2018: The year in which I surprised even myself! (With lots of stories and photos)

2 Feb

Had someone said to me 10 years back, even five years back, heck, even two years back, “Here are 100 possible scenarios for how your life will unfold. If you can pick the one that’ll be so, I’ll give you a million dollars,” where I am now would have been one of the least likely of scenarios I’d have imagined, and yet here I am.

This year’s annual update is long.  I have lots of subheads and photos in the update if you just want to do a quick scan.) It has been a year of unexpected and lovely twists and turns, yielding a life where so many of my prayers have been answered, yet in ways I never, ever could have predicted.

Blessings to you as we begin yet another new year! Oink!


Burning Man in D.C.!

At the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s opening night gala of “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” with two friends

I have been going to Burning Man regional festivals for a dozen-plus years and to the “big burn,” the event in Black Rock City (a couple hours outside of Reno, Nevada) since 2010. I’ve been a theme camp organizer at Burning Man; I’ve written a book about Surviving Burning Man; and I’ve found fun, friendships, community and values alignment at a level I could have only dreamed of prior.

In other words, Burning Man has been more than a hobby or interest for me, but part of my life and identity.

In March of this year, the D.C. area became home to a world-class museum exhibit on Burning Man at The Renwick Gallery. The exhibit, called “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, was, per the Renwick, their largest exhibit ever. I went to the gala opening event because it was 1) a special Burning Man event and 2) only about a 45 minute drive to get there.

Me, Larry Harvey (founder of Burning Man) and Eúcaris at a D.C. networking event for Burners and Capitol Hill staffers.

Burners from throughout the country had come to celebrate the exhibit. Larry Harvey, a key founder of Burning Man, died a month after being at the exhibit opening. I’m glad he got to see his creation celebrated some 32 years later.

Burning Man in Annapolis!

As part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and in tandem with The Renwick’s exhibit, a handful of people who’ve built art cars they take to Burning Man decided to join the parade, some coming from as far as Denver!

This art car, pictured here at Burning Man, is one of the two cars that came to our Annapolis party. When it came to the east coast for the Cherry Blossom Parade, there was a rotating horse carousel as well.

My friend C.J., with whom I’ve co-hosted some really good parties at his beautiful waterfront home in Annapolis, Maryland, knew people on one of the crews and had invited them to his place after the parade. For C.J. and me, that meant: it’s time to organize a party. And stat!

Tell me how this is even possible: the party was one of the best I ever attended (many guests said the same) … and I hardly knew a soul … at my own party! Beyond the waterfront property, the amazing art cars, the fire poofers, the incredible sound systems on the art cars (and great playlists), the outdoor lights C.J. brings out when we have parties and the 420-forward nature of our party, something strange and magical happened at this particular party.

See, with the art cars coming in for the parade, their crews came from all over the country and many of them invited to the party a friend or two they knew in the area. On our end as hosts, C.J. and I each only had less than a week to prepare and invite guests and had maybe a dozen or so of friends in attendance. The result was that almost everyone knew a couple people but no one knew a lot of people, which made everyone rather friendly and wanting to connect. I’d never have thought a party full of mostly strangers would have so much energy, such good vibes, and so many great conversations, but it did. It was a nice reminder to chill and let things unfold as they will.

A Si-starhood is born

We’d started the afternoon with the intent to go hiking, but ended up hula hooping in Teporah’s backyard then “hiking” through Baltimore City’s Fells Point … then off to an ice cream shop and, well, a Thai restaurant.

For me, it started when I asked a friend for help with my makeup: Would she review my paltry collection of pale/nude/bare colors and tell me what to keep, what to pitch, how to apply it, et cetera? She turned around and said, “Let’s get a group of women together and do this for each other. I think it’ll be fun!”

Well, this led to that, and that led to this and this and that did a little dance, and before you know it, The Sisterhood SiStars was born. We’re a group of women–some more active than others–who are truly aiming to be in sisterhood with each other. While we gather for planned group events, it’s smaller gatherings, getting together for a walk or a bite to eat, helping each other with projects and being there for each other, emotionally, physically and spiritually where the magic lies.

