The FAQs!

As I travel on this journey with my art, I find that a certain group of questions keep popping up. I would like to make a record of a few of them, along with some info for you collectors out there.

 So…how did it all start? Long story short, I was leaving a friend’s house after a poker game one evening in October 2007 when I spotted a really large cottonwood leaf on the ground. Intrigued by its unusual size, I picked it up. On the drive home, I was twirling it and appreciating its features when suddenly I realized that it wasn’t just a leaf—it was an elephant. Every line, every curve was a perfect parallel to the head of an elephant. I felt like one of those people who find the face of Jesus in a burnt potato chip! My boyfriend at the time wasn’t convinced, so when we arrived home I took a razor blade from a box cutter and carved the features I saw. I held it up and said, “Now do you see it?” He was astonished and said, “Wow, that’s like a new art form or something!” From that day on, I began to look at leaves differently. It was like a hidden world opening up to my eyes, and I became obsessed with discovering and uncovering those countless images. I feel it is a gift from Mother Nature, and that she is the most talented and influential artist of all. I have found my calling, and am fully devoted to this art.

My very first leaf carving, "The Matriarch" (October 2007)

The name “Violent Hippie” induces a variety of reactions from people. Some find it thought provoking, others amusing, and some of the more reserved types find the inclusion of the word “Violent” unappealing or disturbing. Yet others are simply confused by it, because the words “violent” and “hippie” don’t seem to belong together. I welcome all reactions equally, and am fascinated by what they tell us about ourselves.
 
 To the last group I always like to point out that there are plenty of “violent hippies” in nature. Take honey bees for example. They buzz peacefully among the flowers and never look for trouble, but if you mess with their hive, they become little kamikaze warriors. As for myself, I suppose the title applies to an extent. The leaf is somewhat of a symbol of peace, and I am carving it with a razor blade for the sake of art. This is the main reason I decided to associate the name with my art. (Random fact: there was a time years ago when I thought about pursuing a career in mixed martial arts, and thought it would be a great “middle name” handle… “Aaand in the green cornerrrr…Dessie…the Violent Hippiiiiie…MARSHAAAAAALLL!” Haha!

 A lot of people comment that it must take great patience to do what I do, carving out every little space with a razor blade. At first I just chuckled and took the compliment, but it caused me to realize that there wasn’t any patience involved. Patience is usually necessary for tasks that are somewhat unappealing, and for me every second of carving a leaf is pure enjoyment. It is my meditation, my obsession, my therapy—and has become a necessary part of my life. However, it can be stated that during the process, I must reluctantly regulate my coffee intake!

No leaf too big or small! =)

 As for the longevity of the individual pieces I create, I can now assure potential collectors that this is an archival art form (meaning they can expect to pass it to future generations). It took me some time to develop the proper preservation methods. Each time I discovered a new method, I would go back and apply it to all my past pieces. Thankfully, I am confident that at this point I have the process sufficiently mastered. Even so, when I sell a piece, I sell it with the commitment to make any changes or improvements possible and all free of charge. The only thing I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, do anything about is the possible gradual changes in the shading or coloring of individual leaves. Some leaves bleach or fade over time despite any UV treatments, and others keep their color quite well. To me it is a fascinating process, in which the art actually evolves on the wall over time. The leaves themselves are immortalized under their flexible protective coating, and even resist glass breakage (verified by multiple unintentional tests!). Although they aren’t indestructible, they are very durable and can withstand conditions that would destroy an average piece of art (e.g. humidity).

 The carving process itself is, and always will, be done by hand. I never use stencils, pre-drawing, or any sort of planning at all. I simply picture the image in my mind’s eye and begin carving. On many occasions, the details of the image will reveal themselves to me after the process has begun. Considering the unforgiving nature of this art (there is no “undo” button), I feel grateful to report that I have almost always managed to capture each image successfully. Also, I never simply use the leaf as a canvas for whatever image I decide. The magical thing about this art is that to me, the image is already there; a creation of Mother Nature. I have been asked on numerous occasions to create a custom image for a person or business, and my reply is always, “If I see that image in a leaf someday, I will be sure to let you know.” I will never compromise the integrity of this art by carving a business logo (etc.) in a leaf. I am in no way offended by the asking. It’s just that I must uphold the original premise that I so fervently believe, and which sets my leaves apart from those of other artists now popping up around the world.

