Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Beginnings!!

Please, please join me at my new blog- Koda's Totems.

There is much more to come, but I would so love your presence there. It has been an incredibly busy few weeks with travel, new work endeavors, volunteering, the activities surrounding a dear friend's recent death, and Koda's hip surgery performed one week ago! But I am up and running again and anxious to get back into reading all of my favorite blogs once more and joining the blogosphere once again.

Yay! New beginnings are so LOVELY aren't they?
(Hey! For those of you on Facebook, please friend me! Kristy Sweetland... Thank you!)

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Beautiful End.

I drove to Minnesota from my home in New Mexico a couple of weeks ago. Just me, the enchanted Escort, and the open road for nearly 40 hours was the perfect equation for deep introspection- something I enjoy all too much. As I rattled down the highway my mind swirled around the near constant tide of intuitive happenings I have been enjoying over the past couple of months. Spring and Summer never fail to plug me in to the undercurrent of energies and this year seems exponentially more powerful than any other I can remember. For that, I give credit to New Mexico. I contemplated the difference between this year and any other in that it wasn't so much a matter of active intuition that was surging, and more just a constant influx of gifts. Wishing for things and being handed them, as if some invisible Genie were there to indulge my every simple wish. As I drove, I spent no time trying to analyze this phenomenon- a HUGE difference between the Me of today and the Me of yesteryear when I started this blog.

But there was one detail which was still dominating hours of my thought, and that was the moth I blogged about a few weeks ago. I asked to see her and she showed up on my doorstep the following morning. Then, as I sat on my knees and prayed for her to stop suffering- she was beaten up badly- she disappeared. Just... disappeared. Of all the fantastical things I've experienced over the past two years, this one just kept nagging me. The message she was bringing was too big for me to discern on my own. I could feel that she was trying to communicate something, but its reach seemed just beyond my grasp. It was as if I wasn't good enough, or advanced enough to read her. Then three people- highly connected people- sent me private messages regarding the connection between this moth and the moth in the book by Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power. Although I had been drawn to Carlos Castaneda in the past, I've never read much by him because, frankly, he scared me. But now, after a friend sent me the cover of the book- with the same moth on the front- I knew whatever it was that I needed to understand would lie within its pages. I committed to visiting the Half-Priced Bookstore in Minneapolis while I was there and buying up all the Castaneda books they had. I promised myself I'd let it rest for now, lest I drive myself mad with wonder.

So then I arrive in Minnesota, pull into my sister's driveway and jump out of my car to a welcoming committee of family hugs and screams of joy. The smallest one, Ava, thrusts something up at me, jumping up and down, waving it wildly as if my entire existence depended on this transfer of art. I took the picture, and my sister, knowing my intense study of all things dealing with Shamanism, mumbles to me, "Gave me the chills when I saw it. Doesn't it look awfully Shamanic to you...?" I asked her if she'd ever talked to Ava about Shamanism and her reply was, of course not. She's four years old, after all. Later, we asked Ava about the fact that there are separate faces hovering next to us in her drawing (that big blue dude in the picture is my husband, Aaron). Very matter of fact, she points to my illustration and says, "That's Kristy," and then points to the hovering face next to it and says, "and that's the other Kristy. The second self." Jill asked, kind of incredulous, "The second self...?" To which Ava replies, "Everyone has a second self, Mommy. You can just see Kristy's more." Jill then asks, "Can you talk to the other Kristy?" Ava then taps her little head and says, "In my mind." Let's just say the entire kitchen was goosebumps galore. Days later, I get the book with the moth on the cover, I return home and immediately start reading it. I'm just going to say the goosebumps just keep coming. Guess what Carlos Castaneda's Tales of Power is all about. Guess what the Moth of Wisdom represents. The second self. The books says everybody has one. Shamans have the ability to control theirs, that's the only difference. It is clear to me that Ava is a tiny, undeveloped Shaman with telepathic gifts beyond anything I've seen before. She illustrated this book and then attempted to explain it. I believe she picked up what had been flooding through my mind for weeks- tapped into my second self- and in her beautiful way, tried to heal me. She tried to explain that which I could not, using not intellect or knowledge, but intuition, markers and scratch paper.

