The Flow Must Go On!

Mendo Flow Dojo at CircusMECCA's Halloween Party. Photo by Keith Wyner.
Mendo Flow Dojo at CircusMECCA’s Halloween Party. Photo by Keith Wyner.

It turns out that fall is just as busy as summer, if not more, and the changing seasons have certainly kept me on my toes. After our final festival trip of the year to Pacific Fire Gathering in September, we got right back to busily working our little tushies off. Weekends have been full of picking up extra work, jam jamming, and staying local, which has been so nice! We started October with a camping trip at Usal on the nearby Lost Coast for a friend’s birthday, and finished it with two shows in the bay area and then a kickass fire performance with our local circus school, CircusMECCA, at their Halloween street party in Mendocino.

I’ve started canning for fall, cleaning up from one season and preparing for the next in the garden, and enjoying a little more time to catch up on things around the house. But after the busiest year of my life, the to do list is still long as the holidays approach and the festival production season kicks off again soon with Lucidity (tickets are just now going on sale at 9am 11/3… which means another cycle begins and I will be quite busy). And the bills never end, so crush mode must remain engaged!

Fire Hoop at Once Upon a Festival. Photo by Zac Krohn / Clapping Porpoise Studios.
Fire Hoop at Once Upon a Festival. Photo by Zac Krohn / Clapping Porpoise Studios.

With a bit more time on my hands, I’ve finally gotten around to creating a Facebook page for my flow arts performance persona, Twisty Pixie.  Since James has had a page (Flicker) for a while now and we often perform together, I needed a place to gather photos & videos of my flow arts performances. I wanted to create something I can promote with and use as a contact point to get new performing gigs. Hopefully this is just the beginning. We have some pretty big dreams and it’s awesome to be getting such a great response when we share what we love doing with the world.

Our Halloween performance was a lot of fun, and we busted out more props and a longer set than ever for our third year performing with the amazingly talented folks at CircusMECCA. We dressed as fire ninjas and James made a mix of kung fu inspired music, and though we’ve both been so busy that we didn’t get much practice time in before the show, we got a great response from the crowd and hopefully got some new locals interested in the flow arts. We continue to host spin jams in town on most Thursday evenings, and perform together under the same name as our spin jam group, Mendo Flow Dojo.

Performing at Paige & Trent's Wedding in May.
Performing at Paige & Trent’s Wedding in May.

We even made the front page of the local paper, Mendocino Beacon, (and page 5) with fire photos from our Halloween performance and Mendo Flow Dojo got a mention! Granted, Mendocino is tiny so making the front page isn’t exactly difficult, but still, fire spinning on the front page! Fancy pants!

Our fire performance on Halloween made the front page of the Mendocino Beacon!
Our fire performance on Halloween made the front page of the Mendocino Beacon!
James got a photo on page 5 of the Mendocino Beacon
James got a photo on page 5 of the Mendocino Beacon

We only had a few official gigs this year (when we do so many things it’s hard to focus on practicing and our performance business as much as we’d like) but life is good when you can do what you love and actually get compensated for it! It gives me hope to see that the world still values art and creativity enough to support some pretty talented and amazing artists, and I am so grateful to have met and know a few of them personally! The flow life is the good life, and I am super excited for the next chapter in this adventure…

Hopefully lots more fun gigs are in our future, a promo video, and a web site for fire performance and flow arts education. If we know any photographers or videographers who are interested in capturing fire performance and going on a few flow arts photo shoots in beautiful local locations, hit us up! We are hoping to collaborate on a few photo shoots and we’re always looking for help capturing our shows. Thanks so much for your support!

James at our Mendo Flow Dojo Halloween performance. Photo by Keith Wyner.
James at our Mendo Flow Dojo Halloween performance. Photo by Keith Wyner.

Performance is not something I ever thought I would do professionally or even get into at all, especially with dance, silly shapes and dangerous fire as my medium. But sharing what I love with the world, engaging people in playful performances, and inspiring others to dance, move, and explore themselves has been a beautiful journey and I am so grateful that I can share this passion with my partner. It was, after all, a fire performance we were both asked to do at a Halloween party a few years ago that started our friendship and our love story. And this fire is still burning bright… because the flow must go on! <3

Performing at Paige & Trent's Wedding in May.
Performing at Paige & Trent’s Wedding in May.

Just Another Reason I Love Our Festival & Flow Community…

Bring Back Our Flow Campaign

At Raindance last month, James discovered that his LED contact staff was missing from our camp on Monday morning. He had leaned it up against a pole inside one of the canopies covering our camp’s common area, and when we woke up it was gone. It was swiped by some asshole thief who probably knew how much it was worth monetarily but could never understand how much it meant to us.