 To quote an old poker term, I am fully “all-in” on my commitment to securing a place for leaf carving both in the history of fine art, and in the minds and hearts of the people who enjoy it. To me, art is about sharing and instilling wonder…stirring the soul to the realization of its own miraculous existence. I couldn’t be more thrilled or thankful to have the opportunity to pursue this dream, and live the way I had envisioned when I was a young child…I hope this post has helped answer some of the questions out there, and given some assurance to collectors who may have reservations about the long term value of their investment in this art. If there are any questions you would like to add, please leave them in the comment section or send me an email. Cheers to adventure!!!

Exploring the forests of Vancouver Island.

Two Goats and a Canadian

 My trip North from Mexico began ordinarily enough. I dropped Carlito off at my chico's mom's house and she gave me a ride to the bus station, picking up a friend of hers along the way. Her friend was a cute old ranchero man, decked out in western gear and carrying a small chihuahua that, fittingly, had the exact same coat and colour as a dairy cow. We went to a taco stand outside the bus station and I had my last mexican street tacos, relishing every bite, before goodbye hugs and getting on the 10pm bus.

 I arrived in Guadalajara at about 3:30 am and took a rather long taxi ride to the airport. My luggage was 5 kilos overweight so I did yet another round of frantic possession dumping. As I reluctantly piled a few things on the floor beside my luggage, hating the fact that it would be thrown in the garbage, a sharp eyed old woman came out of nowhere and asked if she could take them. "Claro que si!" I replied. As I left her, sorting happily through the pile of stuff on the floor, I thought to myself, I love this country!...in Mexico there is no shame in taking a used pair of pants, no "I just need to get rid of all this" excuse needed for counting change at the grocery store. Just wily, sharp eyed smiles.

 The plane was delayed, and I found myself stuck in a crowd with nowhere to sit. I was totally exhausted at this point, and so fell asleep on the floor with my legs crossed, hugging my big backpack. When I woke up about an hour later as the plane was finally ready to board, I attempted to jump up only to find that my entire right leg was still unconscious. This resulted in me floundering around on the floor for several minutes to the tune of laughter, several hands shooting out to help me up. And with that final comedy act, I bid goodbye to my beloved second home and flew the skies to San Francisco.

 After several amusing encounters with two Asian customs agents because of my lack of a destination address (an old man who sternly reprimanded me in a way that made me feel like a delinquent asian granddaughter, the other a cheerful chatty woman who poofed my talcum powder in the air and asked jokingly if it was really just talcum powder), I made my way to the exit and found my dear disorganized friend from Sacramento. He had forgotten where he was parked, so we had a mini adventure scooting around with the luggage cart, disobeying pedestrian traffic laws.

 We had a great caffeinated road trip north, taking a detour to where we were to pick up two baby goats (or so we thought). We were driving a pickup truck with an uncovered box, so figured we could put the goats inside something and keep them in the cab so their little poops wouldn't get all over the place. Merrily we drove up the hill onto the well-kept property, parked the truck, and jumped out to inspect the small group of goats. The two young ones were a bit large, I thought, but felt confident we could still manage them. I mentioned the thought to the owner of the goats and he casually corrected me, saying, "Oh, nah, those two are the ones you guys are here for."...I followed his pointing finger, and there stood two fully horned, fully grown nanny goats. My jaw dropped. "Oh, uh, well shit," I managed to stammer, "I don't know how we are going to transport those two..." The guy replied confidently that he had lots of bailer twine and went to fetch it.

 I grew up with goats. Lots of them. And even the nicest goats we had would never make it 4 hours on a freeway tied in the back of a pickup with bailer twine. Not without some sort of horrible disaster involving a smashed out window, or a terrfified, ill-timed lunge for freedom. This did not bode well and I said so. Despite my trepidation, my farm training kicked in and I rigged up a rope across the front of the box, firmly tying a loop in the middle. We found two thick pieces of rope which I tied around the goats necks in a way that wouldn't tighten, and we tied them both using more twine to the loop, so they couldn't move away from the middle of the box. The goats were surprisingly calm and willing subjects, but I still wasn't convinced that they weren't on the fast track to untimely deaths and sat in the box with them for the first few miles.

 To my amazement and relief, both goats handled the trip like old pros, taking up positions facing eachother with necks crossed. They even munched on alfalfa hay the whole time while we drove the winding freeway going about 70 mph. Finally, at about 1 am, we arrived at our destination. Snow White and Canela (now renamed Bianca and Unicorn by the new owner's kids) had survived against all odds and now happily munch on the weeds I provide them with every day from the strawberry patch. This was one trip north that I won't soon forget!

