reflections

Solo Road Trip as Rite of Passage: Get Your Kicks, Grand Canyon + Route 66

While one of my concerns going into his trip was being harassed by truckers, it was a woman in Page, AZ who slapped my ass as I walked into the bar / bowling alley / lunch spot. This kind of shit doesn’t really phase me anymore, but it was a bit surprising getting these really insane comments about my ass in the middle of the day. And then she literally slapped it as I walked back inside to fill my water bottle. I had just picked up my travel buddy for the remainder of the trip, Bridget, and she also got a little verbal action. Yeesh. Moving right along.

We said our good byes to Oscar (the guide mentioned in the last post) and then drove over to the Glen Canyon Dam at his recommendation. The quick pit stop was worth it for the sweet views and delayed us enough to create the most magical accident later but more on that in a moment

Glen Canyon Dam

The drive was delightful although a little nervous at first. Gas prices in Paige were nuts so we waited a ways before stopping to fuel up and ended up at an adorable gas station complete with jerky, tea and free stickers. The second time a woman insisted I keep my dollars in case of emergency on the road. I now have a sweet Grand Canyon sticker on my yellow notebook and I think of her a lot.

GRAND CANYON

After many miles of snacks and singing, we eventually made our way to the Grand Canyon South Rim BY ACCIDENT. I had not realized that Google’s route to Williams, AZ (where we would be camping the next two nights) went through the Canyon entrance and it just so happened to be sunset. It was so fucking beautiful I almost cried. Actually I might have cried. Yet another moment of perfect synchronicity. Every little delay made the trip more and more charmed. Made every little stroke of luck feel like magic. Made me wonder why we don’t live like this. Following. In flow. Instead of trying to smash things into place.

While sunset in the Grand Canyon was 100% worth it, the traffic getting out of the canyon at that time was insane. Unrelated, I’m pretty sure a bat flew past us, but I couldn’t quite see. Needless to say, we arrived at the camp ground way later than we expected to. We stopped for dinner and after a lot of pure darkness driving on a dirt road, we finally found the camp ground and the flashlights I brought came in very handy as we poked around in the dark. 

Grand Canyon South Rim

Our tent didn’t zip up, but rather used little clips which was a super fun discovery as the desert cold crept up on us and I was very grateful for the fleece set up I purchased over at REI. We passed out at 8:30 PM. The next morning we awoke bright and early with the rising sun and caught a meditation sesh with the heat of the car. After a few delays and a trip to the visitor center, we settled on Horseshoe Canyon for our hike. A more challenging hike with less foot traffic and zero donkeys. I never really knew what hiking path descriptions were talking about when they mentioned a copious amount of “switchbacks” but now I certainly do. They are zig-zaggy bits that help you get down really steep ass sections of mountain rock. Fuck me gently. 

The day was gorgeous, and we were surrounded by other worldly rocks, turning leaves, evergreens, we even saw a hawk dive the fuck down from the sky towards some sort of prey. Nature. Majesty. Etc. The thing about hiking the Grand Canyon is that the uphill part is on your way back. So the hard part is last. People die because they underestimate how long it will take to get back. I obviously didn’t die, but I was CONCERNED when it felt like we were the last folks on the trail heading back.

After 6 hours, we finally made it back to the trailhead. I don’t think I had ever been more tired. When we gazed back at how far we traveled, I was very fucking impressed. We rewarded ourselves with $2 8 minute showers. It was my first shower in 3 days and honestly the best $2 I had ever spent. My hair was clean, my body was warm, I used a flannel as a towel. Truly thriving. On our way out of the park there were hella elks trooping around. Big papa with his horns. Big mama nomming with the babes. It was a wonderland of large mammals. On our way back to camp, we stopped for dinner at a spot called Yippee-I -O and it was the perfect touristy cheese fest we were hoping for. We drank some local beers and then called it a day.

