I was six-years-old when I first came to Taos. I had moved around a good bit as a child and had a fantasy notion of what a “hometown” was supposed to be like and feel like, mostly from movies and such. I felt that I had never had one, and upon arriving in Taos, I thought to myself, “This, is what a hometown feels like.” I have been “from Taos” ever since. I was born in Texas, so I call myself a Texan from New Mexico.
We came to Taos because my mother hitchhiked to India when she was 18 and ended up meeting Neem Karoli Baba in the early 70s, His only Western Ashram was in Taos.
One of my super BFFs for almost 30 years now is Rita Daniels who recently moved back to Taos to host the morning news show on KNCE, ‘Wake Up, Taos!’ We went Ojo Caliente together the other day, and the storm was coming in, and the sun was setting, and the sky is so deep like the ocean that you expect a whale or a dolphin to just jump out of the cloud with a double back flip. It’s no wonder that New Mexico is known for UFOs and aliens, because, anything can come flying out of those depths at any moment.
We were both so full of gratitude for being able to be back in our hometown, doing the things we love, living our dreams as powerful, beautiful, vibrant women. We were talking about our gratitude and being back in our hometown, and I recognized that I may be going on this big around-the-world amazing adventure — I may be going to go explore some beautiful places and meet diverse and interesting people, but I know where my home is. I live in the most beautiful place in the world, and it is in my heart everywhere I go. It is quite the grounding and centering feeling when you are going on an adventure “West until you get back to the Southwest…”
I am a filmmaker. I own a video production business, Kiki Love Productions, most recently making promos for various local businesses or music videos for local bands.. This past summer I flew to Berlin to see a screening of a music video that I made at the Berlin Short Film Festival. I was really excited because that was a fairly last-minute trip, too. Like, a long series of coincidences and miracles had to align for my passport to be expedited, but sent to the wrong address, and then intercepted at the post office, and then a last-minute standby ticket was provided to me.
On the plane from Chicago to Düsseldorf, I met a guy from Holland — and we fell in love! It was beautiful. Like a storybook fairytale romance. He came to see me. I went to see him. He came to see me. And then, I was about to go and see him again, and the week before I was set to leave, he broke up with me. Then the very next day, my gig for October fell through and got pushed back to January. So, suddenly there I was NOT going to Holland and NOT having any work in the near future.
This has been an incredibly transformative year for me. My dad died just before Christmas last year gave me a completely different new shift in perspective. Then, my feline companion for the last 18 years, passed away this summer. Grief has profound effects and I now feel like I’ve walked through the fire in many ways and have come out stronger — like tempered steel. In the deepest well of my sorrow, I found my power and my value, which are beyond measure. And, those are things I will never lose.
My friend was talking about God closing a door and opening a window. I am an atheist who was raised Hindu and baptized Catholic (“just in case”), but I do know: What’s the best way to make God laugh? Want to tell God a joke? Make plans! I had a whole plan for the next few months. When my trip to Europe, my love life, my work plans, and my entire idea of what I was going to be doing for the remainder of 2016 came tumbling down and thrown out the window, I found myself with a ticket to go anywhere in the world that my heart desires (or actually wherever American Airlines flies) AND the time and space to travel.
So, I decided maybe to go in the opposite direction as far as possible until I get back home.
My mom lives in India now and I haven’t seen her in a year and a half. I am in a place where I kind of really need my mommy right now. But, American Airlines doesn’t fly to India — they fly there through affiliate partners, but that’s not where my ticket will go. I can get to Athens, Greece or Hong Kong or Auckland or Sydney or a variety of places and then get myself to India. So, where do I want to go?
I have a friend who lives in Broome, whom I haven’t seen in eight years. He is the reason I decided to go to Australia at all, because, if I want to see him, then I have to go there, and I suddenly had no idea what else to do. I called him and said, “Maybe, I’ll come to Australia on my way to India…” He said to me that I can’t come to Australia without actually checking it out,
My grandmother once told me her secret to longevity: always keep your friends around you and never stop making new friends. It seemed to work for her. She died at the age of 94.
In an effort to keep within my shoestring budget and continue making new friends, I’ve been checking out CouchSurfer.com and I am excited about getting to know all of these new places from a local’s perspective by staying in their homes.
My friend Lynne (Editor’s insert; yours truly) gave me some turquoise (the travelers’ protection stone) jewelry. When she came to give me the turquoise ring and earrings, she then made me show her what I was bringing and she helped me pack. Now, if you didn’t know this, Lynne is a certifiable PLM (Packing-Light Master). She and I have vastly different personal styles, but I will emulate her packing sensibilities for the rest of my life. I am going on an open-ended journey for potentially 3 months or more with only one carry-on bag and one personal item!