I may be long past cliques of middle school and sororities of college and such; and while I have a number of good women friends, there is something distinctly different about consciously choosing to be part of The Sisterhood and connecting inside a defined group. I’m liking it, a lot.

A new baby: Orion James

How to even tell this story! I’ll start by saying I always knew I wouldn’t have a child, and that this wasn’t an issue for me. It was a knowing. A sense of fate. I didn’t dislike kids. I simply knew I wasn’t going to have a child.

First time holding Baby Orion at the hospital. I was there for his birth! Several of our Si-Stars were also on hand to help before, during and after.

Then, when I was cusping on 40 and my body was making it incredibly clear that it was now or never with babies, I had to re-examine this choice. (The biological pull is real!) Around that time, I did four ayahuasca journeys over a two-week period, and in one of those journeys, I had a deep and intimate conversation with God in which we discussed children. In it, I said, essentially, “Hey, you know me better than anyone and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to have children; however, if there is a child that needs me as part of its life, I won’t say no. I won’t stop a pregnancy (no birth control, no abortion), nor will I attempt to get pregnant (no hormones, supplements, IVF, etc.)” And I left it at that. I was open to whatever came yet had no expectations that anything would happen because my prayer wasn’t about me having a kid, but more that I would receive the gift if a child’s life path needed me.

A month later I met my first husband (I’ve yet to have a second husband, I just like to call him that), and I knew instantly and intuitively that I would not have a child with him. Even with my previous decision to do nothing to stop a pregnancy, I never got pregnant. A funny little aside: soon after our separation, he was in a relationship and pregnant (with his now-second wife) and they have a beautiful family. To boot, he’s living out his dreams of owning a yoga and retreat center in Germany!

Me and Baby O.

So, menopause came and my baby-making window closed, and, frankly, I thought little of it. I figured, eh, maybe I’ll get remarried and my second husband will have grown kids and grandbabies will be in my life. Maybe. Maybe not. (Oh, my siblings don’t have children either, so I’m not an aunt, and I have no close-in-age, close-in-proximity cousins, so I never experienced an extended family with babies and lots of kids.)

Then this thing happened–another story unto itself–where I reconnected with someone who’d made my blood boil with anger when I first met her. I had an obsessive type of despising of this woman since the minute I met her, and it didn’t abate over time. This focused despising waned in that I didn’t see her after a while (we’d met through work and neither of us were still working at the same company), yet when she’d pop back onto my radar, my feelings and ill-will were still present. For the record and for a smoother story here, her name is Nichole Kelly.

My days, of late. Well, sometimes. These three cuties (Luna, Boon and Orion) were born within a month of each other and come over for baby play dates now and again.

One day (in the summer of 2017) I saw a picture of Nichole on FB and she had changed, fundamentally and profoundly. I knew it. I could feel it. I, too, had changed over the last decade, of course, but in this moment of seeing her in this photo, I laughed from an unexpected place of joy as I could see not just her goodness but her greatness, and it came from deep within her heart. I opened to her in that moment and a decade of despising her turned around, 180, in an instant. She’s now my best friend, sister, chosen family.

I learned later she’d recently had a near-death experience after a series of minor strokes (in her mid-30s, no less!) and she’d chosen to abandon an incredibly successful career in marketing to heal her own emotional wounds and tend to her health. In this process, she discovered she had new capabilities and an ability to see the quantum field. One day, via FB, I noticed she was offering a free healing event.

My dad and I shared a love for healing and energy work… even some shamanic work, and I invited him to attend the healing with me. He not only came, but–I learned later–set up a private session with Nichole. When the time for his session came, Nichole suggested that perhaps I could drive him to and from the appointment. I agreed.

This hand-built craftsman work of a sound meditation pyramid is where my dad and I went each Friday for a few months prior to his death.

