Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shoe on the Other Foot

Now I know what it feels like. To be on the receiving end, listening to words you would rather not hear, getting a peak into a world you have never bothered to notice, feeling the confusion and anger of cognitive dissonance as you realize this doesn't make any sense to you, doesn't fit into your neat picture of how things should be.

My friend who is an escort is telling me about a client, an old man who was on top of her humping her, how his red face and sweaty body made her worry for his health, and how she wondered if he wore dentures, visualizing them falling out onto her face.

And I am thinking about the conversations I have had with straight friends, about swinging or domme work. How one-sided they were, with the other person looking away, not saying much, waiting for me to finish and change the subject.

There was a girl who hated me when I first started at The Gates, because I would walk into the lounge after a session and talk excitedly about the strap-on play I had just done. I couldn't imagine that anyone would not be interested in what I had to say, or couldn't take the graphic detailing of my actions.

Ah, how funny it is when the shoe is on the other foot!

My friend writes me a note about how lucky she feels to be having so much fun and making such great connections. I know she had an amazing "date" the other night, so she is buzzing with it. Hot sex while being treated like a $$$ princess seems like a dream job to her, no doubt in large part because of the ego boost. But I know there is a lot more going on.

I am happy for her. I support her. She is brave in her own way. Yet my empathy can only go so far. There is a reason why it wasn't anything I thought about too much, until it came crashing into my reality.

A voice cries out inside me that it's is so conventional, so materially-focused, so everything that I have strove against. Part of me is offended. That the professional side of the craft I consider sacred is full of interlopers who migrate from one type of sex work to another. That when I was still actively commercial with my play, my escort friends would ask me, "How's business?" as if what we did were the same thing.

It is not the same thing!

Yes, I am feeling sensitive about it right now. I know my feelings will change with greater perspective and distance from the professional role I held for almost six years. With hindsight, I would have closed my stable to newcomers after four years. Kept more of that lovely glow and a bit less of the tarnish. When you hunker down for fear of moving on, it can wear on you. Well, all the more critical insights for me to share about the experience! I admit this because no matter what critiques I may make, I do think professional domination is an admirable path to follow, for however long it works.

I am proud of the fact that, for most of my career, I was a house-affiliated domme. The sisterhood, the sense of security, the shared energy - these were all integral to my sense of enjoyment when I was a full-time dominatrix. I am saddened that there is such a dearth of houses of domination in the Bay Area - not even one in the City! LA and New York both have quite a few well-established houses. Maybe one day...

Independence was hard for me. The screening of new people and the disappointment when undesirables somehow made it through - that is where most of the tarnish came from. There is a dark undercurrent to domination. And I think that the more special you are, the more protection you need. Seeing new applicants alone as an independent made me feel too accessible.

There is a psychological difference between doing a scene in a house and doing one as an independent that is not often discussed. Ironically, because I felt safer about boundaries and therefore more confident in the house, I was comfortable wearing lingerie or something more "girly" into scene. Whereas with independence, I felt more vulnerable and intimate in the first place, causing me to want to don high fetish as a sort of armor.

I received so many congratulations upon my independence from would-be slaves. Yet I saw this act, necessary as it was for my personal growth, as a wrenching away of my community, thrusting me into isolation and artifice. It seems strange to me that so many session-seekers preferred it. On one level, I think it's because they can feel more special, more catered to, more the object of the Mistress' undivided attention. For me, not everyone deserves such treatment. And so, I closed ranks with those I already knew, trusted and liked.

And now, I have begun the first tentative steps in exploring "lifestyle" D/s relationships. At first, I could only get myself to play with women, finding the need to free myself from all the associations that gender brought up for me. More recently, I have started connecting in this way with a few close male friends - creative and accomplished individuals whose need to be taken by a powerful woman matches my own need to overtake, control and deliver.

I feel my power in a new way. There is a lovely ease to it. To be reminded that both my sadistic and nurturing desires, my urge to dominate and penetrate, truly come from within and are not simply profit-motivated. Before, when I considered integrating D/s more fully into my life, I worried over how it may disrupt my existing relationships. But now, it feels easy, like I was thinking too hard about it. And the craziest thing is, there are a lot more real submissives outside of the professional arena! Who woulda thunk? :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Off to the Southland

I'll be down in La La Land for a few days, likely reporting my 'findings' upon my return. Be well!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Future Sex

I'm studying Botany right now. Plants have strange sex lives. Imagine there is an extra step in the reproductive process. That instead of the sperm and egg simply being one-celled precursors to the embryo, they each grew up into a full-fledged life form. Then the being that started out as an egg gets fertilized by the "walking sperm man". Only the baby inside her would be a human as we know them, with a full set of chromosomes from both parents. That's like plants. Or at least that's how I visualize them to get my mind around the concept of "alternation of generations."

