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solesearching: nat kelley . . . part one

{nat kelley by tay bittner}

we managed to catch globe trotting, pskaufman… wearing, actress and muse, nat kelley for a little solesearching session at the psk hq.

p: i love to travel.. i love to eat and I’m not sure i could trust someone who doesn’t like to eat.

n: i love to eat, also.  lately i’ve been on this big mushroom kick, something i did not like growing up.  as i got older, i started to like the psychedelic varieties, but never the type just to eat at home.   then, literally a few months ago, a friend had me cook some portabellos, and it was like, wooooooah!   i’ve been introduced to this whole new world! everyday i’ll eat some kind of mushroom.  even the non-magical ones have magical properties and amazing health benefits!

p: as you’re off on a little bit of a savory tangent …your position on marmite?

n: hate it. in australia, we have vegemite. marmite is a british thing, but i hate vegemite. i’m into savory, but I’m just not into stuff that tastes like cow dung. i’m not that australian, lets put it that way! i’ll eat guinea pig over vegemite.  it’s a peruvian delicacy; tastes like chicken.

p: what do you wish was in your fridge?

n: hmm, what do i wish was in my fridge? gosh, to be honest, ceviche.   i wish i had my mom’s leftover ceviche in my fridge. it’s always better the second day.

p: is there anything special you’d like to eat right now?

n: i’ve been really craving a dish called pacha (pacha is earth) manca.  it’s this peruvian earth bbq. they dig a hole in the ground and light a fire under hot rocks. then, they throw in seasoned, delicious cuts of meat, corn and different peruvian varieties of potatoes.   the hole is covered with more hot rocks and the food is ‘buried’. a couple hours later, the meat is so tender and delicious. if you could recreate some pacha manca in l.a. right now, I would be so happy!

p: and where would you like to eat it?

n: i would want to be in my family’s ancestral home in huanuco, peru. tourists are just starting to discover that part of peru, but it’s still off the beaten path, in the central andes.

{ nat kelley by neil krug via www.neilkrug.com}

p: i was just speaking to a friend of mine, a crazy, passionate birdwatcher, who was just in peru. his last visit was in northern peru and he was alsotalking about how amazing it was. i understand you’ve started to develop an interest in bird- watching..

n: yes, its kind of an unofficial interest. i’m just aware of animals, in general.  i am really open to receiving signs from the universe and am aware that different animals, birds in particular, carry messages for us. i’m learning to recognize the american pantheon of birds.  like, “oh there’s a hawk…what does that mean?”

i’ve had the california condor circle me on two different occasions, both up in big sur. both times, the sightings were signs of something beautiful on the horizon. so, it’s an unofficial hobby, but i’d really like to step my game up, get some official bird language under my belt and blow people’s minds.

p: you have a pretty multicultural background, have spent a lot of time traveling and have lived in different countries. where have you felt most connected?

n:  i feel really connected to brazil. growing up in australia, i always looked different from the other girls. even though I’m culturally australian,  i’d always get asked where I was from. then, i lived in brazil on and off for three years as a teenager and by the end of the trip, my portuguese was so good that you almost couldn’t tell i wasn’t from there. physically, it was the only place i ever really fit in because brazilians are such a mix of different things that i didn’t stand out there, the way i did in australia. now, i’m not so offended when people ask where i’m from and i’m happy to go into it with people.  but, i think when i grew up in australia, sometimes that question wasn’t always a compliment.

p: is it ever confusing to you to be in a place where the cultures are at odds with what you feel your background is?

n: when i was growing up in australia, i didn’t realize how blessed i was to be there. i was always asking my mom why we couldn’t have stayed in south america, with my people. in my mind, south america was like a lambada music video, where people danced on the beach. then, when i finally went live in brazil, i saw that it was not the paradise i had imagined.   there were parts of the country that were really beautiful, but living in sao paolo, i got to see the urban poverty. i started to miss the values of australia; the values of fairness and egalitarianism. eventually, the inequality just broke my heart and I went home (to australia) to start my degree. so yeah, i guess you could say i’m not comfortable anywhere.

p: part of it is that for one to be comfortable, they need to find it within themselves, first, and feel at peace there, and then go out and find it around…

n: yeah, i’m always complaining about everything (laughs)!   it’s not spicy enough in australia, it’s not safe enough in brazil. that’s why i have to do half and half; just split my time between white people and latin people. too much time with white people drives me crazy, too much time around latin people makes me nuts. when i’m in south america, i’m like, “where are the things that run on time and work?”