We met at a weekly morning sound meditation held at Samara Center, which is located in beautiful Taneytown, Maryland, amidst a bucolic setting of farms and pasture-raised livestock. The meditation center was lovingly crafted and built by the proprietor, a carpenter in his previous professional life and, clearly, a lifelong artist. Afterward we went to Nichole’s place where she did a Quantum Activation on my dad. For the session, I asked if I should stay or go, and she encouraged me to stay. As the session didn’t involve touch, and as I was in the same room as my father, I essentially got the same treatment he got. (That statement may press on your belief systems, and that’s okay. This is my experience, and my reality needn’t be true for you.) 😉

How the baby in my life unfolded is a much longer story, but the long and the short of it is that every Friday morning, I’d pick up my not-morning-person dad around 7:30 a.m. and we’d drive an hour to the sound meditation group (where he was warmly and lovingly received by that community), then we’d pass through these beautiful farmlands and head off to the Quantum Activation with Nichole. After the session we’d hang out for a bit, have a healthy snack and then head home. We did this every week … until my father died a few months later.

Orion, getting more engaging–and certainly cuter–by the day.

In those last couple/few months leading to my father’s death, my relationship with him changed significantly and for the better. There was much more ease, joy and love between us. And while I’d thought I had come to terms with myself in recent years, believing my father would probably die with our relationship still complex and unresolved, I now (and for many other reasons as well) feel completely clean and clear, completely forgiven and forgiving, and utterly grateful for the time with him as his life –on his soul’s own schedule–was coming to a close. Core to this gentle and peaceful exit my father made was my reconnection with Nichole.

Soon after my father’s death, Nichole and her partner Iuri found themselves pregnant, and they decided not only to name their baby Orion James Moraes (with James for my dad), but they asked me to be their son’s God Mother!

As mentioned above, my life has been astoundingly kid-free. I’ve no kids of my own. My siblings have no children. I have few cousins and none close in age or proximity and basically, and my extended family is smaller than small. And while I have friends who have children, I simply haven’t been around babies much as an adult. To be asked now, at this point in my life, to be a God Mother and watching Orion grow and develop has been a blessing beyond measure.

A new home: The Launch Pad

Our first public event at The Launch Pad where we hosted Allan Pratt and Shaffi Lynne for some shamanic work and “galactivation.” 🙂

For a variety of reasons, with a new baby just arrived, Nichole and Iuri needed to move … and soon! We’d talked in months prior about living together “at some point,” but the “some point” rather quickly became now. We looked around, checked out a few places and knew when we saw a particular rental listing online that it would be ours. Having decided a month or so earlier on the name The Launch Pad for our community house and healing center, we were beyond tickled when our landlord-to-be said “My name’s Mike, but everyone calls me NASA Mike.” Yes, indeed, we are at The Launch Pad!

The home is large. We’re on 3.5 acres of relatively private land off a long private drive. We’re surrounded by trees, our next door neighbors are two shetland ponies (well, that’s all we see of one neighbor who abuts our land), and our landlord–who built the home himself and lived there for 44 years–now lives next door and is quite helpful. Oh, and we have already started hosting healing events, meditainment parties replete with glow sticks and LED gloves, conscious conversation dinners, concerts and more.

We’re located in Highland, Maryland, which is surprisingly both rather rural and well positioned, being equidistant to D.C. and Baltimore and located in between Frederick and Annapolis. My drive to and from the home is an odd mix of farmland, large-acreage lots and homes from decades and centuries prior, beautiful churches, curvy roads and just overall beauty and delight.

Playing around on the first official snow day, here’s me, Nichole and Iuri. We favor “burner-fabulous” clothing that is fun, funky and functional. Here we are in our sunroom.

Through the eyes of a 7 yo

A night at “The Nutcracker” ballet with Nichole and her daughter, Gia.

There’s an extra bonus of being in The Launch Pad: Gia! She’s seven-going-on-eight and at such a precious age of transformation as she moves into the 8-14 year-old phase of human development. Gia is Nichole’s daughter and she’s with us half the time; her dad, Jay Kelly, is often over for events, celebrations and snow days. I’m in an interesting position of being neither aunt, nor grandmother … a roommate, but also part of the family. Gia’s never one to turn down (and is often the instigator of) a instant dance party in the kitchen or living room, and her innocence and perspective open my heart again and again.

Four and a half (well, now six) pounds of love

Me and Lucy being way too matchy-matchy.

