ROSEWATER

Loose ends in the PNW.

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It’s been about two months since I visited Oregon and Washington. I’ve found it difficult to write about the trip and I can’t quite put my finger on why. It was an experience I can’t quite sum up or a story for which I cannot think of an ending.

And that’s okay.

Trying to write about an experience in a single narrative can seem fictitious to some degree. Like a movie plot line enhanced by spatial and temporal elements, transitions, or non-chronological narration... but I just want to paint a beautiful portrait of what I felt then and there.

So why is it so difficult to put words to?

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The longer I explore my capacity for creation, the more I realize that I communicate best in visual mediums. I’ve enjoyed designing soundscapes and writing intertwining metaphors, but where I thrive most as an image maker.

If I feel as though there are no words adequate enough, a concoction of shapes, light and color always does the trick.

This is how I felt visiting Washington and Oregon for the first time. Of all the places I’ve traveled to, this was the most comfortable for me/my personality. Whatever that means.

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I guess that means I like cities tucked between forests, neighborhoods with hidden natural oasis to disappear into, off kilter culture, good food and coffee.

It also means that I didn’t want to leave. My idealized vision of the Pacific Northwest was unfortunately solidified. Maybe I just need to visit in the dead of winter to truly appreciate the temperate beauty of Southern California.

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Seattle was fun for a day, but the rest of Washington blew my mind. It was like a whole other world. Snohomish was homey and inviting. For the few days we spent there with family, I work up early just to walk about the residential streets at first light and stare in amazement at the massive trees growing between houses without spectacle. It was so amazing to me.

On the way to Oregon I listened to Death Cab for Cutie nonstop and wished the scenery didn’t have to be so temporary as it flew by outside the window.

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The beaches were a little crowded and I struggled to take a photo of haystack rock that didn’t feel redundant of the millions I’ve seen on Instagram. Ocean aside, this was mountain country. Nothing I’ve seen could amount to Mt Hood. The rivers might not have been flowing strong enough to provide the most majestic of water gushes, but the waterfalls were still stunning and plentiful.

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Ending in Portland was bittersweet. I ate an abundance of good food (including a slice from Anthony Bourdain’s favorite pizza spot) and drank many variations of coffee. I even had the pleasure of meeting up with an old friend for a picnic lunch by the river on my last day.

I hope to return to visit family in Snohomish, backpack Mt Rainier, hike in the Olympic National Park, take a boat to some islands off the coast of WA, or maybe just spend more time drinking local brews with friends on Hawthorne.

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There is no real resolution or ending. Just loose ends flowing into the next thing.

So here’s to experiencing life until I can write about it again.

Rosewater Spotify playlist: bit.ly/rosewaterPNW

Turtledoves - Gingerlys, Chapel of Pines - Great Thunder/Waxahatchee, Burnt Norton / Interlude - Lana Del Rey, Wet Dream - Special Explosion, Water Over Sex - Lala Lala, Your Bruise - Death Cab for Cutie, With Smiles & Smiles & Smiles - Vincent Gallo, symbol - Adrianne Lenker, Time - Angelo de Augustine, Shedding Skin - Mutual Benefit, Eat Yourself - Goldfrapp, Soft - This is Napoleon?

<3 - Rach

BEFORE

"I show you pictures of this very corner // but I can't remember who pushed the shutter" - Wye Oak

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain

In the timeframe in which I decided to reflect on my time in Mammoth Lakes CA, this song hit me hard.

Instead of recounting the entire experience in a metaphor and simile ridden piece of prose, I've decided to share a single journal entry that encompasses the overwhelming feeling of artistic detachment that imposter syndrome inflicts:

Obsidian Dome, Mammoth CA

Obsidian Dome, Mammoth CA

There is a part of myself that I am missing. No, it cannot be retrieved. Since moving to San Diego, I've developed into something else. At first, it seemed like disconnect - like I was no longer able to hear Earth's heart beating. I slept too much to feel that bleeding heart poet in myself. Too comfortable, too far from the land that formed my higher brain. My days of walking meditation are over. I can no longer reach the part of me that delivered novel thought with such persistence. 

Sands Beach, Isla Vista, CA

Sands Beach, Isla Vista, CA

Instead of mourning this loss, perhaps I can view this situation as a cocoon of sorts. I've gone through some necessary emotional tumult and felt things that others rarely get in touch with... and I've recorded it all. I'm glad I've written for the sake of later reflection, creative use, and retro-wisdom. Now it's time to use it. 

