Updated: Nov 10
"Song of Forever" or “Peyote Coyotes”
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
So happy to have completed this piece. It means many things to me... My love affair with the desert, memories of past adventures, the fragility and power of mama Earth, the blessings of plant and mushroom medicines, and the ancient song that connects all life. The original is sold, very appropriately to a collector in Arizona.
You can purchase a paper or canvas print here on my site, or send me a message to custom order a tapestry or wood print. 🐾🍄🌵🌸
Desert Dreams: Adventure, Nature, and Interconnectedness
I remember the first time I heard coyotes howling in the night. I was camping in Joshua Tree, California, painting at a desert party. It was a gathering of maybe a hundred people. It was cold and windy, maybe 40 degrees out. I had set up my little red tent far away from the stage, at the edge of camp. The coyotes sounded like a tribe of ancient women singing and crying and screaming. I listened in awe. It was eerie and beautiful. It was the song of forever, the story of the desert; an ancient, barren expanse secretly teeming with life. Plateaus, dunes, and canyons shaped by the water of ancient oceans, lakes, and rivers.
When I’m in the desert I know I’m traversing an old sea floor. Aquatic ghosts swim through dry air. Desert plants often remind me of coral and marine plants, like they share a common ancestor. They communicate through mycelium, a network of fungal threads that grow on the roots of plants and on rotting organic matter. Mushrooms and other fungi sprout from the network like little beacons of spore-spreading decentralized intelligence. The fungi break down organic matter into compost and the mycelium move the nutrients to the plants that need them. This process is essential to the survival of plants in such low-moisture conditions.
When the cacti eventually die, the water evaporates, the skin decomposes and leaves behind a weblike skeleton of the most delicate wood. The cacti and the fungi heal us and remind us of our place in the web of life. They feed the bugs, birds, and small mammals, and all of them feed the coyotes. The coyotes know this, and they will keep living in this place that few humans dare inhabit, singing the ancient song.
I'm not from the desert. I'm from south Florida. I grew up in the muggy hug of humid summers and heavy thunderstorms. Subtropical and a little swampy. Rivers of grass like flooded savannas. Forests of Florida pine, oaks, and thick underbrush. Flower-covered dunes and shorelines with palm trees of all shapes and sizes. And in the ocean, tropical reefs will all sorts of colorful inhabitants. I felt the call to seek inspiration in unfamiliar lands. I wanted to be a traveling artist who explores the secrets of the earth, informing my work with contrast and deep connections; I found plenty of that in the desert.
Tallahassee, FL to Los Angeles, CA on I-75, I-40, and I-70, with a few smaller roads to hit different landmarks.
Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley pictured here.
I embarked on my first cross country road trip in 2016. My friend Olivia and I drove two weeks across the US, taking I-10 most of the way. She's in some of these photos; I was mostly behind the camera. We reached southern Colorado halfway through the journey. The sun set as we drove up a mountain to a campsite I was pretty sure would be at the top. I couldn't tell how high we'd driven, bumping over rocks and scrambling through sand in my red hatchback. We pitched our tiny tent in the dark. I looked down at the valley below where little campfires glittered, and the only artificial light was a small gas station, miles away. The longer I looked into the sky that night, the more stars I saw, the smaller and more precious life felt.
I don't know how to talk about it really. It's a romantic place. It's a desolate place. It's everything and nothing. The desert reminds me that Mother Earth is mighty. That she has been here for eons, and bears the scars of meteors, water, and sandstorms writing stories across her rocky surface.
Exploring Joshua Tree with the desert hippies.
After settling in LA, I ventured out to the California deserts for camping trips, concerts, photoshoots, and to paint at festivals. Music sounds different out there. When the stages shut down, if they shut down, your ears ring in the relative silence. As your hearing adjust to the quiet, you begin the notice the desert symphony. Each little sound radiates through the dry air until it meets a surface to bounce off of. Crows cawing. Rodents and lizards scurrying. The wind rustling desert scrub brush. Sand hitting rock. As the sun sets, crickets and sometimes bats begin to chirp. In the desert I met many colorful characters. The landscape invites a certain kind of weirdo to go out into the middle of nowhere and be as strange as they like. The climate influences their style of dress, the way their homes are built, the art they create, and the way they carry themselves.
I've driven across this country three times now, and each time I find something new to appreciate. A month-long solo trip in the fall of 2020 was the adventure of a lifetime. Though I didn't know it at the time, I was moving from Los Angeles back to South Florida. I felt so alive out there, going whichever direction called to me, visiting friends and family along the way. A few people remarked that it was quite adventurous and perhaps dangerous of me to go alone. It was both, in different ways, at different times, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The story of that trip could be a book on its own.
Los Angeles, CA to West Palm Beach, FL on I-10, I-40, and I-70. Zion and Arches National Parks pictured here.
On my most recent trip I got to be a bit of a tour guide for my partner Ocean. As you might guess by his name, he doesn't quite understand my affinity for the desert. Still, he really enjoyed sunrise at Arches National Park, and agrees that it's a "must-visit". After making it through the desert and driving up the West Coast to Oregon, we made our way back and spent a few days in Santa Fe with a friend of a friend. This was a new spot for both of us. I loved the architecture and the quirky style of this place. The petroglyphs were another lovely reminder of how long humans have called these wild lands home.
Miami, FL to Grants Pass, OR on I-10, I-40,...
Arches National Park and Santa Fe, New Mexico pictured here.
I have given my tears and sweat to the desert and entrusted her with precious secrets. Now I am back in South Florida, loving and appreciating the climate and reflecting on my journeys out West. When I moved back to South Florida, the desert payed me a visit in the form of the peyote cactus. I attended a ceremony in Homestead, west of Miami, and found it funny and strange that I would be interacting with this desert spirit in a tropical garden. The ceremony itself is a story for another time, but the message was clear: there is nothing to fear but fear itself. It may sound cliche with how much this phrase has been used and adapted, but it felt so true and it still does. Fear is the silent killer. A life unlived. Potential squandered. Adventures never had. Fear is a powerful force that will hold you back from living your true purpose and following your joy.
My joy is traveling, dancing, painting, laughing, exploring this big beautiful world and sharing it with you. I am so grateful for this life and for this planet. There are so many deserts all over the world I'd still like to see. I have journal entries scribbled out and typed in old phones of these travels; I could write a book about them all, and one day I'd like to. For now, short blog posts are what I can manage while my baby is napping. I'm excited to share the desert with him when we're ready.
If you haven't been, I hope this inspires you to take a trip out there. And as you're drifting off to sleep, if you're in the right place, you'll see more stars than your eyes will believe. Maybe you'll fall in love with it, too. In the desert, life is a very precious thing. The coyotes know.
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