A Spider in the Artichokes

Gramma took the little girl’s hand, with a basket in her other, and led her towards the gate. Sun-speckled shadows danced around them, and time slowed down for a moment. The little girl was giddy, wide-eyed with excitement. Finally, the gate to the untouchable was opening, for her. She’d graduated from picking beans and raspberries from the garden’s perimeter, to helping Gramma with the real bounty behind them, in the most magical garden. 

They walked over to the little girl’s favorite – the artichokes. Kneeling down together, Gramma began to show the little girl how artichokes grow, and how they were going to harvest them. Suddenly, the little girl jumped up, shrieking. She’d seen a garden spider.

“Oh, stop being silly,” Gramma said.

“But I HATE spiders!” the little girl said.

“Spiders are so good for my garden! Why on earth would you say you hate them?” Gramma asked.

“Because they’re SCARY!” the little girl pleaded.

Gramma looked at the little girl, put her hands on her hips and said, "Now, honey. Hate is a strong word. 

You should not hate something just because it scares you.

We need these spiders, they help us. Leave her be.”

Artwork by the incredible Ben Merrell: a memorial to my grandparents and the greatest lessons they taught me. 

Artwork by the incredible Ben Merrell: a memorial to my grandparents and the greatest lessons they taught me. 

The little girl cautiously knelt back down beside Gramma, keeping her eyes on that spider, with those words resonating in her heart.

Gramma showed the girl which artichokes they’d bring in for dinner, and how to cut their stems. The little girl proudly filled and carried the basket, and together, they walked back to the house and prepared the artichokes.

They sat down to eat them together with Papa. Knowing the heart was her favorite part, the little girl started pulling off outer petals and discarding them without eating their meat.

“Why are you wasting those?” Papa asked her.

“I want to get to the best part!” the little girl said.

Papa placed his giant hand on the little girl’s and said, “That’s very wasteful. Those ones are good, too, you should enjoy them." He flashed her his famous smile and added,

"And you know – you'll always have to do a little work to get to the best part.”

Gramma smiled at Papa as he winked warmly at her, and they each took another petal. 

2014: a year of gratitude

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Prior to 2014, I was certain I’d come to understand gratitude. I got my first taste of heart-wrenching understanding while floating somberly through the Mekong Delta, watching families methodically pick garbage out of the river to patch the floating shambles they called their homes. A few years later, those same heart strings were tugged even harder by the filthy, barefoot children I met in a small village somewhere in rural Maharashtra, whose tongue-twisting name and exact location I’ve now forgotten. But what I will never forget is how very eye-opening and life-changing both experiences were for me. In both instances, I experienced a gratitude that I was never able to fully articulate. In hindsight, it’s because I did not fully understand it yet. These people were living lives that were more difficult than anything I could’ve ever imagined, but they were doing it gracefully, peacefully, and happily. In the simplest way I can put it, they made me realize just how good I’ve had it and just how grateful I should be. And I’ll never forget it.

In my middle-class western upbringing, I was always taught to have gratitude for the things I have, to be grateful for my privileges and opportunities, and to find empathy and compassion for those who have less than I do. If your upbringing was anything like mine, you were told to finish your dinner because “there are starving children in Africa.” Now as adults we try to volunteer at soup kitchens and write checks to charities and donate toys to children who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to open on Christmas. It seems that more and more, there is a growing movement to give what we can and to be grateful for what we have. And it’s WONDERFUL. I’m so thankful for an evolving culture that has set me on this path, and even more thankful for my unique experiences that have permanently engrained these sentiments in my heart. But in the past year, I believe I’ve developed a much deeper understanding of gratitude.

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Last January, Austin experienced what could’ve been a tragically life-altering accident. But it wasn’t. Three fingers were ripped from his dominant hand, more gruesomely than I’d care to describe. The magnitude of this injury is still incomprehensible to me, but his response to it has been nothing short of enlightening. He kept his head up and powered through an excruciating recovery, never once adopting the victim mentality that is so common in our culture. Not one time did he mutter, “Why me?” There were no pity parties. I never even saw him shed a tear. He was not beat down. He did not give up on his goals, intentions or dreams. He didn’t give up on a career that required the full use of both hands, or an intention to build a home by hand. Instead, he adjusted. I stood by in awe as my 30-year old man painstakingly retrained his non-dominant hand, and simply (determinately) carried on. 