Realizing how different plants are from us in terms of their sexual processes makes me re-think my assumptions about sex. Could human sexuality evolve into something different in the future? I often wonder about this, and find it makes for an intriguing thought experiment.

Fantasy being so much a part of my erotic life, I believe the ability to totally immerse in a realistic virtual setting where one can take on whatever form one fancies will be a reality. This crossed my mind the other day while I was topping a pet who dons a particularly elaborate disguise during playtime. In the flurry and excitement of the scene, I realized that I didn't really consider my submissive to be the same person who walks through the door, their appearance was so strikingly different from one to the other. I marvelled at how one day, we will all be able to morph ourselves - at least virtually - to suit our aesthetic and sexual whims.

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have a real cock. But without losing my breasts, or the curves or soft skin that I love about being a woman. To be a sexy hermaphrodite with a fully functional, lovely cock. In the future, someone has got think of a way to hook up a strap-on so that all the points of the phallus match up with nerves in the clitoris. After all, the clit is really just a tiny cock, being the analogous structure in women. Pair this device with virtual reality, and I can see for myself what it feels to penetrate, from the inside.

A few years back, I played with a post-op male-to-female transsexual who did a lot of kink play in Second Life, an online 3D virtual world, including before her surgery. She said there were many playspaces and shops for those into BDSM, and mentioned virtual collars that that could be programmed to move the submissive into different positions at the command of the dominant. She said that there was so much D/s play in Second Life, she couldn't imagine it was used for anything else!

I remember around the same time talking to an undergrad on campus during a technology conference who said he always entered Second Life as a girl. He said he did it because it was easier to socialize. People were more friendly, approachable and helpful. I wonder how many of the femme avatars are in fact virtual cross-dressers. I bet a lot!

Sometimes I rue the way that biology (including sex) gets in the way of creative and intellectual endeavors. It seems that women are burdened with this distraction more than men, being the more obvious objects of attraction and the vessels of reproduction. What if we stepped into a Brave New World freedom, where we totally separated the physical act of sex from perpetuation of the species, the latter being completed outside the woman's body. Would that change the balance between the sexes? Would it cause women to lose their standing as Mothers, the great creators?

What if eventually people decided actual physical differentiation of the sexes was unwelcome, either because it's too disruptive to mental achievement or just aesthetically unappealing (with the recent coining of the term "metrosexual" to describe men who wax and primp as much as women, perhaps we are already moving in this direction). Would we then compartmentalize our sexuality as recreational roleplay in virtual reality, taking on whatever appearance - male, female, something in between - that suited us at the moment? My feeling is that for all the pain it causes us, we will want to keep sexuality an integral part of our actual physical reality. But you never know...

It's fascinating to ponder the possible evolution of sex. Perhaps at the end of the day, it will remain largely the same as it has, and such conjecture is nothing more than interesting premises for futuristic stories. Only time will tell.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beauty Unbound

When I started out as a pro domme, I used to wear my glasses into scene, along with just a hint of make-up. I understood how to get all dolled up and ultra-femme glamorous, but I reserved that for my nightclub and swinger party forays. It seemed ridiculous to go for the showgirl look when trying to convey a more stern and serious tone. Besides, I was confident in my appearance, and did not feel the need to overly embellish.

In those early days, though I may have been inexperienced in running a BDSM scene, my power was contained within myself and dependent on no one. I was like a virgin in the original sense of the word - before it meant someone who has not yet had sex, it meant a woman "beholden to no man.” A woman unbound by the obligation or desire to do or be a certain way for another.

Before I entered pro domination, I had been an active adventurer of the amateur persuasion. I jet-setted to Miami, New York, LA and Vegas for the best dance and swinger parties there and here in the City. Growing up in the shadow of Hollywood (Echo Park back in its "Mi Vida Loca" days, no less) influenced my love of getting dressed up in sexy, funky original outfits.