How do I represent these experiences? How do I tell stories using these words? How do I connect words and thoughts and feelings to the images I produce? How do I get people to care?

Bombay Beach at the Salton Sea, Anza Borrego CA

Bombay Beach at the Salton Sea, Anza Borrego CA

I do not feel as though it was myself who took these photos. I have to remember that my style of photography lends itself to be somewhat surreal, and that yes, this place exists. I existed in it, and I captured it with my own way that cannot be replicated. 

A personal "art history." We all have experiences and backgrounds that shape our art/work.

BEFORE playlist:

"Before" - Wye Oak, "It Was Not Natural" - Wye Oak, "Book on How to Change" - Hand Habits, "Now I Must Remember" - Bent, "Summer Came Early" - Exploded View, "A Change in Weather" - Rose Droll, "Sorry About The Carpet" - Agar Agar, "White Glass" - Loma, "The Bug Collector" - Haley Heynderickx, "In the Pines" - Widowspeak, "Echo's Answer" - Broadcast, "Cut Me Off" - Madeline Kenney.

Mammoth Mountain Gondola

Mammoth Mountain Gondola

WILD BERRIES

The old "happiness is only real when shared"...Often finding myself in blissful solitude, I don't fully subscribe to this idea. However, there are some experiences I'd like to retroactively share.

somewhere near Cerro Lindo- El Bolson, Argentina

somewhere near Cerro Lindo- El Bolson, Argentina

April 2015: I was informed of the opportunity of a lifetime. it was the collision of this and the documentary film 180 Degrees South that convinced me that I was insatiably restless for... something. I temporarily dropped out of classes at UCSB. Without a beat of hesitation, I made arrangements to live and work onsite at Earthship Patagonia in southern Argentina. My heart was beating out of my chest the entirety of my commute halfway across the world: I was living my dream.

refugio El Retamal - El Bolson, Argentina

refugio El Retamal - El Bolson, Argentina

April 2018: Significantly matured, but in the same way restless. I have a couple part time jobs, a college degree, and a little money saved. I take a road trip from San Francisco to Humboldt, and Napa CA. My close friend Cara and I joked as we hopped into a rental car at the San Francisco airport that we are “adults on adult vacation.” We made that saying our mantra, yet we were wide-eyed as children on a city-sized playground. 

Some questions were on my mind: What's the difference between travel and vacation? How do you turn a vacation into an opportunity for growth? 

South Jetty - Humboldt Bay, CA

South Jetty - Humboldt Bay, CA

For me, travel is pushing horizons past your comfort zone. This might come in the form of trying to reach remote spots, getting into the same rhythm as the local lifestyle, or simply exploring off the heavily trodden track. When traveling, I try to tap into the essence of a place without it being handed to me on an instagramable platter. Traveling is messy and cannot be tied up into a neat bow at the end of a trip. Ideally, traveling wouldn't have to end or simply punctuate a stationary lifestyle. I was determined to make this trip more than a vacation.

Before I visited, San Francisco held a lot of weight in my mind. I have a fascination with the beat generation and yearn to be a queen of counterculture. However, to be honest with myself, I’ve tamed myself quite a bit since the time of the Crowning of the Philosopher King. Spending the first legal 4/20 in the heart of Haight Ashbury was hectic and seeing Fleet Foxes at the Greek theater in Berkeley was no Woodstock.

City Lights Books

City Lights Books

There was still a part of myself that wanted to be an honorary beatnik for a day. I woke up early at the crack of dawn to write furiously in my journal, and later met up with an old friend so I spent a moment at the Beat Museum and City Lights bookstore. To spare you all a history lesson, I’ll just say that the highlights included Jack Kerouac’s jacket, Allen Ginsberg’s organ, and an excellent collection of beat literature at the place where my favorite poetry collection was published in 1956. Howl has been a literary companion of mine for years.

Because of my aversion to crowded and concrete clad cities, my exploration of San Francisco didn’t go far beyond the reaches of my beat poetry dream. As we headed North toward the redwood groves, I could hear Lou Reed’s voice echoing: “remember it’s a flower made out of clay.”

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The green was overwhelming. The dense populations of unfurling ferns and majesty of the old growth redwoods felt immensely familiar, despite this being my first encounter. Upon arriving, my friends who are attending their last year at Humboldt State university whisked me away to College Cove in Trinidad: a beach whose image will forever be burned into my psyche. Tall cans of Olympia beer, clear skies, and a big open beach lined with greenery and even a small waterfall. In good company and an abundance of wild beauty, I found myself not quite reaching for my camera to document the entire experience. I was fully present, sincerely savoring every second of this time and place. 