Moving into The Launch Pad brought something into my life I’ve never experienced before: a dog, on a daily basis. Lucy, the part Chihuahua, part Shitzu in the house, has found her primary sleeping and hangout zone in my bedroom. In the wake of all the transitions with not just a new house but one much bigger than she’d been in prior–plus a new baby–Lucy was having a lot of accidents in the house. I’ve since taken on some of her care and feeding, which is a rather different role from cat ownership.

She’s gained some healthy weight since we’ve added more protein and fat from our leftovers to her diet, and she and I often go for walks … even late at night in the moonlight. We play together a lot, and I’m learning to read her signals and support her better. It’s a new thing for me to be around dogs, and while I admittedly don’t love the smell of dogs, I do enjoy her sweetness and gentleness. Oh, and I give her baths and spa days, rubbing her fur down with olive oil. (I assume that’s okay. Someone can let me know if it’s not.) So far, the consensus from those in and out of the house is that she’s looking pretty good and healthy. I guess if I’m going to get to know dogs better, a little six-pound ball of sweetness is a good place to start.

Launch Pad wrap up

No question about it: there have been bumps and challenges in having three adults (two as a couple), a baby, a child and a dog all move in together. It has both wrenched and opened my heart, and I’m practicing the art of living as though “This moment was created exquisitely for me.”  I’m sure I’ve given others reason to expand their hearts and find forgiveness too. Such is life.

And yeah, I now live with my best friend, her partner, my God Son, a powerful 7 yo and an adorable little dog on a beautiful piece of–and peaceful–of land in the heart of the geographic area I’ve known as home most of these past 40 or so years.

A funny thing happened on the way to Antarctica

You may recall, a few years back I had a burning desire to work in Antarctica. Burning! I researched the process for weeks and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a job there. Nothing worked.

Then in early in 2018, I met up with a friend for a cup of tea and discovered he’d just come back from Antarctica! Like just in the last month! Unbeknownst to me he was VP of the National Science Foundation board which oversees a major Antarctica program. We talked about my desire to work there, and he had all the connections I needed. But, there was a new consideration on the table: My God Son was going to be born later in the year, and, well, I wanted to be around to see, witness and experience his first weeks, months and years. So there I was, with my fervently held prayer practically answered–or at least significantly closer to becoming true–and I didn’t want what I’d wanted so dearly before. And I was rather okay with my decision.

Here’s yet another funny little something about my desire to experience life in Antarctica: NASA Mike (our landlord at The Launch Pad) has been to Antarctica at least 30 times through his work with NASA. There’s even a glacier there named after him! At some point years back, he had a particular satellite dish brought back from Antarctica, and said dish is now installed in our front yard. (If anyone has artistic abilities and fashions themselves a painter, we’re going to convert that dish into a sign for The Launch Pad when the weather turns warmer. HMU.)

Jessie, Firstborn of James

It has been a bit over a year since my father passed. I wasn’t familiar with grief before his death, and I was astounded at how deeply I felt it when it came. As a handful of seasons have since come and gone, as the grief has mellowed, and as my relationship with my deceased father has transformed, I’ve come to see how exquisitely blessed I am to be Jessie, Firstborn of James.

I can see so clearly now what I couldn’t see so well before: My father, James Lawrence Newburn, guided me ever and always in developing myself and my own moral compass; he showed me community and generosity through his kind heart; he was and ever and always a gentleman and he loved me unconditionally despite my stories about it otherwise.

He was also Protector of the Realm in his own kingdom, in his own way. A land developer with an eye for beautiful land and an ear tuned to the future sounds of children laughing and running around the yards and neighborhood, he developed the lots on one of the most exquisite streets in Howard County, Maryland: Chapel Woods (sorry, don’t have photos), and he made it possible for many people to find homes and to build their lives upon the foundations he created.

Other family updates

My sister and my mom, about to enjoy a summer feast.