My club friends and I would joke that we made great drag queens. We would always get our pictures taken for local magazines and websites when we went out. It was fun to pose for the camera. We were stars in our own little world.

In the swinger scene, my partner and I attended A-List, invitation-only gatherings which sometimes required that photos be submitted beforehand for approval. I know that sounds pretty superficial - and it was - but it was also a lot of fun to run around in outrageous get-ups and be immersed in all that sexual energy. Sheer, racy outfits that would only bring you trouble in an ordinary club brought you smiles, compliments and plenty of attention from the couples and single women who peopled these events.

One summer we even went on an all-inclusive vacation to Mexico where we hung out with porn stars. We watched them make their movies all day against the backdrop of a white sand beach and coconut palms. It was a wild time, and I kept getting mistaken for the "talent." What struck me though, was that most of my friends in the swinger and club scenes were more naturally pretty than the porn stars.

I stood out with my boy short hair back then, giving me a slightly androgynous look that was emphasized further by a mischievous sneering grin and body toned from hours of kick-boxing. I became infamous for wielding a mean strap-on at orgies. Girls would line up, while their men would whisper their secret desires in my ear. I saw sex not in terms of how much value should be placed on each and every little act and interaction, but more as this amazing free-for-all.

In both the dance club scene and the swinger scene, men and women would regularly come up to me, my partner or my friends to say how "hot" I was and how "playful" and "natural" I seemed with my sexuality. I tried not to let it all get to my head, and I think I had a healthy confidence in my own attractiveness and erotic powers.

Swinging was great for encountering so many different types of women: the hot blondes, smouldering brunettes, petite Asians, squirters, big fake tits, perky real ones, the expert pussy-eaters... It was a smorgasbord of flesh, and I had no issues with objectifying others or myself.

I had no issues with fake versus real. Or blonde versus brunette. Or white versus non-white. I had no issues with strippers. All these issues came up for me after I turned pro. It commercialized eroticism for me, turning former playmates into either the competition (women) or my secret judges (men).

No wonder as soon as I began taking sessions, I could no longer swing. It's the slut versus whore dichotomy. Once you start placing dollar value on erotic acts, it becomes harder to give anything away. I saw this happen with a girlfriend at the time who is an escort. She felt so special on her paid dates, that the swapping she felt obligated to do with her boyfriend felt demeaning to her.

As I've mentioned before, I was so naive when I first became a dominatrix, I had no idea there were online review systems with associated message boards that the men employed to anonymously rate their encounters. This was when my fantasy of being a domme first took a drubbing. My very first review the guy said that with my tanned body and friendly demeanor, I could make a killing being a sensual masseuse. That completely mortified me. Why the hell would I aspire to that? My mistake at the time was giving too much power to this silly man's words with its arbitrary labels. I became paranoid that clients would think I didn't look "domme" enough.

The review system felt completely dehumanizing to me, with ratings for looks on a scale of 1 to 10. On one site, this is broken down further into face and body. What got to me is that reviewers almost always rated my body higher than my face. I guess that's a fate I can share with Britney Spears LOL! I think it's because I never showed my face, so they were trying to give some context to what it looked like. Can there be anything more subjective than rating a face? I mean, you show people a face and ask them to rate it, then change the hair color or hair cut of the same face, and you'll likely get an entirely different opinion.

After basking in such positive - and unsolicited - feedback from those in my social circles for so many years before going pro, I was unprepared for the heightened scrutiny one receives in the public spotlight. Remember Christina Aguilera in her rebellious phase when she had punked-out hair and facial piercings? The press gave her such a hard time, she sang that song "I am beautiful, no matter what you say," then went completely conventional with her look.

As for me, I stopped wearing my glasses, grew my hair out, started wearing colored contacts and more make-up in scene. At one point, I even clipped in extensions to add volume to my hair. All in some vain effort to look attractive to absolutely everyone who came to see me.

Up 'til then, I'd always relied on my good hapa genes to get me by. This was the first time in my life that I learned all the the feminine tricks to applying make-up and fixing hair. Though I am glad for the knowledge, I am also glad that I don't feel the need to do that to myself all the time!

