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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Weekender


We drove up to San Francisco in the middle of the night, the milky breathing of a sleeping babe providing our soundtrack.  Our entrance to the bay was misty and mystical, we crossed the red bridge as languidly as possible.  Two days spent lolling about Golden Gate Park and a quick afternoon of whimsy in The Castro and we were back on the road, heading to Big Sur.



Ahh Big Sur.  The place of my dreams, the place of fantasy and fir trees and giant waves crashing against rock.  So much beauty and always too little time.  I picked up a copy of Jack Kerouac's Big Sur at the The Big Sur Lodge gift shop. As always, Mr Kerouac had it right.  Pristine silence and self-reflection followed me around, hidden in the beauty of this place. After a few hikes and some night-time single malt whiskey, we awoke groggy and giddy.  Our trip back home began with a meal above the clouds at The Post Ranch Inn . What a stunning view!  And the most delicious lavender lemonade with fresh sprigs of lavender.





Driving back along the Pacific Coast Highway, Mister YaYa seemed to recall something about a pod of elephant seals along the way.  We kept our eyes out and sure enough---the most surreal moment of our trip thus far.  There were about a hundred of them, nestling and wrestling and snuggling one another.  They made the most curious sounds, something out of a Ray Harryhausen underwater adventure flick.  We gazed upon them for what seemed like forever, and I could have stayed for another forever.  
The perfect end to the perfect weekender.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Act of Devotion




I haven't really written in a while because I haven't felt inspired. And it's not for lack of traveling, because we are on the move, as always. This summer has seen us in Cannes for the second time, sipping champagne with the strange beasts of Hollywood and catching midnight screenings on the beach, we had an epic cross-America road trip that lasted 10 days and included one dog and one 7 month old baby, we spent a few months back in Malibu enjoying the surf and wineries and placidity. All in all it has been a very, very busy few months. And yet I haven't written a stitch on my so-called travel blog. Actually I haven't been really writing at all. At least not for personal reasons. I'm completing a screenplay that I hope to be my first feature, but that doesn't count. I write proposals (and more proposals, and more proposals) but that's just grunt work. Nope, I haven't picked up a journal the entire summer. In fact I can't even find my purple bound leather one that has been with me this past year. I just haven't felt inspired.

I also haven't felt inspired to do yoga or meditate or any of the other things that help keep me sane. In my life I have always felt the urge, had a little tug on my heart when it was time to practice. But lately, it's simply vanished. I keep wondering when it will return, if it will return. So much has happened in this past year that I am a changed person. Very, very different from who I was a year ago today. I often catch myself staring into my own eyes in the mirror and trying to see who this new person is. It's like I don't recognize myself sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. With all these thoughts swirling around in my head, you can imagine why I just assumed that I probably wasn't going to practice yoga or meditate anymore. The new me would have to find a new method of letting go. Maybe I wasn't even going to write in a journal anymore, I thought, even though I had been doing it since I learned how to write. So while I was proposing this whole new lifestyle of whoknowswhat to myself....months were slipping by. I started gaining weight, feeling extremely tired all of the time and eating a lot. Healthy food, mostly. But A LOT of healthy food. At every sitting. I couldn't drag myself out of bed in the morning and by 8pm I was ready to retire. I felt waves of anger and misery wash over me at irregular intervals. I felt ugly. That was the biggest thing. I felt so unattractive that it was causing me heartache. The cycle was unhealthy at best and dangerous at worst. And I have been there before.




With all of this going on, we came back to Sri Lanka to run a film camp for teens. It was decided to set the camp in Jaffna this year, which is the war-ravaged Northern province of Sri Lanka. With the fighting finished, this sleepy little city has been experiencing a resurgence lately with southern tourists coming up in droves for festivals and the famous Jaffna crab curry. It is a beautiful place which has seen more trouble than any one area ever should. It is also the place of my ancestry, seeing as both my parents have roots in small villages outside of Jaffna town. I came once before with my family in 2001, during the wartime. I was terrified and overwhelmed and clinging to my western idealism. The trip radically changed my life. The day I stepped foot in my grandmother's bullet-ridden house was the day I started on a spiritual path, though I didn't know it at the time.



As I write this I sit under mosquito netting in our sparsely furnished room, 8 days into our 10 day trip. With the camp going on it has been intense and precious peppered with my usual bout of food-poisoning/dysentery that I am now becoming famous for. All I can say is that I now realize why my father is always getting sick when he comes to Jaffna. Between the murder-hot food, the crispy fried chickpea snacks and the alcohol that ferments inside of palm trees----it has been an adventure. And then I got sick. Really sick. I didn't eat for four days. But by the final day, after the fever had cleared...I noticed something. I had an immense amount of energy! Two days later I am eating less and feeling like I could run a marathon. Okay, not quite, There is still the little issue of my yoga-denial. Why could I just not find it in me to get on the mat?