{nat kelley by paul kaufman}

p: you also did some volunteer work in Brazil?

n: yes, i did.  i worked with street kids. i was very naive, but yes, it took over my life when i was there. i fell in love with these children and invested all my energy and time into them. i would obsess about them. i would go in during the hours i was not supposed to go and go into the most dangerous parts of the city and I just had angels watching over me; spiritual ones, and also real ones. the kids would become my angels. they would accompany me to the  bus and make sure nothing happened. i think they confided in me because they thought since i was a foreigner, i wasn’t going to tell their secrets. i really became a friend to them, more than just a social worker. i still remember those children and still wonder where they are, and sadly, I don’t know if any of them are still living because their life expectancy living on the streets of brazil is not very high.

p: i’m sure that’s so. have you been to India?

n: no, I’ve never been to india, but it’s a dream of mine.

p: its pretty intense; the kids on the street there. i’ve spent some time there and its pretty amazing to see, i mean, slum dog millionare, for example, wasn’t really a dramatization.

n: In the way that ‘city of god’ is real.

p: there’s a very famous muslim temple, off the coast of mumbai.  it’s a small island with just a mosque, haji ali, you can only get to when the tide is down.  and when the tide is down, it’s completely lined with beggars with infirmities and the ocean on either side.  it’s heartbreaking.  it’s crazy.

n: it’s real. that’s what 2/3 of the world looks like.

p: we are really, really lucky. we lose sight of that sometimes.   with all the traveling you have done, have you had any other really life-defining experiences (other than brazil)?

n: machu picchu is always life changing, and then peru is always a homecoming for me every time I go back. so, that’s always a special place for me to visit.

p: and machu picchu, why?

n: just the sheer impossibility of that feat of engineering. it blows you away to see it in person. i can actually feel a residual energy from those stones, when i touch the ruins. i think i was there in a past life, I’m pretty sure i was.. i have some memories (laughs), we don’t need to go into it now, but it’s really potent for me. 

what have been some other amazing trips? hmm… australia is also full of beautiful places, but growing up there i didn’t appreciate what i was living in and i wanted to get out and see things in other countries.  now that i’m older, i can’t wait to go back and rediscover my own country.  there’s this beautiful hike - it’s the most beautiful hike in the world.  it’s literally an hour and a half south of sydney on these beautiful cliffs overlooking the pacific ocean; untouched beaches, etc. i’m not going to give away the name…i don’t want everyone going there (laughs).  but now that i’m older, i really appreciate the beauty and magic that has surrounded me my whole life.

{image via bloodorangemoon.tumblr.com}

p: you live in los angeles now.. is that at odds with your desire to be in touch with nature more?

n: for the first few years i was here, i wasn’t connected into where to go outside of l.a. and now that i have been to big sur, joshua tree and ojai, i wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. l.a. is my favorite city simply because it’s my base point.   it’s my starting point to explore california, which is, i have to say after being pretty much everywhere, my favorite place. it has everything and i haven’t even seen all of it yet!  i want to go to mount shasta. i want to go up north and see the lost coast. it’s got everything.   eventually, i want to move to the bay, permanently.

p: yeh, it’s pretty amazing here. i can drive 15 minutes and be up the mountains and there are deer and quail and snakes on hikes.  plus, like you said, there are so many birds of prey.  there’s so much here, we are really spoiled.

n: for that reason, though i love new york, i don’t think i could live there. i really need to be around nature.

p: would you say you have a connection, at all, to native americans?