Needless to say, for a while there I fell into the trap of getting caught up in a game I could never win - mass approval. That's the trap that fells many women in show biz as they get surgery after surgery to achieve that boring, lowest-common-denominator prettiness. Nepotism is good for something, namely getting exposed to the out-of-the-box beauty of a Kim Kardashian, Sofia Coppola, Isabella Rosselini or even Tori Spelling. Thankfully, I seem to have escaped the boring beauty trap unscathed. And when I found out recently that some people were trashing me online for my attitude, I actually felt gratified. I must be doing something right to draw their ire unprovoked. How I see it, seeking validation from the peanut gallery is like going to a party full of degenerates and feeling hurt that no one wants to talk to you.

The ratings of looks are not just subjective based upon the preferences of the rater (ethnicity, haircolor, breast size, body type, etc), but also a reflection of perceived value. For instance, take my escort friend I mentioned earlier. She is someone who has consistently been rated 10 in looks and performance in reviews over the past few years on a site which covers all types of "providers" across the country. Yet this same woman encountered difficulty obtaining an invitation to a popular A-List swinger party. Like some other escorts I know, her ratings have gotten progressively higher as her rates have increased. So there is a perceived value being projected here. If a man pays thousands of dollars for a date, she better be a 10, right?

Perceived value also seems to reflect the level of sexual activity allowed by the woman, rating pro dommes more harshly for not "putting out." A man who would go behind a pro domme's back to review her - on a site where dommes are lumped together with women who give handjobs and have PV intercourse with their clients - is more likely to be the kind of man who carries resentment over the fact that he cannot be more sexual with his Mistress. I think he is also more likely to be uncomfortable with his own enjoyment of the femme domme role reversal, particularly the fact that he is the receptive, penetrated partner.

Since it has become industry standard among pro dommes to show one's face, I believe those of us who choose not to are rated more harshly for this as well. It's as if you are punished for trying to keep something for yourself. The more you expose yourself and make yourself vulnerable, seeking validation and approval from the powers that be (i.e. the men who are potential clients), the more you are patted on the head and told you are a good girl.

I have been wondering as of late if there really is an untenable contradiction between being a dominant woman and being a professional service provider. The longer I did it, the more I seemed to care about what the men thought, and the less I felt connected to my inner strength and sense of self. And in the beginning, every time I was reviewed without my permission, I seriously contemplated quitting.

In fact, my commercial withdrawal now was precipitated by a recent unauthorized review -- of a scene which took place at The Gates over a year ago! Perhaps I shouldn't admit that these things bother me. But that would be bullshit. In the end, I do feel that I am too good for this. To have to deal with such invasions of privacy, callous disclosures of intimate exchanges and disrespect for my rules. Maybe that's the real reason why some people have to talk trash. Because they know I'm better than all that, that I never deigned to stoop down to their level and "admit" that I am really there just to serve them.

Whatever the case, there were signals that it was time to say goodbye. I have no regrets. I learned and lived so much. I had so many thrilling, joyous moments. It's just now, I can also talk about the rest.

The private playtime I continue to enjoy feels lighter, truer and more intense.

My hair is cut short again.

I count my blessings.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

2012, Singularity, Apocalypse, Oh My!

The Japanese are such great trendsetters. Like the other night I saw a TV news story about the rising popularity of male geishas. Women executives have money but no time to pursue romance, and with geishas they are treated like queens by adorable boys.

When I saw the men who do this work, I was struck by how feminine they all seemed. They looked like cute little rockers or man-boy lovers in a yaoi manga, with long spiky hair lightened and styled to perfection. They were skinny, fashionable and had great skin. One geisha they interviewed said he made $200,000 a year and also received many gifts of outfits and accessories from his patrons, as they liked him to look his best for them.

I got such a kick out of this story. Men servicing women -- gotta love it! One of my friends, when he heard this, said half-jokingly, “The end of the world must be near.” Despite being a sexual freak, he has a conservative streak as well. He had a similar reaction when Oprah was talking about teenagers holding “rainbow” parties (the girls all wear different colored lipstick, then turn off the lights and give the boys fellatio. Lights on and everyone checks out the evidence to figure out who blew who), and when Tila Tequila had her bisexual love competition on MTV. I guess we all get dated at some point LOL!

Speaking of the end of the world, this is a concept which never fails to resonate. Remember how Y2K was supposed to be it? Well just because 2000 came and went doesn’t mean we are out of the danger zone. Exploring Mayan ruins reminded me of how 2012 is coming up. That’s the end of a 5000-year cycle of the Mayan calendar, when there's supposed to be a "transition from the current Creation world into the next." I know several intelligent, successful people here in the city who are really into it. I suppose it’s rather convenient to only have to plan for another 4 years!