Pit stop for gas in Northern California

The Jungle Awakens


  I sit at the table in this big empty apartment, panoramic windows open to the misty grey afternoon. A surrealistic Oliver Deuerling song drifts from the speakers, as gently and smoothly as the black curtains undulating in the moisture laden breeze. As I sit here, writing to you and to myself, these sensations wash over me and I feel…perfectly alive in this amazing, peaceful moment.

  I am seeing a side of Vallarta less familiar to me, a time when the foreigners have flown and stillness settles onto the land. The locals go about their business as usual but the human world seems somehow less formidable, more humble (and I’m not referring to the lack of Americans lol).

  The temperature climbed and climbed as June wore on, creating a feeling of panic and oppression in my snow-loving Canadian brain. Then, the rains began. At first they came in the form of fearsome downpours in the night, followed by more (now sauna-like) heat during the day. But for the past two days, and especially today, the country seems shrouded in mist that periodically becomes so heavy that it turns into a beautiful, cleansing rain.

  The most spectacular transformation is that of the land. The mountains around Vallarta, after months of lying dormant, brown and largely leafless suddenly spring to life, virtually overnight. During the first rains I experienced the peculiar sensation of actually feeling the plants drinking eagerly, which continues now as I sit here. Suddenly those brown mountains become shockingly, overwhelmingly green…and all forms of life charge forth like an army that has materialized from the mist itself. Moths the size of sparrows. Rhino beetles whose weight is so great, it can be felt in the hand. Millions of leaf-cutter ants whose “high-season” has just begun…

  All of these things combine to create an entirely different place than I was sitting just a short time ago. I have discovered the pure joy of walking through the warm rain on empty streets, of exploring the dripping jungle in its full glory in search of some new, fascinating aspect of this beautiful miracle we call Earth…and I realize that maybe there is no low season in Mexico, or in life. One high season is simply traded for another.

 

Childhood Fantasy Realized

 I've woken up at 4 am for no reason...but then there's always a reason for everything. This time, I think it's because my soul has decided that it's already time to share this wonderful experience I've just had, one of the deepest in a long time...so here goes.

 Some friends and I visited Las Marietas yesterday, in a small boat that belongs to one of them. Las Marietas are a group of islands off the coast of Mexico that have been declared a bird sanctuary, devoid of human habitation. They are essentially big rocks jutting out of the ocean, treeless except for a solitary palm on one, but covered with desert plants and seabird colonies.

 As we circled around close to the shore, I was astounded by the incredibly clear blue water around the islands, bursting with all forms of sea life. The islands themselves are like Swiss cheese, pockmarked with caves and arches that beckon irresistibly to adventurous souls. Most parts of the island are quite inaccessible, thanks to the short cliffs and the waves pounding against them. As we swooped under a rocky arch that guarded an underwater cave whose roof had fallen in, I looked up and locked eyes with a Blue-footed Booby. It peered down at us like we were ill-equipped space invaders.

 Eventually we anchored close to one of the few beaches that could be swum to. We jumped into the water with our snorkel gear, instantly transported to a strange and beautiful world which we humans could only take glimpses at. Right away I saw a large Moray eel snaking its way along some rocks. As I approached, it coiled its body and opened it's mouth in a defensive posture. Point definitely taken! (Although I did follow it at a safe distance until it disappeared into the bigger rocks).

After some time exploring this amazing underwater world, I joined the group on the beach (..."joined", as in was spat out by the ocean in a fit of panic after I saw a group of barracudas) which included a small boy. Even the beach had its human boundary, with overhanging cliffs restricting further access to anyone except the islands chosen residents. The boy had found a small cave and we crawled into the darkness of it, the sound of the waves deadening and the wet sand becoming cool. As our eyes adjusted, we realized we weren't alone. A small seabird was regarding us carefully, trying to keep its distance in the enclosed space but not attempting to exit the cave to safety. I thought this rather odd, and there was something about the bird's demeanour that seemed...off. It wasn't until the boy's father entered the cave that we noticed in a dark corner near the bird was another identical one, freshly dead in the sand. It was then we realized that the little seabird had lost its mate and was refusing to leave its body.

 Once we exited the cave, I remained sitting outside and the bird came out, wandering the sand looking very lonely and lost. I was overwhelmed with sadness for this small creature, now facing the world utterly alone. It seemed forlorn and unsure of where to go, pacing around slowly and uncertainly, turning back towards the cave often. It even came hesitantly towards me at one point, as if it sensed that I understood its pain. It occurred to me again, as it has in the past when I've watched animals, how self-obsessed we humans are...unaware as a species of the equally significant and poignant moments being carried out all around us.