This morning I was supposed to sleep in. I had worked until 4am and had every inclination of having a lazy day of lolling around bed, reading and eating the prickly covered, lychee-like fruit called Rambutan which we had just procured. When I stepped in the door, I heard the daily buddhist chanting start. Then at 5 am the babe awoke, accompanied by another musical call to prayer on the street--of which denomination I do not know. That's the thing about Sri Lanka. Religion is not a choice. It infiltrates every aspect of daily life, until you are forced to acknowledge it. Or question it. Or both. I think it's why I like it so much here.

9 am rolled around and I was having a fitful sleep. I could hear the others getting ready to go to the Nallur Kovil for the last day of the huge festival that had been happening all week. I suddenly realized that I would be remiss to not have gone and seen this event. Over half a million people have gathered from Sri Lanka and South India at the temple. I may not get a chance to see it again. So on day three of not showering due to work, work and more work, I threw on some sunglasses and waved the car down before it was leaving the guest house.



Needless to say, I'm glad I went. The festival was like something out of a story book or ancient text. Putting aside the crammed streets and the market vendors selling anything and everything you could possibly imagine. Putting aside the music and the colours and the various intoxicating smells. The thing that struck me most, the thing that was unbelievably fascinating was the devotion.This wasn't just a community event, although it was certainly a place to meet and socialize. The people were there to pray and give devotions to their God of choice. They were there to prove their faith, to proclaim it out in the most mystifying and humiliating ways possible. There were groups of villagers chanting and praying and playing drums. There were young children carrying heavy ornamental wooden structures on their backs, milk being poured over them, parading through the streets and stopping to dance every so often. We saw men who had chosen to roll on their backs in the street all the way from their villages, 20 km or more away.

But the most stunning display of devotion was not for the faint of heart. Several times we encountered men hung from hooks in their backs, suspended ten feet in the air off of a makeshift crane, traveling throughout the city. They carried flowers in their mouths and their family rode on the back of the truck, dressed in their best. Often times another man would be on the top of the crane, using his weight to bounce the suspended man up and down. The men looked blissed out and serene. It was completely surreal.





What devotion they must have to practice such things! An emotion that we have certainly lost hold of in the West. For us, devotion means going to church every Sunday. My mother is the most devoted person I know. Between Catholic mass, Buddhist temple and Hindu temple, yoga and meditation, her week is full. It keeps her happy and peaceful and I often wish I could have as much dedication as she does. But I don't. And here I sit, trying to find a connection between me and the display of ego-lessness I saw today. Is it community that makes these people willing to donate body and soul to God? Maybe you have to be more than willing though. Maybe you have to be prescient. An unknowing way of doing things without strength of practice is not the answer. To maintain God, we must retain God. We must sustain God.

So this is the reason I forced myself to leave the house. I think something was calling me to be a witness to this incredible display of self-sacrifice. Self-sustenance. The thing I'm learning from this experience is that infinite love grows exponentially. To get we have to give. Giving makes us not only receive, but the act of giving creates more giving, and more and more and more. So, if I give love it will inevitably create more love. If I pay attention to myself, the universe will pay more attention to me as well.
Love begets Love. It's as simple as 1+1.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My wandering heart

This past summer has been a whirlwind of trips and gatherings, which is why I have not posted in some time. Without too much chatter (I'm trying to cut back) here is a sampling of what I've been up to.


CANNES
Beachside screening at the film festival



Tasty treats and celebrity sightings in Antibes at The Hotel Du Cap




CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP- -- Toronto - L.A.


The reason for the trip.



UPSTATE NEW YORK



NEW YORK CITY
Just in time to catch the Pride Parade in Manhattan, days after gay marriage was legalized.
Amazing vibe and celebrations.




WASHINGTON, D.C.
We arrived at midnight and checked into The Hay Adams which is a fantastic hotel
with exceptional service. Luckily all of the monuments are accessible to the public throughout the night, so we toured around.




Hiking the Appalachians in WEST VIRGINIA


Roadside down home southern deliciousness somewhere in SOUTHERN GEORGIA




NEW ORLEANS






Alligator Po-Boy


AUSTIN, TEXAS
Texas was a surprisingly beautiful state.


And finally, the desert.

NEW MEXICO


ARIZONA



LAS VEGAS, 4th of July




Road tripping across America was a great way to develop a deep love and genuine respect for this country. 10 days later, we came home to Malibu with a renewed sense of joy and wonderment towards the world.

SOON TO COME: Big Sur/San Francisco
























Saturday, April 30, 2011

The spaces in between

Lately I've been obsessed with faces. At first I couldn't quite put my finger on it, what it was that was drawing me to stare at, photograph and draw face after face after face. I don't think that it's the half-crooked smiles that some people have, or the shiny depths of their eyes. It is not the colour or quality of their skin, nor is it crinkles that play out from their lashes. Rather it is the spaces between all that, the smooth apples of cheeks and the hills and mountains created by wrinkles and laugh lines. I like to watch the rise and fall of an elderly face as it contemplates something profound. I like to see the sun glint off of the reddened cheeks of a young one at play. Most beautifully, I think is the depth of character that one can surmise by studying these landscapes as they evolve and change with every passing emotion.
I've had a chance to visit a local ghetto in Colombo. The thing that struck me most was how stunning the faces were. Everywhere I looked, beautiful, contented smiles shone back at me. These are people who live in 4ft x 4ft shacks, with very little food or amenities. There is garbage everywhere. Yet somehow the happiness they feel is infectious and I spent the whole day laughing and sharing and loving. In my last visit to Toronto, the one thing that struck me was how angry everyone was. People walked around muttering to themselves, ready to engage in any confrontation they could. Snarls, frowns and furrowed brows followed me everywhere I went. I kept asking myself "What do these people have to be so angry about?" Here, in Sri Lanka I have met some of the happiest people in my life. And most of them are incredibly impoverished. Struggling along, doing everything they can to make ends meet.