Then there’s the Singularity. I am a science geek so this one has fascinated me for a while. The concept is borrowed from physics and black holes, where it means an end-point where space-time as we know no longer works. In a broader sense, it’s been used to describe the exponentially increasing rate of technological progress (eg Moore’s Law), which appears to be leading us to a significant shift such as the emergence of artificial intelligence, our merging with machines, or the creation of new biological life forms.

High-profile proponents of the Singularity include inventor Ray Kurzweil, who is featured in the latest Wired, and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who has a good interview in the lastest Reason. And though he is not an advocate of the Singularity per se, I don’t think you can discuss the incredibly rapid pace of change we are experiencing without mentioning Craig Venter. I saw him speak recently and the work he is doing is amazing – sequencing the human genome, then going out and doubling the number of known genes and being just a few steps away from reverse-engineering life. His goal is to create artificial biological organisms to solve our energy crisis and create vaccines. Whatever you may think of what he's doing, it sure seems like people should be paying more attention!

As a spiritual seeker, I have also been in touch with what's going on in the community of meditators, practitioners of mind-body awareness and the like. I swear, even now, I don’t know what you call this arena. People don't like the term “New Age,” but is there anything better? Not everyone is Buddhist, and there really is no practice that everyone does. The one thing I'd say people in this category have in common is a focus on being in the present moment.

But anyways, when I was involved with a weekly transformative practice group, we did a lot of reading (like Eckhart Tolle’s "The Power of Now”, which I hear is Oprah’s new passion) and at times had speakers visit with us. Sometimes our teacher would let us know beforehand that the person who would be addressing us, say the esteemed Adyashanti, was considered by many to be “enlightened.” This was always said as if the word had quotes around it, as no one could entirely agree on what it meant to be enlightened. Yet from my explorations in this world, I saw that there is a growing consensus that the number of enlightened people is increasing. So here too, there is a sense that we are moving to an end point in the game.

Back to pop culture, we have both Terminator 2: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Battlestar Galactica talking about “Judgment Day” and the Apocalypse. You even had the last couple of episodes of T2 quoting from the book of Revelation in the bible. And that got me to thinking about a National Geographic article I read about the lost books of the new testament and reinterpretations of the biblical scriptures. There is one scholar, I believe it might be Dr. Bart Ehrman, who claims that the King James version of Revelations is a poor translation. Specifically, that in a passage describing the last days on earth, a word that is translated to be mean “destruction” is a mistranslation. And that the actual definition of the word is closer to “rebirth.”

Having gone to Sunday school and studied the bible quite extensively in my childhood, that really hit me. What difference would it make to people, if they saw the Apocalypse as a time of rebirth – of enlightenment! – rather than death, destruction and misery. What if we stopped thinking that one day we would suffer gloriously for our sins? I know I know, most of us don’t believe that stuff anymore. But how deeply ingrained are those notions in our collective psyche? Do they make us try less, feeling that dark days are our inevitable and just punishment?

Well maybe one day, this other more optimistic translation will be commonplace. That is, unless the robots over take first. All the more reason to carpe diem. That's right, pluck it while it's ripe!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Escaping the Binary

I had a funny moment during my vacation, when a bunch of us who had just gone on a jungle expedition together were talking about what's on Reality TV. Someone mentioned that Red Sonja actress who had been married to Sylvestor Stallone and we were all trying to think of her last name. "It's Bridget something," someone said.

I blurted out "Oh you mean Bridgette Kerkove!" I totally thought I was right.

A half second pause as people pondered this answer than someone said "No, it's not that" and the conversation moved on.

A few seconds later, I realized I had shouted out the name of a hardcore anal pornstar. I was cracking up on the inside, just a tinge anxious at the thought that someone might recognize my slip-up.

One of the men at the table had just been talking about how he had been a prosecutor, then switched over to the defense side. His wife had quipped, in droll good humor, "Yeah, you used to get off the hookers."

It was a bit surreal. Playing it straight with these strangers, wondering what they would think if they knew some of my best friends were involved in the world's oldest profession.


One of the challenges I face in life is trying not to be too binary in my thinking. I have a tendency to swing the pendulum, so that if something doesn't work out my automatic reaction is to completely reject it. Like I was pretty involved in my personal spiritual journey for a couple of years there, meditating, practicing yoga religiously, going on a vision quest, pursuing the healing arts and reading lots of books that you find in the self-help section.