 As we returned to the boat and made our way back to the mainland, I felt so completely awed at the entire experience. The range of emotions had been intense. Ever since I was a very small child growing up on the prairies, I had dreamed of seeing such a place. I am obsessed with caves, and the natural mystery they seem to epitomize. These islands seem to be one giant mystery and a part of me aches to explore every bit of it, while another, wiser part seems to acknowledge that this place has no desire for human intrusion. Just as we have our cities, with which we so ruthlessly dominate the landscape, the birds have Las Marietas...a place that sets itself apart, so peacefully and decidedly just for them.

Terror At The Airport!

 I'd like to tell you about an event that occurred in 2008, one that should have been on the news but wasn't. Please read this story, as the more eyes to see it, the more likely I am to locate this person and settle this matter once and for all.
 
 I was flying home from my first trip to Mexico, and had an hour and a half layover in Los Angeles. Fittingly, I only had about 40 bucks to my name so I reluctantly entered the McDonald’s and ordered a cheap "meal". After I was finished, I went through customs and sat outside chain smoking for a while (just to be a hypocrite). Once I saw that I had just over 40 minutes until my flight boarded, I leisurely made my way inside and stood in the customs line. When I approached the security guard, I confidently removed my backpack and stuck my hand in the pocket where my passport sits. It wasn't there. The color drained out of my face, and I chuckled nervously while my hands searched furiously through my bag. Nothing. I then proceeded to lose my mind, overcome with sheer panic. Apparently I was convincing, because after hesitating a moment, the security guard waved me through to look for my passport.
 
 I ran headlong to the McDonald’s, which was now packed with a 50 person lineup. I screeched to a halt at the counter and stammered something like, “Have you seen my face on a passport here?…I mean, did you find a passport in here somewhere?" The wide-eyed employee shook her head, and I turned around...I'm pretty sure I bellowed, “MOTHERF%#@ER!” before stumbling past the long line of families with small children, all leaning slightly away from me with looks of either concern or indignation on their faces. I was almost to the door when suddenly, out of the crowd, a hand gripped my arm.
 
 Peering desperately into my eyes was a middle aged man, and he said, “You need help…I want to help you." My eyes filled with tears (as they are now writing this) and I completely broke down, blubbering like a kid who’d lost their mom at the mall. He stepped out of line and guided me to the exit, telling me that we could report it and the whole airport would know. While we were on our way to the crown room, he tried to calm me down by making conversation. I told him I was a waitress but I wanted to be an artist.

 We reported the passport missing to the authorities and they noted that I only had about 15 minutes left until my plane boarded. As I stood there near my gate with the man, an airport employee came up to me and said, "You are going to miss your flight. You have to go to the Canadian embassy in Los Angeles and...." "No, NO!" I exclaimed, "I'm a Canadian, I have to go home! I can't stay here, and I'm getting on that plane right over there…” “No, you're not," she said firmly. The man cut in, asking me how much money I had. My eyes went wide and I said, “…about 40 bucks." He said, “That won't even get you a taxi to the embassy, let alone anything else...here. This is all I have on me." And he took $200 out of his pocket, placing it into my hand. My childhood training kicked in and I cried, ”No no no, I can't take your money…” “LISTEN,” He said, his tone becoming unfamiliarly harsh, "I have a daughter who is 18, and I would like to think that if she was in this situation, someone would do the same! Take the money!" Sufficiently chastised and humbled, I took the money, muttering many thank you’s and he said, ”Look. I don't want to leave you, but I have to get line for my plane now. I wish you the best of luck…you will be ok, alright?” Then he took off.

 I stood there, stunned, feeling very alone in a giant hangar with rivers of people swirling around me. The line up to my plane was beginning to form, people gathering their items resignedly. I turned around and faced the crowd, tears streaming down my face. Suddenly, through the crowd my eyes picked out the face of security woman, looking straight into my eyes and walking quickly towards me. As the crowd parted around her she stepped up to me, eyes shining, mouth grinning, and said, “This yours?”…and handed me my passport.
 
 I almost fell over. Hugging her and thanking her profusely, it suddenly hit me that I still had someone else’s $200 in my hand. Before I knew what I was doing I was running headlong again, this time in the direction the man had gone. I scanned the lineups to planes, and you know what? I found him. I ran up to him and hugged him, telling him the news and pushing the money back into his hands. He gave me an amused look and said, “What did you say you wanted to be?” “…an artist,” I replied timidly. He gave me a wide grin, shoved the money back and said, “Honey, I'm a film producer.  You are going to need this more than me!" and just like that, he scooted away and boarded his plane. I got back to mine in the knick of time and as I flew home, surrounded by bored and preoccupied faces, I grinned so much that I think a few of them were worried I would jump up and hug everyone aboard (all covered in terror sweat and tears of joy)!