My brother Dave is doing really well! At the ripe age of 49 and with the tenacity of a bulldog, he finally got tenure at University of Maryland, College Park, as an environmental economist working muchly with state and county issues vis-a-vis Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and the U.S. Clean Water Act. His roles and responsibilities at work have continued to expand, and it’s good to see him shining in his glory of success well-earned. #GoDave

My sister Rebecca continues to be one of the most prolific community service people I know. Not only is she a decades-long middle school teacher who infuses her math and science classes with insightful information on waste reduction and environmental-friendly knowledge, she has also ramped up her already-extensive emergency preparedness training and education, and she recently joined a local commission doing just that in the Bay Area community where she lives. She has an amazing propensity to see what helpful information is needed, to create it and to make it available for consumption. #GoRebecca

My mom continues to inspire me with her vitality and in the intelligent, thoughtful way she designs her life. She still gardens much of April through November; still cooks quick, healthy, gourmet meals several times a day; and still dances at least once or more a week. Of late, she’s become much more active with a group of peers (The Village) that gathers for walks around the lakes in Columbia, Maryland, (though I think they get together for the walks as much as they do for the coffee and conversation afterward). She’s also become a “mall walker” (not to be confused with the “mall rat” I was in my early teen years). So if you’re in The Mall in Columbia and see a casually stylish, smiling, white-haired lady regularly clocking through the mall, you might just have spotted my mom. #GoEileen

SheepStuff: my type of Burning Man camp!


The two iSheep I brought to SheepStuff at Constellation Burn.

I am an avid, vocal, consistent advocate for wearing wool when it’s wet and/or cold outside. Avid! I mean, I’m known among friends for talking about the virtues of wool … a lot! So, it was with great pleasure (and relative ease) that I finally launched SheepStuff: a Burning Man regionals camp.

It’s pretty simple: I got together a group of friends who wanted to camp with me at Constellation Burn in the (often really cold and damp at night) mountains in Elkins, West Virginia. We gathered and collected various and sundry sheep and wool items to donate. We set up a popup tent, table, lighting and signage encouraging people to take what they needed to be warm for the weekend (and after) … and that was it. No complex camp planning and logistics; no meal plan; all lovely responsible adults. It was great!

Then I brought along through an art grant I received two talking sheep that were part of a larger interactive, consent-based art project that my friend Bardia lead and then took to Burning Man. The iSheep have been all over: parties, festivals, The Hirshhorn, and now even Tysons Corner Mall! If you cross paths with them, they’re touch-sensitive and fun to interact with!

It took me 55 years…

For as much as I have traveled in this beautiful plane of existence, I’d never quite managed to make it north to Canada. I’d found my way to Egypt, Namibia, China, Costa Rica and Japan, among other countries; I’d traversed across the country a couple times; even made it to Mexico here and there, but Canada remained elusive … until this summer.

Me, close to the summit of Idaho Peak in British Columbia. #MoreMountains #MoreBigSky #MoreSummits!

In recent years, I was working with a Canadian firm on a project for whom my POC was a lovely human named Bradley. The two of us were kindred souls from the moment we first connected, and our relationship deepened over the years. He’d tried several times to get me up to British Columbia to visit via a paid project I’d do for the company there, but things never quite worked out. When I decided to step away from the project that had our lives intersecting, we promised to keep in touch.

Bradley called me early this summer and told me he and his wife had a basement apartment in their home and that they’d asked their tenant to move out for the summer, so they could have a string of family members and friends visit…and I was on the list of invitees! They invited me to stay for a couple of weeks, and I said yes, then made some plans and off I went at the tail end of July to glorious British Columbia.

Bradley and his family live in Nelson, B.C., the “green capital” of Canada, and an old-school hippy town of reasonable fame. Their backyard view was of mountains and a lake. And they lived both within a 10-minute walk of the adorable, hip and functional downtown; and even closer to a large, clear lake (with its pathways, parks, windsurfing rentals and more). Bradley’s wife was about my size and an avid cyclist, and she kindly lent me one of her bikes to use. They also generously lent me some camping gear and gave me tips on (the many!) options I had for nearby camping and exploration.

First, I need to sing the praises of GPS (for allowing me to feel safe traveling in unknown areas) and of Canada’s vacation-friendly roads, signs, visitor centers, rest stops and composting toilets. While I spent time in deep conversation with my kindred brother Bradley and his beautiful and dear family, I also traveled solo at times, touring the many hot springs in the area, hiking here and there, eating massive raspberries (both local and in season), and much more. A highlight of my trip was climbing to the summit of a mountain while the alpine flowers were in their peak. It was stunning, and the experience served as yet another reminder to the wonders and joy of travel, especially where I get to see nature, big rocks and big skies!