A flow artist’s props become an extension of their body, a tool for finding the meditative flow state, for learning and growing, and for sharing their light with the world. This staff was something James had saved up for and bought in bits and pieces for the past year or more. I had given him extra lights for it for his birthday and new end caps for it for Valentine’s Day. He always let others use it at spin jams and festivals and taught others with it as he learned the art of contact staff. To find it missing that morning made our hearts sink, especially because Raindance is a festival very dear to his heart and one he’s been going to longer than any other. In all our years at festivals, neither of us had ever had something of this much value stolen, we have always felt safe bringing our expensive flow props with us to events like this.

What’s worse, we found out that we weren’t the only ones robbed at Raindance. Several other stories emerged in the days following the festival – everything from LED props to computers to jackets were stolen, mostly out of people’s personal camps and tents. Our friend Becca, who was teaching a contact staff workshop at Raindance, had her staff stolen (one very similar to James’s) out of her camp the night before her workshop was scheduled! Like James, she had saved up for months to buy that staff and hadn’t even had it very long.

Mercury went into retrograde the weekend of Raindance, and brought with it all sorts of turmoil as usual. Before we left Raindance, we looked everywhere we could think of for the missing staff, and brainstormed with our friends in camp how we could replace such a precious item in time for James to be able to take contact staff workshops at the only flow festival we plan to attend this year, Pacific Fire Gathering. We decided to wait until Mercury went direct again, and collaborated with Becca to put together a fundraising campaign to replace both of their stolen staves.

I have witnessed the power of crowdfunding in some of my friends’ projects, but had never personally tried it. We researched our options and decided to create a campaign on GoFundMe. A crowdfunding campaign seemed like the best way to allow our spread out festival and flow arts community to help easily and quickly. But I never expected such an instant and amazing response.

Within hours, donations began trickling in. The first few came from the friends we camped with at Raindance (Camp Higher Porpoise, represent). Family, friends, and anonymous donors pitched in, and in only a few days the campaign has been shared 125 times and counting. We are only trying to raise enough to cover the two staves, shipping, and fees ($600) and after only a few days, we’re already at $530! Wow. Needless to say, we are in awe and very very grateful.

We all decided that any leftover donations would be given to flow arts related causes chosen by Becca and James, such as Flow Arts Institute and Give Props, a documentary some of our fellow flow artists are working on. Today I found another worthy cause, helping to save the life of The Nom Noms, a fantastic feline loved by many in the flow arts community who belongs to Marvin and Jennifer Ong. We are already so blown away by the generosity of our family, friends, and community, so we will definitely do our best to pay it forward and share any extra love we receive with causes that are helping further the flow arts and this beautiful community.

It’s always disheartening to be robbed, and even though a staff is just a thing, its value to James was immesurable. The quick success of this campaign has restored our faith in humanity, humbled our hearts and filled us with gratitude. We can really feel the love, guys, and it means a lot. Every little bit helps and we feel very grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received so far. Seriously, you all rock. My sad tears from losing the staff are definitely happy ones now!

So let’s keep this momentum going! We don’t really have a deadline for this campaign, but once it’s fully funded and it seems like it’s been up long enough for everyone who wants to participate to have that chance, James and Becca are going to be able to spin staff in style again, and continue spreading their love of the flow arts throughout our local and international festival communities.

Support “Bring Back Our Flow!” and help us replace these staves. Because the FLOW must go on! Thank you all so much for the shares, donations, and support. We love you!!!

Don’t Wanna Be Just Another Gringa in Paradise

The best adventures challenge and change you, push your comfort levels and open your eyes, and this journey definitely accomplished that and more. Nicaragua presented harsh realities in contrast with beautiful glimmers of hope, the grit and the grime of third world poverty alongside gorgeous beach sunsets in a tourist’s paradise. Not to mention the contrasts between the polished and touristy Costa Rica we just visited, affluent and expensive compared to most of Nicaragua… To say the least, I have come home a different person than when I left. And that is precisely why I travel.

Hectic Managua Markets, Nicaragua 2014Tola at Magic Hour, Nicaragua 2014Touring Managua, Nicaragua 2014

During our last few days in Nicaragua, we hopped in a new friend’s car for a little day trip. Vera had gone with us to Playa Quizala and offered to take us on a tour of Granada and Laguna de Apoyo. First we stopped by her parents’ place on the outskirts of Managua. It was a beautiful gated complex full of well-tended fruit trees of every kind. We went crazy picking mangoes, avocados, guavas, starfruit, mint, tamarind pods, hibiscus flowers, limes, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, bananas, and several fruits that were totally new to us. I will definitely miss the abundance of tropical fruit more than just about anything else in Central America.

