Help Me Win The Best Internship On Earth!

Hello Blogger Friends! I need your help.

I’m applying for an internship with the Sierra Club, one of the oldest and most influential grassroots environmental organizations in the United States. For the application I had to create a video explaining why I’d be a good fit. I shot the video in Costa Rica with my friend’s iPhone so the quality isn’t the best, but I’m hoping my passion outshines that.

The applicant with the most comments doesn’t necessarily win the internship, but it does help their chances. To comment on my video, head to my page on the Sierra Club’s website. I’d really appreciate it if you’d comment on my page and help me get the best internship on Earth! The deadline to post a comment is April 9th.

http://content.sierraclub.org/bestinternship/applicants/2013/april-best-intern-earth

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Sunrise Sessions and Lessons in Perspective

Attitude of Gratitude:

I´m thankful that my friend at the ranch lent me her computer so I could create this blog post. I´m thankful for the merengue and bachata lessons the ranch workers have been giving me. I´m thankful that my friends just showed me Jamiroquai and now I can´t stop dancing. Read my previous blog post here to learn about my attitude of gratitude.

One of my favorite things about being at the ranch has been waking up daily to hike a steep, narrow incline for about 30 minutes to watch the sunrise along the volcano. Witnessing the first breaths of morning, the first movements of the day. The newborn light in the sky. The chirps of noise. The way these stretches of light and sound slice into the stillness, while remaining tranquil, harmonious. This beginning always fills me with inspiration, with belief that anything is possible, with gratitude for being alive.

Everyday is a beginning, a clean slate. It´s one thing to say this and realize it when you wake up, but it´s another to witness the beauty of it enfolding right before your eyes. This daily dose of sunrise fueled me with invigoration and joy for the rest of the day.

sunrise

Brad, another volunteer who became my sunshine and dear friend at the ranch, and I made hiking the mirador for sunrise part of our daily routine. Sometimes we´d watch in awe and silence. Sometimes we´d greet the day by dancing and drumming new beginning into life.  Other days we´d just talk about travel, society, open-mindedness, and being in love with life.

sunrise

sunrise

One of our favorite trees to watch the sunrise from,

One of our favorite trees to watch the sunrise from.

At the top of the mirador on a clear day you can see Lago Arenal, Volcano Arenal, Cerro Chato, the volcanoes on the other side of the lake, the town of El Castillo and the ranch, nestled within a valley sheltered by mountains. Most of the buildings at the ranch melt into the landscape, hidden by the natural green roofs. You can see the outline of the ranch, a few cars in the reception´s driveway, the Caño Negro Rio.

Not until I was off the ranch, gazing at it from above, did I realize the significance of its location. As I stood on top of the mountain looking at the place I´d been living for the past two weeks, a deep sense of appreciation warmed me. Here I had been living in the middle of nowhere, in a location undetectable by the untrained eye, with volcanoes, forests and bodies of water as my neighbors. And yet I had gotten so accustomed to the routine of buffet meals, walking the same path to la casona, and weeding in the garden that I forgot to appreciate where I was. Even in a beautiful lush ranch, the mundane details managed to sneak into my life and steer me away from what´s important. Looking at the ranch from above, my perspective totally changed. Sometimes you need to leave a place in order to appreciate it.

The ranch from above

The ranch from above covered in shadow

The first time this perspective shift happened to me was my first semester of college, 3,000 miles from home. All the sudden everything I despised about my hometown in New Jersey came rushing back to me in the form of nostalgia. When living at my childhood home post-college, I drove around neighboring towns and entered antique shops I´d never set foot in, shops that had been there my whole life. Sometimes we need a perspective wake-up call to rise to the beauty of every moment, to stop and look around, and to discover what´s already there, right in front of our eyes.

And just for fun, here are Brad and I´s sunrise photos from a pajama sunrise session:

sunrise jump

Greet each day with a smile. And a jump, if possible!

sunrise jumpsunrise jumpsunrise yoga

On The Beach Hurricane Relief Music Please

On The Beach PosterLast night I went to ‘On The Beach,’ a Hurricane Sandy relief concert at Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ, featuring: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, My Morning Jacket, River City Extension, Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, Nicole Atkins, The Tangiers Blues Band, and more.

For more information about benefactors and producers of the concert check out this article by Asbury Park Press.

My Morning Jacket and Preservation Hall Jazz Band were phenomenal to see live, but the most pleasant surprise of the night arrived in one of the opening acts: River City Extension.

This eight-piece from Toms River, NJ, delivers power-packed progression with strong song lyrics about forgiveness, letting go, and moving forward. During any given song expect a trumpet, melophone, mandolin, organ, banjo, tambourine or any combination of them.

Sidenote: I’m a sucker for bands with five members or more who pull it off with precision, good lyrics, good foundation and groove. Just knowing bands like this exist makes me really happy.

Seeing River City Extension was refreshing in every way. It instantly transported me back to my college days of prancing around the local music scene in Tempe, AZ. Since then I haven’t been able to feel at home in a music scene. While I’ve gotten a glimpse of that feeling with NJ bands Indian Princess, Only Living Boy and Quimby Mountain Band, River City Extension wrapped me in.