ROUTE 66

Next morning, bright and early once again, we took off towards the Yucca Valley. Time to dominate the Historic Route 66. We had a few stops along the way. First we stopped in Seligman. Cute little tourist spot. Time to pee and peek in the gifts shops and chat with some folks on a bus tour. We stopped for lunch at a diner in Kingman which was adorable. We had Dr. Peppers and patty melts. My stomach did not love me on this trip.

After fueling up, we went through the Black Mountains. MY DUDE. I was not prepared for this. This was a very narrow, steep and winding part of the road that went straight through the mountains and I understand why they built the more modern highway elsewhere. After 15 minutes straight of hugging the meridian, We made it to Sitgreaves Pass which was a memorial for the ashes of local folks. You park your car and walk to the edge where dozens of marked memorial spots reside. I straight up thought we might have hit a graveyard, but the ground was pure rock so that was a quick no. ANYWAYS, as you know by now I love hanging with dead people so it was very cool to be like what’s up in this very special place. All these little memorials were decorated so cute like people probably come and hang and pour one out for their homies and it felt like a tender happy sadness kind of like the Mexican cemetery in Santa Fe. 

Around the bend, we hit Oatman, Arizona, the most touristy little ghost town you ever did see. Hella burros (donkeys), trinket tourist stores littered with Jesus and gun paraphernalia in such a way it screamed “why, yes, this is very much a red state.” (Literally there were two signs right next to each other which I essence said “Jesus + kindness” and “DON’T YOU FUCKING TAKE MY GUNS”). Oh, America. 

After loading up on gas and snacks (and word to the wise, if you’re headed from AZ to CA make sure you get gas in AZ because it’s twice as expensive in CA), we drove past the border, into Needles, past the Mohave Desert through some of the most desolate shit I have ever seen. It was magic. We stopped in Goffs which might have been my favorite part of the day. This was a fully abandoned city, a true ghost town. As we explored some of the structures, Bridget casually mentioned, “watch out, there might be rattlesnakes.” Cool. We saw a sign for an old saloon, what appeared to be a diner / grocery store and a row of old mailboxes. We kept driving along past abandoned railroad tracks and old decaying tractor parts. Houses and shacks that stood like graves and memorials on the way to the next marker of civilization. 

Just before we arrived in Twentynine Palms, we stumbled upon what I now know are referred to as salt flats off of CA-127. We saw a couple park and check it out so we decided we wouldn’t die. This is where Bridget took the dope picture that now graces the banner of my homepage. As you can see, it was a bonkers beautiful crystal paradise. We had no idea what it was, but guessed it must be salt since I saw a sign that said sodium chloride earlier, and then Bridget tasted it to make sure, the brave lady. We also heard loud booming sounds which may or may not have been explosions which led me to believe they may have been mines?

After that last stop, we made out way towards the Yucca Valley seeing hippie ass houses and domes over a magical fucking sunset. We picked up tacos and tamales at a spot called Artega’s spending I swear like $4 each and met up with our hosts for the evening, a baller couple that consisted of a lawyer / activist and jazz musician where we enjoyed a bed and a bathroom to prep for the next day in Joshua Tree.

A Treatise on Self-Love, Self-Touch and the Alchemy of Sex Magic

I wrote this for myself, but after reading it over, I realized it was for you, too. Consider this a love letter to your body as well as my own. May you find comfort and love and sensuality here.

Feel the intimate grooves of your skin. Linger over your succulent, smooth, bumpy, hairy, soft, tender, muscular thighs. Feel the bones beneath the softer edges of you. Trace the dimples, the stripes, the battle scars, the growing pains. 

Play with the floppy parts of yourself. Tease and play and pinch. Remind yourself that these parts serve as stores of energy. Remember they keep you vibrant and active. Remember the flesh encased inside skin is your vessel, your capsule, your spaceship. There are knobs and switches to turn you on and rev the engine. 

Stroke the nape of your neck, the lobes of your ear, the inner creases of your elbow and knees. Find the spots that make you tingle, that light up your nervous system like a Christmas tree. That reflect your sparkles like a chandelier. 

