Firsts of 2021

From climbing waterfalls in the Panamanian jungle to surviving Snowmageddon, 2021 has been an unforgettable year for me.  The last twelve months have been chock full of crazy experiences, many of which I’ve shared on this blog (but others still to come).

I make a point each year to write a list of “firsts”: anything I’ve done or tried for the first time, from food to hobbies to work skills.  Neuroscientists say that trying new things stimulates creativity and improves problem solving.  There is even some evidence that it reduces the chance of developing dementia.  This year’s list of firsts is pretty long, but I’ve whittled it down to 10 exciting and interesting experiences to share with my readers.  

So here it is!  In 2021, I…

  1. Had my Aura photographed

This March, Ethan and I visited Sedona, Arizona.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the town of Sedona has an intense focus on new age spirituality and metaphysical healing.  This culture developed here for good reason: you can feel a change in energy the moment you drive in.  Breathtaking red rock monuments tower over you in all directions.  A feeling of reverence engulfs you so strongly, it’s impossible to put into words.

In the past I had visited briefly to hike, but had never before indulged in the spiritual aspects of the town.  Ethan and I hiked to the crystal vortexes, shopped at the mineral stores, and yes – had our chakras read and auras photographed.  

Chakra photos were advertised all over Sedona. We asked around about which place was most legit, and were directed to a crystal store. There, a girl put clips on my fingers to gauge my chakras, and took my picture with an electromagnetic camera.   Afterward I was given a thorough 27-page report and the girl talked through it with me.  It was a cool experience.

  1. Went on a Shaman-guided mountain meditation

As part of our Sedona experience, Ethan booked a mountain meditation session with a local shaman.  The meditation was really nice: our guide played traditional native drums and flute while we basked in the sun on the side of a red rock mountain.  However, during another part of the tour the guide ranted about aliens, politics, mathematics… you name the topic, he ranted about it.  He also hit on two girls who were on the tour with us, inviting them to join him for a “private sweat lodge session”.  

Speaking of sweat lodges, I signed up to do one at an event I attended this spring, the Quanah Parker Medicine Mounds Gathering.  The sweat lodge ended up getting canceled due to high winds, but it was at this event where I had another new experience:

  1. Ceremony on a Comanche sacred mound

The Medicine Mounds are a sacred Comanche site located on a private ranch in the Texas Panhandle.  This spring, the Comanches held a camping festival to commemorate Chief Quanah Parker. There were dances, ceremonies, guest speakers and live music. The Mounds were opened to the public for the first time in decades – and nature-lovers everywhere were invited, regardless of their cultural heritage.

Our first evening at the site, we joined a hike led by a Texas Master Naturalist. He pointed out plant species which are unique to the area.  Because livestock had never been kept on the Mounds, they were an impeccable example of what Texas looked like before white settlers came around.  

Early the next morning, we hiked back up the Mounds with a group of Comanches.  We watched as they performed a traditional spiritual ceremony: singing, praying, and telling stories while we gazed out across the plains.  I am grateful to the Comanches for being willing to share this ritual with strangers like us.

  1. I learned to surf!  Read the story here.

5. I joined an art club… and then started my own.  It’s named Fine Arts & Fresh Air, and is focused on making art outdoors.  We’ve had a couple successful meetups so far, including a beautiful sunset sketch session on the Ronald Kirk Bridge.  I quickly encountered difficulties due to inclement weather and far drives.  But on the bright side I’ve met some great artists who have inspired me to improve my skills.

6. I started a podcast!  It’s actually just an audio version of this blog.  So if you enjoy reading my stories, maybe you’ll also enjoy listening to them.  Check it out.

7. I attended a Vietnamese wedding, where I was served duck with the head and beak in tact..… and a Nigerian wedding, where I cheered during a money dance and chewed on a kola nut.

  1. I participated in cacao ceremonies and gong meditations at an ayahuasca church.  Ethan found the Two Birds church in Denison and we’ve enjoyed its meditative atmosphere and open-minded people.  Once we even drove up there during a tornado because we didn’t want to miss the service! 

9. I went glamping. It’s actually shocking that it took me so long to try this out! My first night glamping was in Cave Creek, Arizona. It was awesome to be able to sleep outdoors without lugging a bunch of equipment onto a plane.

10. I herded goats… and fed, watered, and played with them.  I even helped hold them down while they were being vaccinated!  Back in August I witnessed my mom’s first goat adoption.  Since then she and my dad have adopted 5 more of the playful little critters.  They are affectionate and very entertaining!

It’s been a heck of a year.  Believe it or not, this list barely scratches the surface of cool things I did this year, so stay tuned for more as I slowly but surely catch up with my story-telling.

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