I learned a lot from those explorations. Yet towards the end, an accumulation of negative experiences turned me against the whole venture. The most major thing that happened was I injured my arms overtraining in bodywork. I had sought out schooling in the healing arts to expand my knowledge and understanding, never thinking that I could end up compromising one of my most precious creative outlets - my ability to write! At one point, both my arms were constantly burning and it hurt to use a pen or keyboard.

Thankfully, a great physical therapist has taught me a lot about body mechanics and trusting my own intuition to really listen to my body so I can give it what it needs at any particular moment, be it treatment with ice, a little stretching, or some strengthening exercises.

But at the time, I felt resentful that an endeavor that was supposed to help me develop as a person caused me so much anguish. What made it worse was feeling manipulated by a teacher at the school I attended, a charismatic and good-looking practitioner who flirted with me relentlessly.

Definitely a theme that played out during this period of spiritual exploration was meeting people who claimed to be enlightened on one level or another, then finding myself disappointed. I think I opened up my heart too much, and let go of my judgment because I somehow thought that people on this path were different.

As I was going through this, I was blogging about it here and crafting my former session site to reflect my spiritual leanings. That drew a new type of seeker to Mistress, and unfortunately some of these were also wolves in sheeps clothing.

I encountered an individual who thought me more tantrika than domina, making a crude and overtly sexual overture to me after our last session. Then there was the lover-of-all-things-Asian; a well-to-do life coach who tortured me over the phone a few times with his unbelievable sense of entitlement. Both of these men talked the talk - of energy, centeredness and balance, yet it seemed to have been a substitute for rather than a signal of real understanding and connectedness. Alas, I grew disillusioned.

I found refuge in a countering philosophy, which allowed me to retrench by pulling away from an overly generous approach in my interpersonal connections, and hold my head up high again with unapologetic pride in all that I am. I needed to move away from that enforced sense of humility and the overexposed vulnerability, and this was the perfect antidote. I will likely write more about this later, as it merits its own entry.

Since then, I have realized that my wholesale denunciation of spiritual development went too far. I have begun enjoying the benefits of meditation and yoga once again, this time with a more watchful eye rather than pure, receptivity.

So, now that I have eased out of professional domination, I am on the lookout in this arena as well. I don't want to be one of those people who, upon moving on from a pursuit, feel the need to denounce it. Granted, there is some venting to be done. In the beginning, I used to marvel at my ability to even do this work, as sensitive as I am. As I wind down, I am starting to feel the blowback. Nothing permanent or ghastly, just some of the less pleasant aspects re-surfacing. I feel it is to be expected and I welcome it for the introspection it has engendered.

Now that I am free from commercial pressures, you will likely see a more uncensored side of me come out on this blog. I suspect it will be a perspective more immediately relatable to my peers, as evidenced by a recent email from an esteemed domina who let me know my recent post "Perceptions, in the Eye of the Beholder" moved her to tears. I am honored when my words can inspire other women, and aspire to include more in my audience of readers.

So, you may hear me give my take on the more hidden, inner workings of the pro domme world, such as the review system, the spectrum of erotic work, and the nature of professional versus amateur play, as well as the psychological underpinnings involved. The sociology is fascinating, indeed!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Free Flying

What a blissful 2 weeks spent in the Caribbean! Jetting out onto the choppy, big waves of the open ocean to reach the oasis of an island atoll. Then scuba diving and snorkeling amidst coral reefs teeming with sharks, rays and the playful colors and curious habits of all the tropical fish. Spelunking through cavernous, wet caves glittering with quartz, massive stalagtites, giant spiders and shrieking bats. Bush-whacking through the jungle, with its mysterious pyramid ruins, led by a machete-wielding guide in the eerie darkness of a starry night, the guttural roar of howler monkeys cutting through the relentless buzz of nocturnal insects.

To be immersed in the adventure of the natural world, while slowing down to steep in the ways of a laid back culture, with its strangely blood-thirsty history of fierce pirates and ritualistic Maya. Now that was a sweet little break. A time to step away, fresh air for my mind and body, leisurely contemplating new horizons in a place where I am no one to anyone.

I will always be searching to know more, learning and sharing along the way, whether on this path or another.

And now time to catch up, move forward and keep fighting the good fight.

Free flying and feeling good. Life is beautiful!