They reminded me why I love local music. They reminded me what I love about discovering new music that transcends generic radio rock. They reminded me what I love about discovering in general.

Until you discover a town’s local music scene, you haven’t grasped a true feel of that place. Local bands are hidden gems of small towns. They’re best kept secrets longing to be shared. When I lived in Tempe, I flirted with the idea of moving back to New Jersey so many times. For the longest time I didn’t feel like I belonged in Tempe. Then I discovered the local music scene, and I fell in love with the place. River City Extension sparked that feeling in me again.

It’s never too late to check out the line-up at your town’s watering hole. Find out what bars have live music. Go to a show even if you’ve never heard of the band. If you’re stuck in a rut, tired of the town you live in, or think you’ve explored every angle of a place, explore the local music scene. Go beyond the radio hits and what you’re used to. Step outside your comfort zone and go to a bar you’ve never been to. Sometimes the best discoveries happen that way.

Definitely do yourself a favor and check out River City Extension. Here’s the link to their website where you can listen to their album “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger.”

Fun fact: “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger” was produced by Brian Deck, who produced one of my favorite albums, “The Moon & Antarctica” by Modest Mouse.

Here’s River City Extension performing live at Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2011. Watch how the song progresses.

Life Lessons I Learned At Burning Man

It’s almost been a year since I wandered to the playa for the first time. With Burning Man right around the corner, I’ve been thinking more and more about my experience there, and I wanted to share some things I learned. While there are plenty of Burning Man guidelines online, this isn’t about the basic necessities to bring, this is about the something more that the playa provides. To everyone venturing to the Burn this year, let yourself let go, be free, set your heart on fire and open yourself up to the wildness of life. To those who can’t make it, remember how beautiful life can be when you let it. Here’s a piece of Burning Man that I hope everyone can carry with them wherever they are.

Burning Man Arrival: Wiping sleep from my eyes, I gazed out the windows of our rented U-haul just past sunrise. After the usual instant confusion of waking up in an unfamiliar place, I kept blinking to try to absorb my surroundings. In the distance, mountains protected every angle. Before us, a barren desert-like space stretched out as far as I could see. Hazy, white dust danced throughout the air making everything still seem like a dream. That’s how the rest of the week would feel. I had arrived at Black Rock City aka Burning Man.

I entered Black Rock City straight off a summer of music festival hopping. I was full from all the new friends and experiences I gathered. Yet I was still slightly heartbroken from graduating college, moving across the country, and leaving a special someone behind in the process. The whole summer had been one big lesson in letting go. Prepared or not, I had no choice but to let the day and journey of Burning Man begin.

Aside from the basic Burning Man lessons like “Leave No Trace” and pack lots of water, Burning Man taught me something more. Something more about myself. About people. About this great big/small world we live in.

And here are the lessons:

-Very early in the week I learned that every place has a balance of good and bad. Not everyone everywhere (not even at Burning Man) will always be welcoming or nice. The light needs the darkness just as much as the darkness needs the light. The world needs the balance to keep going.

-Spending time at Burning Man means learning how to pick and choose anything within sight or arms reach and make it work. In life certain situations, objects, people, breeze, dance, storm right on in. Sometimes you have no other choice but to take what’s around you and create the best situation possible. Don’t go searching for something more. Make the most out of what you have.

-Whether good or bad, people touch your life and give you certain things at certain points in your life. No matter what happens, appreciate it for what it was. I’ve been in so many whirlwind romances that are over as quickly as they began. Mystifying, dizzying, filled with fire but then abrupt endings. So many people will exit and enter your life. People leave. Sometimes they never come back. Appreciate it for what it was and move on.

-Before I got to Burning Man I visioned it to be something like a trading/bartering zone of sorts. I didn’t quite yet understand the meaning of “gift giving.” I made a bunch of Burning Man passports: small notebooks with scattered inspirational quotes, a pen and plenty of free space to let thoughts free flow to handout and give to people I connected with, but I still didn’t quite understand the whole concept of gift giving. Everyday someone (usually a stranger) would put a necklace around my neck or a hat on my head or hand me some sort of knickknack. But as the days went on and the connections between people grew deeper, people were giving me items that were “theirs.” When I’d try to return the items, the owners would tell me to keep them. It was then that I questioned, “What is a material possession anyway, possession of any kind?” If you truly love something, shouldn’t you give it away? If you’ve worn something or used something a gazillion times shouldn’t you want other people to experience that same love and joy?

So then I put flowers in my friends hair, dressed them up in my jewelry, accessorized everyone. I met a man on the dance floor and when I departed I wrapped my favorite headband around his head. “Until I return.” When I returned I realized that I wasn’t getting that headband back and even though it was my favorite headband, it was okay. When I look back on my life, I won’t remember all my accessories and knickknacks. I’ll remember the moments I shared with people, the way people made me feel, the goosebumps a certain moment, place, song gave me. I grasped the concept of gift giving and I let it take me to new levels. I started giving away pieces of myself, building deeper connections with people in my camp, opening up to strangers in ways I normally wouldn’t. Burning Man taught me the true act of giving and what it means to be open and generous. If you open yourself up to others, the universe will open up to you in ways you didn’t think possible.