I’ve known Canadians in the course of my life, but I’ve never been surrounded by them. And for as close and contiguous as our countries may be, for as much as my flesh color was similar to many of those around me, and for as much as our generations were aligned, I was clearly in a foreign country and I was clearly not Canadian.

There was — to my eyes — a general level of overall health, self-comportment and politeness that I felt ran through the culture. Whatever it was I was sensing, it was distinctly different from a similar set up in the U.S. would have felt like. I also noticed hardly a soul was on their cell phones. Maybe they just live in such mountainous areas, have inconsistent or poor service and get less addicted to their phones. IDK. It’s something I noticed. #GoCanada

A transformation, witnessed

I’ve worked at Atigro Digital Marketing for coming up on three years. I do business development (I find clients) for this agency, and basically work with companies that have need of bringing in leads and potential customers through their website. There are many fancy lingo terms to describe what we do–digital marketing, SEO, inbound marketing, customer journeys, yada yada. Essentially, we start with messaging that is emotionally and intellectually resonant, then help clients grow and retain their customer/client base through their websites and related digital activities that can be tracked and measured.

On the left, that’s Ken Fischer, the CEO of Atigro Digital Marketing where I work.

I’ve known the CEO, Ken Fischer, for a good decade or so from the early days of social media, Gov2.0, barcamps and that world, if you remember or knew of that magical time of social and technological change. I’ve always found Ken to be one of the more ethical, hard-working, solutions-focused men I’ve known. He has integrity at a depth that is indeed honorable, and that is one of the core reasons I wanted to work with him. (That and digital marketing has a lot of repeat business in it, which helps me build my book of business.)

Ken, like any business owner in digital marketing, has grown, developed and transformed his business and offerings over the years, changing as the technology changed, as the market changed, as customer expectations changed. But in these past couple years, I’ve seen him change.

I’ve watched as he has found his stride and developed as a CEO, strategically tackling big challenges in order to grow the company for the long term. The company I started working for a mere (almost) three years ago and the company we are today are miles apart … and much for the better. While that’s a nice thing (and good for me as one who does business development), it’s even nicer to see my friend and colleague develop into the man and business leader he has become. #GoKen

A dream, realized

There are some experiences in life that require time and the literal passing of years for the beauty of what’s happening in the moment to unfold, for the perfection of it all to become known. This is one of those stories.

The lake at Buffalo Gap Camp, replete with imported sand. 🙂

Back in 1996, my father bought a distressed camp that had been in decades prior a Jewish sleepover camp. It was located in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. My parents were avid contra dancers and once-avid international folk dancers; my dad, also a Zydeco dancer. This camp (Buffalo Gap Dance Camp) had become in recent decades more of an event and festival venue and home to a number of popular, well-loved weekend camps for the dance communities in which my parents were quite active.

My dad’s purchase of the camp, at the time, caused a wedge in our family and created a hole in his financial bucket through which many dollars would be poured over the next decade. I know my father was well-intended and wanted to do good, yet he was not the best person or personality to take on such an adventure. It was also an era where email was nascent, the web, barely a thought for most people and social media not even yet conceived. His ability to market the camp as a venue was limited, at best. The concept of AirBnB was a couple of decades away from becoming a thing and way to fill the cabins.

Though my dad “saved” the camp, extended its life as a dance camp for another decade, and experienced a wonderful role as a hero in a community that meant a lot to him, he also did so at great personal cost.

I visited the camp once while it was still active and owned by my dad. My, my, my! It was, indeed, a beautiful and magical place. Stunningly positioned between two mountains of West Virginia, it was a most perfect setting for a camp, replete with a commercial kitchen and dining hall, a log-hewn outdoor pavilion and excellent wood floor for dancing, a lake, a mini beach, a wood-fired sauna, several clumps of cabins, indoor basketball courts (also used for dancing in inclement weather) and much more.

Me and my dad at Buffalo Gap, apparently in 1999.

My father eventually sold the camp for a small profit to a land developer whose intent was to carve the camp into developable home lots. His vision, reality and market timing didn’t come together and, essentially, over the next dozen years, the camp was chopped up into smaller pieces. It went through different owners (some of whom attempted to make the camp work) and eventually a foreclosure was in the works.

