“This is what being human should feel like.” I said. And although I realized after the fact that being human is already what we are all doing, at every moment, of every day, and even if it feels off, human is what we are regardless--there are still those moments that I know we have all felt, where “human” is not just this thing we are trying to accomplish every day, but where we simply are HUMAN, and HUMANITY. Do you get what I’m saying? Maybe let me explain.
Think of a tiger in the wild. Or an elephant. Or a cockatoo. I don’t think they walk or fly around thinking “How am I going to be my best self today…? What are my goals?” No. They just are. In their natural habitats, they just are. Put them in a zoo, and they might start to change. Put them in a zoo and something feels off, even if they can’t put their paws or trunks or claws on it; with the walls or steel bars surrounding them, with most of us passing by who are far from understanding their language or history or point of view, staring, or yelling, or tap tap tapping, or taking photos with flashes and then moving on, with isolation often becoming what is normal, though they may not know why. They might start to change. There is a stunning, wild, intuitive nature among these animals to be, sit, run, hunt, breed, communicate, when they are in an atmosphere that feels like their own. They thrive there. And they know in every bit of themselves when they are there.
“This is what being human should feel like…” Yesterday morning I watched the Solar Eclipse from here in Los Angeles. I decided to go on one of my favorite new found hikes called Wisdom Tree for the viewing. It’s a tough, but worth it hike; I recommend it! I had a feeling in the days leading up to the eclipse that it was something I wanted to slow down for, and actually take in. The event had a pull on my system that felt deeper than just a cool, fun thing to watch. When I approach the fascinating, strange, and slightly abstract concepts of astrology with my child mind, something in me feels a sentimentality towards both solar and lunar pulls, fire and water, hot and cold, in knowing that I was born on the cusp of Leo and Cancer: the Sun and the Moon. Part of me feels really silly in admitting the significance I give to things like that, and another part knows that if I didn't believe in the mystical, magical, questionable, I would have missed out on a lot of rare opportunities; for example, this one.
When I arrived at the base of the hike, I realized that it would not just be me once I got to the top. But I didn’t realize what would be in store for me beyond that. I stopped to laugh at myself multiple times on my way up: “how the...phew...how the fuck could I have...oh my god...how the fuck could I have forgotten how steep this is!?!” I trotted, then stopped, trotted, stopped, trotted, stopped. I spotted someone on their phone as they were hiking. Part of me wondered how anyone could be in such good shape to hike and text at the same time. Part of me wanted to yell at him “it’s nature for god’s sake!” But I moved on. It's his life. I digress.
I honestly don’t remember any sort of transition from when I arrived at the top to what I experienced when I was up there. I was greeted by this buzzing of positive vibes… I was talking with someone… I was sitting on the dirt talking with another someone… that someone was named Chris and his shoes were off so I thought “this dude’s got the right idea” and my shoes were off… I borrowed multiple someones’ special eclipse glasses who were Santiago and Enoc, and then Anthony and Ian and Kat… I saw the gentle, cool, powerful moon move her smooth body across the bright, majestic and equally as powerful sun, as his warmth and light slowly dimmed on all of us… the blistering heat eased and got cooler, and then there was some pot and I thought “welp, why not” and took a little hit that lasted a perfect half hour … I climbed the Wisdom Tree itself, to the very top, where someone had left their evidence of arrival and personal wisdom with a note tied around the tallest branch, and I felt the clean breeze, way above and out of the way of the LA smog, on my face… I ate waffles that I had packed which were still syrupped in the tiniest bit of honey from when I prepared them hours before… I saw Chris meditating and felt the urge in my body to join in and feel the slow intimate passing of the last 20 minutes or so of the eclipse… I never got a photo, and I’m glad… I believe a photo would have, for me, over time with each look for remembrance, stripped away the colors, the light, the darkness, the sounds, the energy of those around me, the dirt on my feet and hands, the little sunburn on the back of my neck, and the subtle, yet perhaps only noticeable in my imagination, dance of the sun and moon as they held each other for a brief moment in time.
Taking part in this experience were people of all ages, heritages, experiences, and beliefs; some from LA, some not, some mega hippies, some not, some who accepted my offering of blueberries, and some who did not. From the time the eclipse was at its peak--about 70% of its totality being shared with Los Angeles--to the final moments of the moon kissing her dear sun on the cheek, there were 40-50 people who had gathered to share in the experience together and to, as Chris so perfectly put it, create a “vibe tribe” together.
“This is what being human should feel like.” I said, to Ian and Santiago. And I suppose what I mean, which I said I would explain and now not realizing if I have, is that in that moment, being human felt like being in a state of myself without the need to be anything else. Being human felt like connecting with others through conversation or laughter or meditation or a shared experience, like an eclipse. Being human felt like each moment was so precious and refreshingly laughable at the same time. Being human felt like I was enough. Being human felt, really, truly wonderful, actually.
I’m realizing, of course, not all people will identify with my experience of what being “human” feels like. But I know that anyone who reads this understands what it feels like, or at least imagines what it will feel like one day, to really be themselves among others being themselves. To find their Vibe Tribe atop some other kind of Wisdom Tree and share in an experience that makes 2 hours feels like 2 blissful days, or weeks, or months. I hope you do.