This entry is the perfect ending to Stark Raving Zen. If I had to give a concise explanation for what this blog represents, it is perfectly documented within this story and photograph of Ava. According to Carlos Castaneda, there are two selves. The Tonal- which is everything explainable, even contemplable, including abstract concepts such as God and Spirit and Divine Energy; and the Nagual- which is undefinable, unnameable, inconceivable mystery. That part of life which science will never access or explain. It's that part of everything and nothing which gives us our glow, our magic, our power. Someday, Ava will wonder why she feels different. She'll question the definition of normal. She'll struggle when society attempts to place her in that cookie-cutter mold, and fight to escape the restrictive box. She'll recognize that she doesn't fit in, but will never wish for another's identity even if life seems a little easier for others, because at four years of age Ava is already aware that there's more to life than what meets the tactile senses. Sharing the magic of Life- the Nagual- was the entire purpose of Stark Raving Zen. And now, helping people like Ava- adults and children alike- celebrate their unique gifts, their unique mysteries, is the entire purpose of my life. Thanks for reading along. Time for me to step aside for the other me. Here's to new beginnings, new blogs, new directions... and, oh yes, I love you all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Much Ado About Bears...

According to the belief system of many American Indian cultures, everyone has a grand total of nine totem animals. These animals for us are unchanging; constant. They assist us throughout the span of our lives. The energy of each of our totem animals represents that medicine which we most strongly possess and occasionally or frequently need to call on in order to guide us along the Good Red Road, or our time here on the physical plane. The bear is one of my nine totem guides, and one of my husband's as well.

Last night we were thrilled by a personal visit- in no way a rare occurrence here in the mountains of New Mexico- and watched like enthusiastic children as he explored a num-licious dumpster within a stone's throw of our front yard. Ratonians here love their bears and the street was soon lined with neighbors grinning at the sight of this little guy's evening snack hunt. My husband loves this shot because it shows Little Mr. Bear's leathery paws.

He made a mess, but nobody seemed to mind. Once he sauntered off to greener dumpsters, everyone just kind of ambled over and returned his messy garbage back to the metal tank where it belonged. Cleaning up after the ursine residents is an everyday event here.

The medicine, or power, of the bear represents introspection. If Bear visits you, it's your call to enter the silence where your inner knowing resides. Like a bear's tendency to hibernate, it asks that we step away from the chaos and stimulation of everyday life- just for a time- until the answers to our questions are received in the silence. It's an invitation to meditate. To stop trying so hard.

It's amazing- all of the answers inside of us- when we just shut up and listen for once; something I've never been particularly good at. As I watched him last night, naturally quiet over his sweet magnificence, I thought of this very aspect and how much I needed his guidance right now.

The truth is, it was last winter when the Bear totem last visited me. Retreating to the silence and going within, I was told that my life was going to be changing. The next day, I adopted a tiny puppy, left to starve in a Raton alleyway. I named him Miakoda, which means the power of the moon, but call him Koda for short, which means spirit ally. Koda turned out to be much more than an ordinary dog to us, which is a simple qualifier neither good nor bad. My husband and I, with all of our hearts, love ordinary dogs. But from the moment he entered our lives we felt there was something odd about him, something ancient, still, and wise. He came here to teach us something.

In addition to all of that, we also discovered that Koda has the most severe case of juvenile onset Canine Hip Dysplasia we've ever seen, which is no small detail being that my husband and I met in a surgical veterinary hospital where we both worked in orthopedics. For seven years I did nothing but look at the xrays of dysplastic dogs. Now I was faced with a huge financial responsibility, or the only alternative was to put this puppy- this spirit messenger- to sleep. Koda taught me to believe in myself. Koda taught me that it was time to come out of my own personal hibernation. Koda taught me that it was time to share my gifts and go back to work. Koda taught me to trust in the Good Red Road.

And the bear last night- finally and completely- taught me that this is the end of the line for Stark Raving Zen, which I love dearly. But it's time. I'm going to leave it accessible, rather than delete the entire thing, for reasons I will explain in a final entry. But for me it's time to grow. To evolve. To follow my heart. That means a new blog. The name: Koda's Totems. It will be a celebration of nature, animal totems, American Indian wisdom, Koda's medical progress (he's having his surgery soon), and I'll also be offering some card reading services through my new blog. It will be my photography without the past SRZ energy of politics or anger or anti-anything. It will be a way to honor everything in the natural world. No more Stark Raving... I hope you won't mind.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Learning to Trust on Bertrande's Mesa.

