. This is the story that shoved its way out:

People have asked me, “What is the most surprising thing about your journey so far?” And, the truth is: I am amazed by the kindness of strangers, and perhaps by my own ability to trust them back, as well. No matter where I’ve stopped along the way, unfailingly, there are always people who are ready and willing to help out in any way that they can.

After I came back from South America in April of this year, I quickly realized Austin was no longer the right place for me — a feeling that totally jolted me. But, I trusted it, and within a few weeks, I sold all my things, and packed up my car and headed west. I made my way across west Texas, following the Rockies up through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Canada, then over to Seattle, and down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco and Los Angeles, before making my way back up to the Pacific Northwest, which is where I’ve been playing for the past few weeks.

When I reached Glacier National Park in Montana, I came upon a lake as clear and still as glass. As I took in the majesty of the place, I noticed some splashing and ripples on the other end. Curious, I followed the shoreline. A family of four was there: a mom, dad, and their two young daughters. They were skipping stones. I laughed and smiled, and asked if they could teach me. The girls said, “Sure!” and handed me a stone. “It’s all in the wrist,” they said, “And when you pick out a stone, make sure it is light and as smooth as possible. Then, just flick!”

I took a breath, feeling the weight of the stone in my hand and set up my wrist to flick like they instructed. Then, FLICK — *pat*pat* — my stone skipped twice before gliding underneath the surface. INCREDIBLE! I had never skipped a stone in my entire life! I picked up another. AGAIN! Another successful double skip.

Sharing in my delight, the mom asked me about my journey, and I relayed my story. Seemingly impressed, she asked if I had anywhere to stay that night. I told her no. I had been in the practice of just allowing the Universe to take care of me and steer me in whatever direction it felt I should go. “Something will show up,” I shrugged.

After a beat, she said, “Well, we’re staying at the KOA down the road, and we paid for a tent space, but we’re not using it, because we’re in our RV. You’re welcome to pitch your tent there. We’re also having tacos for dinner and a chocolate mousse cake I’ve been letting thaw out all day. You’re welcome to join us!”

I stared in disbelief. In the past, I probably would have declined such a grand invitation, not wanting to impose. But, before I knew it, I heard myself saying, “Yes, I would love that,” the words rolling out of my mouth freed from somewhere deep inside my being.

“Great!” she said, “We’ll be eating around 7:30. But, don’t have too high expectations on the tacos. We’re from Minnesota. ”

I laughed and thanked her, and told them I’d meet them there. I hung back after they headed back down the trail, watching the lake once more turned to glass. I left the park within the hour and made my way to the KOA, thanking my absolute lucky stars.

We ate dinner and played games. Apparently, one of the daughters was usually a quiet gal, but for whatever reason she really opened up around me and told me all about her love of mermaids. She even had a real mermaid tail attached to a slip-on spandex suit, which she promptly put on and demonstrated how to swim in it. I laughed until my belly ached. I hadn’t had that much fun in such a long time. I forgot how much I loved playing games and sharing in that young schoolgirl mindset.

As the night began to wind down, the dad asked me how big my tent was. I told him it was a small two-person tent. “Perfect,” he said. “That should fit just right outside in that gravelly area next to the RV.” I nodded, ready to make my way back to my car to start setting up. “You’re welcome to set it up out there,” he continued, “Or, if you’d like, you can stay inside with us.”

I stared again in disbelief, a smile spreading across my face. I thought of all the yes’s and no’s I had ever uttered in my life that led me to be so lucky in that moment. Where would I have been instead had I not said yes that night? Where would I have been had I not said yes to to Mechi​ and our South American roadtrip earlier this year?

Who knows. It didn’t matter.

“Yes,” I said at last, “I would absolutely love that.”

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Amelia holding a skipping stone