But this beautiful camp had its own destiny, and in a story with many chapters, eventually one of the more-recent managers was able to buy a key chunk of the land and with his skills, talents, community and this thing called AirBnB, was able to be profitable in short order. More investors came, and more re-investment in the land, structures and the business came with them.

I’d heard (through FB and a personal invitation by a long-time Zydeco dance community leader) that the camp had been revived and that the once-famous Buffalo Gap Dance Camp weekend was back on! I’d just come back from B.C. and my God Son was due any day, but I decided to go … and am I ever glad I did! One of my si-Stars had arrived before me and selected a perfect, lake-facing, somewhat-secluded spot for my tent. And while I’d come to dance, for sure, I’d also come to reflect on my own life in the near-year since my dad had died. Little did I know that I’d also hear many a story from people whose lives were deeply and richly impacted by their times at Buffalo Gap during my father’s time at the helm, including a couple that had met at the camp and been married 20+ years since. People wanted to tell me their stories and to honor my father’s effort, and I was glad to listen.

To boot, the camp was absolutely lovely! It had renewed energy! It was now owned by people who were local, who had a nice, funky style; and who knew how to scavenge and transform has-been furniture and items into charming and useful decor. They have open mic nights for the locals, an adorable little bar, a spa and, a marketing mindset and, well, the technology and the times are different now. They are doing fabulously well and the camp has a vibrancy that is palpable.

When I arrived for the dance weekend, I learned a key and stalwart member of the local Zydeco dance community had become a part owner just days before the camp opened! It was as much of a surprise to him as it was to everyone else. Then, in an icing-on-the-cake moment, toward the end of the weekend, I’d started to dance a Cajun waltz on the dance floor by myself. A Cajun waltz is a circular dance, and so I circled the floor as I danced. At one point I passed by the altar of “remembered love ones,” a place the dance organizers had set up to remember people in the community who’d recently passed, and there I wrote a short note to my father.

Even though my grief over his death had abated greatly over the last year, at that moment, I was full of emotion as I danced. Right when I was at the height of my feelings, I turned, and there stood, with outstretched arms, was the dancer-turned-part-camp-owner. Without a word, I fell into his arms and we danced the rest of the dance: me feeling completely free to shed the tears (of a thousand emotions) I needed to cry. When the dance was over, he looked at me and said, “The torch has been passed. I think your father would be happy.” I nodded. We both understood.

The log-hewn pavilion at night. It’s a great place to gather for festivals, concerts and more.

And in that moment, my gratitude for all my father wanted to be but often didn’t know how to express was realized and made good. He had, in his own way, cared for the camp and the community, and even with the fate of selling the camp to a developer who had parceled out the land, this action actually opened up the way for a smaller owner to come in and purchase, at first, a smaller, manageable chunk of the land; later bringing in more investors and being able to purchase key pieces of the property. It took more than two decades since my father purchased the camp for its magnificence to be given the support it needed to shine, but it has happened.

As well, the family issues caused with my dad’s initial purchase of the camp, in time, became blessings that opened up doors for greater happiness, which, again, reminds me that even I don’t always know what’s so in the moment it’s happening but if I relax and trust Life, God and The Universe, things have a remarkable way of moving toward awesomeness! #GoDad #GoUniverse

Gah, I almost forgot … free books

Free downloads on Amazon, Feb 5-9th.

As usual, when I send out update letters, I time my Uber Chronicles and Surviving Burning Man: A packing list for first-timers books to be free and downloadable on Amazon. (Click “Buy now with one-click” to get the free download. It’s counter-intuitive but it’s the right button to click.) As always, a short book review on my FB pages (Uber Chronicles and Burning Man) or on Amazon are much appreciated!

Well, that’s it for now. I post publicly on FB if you want more updates. I share a lot of stories over there! 🙂

Happy New Year! It’s the Year of the Pig. Oink! If it calls to you and you want to reach out, I’d love to hear from you too.

Jessie Newburn



Me at Buckland Farm in 2013, helping to move some pigs from the barn to their woodland pastures. The bowl of pig feed in my arms has them following me, albeit at their own pace, to wherever I’m going.