 …So that's my story. Not expecting that were you? My hope is to find that man (and possibly even the story of how the passport was actually found) and send him a beautiful piece of art, a small token for changing my life that day. I remember his name very clearly, from the card I managed to hang onto for a short time (yes there does seem to be a recurring motif here): John Kissack. I believe he was from L.A. and his production company at the time contained a biblical name: Ezekiel. I have done some searches online but surprisingly, nothing came up. Please share this story to your wall, email it to a friend in L.A., etc. I truly appreciate any efforts in helping me locate this kind hearted individual. Amongst all the conflict, cold shoulders, and ignorance that exist in this human world, I will never forget that there is also beauty, light, compassion, warmth, and generosity between strangers as well as loved ones…and I want to be part of spreading that. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

Mexico: The Journey (Part 2)

 It appears sleep isn't an option at the moment. I suppose I could lay in bed, technically comfortable and silently cursing the ill timing of the caffeinated soda I drank, or take it as a sign to stop procrastinating on this long overdue blog entry.

 Sitting here in the silent, dark apartment on the slopes above Puerto Vallarta, the big windows are open and the sound of some faraway music is taking the opportunity to drift up from town. The pleasant harmony is punctuated by equal parts dogs barking, and cheerful laughter from different parts of the neighborhood. Standing on the balcony, I have over a 180 degree view of the town's twinkling lights, nestled between the soft dark masses of the ocean and the jungle covered mountainside. Peaceful moments such as these offer time for the mind to appreciate, and to contemplate...

 I feel as if I'm nearing the end of a chapter, where life has a certain feel, and poised to move on to a new one. This is both frightening and exciting, because in a physical sense it is perhaps the biggest unknown I have faced so far. In the past I've flown to Mexico, living off savings and knowing at least approximately when I am "going home". This time I jumped in my car with zero savings and drove across the continent, working the odd job to make ends meet and, since February, living almost solely on art sales. It didn't really hit me until recently that there may not be any more "going home"...that maybe home has become wherever my two feet happen to be resting.

 The show at Hotel Rio was a success, landing me a large commission job (see newsfeed), and I have another show coming up next month at one of the trendiest locations in Puerto Vallarta (Benitto's Paninoteca in the marina). In the meantime I will be connecting with gallery owners inland, where the economy isn't so seasonal and any art displayed is more likely to fall upon the gaze of the right people from Mexico City. I know that if I take the right steps and fate is on our side, the art and I could make a huge impact on the world.

I'm about to throw myself at the feet of The Universe, living completely instinctively and trusting that this road leads to success. I sort of jumped off the latest cliff without fully understanding its height or having the slightest clue where I would land, and now the only way to open this chute and steer it is to completely distill my spirit. I must become ruthlessly diligent in making the right choices both personally and professionally, and equally so in denying any force that weakens my purpose or resolve. There are gifts, opportunities, and lessons waiting for me that are beyond my current comprehension, and this will be one of those times I will look back on and see as a miraculous series of events. Cheers to taking the leap of faith and going all-in on a dream!

A lookout point on the road to San Sebastian...the camera picked up some magic.

Death By Broom

 Still feeling a bit shaky after a Mexican standoff that violently ended nine small lives here in my studio apartment in Vallarta...no use trying to carve leaves right now so I may as well recount the story for you.

 About 2 weeks ago, I noticed a small group of large paper wasps crowded together on my curtain rod. Having never been a fan of wasps, I was uneasy to say the least (especially since the rod is the closest one to my bed), but i already have two different groups of ants on cleanup duty in my place, and the wasps didn't seem to be affected by my presence. My childhood fascination for insects took over, and an uneasy truce began. They were always in one place near the screenless portion of my window, never flying in the apartment or seemingly anywhere for that matter, and I in turn took care not to reach up towards them.

 I found myself wondering what they could be communicating to eachother. Why didn't they seem to be eating or building a nest, disturbed by my presence, or basically acting the way I grew up knowing wasps to be? I became quite at ease with them, and began to think idealistic thoughts about what a great coexistence among species was occurring in my apartment.