My husband took this shot of me last week on a hike to the top of Little Horse Mesa in Sugarite Canyon State Park here in Raton. It was sort a grueling scramble up there for a girl in less than her best shape, and it was an empowering experience gazing over this vista grande. I recently posted the pic on my Facebook page, which prompted Bertrande, a friend of mine and one tremendously cool person, to email me her life-forming mesa story. I asked her if I could share it here because I loved reading it. It reveals the power behind everyday transformational processes and allows for an understanding that transcendence takes many forms. Anyways. I loved it. And I hope you like it too.

Dan & I met in Dec.'82 at a Health Care conference in San Francisco. (Dan was speaker-I was faculty liaison). He was living in Detroit, working with United Auto Workers as Health & Safety Specialist. Both in our 30's. I went to Detroit for Christmas - our first "date". We were both rather amazed at how much we connected but didn't want to rush things.

Date #2: In February '83 we arranged to meet up in Albuerqurque where he was again speaking, and travel to Santa Fe & Taos, then over to Sedona, AZ. We did some small hikes around Taos, then travelled over to Frijoles Canyon, Bandelier National Monument. Got there about 1pm.

Weather was gorgeous, warm, but there was still snow on higher elevations. We took a "short" walk down to the Rio Grande and found ourselves mired in mud. Rather than retrace our route, we headed out and up onto the mesa. From the [misleading Park Service tourist handout] map it looked like a 20 minute walk back.

However, we kept climbing, left the mud behind only to discover ankle deep snow. Since it was only going to be a short walk, we were TOTALLY unprepared. Cami & chinos & Nikes for me, Dan did have a jeans jacket, but otherwise just tee shirt & levis. No food or water. We hadn't even bothered to sign the Park's hikers' log. Stoopid stoopid stoopid.

By this time, we had been walking over 3 hours. We were on top of the Mesa, the snow was getting deeper, the 'trail' was almost non-existent, and the sun was starting to set. I have always had major trust issues, and tried to micro-manage situations for my safety. All I could do was keep following this man who was calm & steady and persistent in his efforts to get us where we needed to go.

I was a city-girl, born & raised in San Francisco. Dan was raised in Brainard, MN and was pretty comfortable 'in nature'. He got us off that Mesa, cutting across the table top diagonally and somehow finding the edge. We could now see the parking lot & our car far below, but snow was above our knees. He thought he could discern a switch-back pattern, and taking me by the hand, led me down the mountain, sometimes with snow up to our waists. (I'm 5'10" BTW, Dan 6'3").

When we got to the bottom (the sun had now set) we just hugged and laughed and hugged again. 2 days later, we were in Sedona and we admitted we loved each other, and wanted to spend our lives together.

Dan went back to Detroit, put his house on the market, applied to U of Minn for his PhD, and gave notice to UAW. I returned to SF, in a holding pattern, but for once not anxious for the future.

He came out to SF March 30, '83 for a brief vacation, and I left with him April 15th (Date #3!). Married in Malmo, MN on Mille Lacs lake July 3. Will celebrate 27 years next month.

Walking The Mesa has always been a metaphor for us to just keep on keeping on, with mutual trust & respect. Not that we haven't wanted to kill each other at times... But something happened up there for both of us.

(A big Thank You to Bertrande for allowing me to share this story. I'd like to take this time to say that I always welcome stories of transcendence, no matter how big or small. If you have one to share, feel free to send me a Facebook message or email me at I think these stories are inspiring and I believe they empower others to successfully navigate their own life "mesas".)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moths, Butterflies, and Angels

I've always had a great affinity for moths. The other night as I cupped a little one in my hands and carried him from the kitchen to the great outdoors, I paused on the back porch as I watched him flutter away and suddenly recalled the giant moths from my childhood in Colorado. I'd never seen one anywhere else, those with a wingspan of 6 or 7 inches, and wished I could again. In practicing my new found technique of expressing gratitude in advance for something I'd love to experience, I thanked the Universe for sending me a giant moth. I didn't care the species. Just make it a big one. I smiled as I gazed at the stars and went back inside. The next morning as I stepped out onto the front porch to water my flowers, I froze. My moth was there, clinging to the brick wall, with wings so tattered it was like she flew here all night from the outer regions of the world. She was gigantic. Wingspan 6 inches at least. Legs like a tarantula, and these otherworldly antennae which looked more like fern fronds. Open your hand and spread all your fingers as wide as they'll expand, and you'll feel her size. She was magnificent. But she was dying. Many adult moths live no longer than one week and I felt like she chose to exit this world on my porch because she knew she'd be surrounded by love here. She heard my Universal invitation. As I stared at her beauty, she fluttered down to the porch floor and leaned her head against the boards. I put a jar lid full of water and some baby greens down by her. Maybe foolish, but damned if I can ever get my Martha Stewart hosting switch to turn off. She was in a corner, protected by my Buddha dog statue and the brick wall. It would be a perfect place for her to fade away. I closed my eyes and surrounded her with the energy of love and prayed that she'd be okay, no matter her cycle of life. When I opened my eyes, she was gone. Poof. I searched all the perimeter and couldn't find her. Where could she have gone, so quickly, with those torn up wings. There was no wind to speak of. I had no answers, but I felt good for her. And I felt good for having experienced her.