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For lack of images, here is a bit of stream-of-consciousness writing...

-Reading the scrawl on the walls of the HSU art department bathroom stalls: un-filtration. Sunset, cold sand, flies, sea lion, rocky little redwood island, static lo-fi radio waves, green. Chain me to a redwood trunk or drag me away kicking and screaming. Air so clean, it hurts to imagine a dry place. Green fulfilling a need or providing a distraction from the cherry blossom petals falling into my hair. Back door open, coffee high, legs aching, a natural flow. Given the chance, I’d happily return. Camera-less in the moment yet an urgency to capture the world behind my eyelids, this concept isn’t new. I don’t know my timeline, nor Earth’s. Impermanence. Ink smudging with the glide of my wrist, unsmothered. Starving hysterical & naked souls are unsettled, truly living.

College Cove - Trinidad, CA

College Cove - Trinidad, CA

Unfiltered words and overgrown plants.

In a world ripe with natural metaphors, it’s only natural to grasp for meaning in any ecosystem. From my time in Argentina I remember: the sweetest wildberry stains are left on the hands of those who are willing to reach deep into the thorny branches. On our last day in Humboldt, I hiked back to that beach alone. This time, I had my camera. 

College Cove - Trinidad, CA

College Cove - Trinidad, CA

To close this Strange Cacti entry, I leave you with a meditation on redwoods. I cut this out of a book I found in a freebox in Isla Vista in 2015. I wish I could cite the author~

Redwoods have many effects on those who look up to them. Some men calculate how many tabletops, houses and fence posts a single tree would produce. But we were there to appreciate, not calculate the usual adjectives one uses to describe anything that big become puny. How does one describe the tallest living thing? How can one comprehend something so huge growing from a seed only slightly larger than the head of a pin? How can one describe that silence that permeates a redwood grove? when it is much more than the absence of sound; when it is a silence that reduces conversation to a respectful whisper used during religious ceremonies? For visiting a redwood grove and looking and savoring what you see and hear can be akin to a religious peace of mind. There is another factor we consider while standing beside the river and watch the slow water drift past the redwoods: Man is the only creature that is apparently capable of enjoying them aesthetically and emotionally, and the only creature that destroys them.

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Wild Berries playlist:

On Another Ocean - Fleet Foxes, Ocean Scope - Half Waif, The Sunflower Sutra - Allen Ginsberg, Ride Into the Sun - Lou Reed, Melting Grid - Julie Byrne, Paresthesia - Wild Ones, Walkabout - Atlas Sound, Clay Pigeons - Blaze Foley, I Don't Want To Go - Dimboi, like a feather or a pawprint - Field Medic, Blackberry Song - Kurt Vile, Ringing Bells - Adrianne Lenker.

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noLA

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Where to begin? April began with an unexpected trip to Los Angeles to visit a friend. The visit was short, but felt like more falling face-first at the beginning of a long distance marathon. Without going into any personal details, I'll simply make my opinion on the city known: I strongly dislike it. 

I think back to my time in university studying film, and the peers who have since moved to LA with the ideal visions of La La Land dancing in their minds. Did they find what they are looking for? Is it really the goldmine of opportunity that it paints itself? Maybe at one time it was.

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What I think: the cliche that working in the entertainment industry and living in LA is nothing more than participating a rat race. Every corner is saturate with minds that deserve to be seen, yet are shrouded in each other’s spotlights. The city lacks room to breathe. I found quiet corner by some chickens and an herb garden framed in graffiti murals. Despite the oasis I had found, it was hard to take photos. I found myself with a Canon AE1 in my hands nonetheless. The next morning we made our way from the arts district to sunset blvd, only to be serenaded by car horns and billboards. The Hollywood sign in the distance was no comfort.

I marched immediately into Amoeba and bought Bark Your Head Off, Dog by Hop Along on vinyl and swiftly made my escape back to San Diego. It's simple: I personally can’t do LA. Thank goodness for Frances Quinlan's reassuring lyrics dancing in my head as I tried to blur the memory of aggressive traffic and relentless concrete.

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A couple of days later, I find myself scrawling my first airport journal entry since returning from Mexico last August. My big green backpack and me. Listening to Big Thief, watching the sun rise bright salmon through muted indigo clouds... in the wrong airport terminal - oops. I was too dazed and dreamy for my own good and almost missed my flight. Airports are strange places for hefty observer types like me. So many lives are in and out, always on their way somewhere. It's still somehow peaceful in a way, like a pulsing meditation of jets. I made the conscious decision to leave all that was troubling my mind and to simply be present for the next few days. 