For the third time in my life, I recognized that indescribable gratitude, but this time it was even more difficult to nail down. It was extremely reminiscent of what I thought I’d learned already. But it was not a gratitude rooted in what someone had or didn’t have as I’d thought I’d found in my eastern travels. This time, it was different. But I knew it was connected to what I’d previously found, and perhaps even explained it. Slowly, as my man’s hand healed, I realized just exactly how connected these experiences were. They were actually exactly the same – what was different was simply my own understanding. It’s not just about the privileges or opportunities that we are given in our lives, or the things we’re able to buy or that are provided to us. It stems from something much deeper: how we respond to challenges, adversity, and even tragedy. Austin demonstrated resilience like I’ve never seen first-hand, and I realized that this, in itself, is an incredible expression of gratitude. His optimism and determination made me realize how often we culturally do just the opposite in much less trying circumstances. We complain, find excuses, play the victim, or give up. It’s so easy. But to be able to look inside yourself and find the type of strength he displayed HAS to be founded in pure gratitude for the life you have. Now, looking back at the families in the Mekong, I realize that this explains how they greeted a somber foreigner with beaming smiles and offered to share with me cool drinks and spots of shade. I understand the women in rural Maharashtra who proudly invited me into their homes to share a sparse meal seated on a cow-dung floor. I finally get why I got it! These people taught me gratitude not because of the things they were lacking, but because of the incredible strength and compassion they demonstrated in their every day lives. They were not victims. They did not complain. They were not envious nor did they view life as unfair. Instead, they overcame extreme adversity all day, every day. I was simply blind to how this works because I hadn’t had to overcome such extreme challenges in my own life. I mistook my feelings of pity for what I believed was gratitude. I was blinded by my own misunderstanding that experiencing gratitude was simply acknowledging that I have more than others. 

So, 2014. Gratitude. Where was I going with this? I’m RAMBLING. 2014 has truly been a year of learning a whole new depth of gratitude. Since January, Austin and I have moved into a tiny cabin we’re building in the mountains, with the end-goal of establishing a self-sufficient off-grid homestead together. In the days since my “gratitude epiphany,” if you will, I’ve gradually identified this concept as a major driving force behind my decision to take on this life-project with my soulmate. It’s funny how sometimes you find yourself so completely motivated to do something before you fully understand why. But it’s like this concept had been seeping into every aspect of my life, secretly and silently without me knowing it, and slowly making itself known. We’re living a kind of hard life right now. Everything is difficult. Nothing goes as planned. We’re coming up on 5 months without running water. We’ve got to bundle up and brave subzero temperatures to go outside and use our composting toilet. If the wood stove goes out while we’re sleeping, we wake up freezing. The weather dictates our construction progress. And we still have to show up, in a respectable manner, at our corporate jobs for at least 40 hours a week while we attempt to blend in with civilization. This is where that new understanding of gratitude comes into play. 

It’s in no way comparable to an accident that rips your body apart, or to laying your children to sleep on the floor of a leaky trash barge, but we’re constantly facing challenges. Some of them self-made, some of them beyond our control. Nothing is easy, but it’s all so good. They say adversity builds character, but I’m finding it goes beyond that. Way beyond that. Adversity inspires gratitude. A really, really deep gratitude. I’m so grateful to be not only be living a wildly weird, intentional and inspirational life with the man of my dreams, but to also have been able to identify this shift in my thinking. Perhaps I’ve found my “big WHY.” Or perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg. To be honest, no matter what trials and tribulations may lay ahead, I’m hoping it’s the latter. If this is just the beginning of fully understanding gratitude, I say… bring it. 

To all my loves, thank you. Thank you for reading this. Thank you for everything. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for your support and thank your for your understanding. Happy New Year. Be well, be wild, be grateful, and be free. Stay your course. Amazing things lie ahead. <3

 

2000 intergalactic gangster miles

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I've wanted to road trip in a school bus for about as long as I can remember. It just seems so right. But I never wanted to go the blissed-out-pseudo-hippie route, following some noodle-dancing band around the country, feigning peace and free spiritedness and free love and whatever else is typically associated with the school bus road tripping scene. That is not my scene. But sharing a ghetto-fabulous graffitied-up intergalactic-themed double-decker school bus with three of the greatest humans I've ever met in my life on our way build the most spectacular city in the world is SO MY SCENE. And here's why.