I do a thing sometimes, where I create a strange little one person ceremony on the floor of my room, with candles, sage, and potentially something artistically active. Each time I do it, a little part of me that exists down the long corridor of my subconscious notices that it’s literally just me sitting alone in my room talking to myself and creating meaning in it. *head hand* I did one of these ceremonies the night before the eclipse, and created the art that you see above, during. I’m pretty pleased with this one, honestly. I see the beauty of the darkness in the light, or the light in the darkness, maybe--the softness of the sky and everything it touches--the intimacy of simply being alive with others--the rage and sadness creeping in but only by curiosity--feeling the great capacity for love even if we don’t use it. You may see something else. And I might see something else tomorrow, too.
“This is what being human should feel like.” I said.
It doesn’t feel real to me that she has left so swiftly from this earth. I thought I would have felt a loud booming roar from the heavens, or heard wild laughter bouncing off trees, or seen sudden leopard printed patterns upon every surface. But instead, I was hit with the news in silent waves, through text messages, facebook posts, and blog writings, that Annette Masson’s spirit has moved on; to a new body, to join the thunderous ranks of the gods, or perhaps to rest and sing amongst the stars, since I’m sure they have been patiently waiting to add her voice to their harmonies for lifetimes.
This past weekend I was in Tidewater, Oregon, at a music and arts festival aptly named Beloved, for everything about this festival felt as accepting, playful, soft, and kind as I would imagine anyone connecting with those they love the most. From Thursday afternoon, to Monday afternoon, I had no cell-service, no internet; no texts, no emails; no breaking news, no information beyond what the forest and those in it had to offer me. And it was bliss, truly. To not feel the regular tense heaviness I experience in what I seem to call “the real world”, as if what I experienced at Beloved, or any of the other 3 festivals I have been to, was fake in some way. Rather, the festival was a condensed reminder that humans have the ability to be with each other, to play, to sing, to dance, to create, to fall and get back up, to accept, and to be present. Nonetheless real, but certainly far away from what I often experience in the day-to-day.
And so when the news of Annette’s passing came from one little piece of text on Facebook, and seeped into my heart center while on hour 5 or maybe 7 or maybe 10 of our 15 hour drive back towards LA, I so badly wanted to be back in the forest again. I wanted to stand amongst the trees, flowers, dirt, and rain, and do drop downs, ghost giggles, soul trains, leg tremors, play like a baby, become my favorite animal, recite Shakespeare, speak in a cockney, or southern, or south african, or bostonian accent, or Salute to the Gods 100 times, sending the vibrations up the tree trunks into the night sky; I wanted to be somewhere where vocal expressions of grieving were not only okay but encouraged; I wanted to be somewhere where it didn’t have to be the real world yet. But that’s not where I was, and that was not a liberty I felt I had in that moment. Instead I had freeways, cars, and a long yet necessary journey ahead, with my two quite amazing, understanding, and open-hearted parents taking turns driving since I have yet to learn how to drive a stick-shift. Me, in the backseat, next to a futon, a packed up tent, and multiple bags, no escape in sight from “the real”.
When I was in school, there was a part of me that was so afraid of her (as I have heard was a common trend), and so I kept myself at a safe distance. For me, I realize now I was afraid of her because I admired her so much, and so badly wanted to make her proud. She embodied a confidence in her voice, and an impact of her character that I know we all wanted to emulate in our own way. And it has been a challenging and layered road for me to speak my truth, to speak it with GUSTO, and to let it ring through my body all the way through and out my anal-sphincter muscle (in her fabulous words). The freedom in her being, and lack of apology in her voice, was something that intimidated me to my perfectionist core, and so I don’t know if I ever actually told her in my full voice, the truly tremendous impact she has had, and will continue to have on my life, and the countless lives of others, by her simply being herself. Everything I experienced about her, from her techniques to her presence in a room, has taught me something about art, life, and myself.
So when the news finally hit me, there was only one thing I wanted to do to honor her: use my voice, with gusto, no apologies.
In the final leg of our journey, my parents and I were at a rest-stop with random travelers, dirty bathrooms, the sound of cars whooshing by, but still, the starry night sky above us. This was the space we had, and I wanted to use it as if it was the forest we had left not too long ago. I asked my parents to join me in a ceremony in 3 parts: Soul-Train, “All Abooooard!” and Salute to the Gods. I explained the exercises and they caught on clearly and enthusiastically, and the three of us, voices loud, open, and unapologetic, sent our gratitude into the sound waves of the universe, finishing on a “mmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAnnette!” My dad said he saw a shooting star during the ceremony, I cried and laughed at the same time, and we continued on our way home.
Though you may not physically be with us anymore, your spirit undoubtedly lives on forever at the speed of sound. Thank you, Annette, for teaching, nurturing and inspiring a generation of artists with full, powerful, and heartfelt voices. We will use them to better our world. From all of us. We love you.