So the next day my husband and I went for one of our normal hikes and I dedicated it to my moth. I vowed to take as many images of butterflies and moths as I could throughout our hike. Not an easy task for me. I don't have a macro lens, nor the technical skill to get the really little ones. And let's not even talk about the patience required to shoot a bunch of flickering butterflies. Let's just say the woodland innocents heard a lifetime of swearing that day... I did the best I could. This, I believe, is a Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

And this, of course, is the regal Two-tailed Swallowtail with a 5 inch wingspan.

I believe this little guy is a Red Admiral, but I'm not sure.

This is a tiny moth. No clue which species. But this image, with him gently resting on the edge of a leaf, is one of my favorites. Right now, with so many millions of wild flowers blooming, the butterflies and moths are as thick as Minnesota Mosquitoes.

I have no clue what this one is. Have you ever tried to identify butterflies through an internet reference site? You have to be an entomologist to even know where to begin. It's impossible.


This is a Checkered White which is one of my favorites, but the most difficult to photograph. They just never sit still for even a moment and their wingspan is only up to 1.75 inches. Small and fast. Not my photography forte.

These ones are also beautiful with an indigo body. Again, the white ones weren't loving me that day.

The magical part of this project was just sitting silently still and looking around to see where one might be resting. You just never know what's there until you really take the time to feel your surroundings.

This guy had a greenish hue in the sunlight. One of my favorites.

Excellent resting place. You can hardly see him. I only found him because I decided to rest here myself, lizard-like, absorbing the New Mexico sun.

These are amazingly cool because their markings look like a cat face to me. Can you see it?

The tiny, Spring Azure with a wingspan of up to 1.25 inches. Iridescent blue.

Some little moth guy. Also one of my favorite pics.

And this is a kingly Black Swallowtail. I was waiting for him to land and he touched down right in front of my face and just stared at me, like, "Take the picture because I'm clearly magnificent." I love this shot of his little face!

I loved these ones too. Green and orange. But teeny tiny, so difficult to shoot.

As we reached the top of the mesa, an arduous hike to say the least, this form in the break in the clouds met us there. I stared at it in reverence, thinking at first it was a butterfly. Then getting a clear image of my gigantic fading moth, I felt assuredly it was an angel and from it, I felt a smile and a Universal thank you. I had to sit down for a moment and take the time to thank it back.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Serious Flower Power.

The nature theme of the moment here in the high desert of Northeastern New Mexico is flowers! You can't go anywhere without seeing vibrant colors to the horizon and beyond. Its beauty is all encompassing, and the smell.... Divine.

The air is filled with the combo scent of pine and whichever flower you happen to be standing near. The warmer the day, the better, with the sun providing for them the confidence they need to stand tall and broadcast their olfactory magic.

I generally have a blog rule whereby I refuse to post more than ten images per post. Otherwise, in all of my enthusiasm, I may find myself asking others to endure image after image, captive, like a Griswold Family Hike slide show.

But how could I not allow each little flower ambassador to Represent?

I mean, who'd get cut?

Rules are meant to be broken.

This guy looks like he has fuzzy yellow caterpillars all over him...

I wish I knew the names of some of these.

Besides this guy who I know to be a wild iris.

This one hasn't bloomed yet- perhaps she'll have no flowers at all- but the intricate whirls and ridges associated with this plant completely beguiled me.

Hiking in flower paradise...

Hardy little guy...

I'm going to say that this is, officially, crack cocaine to the butterfly population. They cannot get enough of this little beauty. They swarm the stuff. (Stay tuned for a butterfly collection.)

And this is so lovely, with such a delicate scent, definitely one of my favorites. Anyone know what this is?


...and whimsical.

Which one's your favorite? And if anyone can identify any of these, please do. I'd like to be polite, and address them by name the next time I see them. :)