On our way to Granada, we stopped at a viewpoint above Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake formed by a volcano, and had a nice view and a quesillo from a street vendor. A bit later we were in the colorful cobblestone streets of Granada, which was colonial and a bit European looking and reminded me a lot of Arequipa, Peru. We drove through the town, which was flanked by a volcano and the enormous Lago de Nicaragua. We stopped for delicious Mediterranean food and walked around the town square, which was in a state of awkward celebration since it was St. Patrick’s Day. There were lots of people in the streets, large dancing puppets on display and music playing, so we had a beer, haggled with street vendors and enjoyed the absurdity of Americans celebrating an Irish holiday in Central America. We all agreed that it sure beat the drunken shitshows going on in most North American cities.

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua 2014 Artisans Near Masaya, Nicaragua 2014 Evening in Granada, Nicaragua 2014 Evening in Granada, Nicaragua 2014

On our way back to Managua, we stopped in Laguna de Apoyo in hopes of finding a place to stay for the night, but the hostels were all full. We got drinks at a hostel instead, with a nice bar overlooking the lagoon. The full moon was shining over the deep crater lake, and we decided to go skinny dipping in the lagoon to cool off. The water was perfect and we swam out to a dock to dive in and actually got a bit chilly in the water. It was a perfect night for a moonlit swim.

Full Moon at Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua 2014

The next day, we took a bus to Masaya, a bustling artisan town with big markets. We headed to the market that more locals shop at with better prices first, it was much busier, grittier, and more chaotic, but the prices were great. We got dried hibiscus flowers and cacao beans, gifts to take home and a snack. The market sold everything from hammocks to cheesy souvenirs to kitchen items to machetes to shoes. It was full of young kids who were weaving items out of palm fronds, then attempting to hand them to passers by so they could ask for money. They would literally force things into your hand or hang them on you, then come back and ask for money later. They were very creative and talented, but it broke my heart to see young kids that should be in school persistently selling useless gimmicks for pennies while they huffed glue hidden in their shirts outside the markets. The shop keepers were also very persistent and outgoing, trying to lure us into their shops with a few English words and colorful decorations. We didn’t have much money to spend, but James got a bag, I got some gifts and locally made souvenirs, and Genevieve and Ruben each got colorful duffel bags full of gifts and goodies.

Humorous Handicrafts at a Masaya Market, Nicaragua 2014

After the busy first market and some food, we decided to check out the other market on the other side of town and took a tuk-tuk over to it. This market was quite upscale compared to the last one. It was inside a castle-like fortress and had neat, organized stalls full of mostly touristy handicrafts and souvenirs. The prices were at least double what they were in the local market and it felt a lot less “real” but it was interesting to see the contrast. We shopped a bit and had a smoothie before catching a bus back to Managua.

On our last night in Managua, James’s dad threw us a going away party, and lots of friends we had met in Nicaragua came to say goodbye and convince us even more heartily to come back soon. We made veggie kebabs and meat on the grill and had lots of mojitos and local beer. It was a great reminder of all we’d gotten to do on our short trip: making connections by performing for people, volunteering, and exploring a few epic spots as we talked with some of the new friends we had made.

At the party I talked a woman who ran a children’s center for street kids, and she mentioned how easy it is to plug in and find a way to help down there, especially with skills and money from North America. People there want to work with Americans, and there are SO MANY opportunities to get involved and make a difference.

Everywhere we went, I noticed lots of litter and a lack of recycling facilities, tiny pregnant kittens and an abundance of skinny street dogs because spaying and neutering programs are nonexistent, kids living off of nothing and selling stuff on the street who should be learning in school, not to mention people begging, sleeping in the streets, and living in squalor. But I also saw so many signs of promise, creative solutions being put into practice, resourceful people willing to learn and wonderful organizations doing great work to better the lives of Nicaraguans. And I was so impressed with the people, who are in general curious, welcoming, open-minded, politically and historically aware, worldly, conscious, spirited, resourceful, creative and hard-working. As soon as I stepped on the plane home, I wanted to go back. I need to go back. I’m not done with Nicaragua yet.