Stroke, touch and play with the intimate space between your legs, whatever parts you may hold there. Lose yourself in the rolling waves your own touch activates like the pool in Typhoon Lagoon. Invite the assistance of toys and liquids and lovers, but remember to get to know yourself first. Find the hidden corners of the cavern that ignite fireworks. Find the rhythm that rewires your circuitry. 

Cultivate so much intimacy with yourself, so much pleasure that you become weak enough to feel the first flickers of acceptance. Make yourself come so hard you forget to suck in your belly. You forget about the skin beneath your chin and how it must look to someone else in this moment. Set an intention in your climax. Let it be your own. Let it be selfish. Hoard your sexuality until it feels good to share it. Until you find someone worthy of the gift of you.

Find new names when the old ones make you feel constrained by dirty connotations, and the judgement of men in robes that commit dirty deeds and wear masks of stern injustice to hide their shame. The words of women who were taught to hate themselves and the most natural parts of their bodies. Rename those parts. Reclaim them. 

In my right thigh lives an indent that emerges larger than the rest, peaking out from the folds when I sit. Cellulite they call it. Such a clinical and cold term. The word does not radiate the strength and power mixed with pillow like softness and carnal warmth and fire. My thighs contain entropy and warrior-like ferocity. They are tree trunks that keep me tethered. They are the thighs of strong women from Caribbean Islands and Iberian coastlines and Mediterranean beaches. The thighs of priestesses and mothers and crones and witches. The thighs of chiefs and leaders and above all of lovers wrapped tight in ribbons of limbs seamlessly spiraling though silk. 

My breasts don’t sag, they droop with the weight of the galaxies I hold in my heart. They wax and wane with the moon. They are striped like tigers and zebras, branded by burden of growing too quickly, but stronger for it. Womanly, not because of their size, but for what they feel and endure. 

Refuse to stand for the judgement and name calling that initiated the self hate in the first place. That made these words ring like the shrieks of banshees or stab like rusty knives. Instead, become the siren that lures and drowns that vitriol in the depths of your waters.

Surround yourself with people that make you feel beautiful. Who look for you like sunflowers searching for brilliant rays and shine their own beauty right back. Construct bridges and hammocks and cocoons and pillow forts out of each other so there is always a place to cross and hang and nestle and play. 

Feel the overwhelming disappointment and sadness that accompanies living so that you can build yourself up again, like your favorite Lego set. Find pleasure in the rebuilding. Find the places you can fortify. Forgive the weak points. Build turrets for sentries, but leave the draw bridge open.

Love. Hate. Laugh. Cry. Embrace every extreme like the ocean that your are. Let the waves keep you in motion, but always return to your Self.

On Receptivity: Or, YOU NEED TO RELAX OKAY

We need to learn how to receive. How to relax. How to let go. 

If you’re thinking, Alessandra, I know how to relax, I am so chill, I would like you to try this. The next time you are laying in bed, ready to go to sleep, can you pay attention to your body and notice how much you are actually gripping? Your shoulders, your hands, the corners of your eyes, your jaw, your feet. How many neurons are still firing? How much tension is left inside your muscle fibers as you attempt to ease into your pillow? How safe do you feel in your own bed? How much do you trust your mattress, the ground, the grass, the earth to support you?

Receiving is uncomfortable. Whether it's a compliment, a gift, a hug, a blessing, how often do we respond with, "oh no, I couldn't possibly" or "you should't have" or “no thanks, I got it”? How often do we feel unworthy of receiving?

It's totally bonkers, right? We've become so conditioned to fiercely value the independent and self-made. Those who don't need anyone but themselves. Those who grind themselves to the bone unassisted to get things done. That's the image we get, but how do we get through the quiet moments without a partner, a tribe, a community? Not to turn this into a critique of late capitalism (jk I'm always looking to critique late capitalism), but look at the ads and messages we constantly receive! Don’t sleep, eat or see your children. Just do, make, create. Hyper masculine,* Hyper sun. Hyper ha. Hyper yang. If we don’t supplement that with equal parts nurturing, feminine,* moon, tha, yin, we fall apart. We need both sides. We need the cycle, the compliments the whole.