-One of my favorite sayings written on the temple: I love still. No matter what keep growing, giving, believing, loving.

-Another favorite writing on the temple: As we journey we must remember to remember who we are. And that life is more than who we are.

-As the temple burned, small pieces of wood, paper, memories, swirled above our heads. When someone loves you/when you love someone, they spark a flame in your heart that burns forever. They stay a glow fire-red dancing above us. People we love never truly leave us.

-Burning Man is not a festival but a way of life. An example of what happens when you let people be whoever it is they are or want to be.

-As we waited in the line of cars to leave Black Rock City, I jotted down lingering thoughts in my journal, one last lesson the playa left me with:

I greeted Black Rock City as the sun was rising. Days, hours, lifetimes later we leave, changed people, as the sun rises again. We ride in the opposite direction of the sunshine, leaving behind all of its sweetness. Now we must remember to carry on the joy Burning Man has given us. The ability to be free and childlike, the gift of truly giving, of letting go and forgiving.

From our position in the packed car, we can’t look back. All the colors, beauty and brightness that come with the new day are behind us. We ride forward. To create our own beauty, our own reality. We continue onward.

Begin

Before I got back into the swing of blogging, I’d become discouraged when I thought about where to begin. Should I begin at Burning Man? At Bonnaroo? At my college graduation? Those questions tainted my thoughts before I even started writing.

I was discouraged because I thought it was too late to tell those stories. I was discouraged because I didn’t have a theme picked out or fonts or what type of style I wanted my blog to be. It took me awhile to quell the perfectionist in me and just begin. Just begin with a story. Begin with a word. Begin with any post. I’ll begin here.

I felt I had so many stories to share, but the memories already passed. The time wasn’t relevant. I would be blogging about things that happened months, years ago. But what does it matter? The lessons and meanings from the story still hold true regardless of when the story is told. Begin anywhere. Begin.

Vincent Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27. Bill Withers started his singing career in his late twenties.

Never let anyone tell you you’re too old or too young to do something. You can begin anywhere.

There are no rules to this thing. Sure there are other people’s experiences, but those are only guidelines. No one lives the same life. You can start anywhere you want.

Life is beginning every single second. Even when it’s ending, it’s still beginning. Begin on a Saturday. Begin on a Monday. Begin on a Wednesday afternoon. Begin on a day, on a second, on a whim. Life is always beginning and you can always begin.

Blog Update: Change of Focus for the blog

Greetings friends, family, fellow earthlings,

Welcome to my newly named blog, ‘Smile and Be Free.’

This is my first post on this blog in over a year.

Originally I created this blog to share my love of music festivals. It was called ‘Sunshine Daydream’ and I blogged about festivals I went to and other ways music influenced my life.

For awhile now I’ve wanted to start a blog about healthy eating, traveling, life outside of college, ways to be inspired, ways to travel cheaply, pretty much everything and anything. Life is about sharing your journey with others, and I hope to use this blog as an outlet to share mine.

Here’s to the first of many posts!

Cheers!

The Power of Drumming

Yesterday in my Indigenous Poetry class two Native American men taught us about how traditional native music has inspired rock and roll. After the very interesting discussion involving lots of chatter about Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Dylan, the men knelt on blankets on the floor and sang traditional native songs while playing a water drum and gourd. Both of them had their eyes closed as the music transported them elsewhere. It was absolutely beautiful and soul-refreshing.

Interesting things we learned in class:

-The oldest form of American song is Native drumming.

-While playing the drum one of the speakers, Henry Quintero said, “This is what it sounds like when you’re in your mother’s womb.”

-Back in the day when tribes battled, instead of fighting physically they would solve problems through dance.

-The water drum is alive; it’s combined with all the elements of Earth; it’s the heartbeat.

Lyrics sung during a ceremony of a young girl that I hurriedly copied in my notebook:

“Baby girl, baby girl, baby girl, you can learn, you can learn, you can learn. Bless your mind, bless your mind, bless your heart, bless your heart. Let your heart grow, let your heart grow. Let your mind grow, let your mind grow.”

All class period I was transfixed on the drumming, on the singing, on the chanting, on the power in sound.

Listening and watching reminded me that there are so many beautiful things in this world, in this life. So often our lives become clouded with to-do lists, assignments, appointments, toothaches, heart aches, all kinds of aches and all kinds of pressures. So often we forget that life is beautiful and we need to be reminded. Sometimes only music can do that for me. It goes beyond the pitch in voice, beyond the rhythm of the drum; it’s the something else speaking through the musician. I don’t understand how people can hear drumming and not be moved.

How can you hear that beat and not open your mouth to call to the wild?

How can you hear that and not tap your toes to the Earth?

How can you not be compelled to rise out of your skin and spin, arms out to the Universe?

How can you listen to that drumming, that internal rhythm and not become what we’re meant to become?