I will go from Sydney to Melbourne. I plan to go on a groovy bus tour down the Great Ocean Road and then head over to Broome where Pappy lives. Then, from Perth I will fly to India to see my mom. And, from there I’m hoping to go to Greece and skip around Europe. I definitely want to go to
Prague, Malaga and Barcelona. Maybe, Christmas with Belgian family?
I have a set plan up to seeing my mom. From there, I don’t know… But, I’ll let you know.
Dispatch from Downunder
Since I am on my way to India and plan on going to Varanasi,I decided to bring my dad’s ashes with me to that holy city to deposit him there in the Ganga. About 20 years ago, my dad had the opportunity to potentially move to Sydney and live and work for a while in Australia. Like plans often do (oh, plans!), that plan never panned out. So, I thought it would be appropriate to also leave a part of him here, Down Under.
On my last day in Sydney, I took the trip out to Bondi Beach, an amazingly beautiful and somewhat touristy spot. I didn’t go prepared for any beach activities and had to take my big leather boots off before walking down to the water. There I sat, no towel, no swimsuit, just me, my bag and my boots, trying to not get too much sand in all my… stuff. I removed the green velvet bag with the small ziplock baggie full of dad’s ashes that the funeral home had so lovingly prepared with the label “Frank Joseph Siebenaler” printed on it.
There I sat with him in my hand and I looked around at the dreaddy, wetsuit-wearing surfers and the Chinese tourists wearing winter coats, the Aussie teenagers on break from school frolicking in the sun, and the turquoise and cobalt water bashing relentlessly against the white sandy beach. I thought about how lucky I am to be here. Dad had looked out for us and had he not died (far too early as far as I’m concerned, at the age of 62), I wouldn’t be here at all — a death benefit, they call it.
I took that baggie of my dad’s ashes down to the water, said a short prayer and dumped about a third of it into the surf. Then, I turned around and drew a heart in the sand with the word “Dad” within it with the idea that this too will wash away with time. Then, not really knowing what else to do, I walked back up to my belongings on the dry part of the sand and I stood there for a moment looking around me feeling simultaneously light and heavy, melancholy and joyful, and totally and completely alive.
Not more than two seconds passed when a rogue wave rushed up to where I stood, threatening to engulf all of my belongings. With ninja-like reflexes, I grabbed my boots and my bag and lifted them from their wet demise. To me, in that moment, it was like he heard me. The ocean came to wash my feet of sorrow. A French guy in a speedo who was tanning on the sand near me witnessed the whole thing and he got up and moved a little further back from the water, as well, however, no other wave came that far up the beach the whole rest of the time I was there.
Sydney is a beautiful metropolis. You would think in a city of this size that the water in their huge harbor would be gross: black and polluted. But, it’s not. It is clear and blue, exquisitely gorgeous. There is a ton of cool Art Deco architecture that is quite lovely with intricate tile work and stained glass windows. Of course, the iconic opera house watches over it all, and itself, has an interesting and sad story.
While in Sydney, I took a walking tour and learned about the “fairly unsophisticated history” of the place. Governor Macquarie was a character, for sure. Egomaniacal, but with a dream to make Sydney a great city of the world– a dream that has by all accounts come true. It’s horrifying (coming from Taos, a land that has been soaked with the blood of its indigenous people for centuries), that white westerners took their white man’s burden to the extreme worldwide, decimating indigenous people all over the world, leaving the aboriginal population here with their 50,000 years of continuous culture (the oldest on the globe) small in population and relatively powerless.
Thanks, white people, for leaving the world in shambles every where ya went (I am white and maybe I’m feeling the terrible pangs of white guilt in a very real way here). Also while in Sydney, I hung out with an American friend (who was quite relieved to hear my American accent — perhaps he’s a little homesick) and we sang karaoke at an Irish pub in King’s Cross that was really a meat-market for 20-year-old backpackers, we won first place at a trivia night hosted by a delightful drag queen named Hannah Conda, and we discussed both the existence of and lack thereof of American exceptionalism…
Goodbye Sydney, bags are packed and Melbourne’s next.
Till next time…
Editor’s note: Kiki’s pics are all taken on her phone, many are arriving upside down (fitting as they are coming from Downunder), although I correct them prior to posting, I notice on phones, they remain inverted. You have to turn your phone to view them!
Guest post and all photographs thanks to Kristina Siebenaler