Pretty much as soon as we arrived in Managua, James and I were convinced we would be back as soon as we could afford to. His dad has a nice home set up with room to spare, and connections with all sorts of forward-thinking people who are involved with exciting projects. He also got us a gig performing with glow toys at a benefit, and even though our impromptu show was awkward and last-minute, we have been invited to come back for more performances and to teach flow arts workshops. The next time we return, we hope to come armed with props to give out to Nicaraguan students, or at least supplies to make props and then teach people how to use them. Which means we both need to learn the art of teaching, a lot more spinning practice, and to brush up on our Spanish skills. We spun fire on the beach twice while in Nicaragua, and everyone who saw it was really interested and excited to learn more. We met a couple fellow spinners and even showed a few random street kids and some new friends a bit about spinning poi and flow wand. Flow arts provided a way for us to instantly connect with people there, and everyone was eager to learn more, which is a wonderful sign and gives us a lot to work on for our next trip! Of course we will get more involved with existing organizations doing good work in Nicaragua, but we can also work on bringing a little something of our own to people who could use a creative outlet and a unique set of new skills.

It is good to be back home, sleeping in my own comfy bed where cuddling doesn’t instantly mean being too sweaty to sleep and I can actually flush toilet paper down the toilet. We may still be in drought and have very little water pressure, but we have hot water and it’s available on demand, 24/7. I have internet, my own computer, my new iPhone replaced with insurance, and work to return to. I have Mendocino rain, my garden and friends…

But as I unpack and sift through the memories from my month abroad, I am filled with a deep need to U-turn and book the next flight back to Managua. I understand even more now why my sister returns to Haiti every year. Being in the third world opens your eyes to the myriad ways we can help our fellow earthlings and make a difference. It also forces you to stare your privilege in the face and leaves you feeling intensely grateful for everything you have in life. I came home so full of gratitude and very inspired. It’s an amazing elated feeling, especially considering how broke I am after that long trip!

I hope to return to Nicaragua for an extended period in the future. Perhaps I can bring my computer and work from there for a few months. We can teach flow arts, get involved with local organizations, and become immersed in Spanish and a completely different culture. I wouldn’t mind a bigger dose of the humility that comes from doing without the comforts I am used to, adjusting to a new environment and being an outsider looking in on how different cultures live. I can see why James calls Nicaragua his second home, and it has more to do with how the place feels than the fact that he went to fourth and fifth grade there. I feel the magnetism of home in Nicaragua, and it will definitely pull me back.

Nothing compares to immersing yourself in the culture of a foreign place, coming out of the shell of your day to day routine to intertwine your life with those of others in different far-away places. The thrill of the road, the chaos of chicken buses and bustling markets and chatter in a language you barely understand, swallowing a bit of salt water after getting tossed by ocean waves, jumping off a waterfall into a cold pool, not knowing where you’ll sleep the next night or where the road will take you is incomparable and essential to the evolution and fulfillment of a well-rounded life. I would not be the person I am today had it not been for travel, for tales of adventure heard and read, for road trips and Girl Scout camp, for National Parks and backpacking, for long flights to Europe and hooping at Machu Picchu. To travel and see new things is to experience life to the fullest, and inspired by my recent journey, I go back home and back to work as my recent experiences percolate through my mind and remain near to my heart…

Adios, Central America. I will return. Next time with more Spanish skills, hula hoops, poi, the ability to teach flow arts in Spanish, money, and more time to spend there. Gracias por todo, mis nuevos amigos. <3

Check out more photos from our trip on Flickr.

Finding my Flow(mily)

Ever since Earthdance in September 2008 when I purchased my first hula hoop and began my journey into hooping, spinning, and the flow arts, I have been slowly connecting with and becoming a part of the wonderful flow arts community I call my “flowmily.” Flow arts is a relatively new art form that draws together influences from a variety of related movement art forms: martial arts, dance, juggling, circus arts, ancient cultural dance forms, and all kinds of object manipulation meld together and influence flow artists. We’re all seeking and sharing a love of the state of flow that comes from the concentration, movement, and discovery that learning the variety of forms of “movement meditation” provides.

Flow Temple beautifully describes the “flow state” that we can arrive at by many means, and which seems to come naturally with the flow and movement arts.

Flow is the state of relaxed responsive focus that you feel when you’re “in the zone” and ready for anything.  Flow is the state of optimal experience that occurs when your body, mind, and spirit are in dynamic balance. It’s what’s happening when the Now is so compelling that everything else fades away. Ego and fear dissolve in the perfect moment, time slows down, and whatever you are doing becomes a meditation. Flow tows the fine line between controlling your actions and obeying your commands.  You know when you’re in the flow, and flowing is half the battle. Where will and physics intersect, we hone our own flow.