n: absolutely! i feel a connection to indigenous people all around the world.   living in australia, i worked with the aboriginal community and feel a very special kinship with them. then, when i did my dna test, my mom, obviously, is the one who has an indigenous peruvian background. but, the dna she carries was also carried by the anasazi of the southwest and a couple of other tribes around there. it just blows my mind to think that we share the same dna.

p: right, i was actually just going to ask you if you were aware of the anasazi and if you had ever been to their sites?

n: i haven’t yet, that’s my next trip now that i know they’re my people and i can claim them (laughs).  i claim everything i can. i found a little trace of jewish ancestry in my dna…i claim that one as well!

p: yea, sure why not? if it gets you to the places you wanna go.

n:  i just like to have to have things in common with people.  i like the things that bind us together.

{image via bloodorangemoon.tumblr.com}

p: if there was the mythical aladdin’s lamp and one was able to get those three wishes, one of mine would be to be able to speak any language fluently, wherever I was; to be able to really touch the people and find out what moves them. i used to go to china a lot and i knew there was so much more that people wanted to talk about, you could see it in their face, but we were just not able to communicate.

n: i’m pretty good with languages.

p: how many do you speak?

n: i speak spanish and portuguese, and i understand and speak a little bit of japanese. i understand a lot of german. i understand a lot of french and italian.  i get by.. i’m pretty good. i can speak a little bit of quechua, which is the indigenous language of peru.  it’s a passion of mine, i’ve always loved learning languages.

p: is that language (quechua) disappearing?

n: you know what, yes and no. there’s a movement to save it. aymara which is another indigenous dialect of the andes was made into one of the official languages of bolivia. evo morales, the president of bolivia has been really good about preserving those parts of our history. so, there’s a big resurgence of indigenous pride in south america, which i’m all for. 

p: one of the places that I was talking about before, an anasazi site, is called mesa verde. the people disappeared long ago, but the sites remain and i had one of my life-defining experiences there, so i really recommend you going there. there are amazing cliff dwellings there. after we finish,  i’ll show you a great book on the anasazi.  

i grew up in the midwest, which is  pretty much as bland as can be, but just within an hour, there are indian burial grounds all over. they are serpentine burial grounds, but nobody knew it until they started flying overhead and you could see there were these burial grounds in the shape of big, undulating serpents.

n: it’s so interesting; so psychedelic.

{nat kelley by tay bittner}

p: no doubt so much culture was created because there were natural things people were eating and finding out they had these effects.

n: even my love of textiles and southwestern patterns, and these peruvian patterns and their weavings, that’s all super psychedelic.  i mean, those patterns came to them in visions.  it’s a psychedelic dictionary.  certain patterns mean mountain or eye of the jaguar, etc.  there’s a whole world to be discovered in the patterns of a seemingly simple rug.

p:  because of all the traveling you’ve done, you’ve seen all these things and you have an interest in them; beautiful textiles, for example.  are you more of a collector or more of a purger?

n: i’m both. i collect, (i’m) a big big collector, but, i purge those things that are temporary, because i like to pay it forward.  i like to pass things on to friends. there’s a group of items that i like to do that with and then, there’s a group of things that I would never, ever give away.

p: and what would those be?

n: really old fabrics from peru; ones that i really had to dig for in the sacred valley. also, things that come from where my family is from in peru, beautiful wool items that you smell and you can smell that they’re old. i love that.

p: so, it’s not just the physical beauty of it.. it’s the age, as well?

n:  it’s the age and all the residual energy still held in that fabric and in those textiles. i remember growing up in australia and my family would send us packages that when opened, would smell of peru: a scent like cloves and cinnamon.  for me, textiles, particularly wool, hold a lot of energy and are full of a certain life force. it’s hard to explain, but i’m mad about textiles and fabrics. it’s weird, because i’m not a designer, or in fashion or anything, but those things speak to my soul.  it’s not just an aesthetic thing.

{image via bloodorangemoon.tumblr.com}

solesearch with nat kelley…

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stay tuned…  solesearching: nat kelley part II released 05.11.14