I can't be sure, but I think that the difference is community. In Sri Lanka, community is king. Especially in these poorer areas, people all rely on one another to help in times of need. In the slum, everybody was out socializing at every hour of the day. All children were accepted in any house, all were known by their first and last names. There was an intricate web of support that was more complex than anything I could imagine. Having that, being a part of that, one must feel so safe. So loved.
And that makes all the difference.



Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Love


"Love is a temporary madness;

it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love", which any fool can do.

Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and
not two."

Thank you, Louis de Bernieres

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Holy Place



Rome, Italy

The awesomeness and largesse of this city is really what impresses most. That and the ancient ruins that surprise you at every corner. We only had three days and I didn't want to spend them running from tourist trap to tourist trap. The only thing that was an absolute must on my list was The Sistine Chapel and Michaelangelo's famous painting therein. So, on the second day we cabbed it across the river to Vatican City, stopping on the way to see the Spanish Steps (unimpressive) and the Trevia Fountain (lavish beauty).


Needless to say, the Vatican has never been on my number one list of things to visit. The Pope and all that he encompasses has always seemed like some kind of grand charade to me. Somewhat akin to a parade or a carnival. I was raised Roman Catholic, yet still somehow in my mind I've always seen Vatican City as a myth of something greater, a romantic idea of how it should work, but never could.

So we step through the grand columns of the entrance to the city and head towards St. Peter's Basilica. My compatriot (the one who never asks for directions) is positive that the Sistine Chapel is inside. While I usually question his every move, I decide to give him a break and trust his instincts.




There is a massive line awaiting entrance to the Basilica and it is raining. We trudge along silently, avoiding the furtive jabs of wayward teenage umbrellas. I must admit, my curiosity is peaked surrounding the interior of this lavish cathedral. Will it be magical? Holy? A discussion of holy places ensues. My sister and I both agree that Chichen It'za in Mexico had a holy feeling. She also discourses on the spiritual nature of Macchu Picchu, Peru. In Sri Lanka my most favorite of holy places is Dambulla, an ancient buddhist site. Every time I venture there, I feel lifted off my feet, as though I am floating instead of walking.

As we walk through the doors of the Basilica, I anxiously await a seraphic experience. EPIC FAIL. What I encounter instead is extravagance upon heady extravagance building up to an anti-climactic almost-sighting of The Pope. It's not like I was dying to see The Pope anyway, rather I think I got caught up in the hysterical throng that was pushing and jostling behind a velvet rope.





In fact, I was quite disgusted by the hedonistic display of wealth inside this church. Giant paintings, tapestries and statues of massive proportions were in every corner. It was a pure display of wealth, and nothing more. I found myself questioning why a religion needs to have such affluence? Give me a tree on a hill and I will be happy to show you the path to God.

Anyway, it turns out that the Sistine Chapel was nowhere to be found. My compatriot (who still never asks for directions) was mislead, yet again. We spent the entire afternoon wandering around a farce of virtuosity and I still hadn't seen Michaelangelo's famous painting.

The next day we returned and found The Sistine Chapel inside of the Vatican Museum. Again we had to traipse through room after room of the "treasures" of the Vatican. It all made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Looking at icons from Egypt, Greece and beyond, which I knew had been stolen or pillaged in the name of Christianity. My sister wondered aloud why the Catholic Church has so many religious icons from so-called "pagan" times. An apt point, I thought.




The Sistine Chapel was, as promised ethereal. Supreme beauty. As though The Archangels themselves resided upon it's very walls. There were no pictures allowed, as well as no talking, eating, coughing or staying too long. Of course I expected nothing less from a the spiritual travesty that is called The Vatican . Afterwards we visited the beautiful little village of Trastevere, not far from the Vatican City. It was all narrow alleyways and hidden shops. Stopping for some brilliant pizza, I wished that we had spent the whole day in this gem of a place.


On our last day, I glanced out the window and noticed a stunningly beautiful artifact of religious history directly across the Piazza. It had been calling out to me the whole time, yet amidst the chaos I had barely noticed it. I begged my sister for us to take a detour on our way to our morning pastry shop. She relented, and we entered.


Our quest for spiritual purity was abated. It was a supremely holy space. As we entered, I felt a hush in my heart. I did not want to speak, or even whisper. A few people were praying, others were wandering about in peaceful contemplation. It felt ancient, as though the land itself were responsible for such messianic vibrations.


Lesson learned. Why journey to the divinity of the masses when you can discover individual piety on your doorstep?