What I mean is, unclench. What I mean is, let go. What I mean is do nothing, which is not as simple as it sounds. What I mean is find the worth in your Self. Separate from your looks. Separate from your achievements. Separate from the gold stars and trophies and promotions. Separate from your bank account, assets, titles, accolades. Separate from the parts we cling to for validation. 

There is a lot of trendy talk about “self-care.” This is definitely what I am advocating for, but there are specific distinctions I want to make. Self care is something you do for your Self. For your own body. Paying attention to the details of your being and what you need. Paying someone else to massage or manicure you is not self care. Massaging your own legs and discovering the grooves of your muscles is self care. However, allowing yourself to fully receive a massage from someone else is an act of receptivity. There are so many differentiations and overlap. Can we play with and enjoy both?

Masturbating is self care. And I don’t mean mindlessly fumbling about, staring at a screen, or turning on a vibrator. I mean feeling each and every touch. When was the last time you allowed yourself to receive an orgasm? The last time you relaxed into waves of ecstasy instead of pushing and forcing your way to a climax that remains just out of reach? 

Eating is self care. When was the last time you allowed food to nourish you instead of shoveling it into your mouth between meetings? The last time you felt how your lunch made you feel?

When was the last time you felt the effects of your cocktail? Let it swim through you between tastes instead of slipping it like an oral fixation between awkward sentences and boring small talk?

And even when we start to pay attention, are we staying in the moments as we inhabit them? When you’re in the bathtub, are you allowing yourself to float freely, feel the warmth of the water soothe you? Or are we running through our wants and needs and desires and to do lists like never ending scrolls on Tumblr. Our brain is like a website, if we keep scrolling down and loading more content, we will crash. There is a limit to how much we can hold. Can we hit the pause button in earnest?

These are my observations and confessions. No one can house a double cheeseburger from Shake Shack faster than me, but I’m trying to slow down. To savor. To receive. It's as if effort to unclench has become more difficult than maintaining the strain of tension, and that's where the work comes in. It's like using pliers to open up and detach the pieces that cling together in an act of protection. I invite you to submit.

Yoga, therapy, acupuncture, massage, tarot, writing, improv. These are not all the tools, but these are the ones I have found the most helpful. To help me connect, receive, open. It’s not flicking a light switch. It’s years of practice. Of loving it and hating it. It’s hard. But I'm slowly learning to relax. And receive. And listen.

The Empress and The Queen of Coins from The Fountain Tarot

The Empress and The Queen of Coins from The Fountain Tarot

The Empress welcomes us to receive. To use our power to effortlessly attract what we want. Can we trust her? Can we trust each other? Can we loosen the focus of our structures and let our desires manifest effortlessly? Not by shoving the puzzle pieces into place, but by allowing yourself to find the right pieces as they come to you?

I’ve asked a lot of questions. Feel free to sit with them before you answer them for yourself, and, as always, I’m here to listen, share, discuss. 

 

 

*Reminder that when I say masculine and feminine I don’t mean male and female. You may prefer sun and moon, ha and tha, or yin and yang to describe the same thing,  but I find masc and femme to be helpful qualifiers, especially in the context of tarot.

The Void, The Blank Page, The Origin Story

I have been living in and finding comfort in the void lately. In tarot, The Fool lives in the void. All potential, ready to leap. In the particularly earthy feminist lore I've been consuming lately, the void is where we come from. It's the source before the spark. And here, it's is the blank page, as I wonder how to translate my potential energy. 

It's a terribly uncomfortable place to sit still, anticipating the upcoming hurricane. Queasy with doubt. Equal parts bursting with excitement and trembling in fear. But there's nothing else to it. Not really. Not until we take the leap out of the void and into life, carving out our origin story. And so I guess this is it. The first stroke of paint on the path of autonomy.