15 Responses to “2018: The year in which I surprised even myself! (With lots of stories and photos)”

  1. Stephen Scaysbrook February 5, 2019 at 5:25 am #

    Phew, this is one hell of an update, and so full of life, and change, I can’t even begin to compare my existence to this, although making professor and teaching more, even though I rarely get paid, but, I like it. If you ever get a chance take a look at my lecture web site I have started to share my lectures, http://www.scays.co.uk, most students know me as prof Scays.

    Nice one, Please update my email address, I was hacked a few months ago and had to update,

    • Jessie Newburn February 5, 2019 at 9:35 pm #

      Hi Stephen, Nice to hear from you and congrats on the professor role! Happy New Year!

  2. Quang Le February 6, 2019 at 9:30 am #

    Jessie — Ah Maze Zing adventures! So fun and thrilling to read. May 2019 be exciting in new and different ways! 🙂

    • Jessie Newburn February 6, 2019 at 11:48 am #

      Aww, thank you, Quang! Yes, indeed! Many adventures. What would Life be without them? I hope things are good with you!

  3. dankirkdavidoff February 6, 2019 at 9:45 am #

    Thanks for some great stories- lovely to hear about Buffalo Gap, and great to learn of your brother’s work.

    • Jessie Newburn February 6, 2019 at 11:50 am #

      Thanks, Daniel. I hope you and Heather are doing well in your new digs/realm/world and are happy with your move. On a small-world note, a friend just called me after reading the update letter and told me he’d purchased property a couple decades back that was a half mile or so down the road from Buffalo Gap Camp! He even met my dad at one point when he was considering buying more land in the area. #SmallWorld

  4. stevearchuleta February 6, 2019 at 6:35 pm #

    Thank you for the update… I loved seeing “Baby ‘O’!”. Keep writing. Keep living. You’re an inspiration. Happy 2019! (Steve & Randy)

    • Jessie Newburn February 6, 2019 at 7:28 pm #

      Thanks, Steve! I love following the adventures and explorations (of the body, mind, heart and soul) you and Randy are having too. Yay for FB!

  5. Darrell Duane February 7, 2019 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks for all of this Jessie!!!

  6. Joan Athen February 7, 2019 at 5:52 pm #

    Jessie, I love your posts. You are an amazing writer, and your experiences are fantastic. Love your new living situation!! That should
    be a joy. As you know, I went through the loss of my Dad when you did with yours. Life changing! Hugs to you always!
    Joan A

    • Jessie Newburn February 9, 2019 at 10:36 pm #

      Hi Joan, Thank you! And, yes, we did enter that club of those whose fathers have died around the same time. Life changing indeed! Blessings to you on your journey. xoxox

  7. Jen Sardam February 7, 2019 at 11:41 pm #

    Jesse, I absolutely love reading about your adventures in living! You have been an inspiration to me since I was a budding blogger alongside you and others in the exciting early days of social media. Wow, that feels so long ago. We’ve crossed paths since then … at a party in Annapolis, and running into you at Figment DC. It just seems like you are everywhere and ageless! I just wish I ran into you more! Your words are so poetic. I aspire to look upon my life and write about it the way you do, one day. That, to me, is a life fully and successfully lived. Be well and keep writing and traveling! I hope to one day experience Burning Man, as well!

    • Jessie Newburn February 9, 2019 at 10:33 pm #

      Thanks, Jen! Yes, our lives have crossed here and there … and at key times. 🙂 I hope you know/trust that there were plenty of struggles and challenges too … and that these wrap-ups are selected stories. That, and I think it’s a good practice to look at life through a lens of “everything is here to serve me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS9V_A_0eQk

  8. Brad February 11, 2019 at 4:00 pm #

    Jessie, this was a pleasure to read. You’ve have the most fascinating year. You have a pretty incredible life. You’re a good example of how thing will come to you that you put out into the universe. Keep it up. Looking forward to the next chapter.

    • Jessie Newburn February 11, 2019 at 4:02 pm #

      Thanks, Brad. Glad to be friends and supporters to each other on this journey in life!

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