 Tonight I came home and noticed that they had in fact begun building a little nest. Although I wasn't thrilled about it, I decided that unless they broke the "deal" of our boundaries and strayed from their little corner I would continue to study them, rather than plot their demise.
I was taking a break from my leaf carving at about midnight and was standing near my stairs when suddenly, I saw a horrific vision from the corner of my eye. The whole group of wasps had taken flight in my apartment and my brain screamed "FLEE, YOU FOOL!" The next thing I knew I was cowering at my entrance, peering with terror around the corner. They were not attacking, rather flying lazily around the room. After a moment they landed in what looked to be strategic positions around the room.  I suppose they had come to an agreement that now was the time to claim my apartment, much in the way I had with them. I inched my way back down the stairs and sat slowly on my bed, miserably aware of their effortless victory.

 I gently lifted the phone up to my ear and called my chico down the street. He basically repeated what my brain had said, but I was not willing to accept defeat. The wasps all seemed to be still, watching and waiting from their many locations for me to make my next move. I grabbed the only thing I could think of within reach, my hair mousse, and with holding it in front of me like bear spray, slowly began to walk towards my leaf. I mean slowly as in a step every 30 seconds. I made it past the first two sentinels without them moving, and was almost to my goal when the wasp above the leaf flew down towards me. There was a frantic, useless spray of foam, the sound of a can hitting the floor and like lightning I was back to the entrance.

 Luckily my landlord has a burger stand attached to my apartment and when I exclaimed (partly using Spanish and partly performing a poor imitation of angry wasps) my situation he said, "Oh, well let's kill them then." He grabbed a broom and walked calmly into my kitchen, carefully smacking and killing one after another. I was shocked at how unorganized and slow they seemed to be. It turns out they can't see well at night and are sluggish. Once I saw that, I took over the job and proceeded to kill the remaining four, sweeping their bodies towards the middle of the kitchen floor. Although there was a sense of victory and relief, there was also disappointment in not having achieved harmony with the nature in my household.

 A few minutes after the last one had died, I carefully placed a wasp on my carving table and dissected the stinger and venom glands. Judging by their size, my landlord was correct when he told me that they were among the worst kinds to get stung by. I was still studying it closely when I noticed that the rest were moving slowly along the floor. My heart leaped in sheer terror, followed by a flush of embarrassed relief, as I realized that my faithful little ant housekeepers were carrying the bodies away. There was an air of celebration among the giant group that had formed, working enthusiastically like little townspeople about to carry the heads of slain dragons back to their village.

 I, for one, have given them my applause and shall retire to my bed chamber, having successfully reclaimed my kingdom. However, my sleep may be a bit light as I would fully respect a vengeful act of martyrdom from any survivor I may have overlooked!

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The Trees Fight Back!

Although I have always been a fan of drunken daredevil stunts, and refuse to discontinue being an adrenaline junky, I think I will listen to a recent lesson from the universe and shelve the drunken part. As follows is my personal account of the events of pre-sunrise January 1st, 2014...

I was invited by my most favorite of eccentric friends to an extravagent new years party at a house in Conchas Chinas, Puerto Vallarta. I knew it would be an adventure, but had no idea what was in store. We parked Carlito outside and entered perhaps the most beautiful house I had ever seen, situated on the side of the mountain with an open concept and plenty of jungle.

The party was fantastic and the tequila was flowing when I noticed a large tree on the far side of the pool, which was the perfect vantage point for taking a birds eye photo of events. Without thinking twice, I scaled the tree and although the flash wasn't strong enough to get a good pic, the tree itself was amazing and so I stayed up there a while, climbing from branch to branch. I came down, but after a while the serene branches reaching into the darkness called me and once again I returned to the tree.

This time, when I stepped across an abyss between branches on my way down, the unthinkable happened...my foot slipped on the wet bark of the opposite limb. I grabbed at a small branch to save myself but it broke, and I tumbled backwards into the darkness. All I remember is seeing the the leafy branches speeding out of my reach as I fell through thin air...

I woke up in a very comfortable bed, surrounded by very concerned faces. The girlfriend of the guy whose party it was told me that the paramedics were on their way, and before I knew it they were standing over me, asking me questions and feeling for broken bones. I put on a brave face and protested that I was fine. I must have been very convincing (or they had a new years party of their own to get back to) because after a minute or two they left. I lurched out of the bedroom and back to the party. I could see that a tendon on my wrist looked grossly puffed out, but I had been having such a good time, I wasn't going to let anything ruin it. Apparently, possibly grave injuries were quite inconvenient and not to be regarded in my current state of mind.

After an hour or more, all remnants of adrenaline had worn off along with the shock. I was finding myself unable to forget about the fact that my hand wouldn't work, and every breath felt like a knife to my ribs. My hip felt like it had been kicked by the angriest of donkeys. Feeling quite sober at that point, I quietly excused myself and left the party. The sky was gray with the light of a new day, and when I limped into an Oxxo to buy cigarettes on my way home, the lady at the counter looked at me with thinly concealed horror. Wow, I must look really bad, I thought foggily. It wasn't until I was home that the reality of my situation really dawned on me, the reality that I had never been hurt this bad in my life.

