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On Wednesday night, I headed south from LA for about 2 hours and arrived at Los Coyotes Indian Reservation for an Early Arrival at Desert Hearts, an annual music and art festival. I had received a free ticket from a friend who live paints and needed an assistant. A few days before I was to arrive, he was in a sour mood and called me to let me know that I could still have the ticket, but he no longer needed my help or desired me to camp nearby. I was downtrodden as I was looking forward to the opportunity to shadow and assist a great artist I admire and see the process of being a festival painter. I was scared to go alone and luckily another friend happened to need a ride. When I arrived, I was so glad to have someone accompanying me because it was dark, unfamiliar and I didn’t know anyone. I have been to music events in the desert before, but this was my first festival.

The next morning, I checked in with my artist friend, but when I was met again with a brick wall, I decided to take a hike with the friend I drove with. I felt unwanted and left without a purpose, unsure of where or what I needed. While hiking, we came to a big rock. It was stuck on a sharp hill, below it trees and beyond that, my camp. He made a remark about how the rock came to land in that exact spot and what would happen if it continued down the hill. It was stuck in the ground just above a large tree. If it were to continue on down the hill, it would take out many trees, countless plants and probably our entire camp.

Later in the day, as I was walking through Vendor’s Row, I walked into someone I had met at an art walk in Los Angeles. He offered me space to set up my easel in his area, a chance to showcase my own painting. So, the next day, I set up. Only, I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t paint. I was trying to paint a picture of a girl in Nepal who I had given a doll. I was distracted by the energy, the music and the people dressed up and buzzing around me. I wasn’t focused on the present moment. I was stuck living in my past moments, not willing to let them fade. I was off balance and the only cure was to move my energy around.

I went to the dance floor and ran into my dear dancing friend, Mikey. Mikey is one of my biggest supporters, he’s deemed himself my Pegasus Knight and I can count on him for anything. I needed my head cleared, and he did just that, by feeding me some dancing vibes. I was able to get out of my head and into my heart. My night turned into a beating heart dance, each time I walked off the dance floor, I would run into someone I had met in the past. It was wonderful to be reminded that even in such a world as big as ours, I’ve made an impression.

Later in the evening, I wandered into a big white tent filled with pillows and blankets. In the front were two short tables, one of which held stones and crystals, the other was filled with tea. It was cozy and a few friends from where I was camped were inside, so we all cuddled up and started talking. It turns out that one of the people serving tea had been a big influence in my first Moontribe, he had explained the universe to me in a way I hadn’t understood it before, gifting me with knowledge of questions I didn’t know I was able to ask. I spent most of the rest of the evening sipping tea, talking about India, Nepal and art. People were wandering in and out, I handed out stickers and eventually I came to encourage people to write love letters. This carried throughout the rest of the weekend; to everyone, I offered a card, a pen, an envelope and a format:

Dear ____,
I love you.
(Then 3 things they love/ admire/ appreciate from them)
I love you.
#StrawberryPropaganda

No signatures. If they didn’t have an address, I asked them to write it to someone anonymous and I would find someone to send it to. By using Strawberry Propaganda, it gives people a way of knowing it’s a project, not like a secret that can be uncomfortable, but a collective thought allowing all forms of love to be nourished. Mothers, neighbors and friends will be receiving love from desert hearts. One woman encouraged a friend to write one, saying it’s a good practice; to remember who we love and that we also are loved. An exercise in grounding ourselves to our heart and the infinite love that surrounds us always.

One morning, I climbed to the top of a big hill overlooking the festival, I had heard there was a path, but it wasn’t visible until you were at the top. I made the decision to climb up, no matter how difficult it got, knowing the way down would be easier. Once to the top, I turned around a tree to discover 2 guys hanging out on the big boulder. I had been looking forward to time alone, but joined them anyway; I’ve never been disappointed meeting people on the top of hills or rocks, something about the persistence it takes to climb one. I immediately rolled up a spliff to share with them my Nepali hash and tobacco.

We caught up like old festival friends, me giving them my new stickers and telling them all about my Positive Propaganda. We discuss the festival world and intentions, them telling me I must stay for 2 more nights in order to really grasp the right spirit of Desert Hearts. Then one boy challenged me to share three short term goals I’m focusing on in order to get to my big plans. Widening my network, cultivating connections and practicing art; all things I need in order to continue along my perceived path.

The rest of the day, I had to blink sometimes to look in the distance, was I home? I saw friends I had made, sharing a mimosa by the dance floor, I saw a friend dancing in a rainbow wig, I nodded over to the tea servers, PinkRiches was yelled from across the dirt road, campmates had some extra breakfast. I couldn’t stop dancing, so I stayed until the moon was high in the sky.

I left Sunday night, sleeping the entire way back to Los Angeles while my friend drove, getting back to my apartment just after 5am. I had a couple of haircuts and lunch with my Dad planned, he had been in Orange County for the weekend and I wanted to see him before he left. While I worked and ate lunch, my friend readied the car for another festival called Lucidity, 2 hours north of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara. After less than 12 hours in my apartment, I was off again.

Desert Hearts.
You started out empty. Dark and empty, but we stomped until the music carried us to light. Beat after beat; beat after beat. Somehow the dark lifted away and the dance became a melody. Thank you for your generous heat; even while the wind blew, and the temperature was low, you warmed my soul. You showed me that life is a dance, I must move my feet according to the beat that echoes around me. It’s time to shake free from this precipice where I’ve been stuck. I’ll practice the balancing act of baring my soul and sharing in light, in joy while also staying focused on a higher, wider goal. Light and Dark, we all dance through both.