My first introduction to fire spinning was seeing people spin fire at Okanogan Family Faire, a fall barter faire in northern Washington that I began going to in 2002. Seeing someone dance with fire was one of the coolest things my 19-year-old eyes had ever seen, but at that point, I never in a million years imagined that I would ever be able to do it! A few friends of mine were into hula hooping, but it was something I was never much good at until I finally bought a BIG, heavy rattan hula hoop from Holistic Hooping at Earthdance in 2008. I had always felt klutzy and uncoordinated, so hooping did not come naturally to me and I had to push through the awkwardness and keep spinning even though I didn’t feel graceful with it. I started practicing with that big hoop despite the bruised hips and failed attempts at grace, and soon was having hoop groups with my friends and exploring the world of hoopdance.

Through festivals like barter fairesFireDrums , Burning Man, and in my local community in my new home on the Mendocino Coast, I began seeing more and more hoopers and spinners. I haven’t always had the time to make regular practice a big part of my life, but the more I have gotten into it, the more amazing, inspirational, open-hearted and brilliant people I have met through the flow arts. A few of my good friends and I began hooping on the beaches and the bluffs regularly, and we all encouraged each other and shared as we learned. One of those hooper friends, Kelsie, started making hoops, and she now runs a hoop company, Sacred Shape. We launched her web site in fall 2013!

I have made and deepened so many friendships through spinning. Some of my fondest flow memories brought me full circle back to OFF barter faire, when 5 friends and I performed together as Kushi Tala and spun fire for our barter faire family in 2010. We were asked to come back again in 2011 and performed both Friday and Saturday nights to an even bigger, more enthusiastic crowd. I had only been spinning fire for a year in 2010 (my virgin burn with a fire hoop was at the same barter faire in 2009) but I was with friends who had been spinning for years and with their support, I felt ready to share my newfound love of this art form with the world. I have had the opportunity to perform at several small events since then, and though I don’t consider myself a professional performer yet by any means, it is always really rewarding seeing people’s response to the flow arts. It has even become a tradition for me to spin fire for my family when everyone is gathered for the holidays.

At FireDrums in 2011, my first fire spinning focused festival, I expanded my object manipulation universe past the hoop and began picking up fire fans and flow wand (or levitation wand). Flow wand has quickly become my favorite prop to dance with. It feels so natural to me that even though hooping will always be my first love, I feel that flow wand is my “native prop” – it is truly an extension of myself and it’s a very accessible way to reach the flow state. My first wand was just a simple practice wand from the wonderful company my friend Erik works for, FlowToys. When I got their LED flowlight wand for Christmas, it became my constant companion, and it’s still my favorite flow toy to take to shows or concerts or anywhere I may not have the space to hoop.

Flow has brought so many wonderful experiences, insights, and people into my life, and I am eternally grateful for the inspiring community I am becoming a part of. But there is one connection that stands out in my mind as the greatest gift the flow arts has ever brought me… and that is my sexy poi-spinning sweetie, James (Flicker). Around Halloween in 2012, James and I were asked by a mutual friend to spin fire at the Fuzzy Nights Halloween party at The Caspar Inn. We’d known of each other via Facebook (and it’s a very small spinning community in Mendo) but we hadn’t really spun together or hung out until that night. We had a little impromptu fire jam outside the party that night and became friends pretty much immediately. I was excited to find someone locally who was as excited about spinning as I was, and it helped that he was a DJ who happened to have very similar tastes in music as me, so our paths continued to cross and intertwine and out of our friendship blossomed the most beautiful love I’ve ever experienced.

After local hoopers spotted me LED hooping on Halloween, I began going to a hoop group at a dance studio that fall, and soon we had opened it up to other forms of spinning and flow arts and I began helping to organize weekly spin jams. Of course I invited James to come spin, and despite being the only guy and the only poi spinner for the first few months as we generated interest, he stuck it out and helped recruit people, and we now organize spin jams twice a week together. Having a partner in flow that helps me nurture and grow our local flow community has been amazing, and this is just the beginning! We make a wonderful team and I am so grateful that circus arts and playing with fire brought us together and gives us something to continue growing and learning in.

Flicker and Twisty Gypsy Spinning Fire

I am grateful for many many things in life, but especially for the gifts that flow arts and my beautiful flowmily have given me. One of my new life missions has become learning and absorbing everything I can about circus arts, practicing and tuning my body, mind, and spirit so that I can best express myself and share the love of flow arts with others. It has truly transformed my life and I’ll always love the world of flow.

I close this long rambling love letter to the flow arts in my life with a beautiful video FlowToys released wrapping up their 2013 festival season. There are many familiar faces in this video and fellow flow ninja Jonathan Alvarez put it together. Let it be the first of many inspiring flow videos I share here!