I found out two days later what happened, that I had fallen 6 metres and landed in the jungle below and just beside the concrete slab where the pool and back patio were. I was very lucky not to have hit the edge of that slab. A friend from Vallarta had run down and carried me into the upstairs bedroom, probably with my rear end hanging out for all to see. I definitely bruised and possibly fractured a couple ribs, pulled muscles in my back, shoulder and chest, pulverized the flesh on my hip, bruised and strained tendons in my left wrist, and knocked myself out cold for quite some time.

Sitting here now, 9 days into my recovery, I am both humbled by my injuries and impressed with my resilience. I have climbed trees for years, quite often after a few drinks, and never fallen let alone been injured so severely. It's been a great time and although I'll never quit climbing trees, I think I will think twice about the circumstances (tequila+fancy dress+wet forest=3 reasons to stay on the ground). I am also thankful to have drank so much milk as a child, and whatever other factors went into giving me bones that can take that kind of fall. Sure glad to be alive and kicking this 2014!

Mexico: The Journey (Part 1)

 It's one thirty in the morning here in Puerto Vallarta. I was planning on procrastinating more with this blog entry, but awake suddenly to a blast of thunder rolling off the ocean and into the windows of my little studio on the mountainside.

 There's an immense, metallic sound to it that has a different ring than those great storms of yesteryear on my childhood home in Verdent Valley. It sounds rather like in those old radio shows, where they shook a big sheet of metal to create the sound of thunder--but on a very grand and real scale. It is accompanied by the roar of tropical rain against the roof. As I run up the cement stairs to my door and yank it open eagerly, I am astonished to see the sheer amount of water pouring from the darkness above. There is a small white water river in the middle of the sloped cobblestone street, and I can hardly see the opposite houses just a short distance away. I had always suspected the thick pvc pipes sticking out of the second level apartments here to be a tad excessive, but as I watch the water shooting from them at high velocity into the river that used to be a street, I am now aware of my former ignorance. To my further surprise, I hear a motor. Out of the watery gloom passes a man on a motorbike, head bowed against the lashing rain, body drenched. Its a wonder he can see where he's going. I turn back inside and close the door. The downpour seems, to my unaccustomed Canadian ears, to threaten caving in the corrugated fiberglass roof above my stairs. I return to my bed to wait out the storm, unable to sleep in the din of sound, and take it as a sign to quit procrastinating....

 Just weeks before, I had experienced what could be described as the opposite of this scene. My 1981 Monte Carlo t-top (herein referred to as "Carlito") had successfully made it all the way from Canada to the Mexican border. With the help of a certain good-looking Mexican companion who I had arranged to meet up with in Oregon, the border crossing went smooth and Carlito now breezed through miles of territory, which formerly I had only seen fleeting glances of through a jet window. The Baja California wine route, from Ensenada to Tecate, is a beautiful drive but could not prepare us for what we were to see next.

The first hints were oddly rounded boulders dotting the desert hills on either side of the highway. These seemed strange enough, but when we finally entered the heart of what I now know is referred to as "La Rumorosa," my mouth dropped open in awe. Surrounding us was an landscape that seemed to belong in the far-fetched imagination of a science fiction writer. The mountainous terrain was comprised entirely of rounded boulders and strange looking desert plants, mile upon mile of this dizzying scene which left one wondering just how the hell anyone managed to build a winding highway through any of it.

Perhaps the strangest thing of all was the energy of this place. It truly is a world, a reality of its own and one that carries an ancient and knowing feel. Although there were never any signs of movement or life out there, it seemed that we were constantly under the scrutiny of a discerning, watchful eye. This was the kind of place where unexplainable things happen, where your eyes play tricks on you and your mind becomes aware of the limitations of its own awareness of reality. When we finally wound our way through the last valley and swooped down onto a flat plain in the fading purple light of the dying day, there was a period of silence in which our brains struggled to make sense of what we just saw and felt. The only conclusion I could come to was that Mexico is a more beautiful and dynamic place than I could have imagined, and this was just the beginning....

Walking the Knife edge

I wrote this post the night I finished my piece titled "Freedom Dance" It was the most challenging piece I've done yet, and I had to stop to write this just to calm myself down.  Enjoy!