Upon arrival, I get a ride from a local to an Airbnb in Faubourg, Merigny. The first whiff of air I get is intoxicating. There's something about the air below sea level that is sweet compared to the dry, almost smoky air of San Diego. After a night of exploring jazz on Frenchmen street and avoiding EDM on Bourbon, I woke to wind chimes out my window. I felt whole, and grateful to be there.

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With my closest friend and her partner, we explored the city and found some neat hidden corners off the heavily trodden track. My favorite place the whole trip was an illusive vampiric speakeasy perched above a bustling jazz club on Bourbon. I felt alive as we muttered the password (given to us by an entrusting local) and swiftly whisked through a hidden door and up a dusty staircase. We entered to a tall man with an electric guitar singing Al Green songs in a blood red silk suit. I was already in love. Only a few others had managed to get in, and we enjoyed the getaway from the more touristy places. We stand on the balcony and look down at everyone walk by with their colorful drinks, illuminated by warm gaslamp glows. Maybe if you're lucky, I'll share the password with you.

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I have been to New Orleans prior to this trip, but  far out of the context of vacation or exploration. Years ago, I had worked post-hurricane Katrina to restore grave sites in low income neighborhoods. Being below sea level, the water table was so high the many bones would surface and wash away in mud. It was aa moving experience, and I had loved the city so much that I considered moving to NOLA when I was accepted to Loyola.

Though I didn't end going to either Loyola New Orleans, Loyola Chicago, or Columbia College Chicago, I often wonder what my life would have been like. What if I had taken those paths rather than the one to Santa Barbara? What if I hadn't exposed myself to the socially conscious cooperative lifestyle, or had the privilege of exploring the gorgeous Chumash land surrounding me? I'm not sure what I would have or wouldn't have learned about myself. Without going into excruciating detail on the philosophy of it all, I'll say that it's always interesting to wonder what might have been.

In this world of infinite possibility, I happened to experience some bad weather on my way home. My flight out of New Orleans was delayed four hours, and I missed my connecting flight home from Baltimore. I called myself out of work the next day and braced myself to spend the night in Chicago: the other city I had passed up. The air was frigid as I made my way to a cheap hotel to sleep in for the night. Exhausted from travel, I didn't think much of it.

All I know is that I am in love with who I've become. Despite what I might have found in New Orleans or Chicago, I found a beautiful version of myself on the bluffs of Santa Barbara. I wouldn't dare exchange the experiences I had those four years for any other version of myself. I've grown too much, found too much light, felt too much love. I can still feel the parts of myself that were drawn to these cities, and with retrospect and wisdom choose to peek into those worlds, if only in a vampiric speakeasy or a windy city hotel bed. 

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~~~ A bayou is a body of water typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or a marshy lake or wetland. Though fauna varies by region, many bayous are home to crawfish, certain species of shrimp, catfish, frogs, toads, American alligators, American crocodiles, herons, turtles, spoonbills, snakes, leeches, and many other species.

Next up: San Francisco & Humboldt

noLA playlist: 

Tailwhip - Men I Trust, Plants - Crumb, How Simple - Hop Along, Prior Things - Hop Along, Wild, Wild, Wild Horses - A. Savage, Capacity - Big Thief, Salvation - Wanja Slavin Lotus Eaters, Nont For Sale - Sudan Archives, Water - Thanya Iyer, The Turnaround Road - Diane Cluck, Orpheo Looks Back - Andrew Bird, Pulaski at Night - Andrew Bird 

-Rach

Strange Cacti - an introduction

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I can’t seem to stop finding interest and meaning in everything I encounter. I’m a San Diego based filmmaker & photographer with an undeniable love for music, writing and travel. I have volumes of writing, hours of playlists, and a large portfolio of photography that I wish to share with the world. Starting this month, I will be curating and sharing writings, photos, and playlists while I travel to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Big Sur, San Francisco, and Humboldt.

This is not strictly a music blog, or a travel blog. Rather, this is a vehicle for self expression. I tend to keep what’s in my mind buried away in journals. In the name of my own artistic path, here is where I let my vulnerability unfold in way that my thoughts may flourish. 

I named this blog after Angel Olsen’s first EP for many reasons. Few musical works have been able to accurately express the intricacies of how I see the world. Hopefully as this blog goes on, this way of intuitive and sensitive observations of the world will become more apparent. I’ll try to keep it genuine and raw. 

-Rach