I've done a fair amount of traveling around the world in order to experience things that are vastly different from my every day life. I've left my comfort zone to be exposed to things that would teach me, inspire me, scare me, shock me, challenge me, discomfort me, make me question my so-called "norms," and straight up blow my mind. But what if instead of having to go halfway around the world to get my foundation shook, something showed up on a regular old "day in the life of Margot" that could do exactly that? I believe we were able to give this gift to the residents of various small towns between Boulder, CO and Black Rock City, NV. And I'm stoked on it.

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Picture this: a giant gangster school bus rolling up to a quaint little breakfast joint on a quiet weekday morning in small-town America, housing a dusty fearsome foursome with leopard print hair dye jobs, tiger-striped mohawk hair detailing, and multicolored dreadlocks. It's pretty safe to assume that the majority of the patrons sipping their usual morning coffee are small-town born and raised, and have not had the privilege or perhaps the desire to venture out into the unknown. They don't live in a city that prides itself on being weird. They are not exposed to eccentric art and artists on a daily basis as we find in other cities. They don't have the cultural variety that we take for granted. They may not have ever even wondered what they're missing outside of their simpler city limits. They have not heard of Burning Man nor do they have any concept of why a group of people would come together and voluntarily do what we're doing. So why not rock their world for just a brief moment and bring the unknown to them? 

Here we are, a crew that paired with its vehicle is an assault on the eyes, venturing to build an indescribable city that exists only for one week in an uninhabitable environment - with tales of unrivaled art and music and dance and sacredness and celebration and destruction - with a contagious fire in our eyes and our hearts that is driving it all. We are disrupting this small town in the best of ways. We roll in full of love and life, we turn heads, we spark conversation, we make people ask... WHY. We are travelers bringing the fruits of travel to the non-travelers. In all of my prior road tripping experience, there has not been one single time that a stranger was so taken aback by my presence that he stopped what he was doing to ask me where I'm going, where I'm coming from, who I am, or what I'm doing. But this scenario is inescapable when you step out of our beautiful bus as a self-expressed being. People want to know. We inspire curiosity. We disturb the peace. We bring wonder. We provide an experience which they may otherwise never have had. We nudge them out of their comfort zone. We open their minds, even if only for a fleeting moment. And for this I am so grateful.

For me personally, this experience has solidified the concept that life is truly about the journeys, but not in the sense that I've always thought. My journey isn't just about my experiences and how they affect me. My journey affects everyone and everything that I pass as I continue along my way to whatever destination I'm headed for. For those of us blessed enough to incorporate such wildly inspirational journeys into our lives, it's our responsibility to pass this on. I cant take everyone I meet with me on my journey, but I can bring my experiences to everyone around me as I build my own experiential repertoire. And this is the name of the game.

It doesn't matter if you're traveling around the world, across the country, or down the street. You don't need to be on your way to a wild celebration of life in the desert. We need to constantly open the minds of those who haven't yet discovered that they need their minds opened. We may not be the night markets of Bangkok or slums of Mumbai, but we carry the same sentiment: we are here to give you things you've never seen, tell you things you've never heard, and make you think in ways you haven't even thought of yet. We're here to inspire the wildest dreams you haven't dreamt yet, and to encourage you to make them your reality. We're all here to share our experiences, to journey on and on, and most of all, to blow each other's minds. 

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Creamy Beet & Avocado Power Salad

I just cant stop it with the kale & quinoa salads. They're too good, too healthy, too filling, too delicious. This one is based on a recipe I found for a raw kale salad with creamy avocado vinaigrette. I added a thing or seven. And hot damn, if i do say so myself.  

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What you need:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 avocados, chunked
  • 2 medium beets, cubed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • the desire to eat the shit outta some salad

What you do:

Boil the beats until cooked through, 45 minutes to an hour. Run under cool water, peel, and cube. 

Cook the quinoa and set aside. Keep covered and warm. Separate the kale leaves from the stem, chop and steam. Mix the kale, quinoa, and beets in a giant bowl (super huge).

Add 2 chunked avocados, garbanzo beans, carrot, and sunflower seeds. Mix salad well. Carefully and without spilling it all over the floor. 

Place the third avocado into a food processor with the walnut oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until smooth and creamy. 

Toss the salad with the dressing, and be gluttonous with your dressing portion. The creamy vinaigrette/quinoa combo is what's UP. Sprinkle some blue cheese crumbles over that bad boy and get ready to stuff your face. Maybe just put it in a trough and use a shovel. Try to remember to breathe!

This makes about 6 extremely large salads for very hungry people. To save leftovers, set some of the salad aside before smothering it in dressing! Without dressing it will keep for 1-2 days, and give you nonstop nutrients and power to take over the world.