 

August 30,2013

Sometimes when I'm carving a leaf,I get the same feeling as when I'm standing on the edge of a cliff...just one false move, one muscular twitch, and its all over. Right now I'm carving an incredibly fragile leaf and attempting perhaps the most intricate design I've ever done. As I sit here glancing furtively at the unfinished masterpiece next to me, I can't help but think of how incredibly easy it would be to reach over and crumple it into a fine dust, and even the thought of doing so sends chills through me. It would be akin to holding a gun to my head and pulling the trigger, so physically easy yet so horrifying even to think about. I get such a thrill from this art, and the closer  I get to finishing a piece, the more work I put in, the higher the stakes go. I was always an adrenaline junky, but I never dreamed that doing something so stationary could invoke the same feelings. Going back to work now that I've given my neck a little break, and wishing I had some sort of hippie prayer circle rooting for me. Banking on the Funk Hunters to pick up the slack.

Walking the Knife Edge.jpg

Personal Manifesto (Aug.31,2013)

I wrote this last night after many months of wanting to, but never being quite able to express it in the way I knew I must. This letter goes out to every person I meet in this world, and the fact that it is for everyone should not take away how special it is for each one individually. It is a manifesto in every sense of the word, and one that I plan to live the rest of my life by.

Dear Person...  

As we sit here together, sharing time and space in this precious and finite reality, there are so many unseen aspects, so many unexpressed perceptions. If you are sitting beside me right now I have decided, knowing that the remaining moments in my life are numbered, you are deserving of at least some of those moments. And whether you see life the same way or not, I am also grateful for your decision to include me in this precious fraction of the acting out of your own limited existence.

I am beginning to realize that I am quite an unusual creature in the way I perceive this world, the experiences  I've had so far both in an inner and outer sense, and in the way I choose  to journey  through this life. I suppose being an artistic type this should come as no surprise, and I couldn't possibly be happier or more grateful to be exactly who I am, in this place and time. My life, my truth, my reality, has grown into a beautiful thing indeed and with no shortage of the pain, struggle, loss, and imperfection along the way that adds vital relativity and depth to the living experience.

Knowing how precious and dear this life is to me, it should also come as no surprise  that I am very determined to continue to exist in such a way that allows me to seek  the full potential of what this existence offers. I am one with myself and need no protection, no psychic possessions in the form of other people. I also do not wish to "belong" to anyone, and am no fan of the expectations and obligations that come with that concept (however common and entrenched it may be in our society).

The kind of love I feel for you is the kind I regard to be the purest form, one stripped of needs, demands, jealousy, possession, and the fear that comes with those things. As I look into your eyes, there is only a deep appreciation for your soul, your existence, your moments. A desire to drink in the pleasure and profundity that each of these moments provide. And a sincere hope that by fate with my company, or without, you are able to seek your full potential in this life and reach the end of your journey with a sparkle in your eyes.

Manifesto.jpg

Handhills (Aug. 12, 2013)

Laying in the top bunk of my Ma's leaky old camper /hauler, listening to the dull rumble of thunder in big sky country, not far from my childhood home. We loaded up the horses today and drove out here to the Handhills country, retreating into the last vestiges of natural habitat nestled amongst these big hills that rise up from the prairie. Driving past the monoculturistic grid that now dominates these lands, those dark hills beckoned mysteriously in the distance and promised a vast and nurturing release from the mundane and sterile.

They have kept their promise, as they have since my time began, and now here we are parked on an old road allowance that winds off into the unknown. The fresh air fills our lungs and Ma is getting a much needed rest while the ponies graze contentedly on the rain-soaked grass beside the trailer. I can hardly wait to mount up and explore this beautiful place, excited to discover what's around the next bend in the road and at the same time feeling such a peace. We are camped on the hip of the Great Mother herself...laying still yet very awake, gathering this piece of wilderness protectively in her giant, gravelly hand.

 My Ma took this photo from the back of her horse during our camping trip, showing the beautiful Handhills and myself riding a horse named Meetro (yes he's wearing a doo-rag and I have track pants on lol).

My Ma took this photo from the back of her horse during our camping trip, showing the beautiful Handhills and myself riding a horse named Meetro (yes he's wearing a doo-rag and I have track pants on lol).

Violent Hippie meets YouTube

This was my first time on camera...as you can tell! I was selected by CBC to star in a vignette to promote the AFA Artsplash video contest last year and I was super uncomfortable being chased around by a film crew. The dialogue that day went something as follows: "Hey Dessie you have a great laugh, can you do that on camera in 5?"..."Um, I don't know, can you say something funny?"..."Well no, we can't speak to you in this shot."..."Well then no, I don't think so."

Ok, now that we got that over with...lol