Tuesday, August 29, 2017


About a hundred years ago both sides of my family crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of new beginnings.  My father's side exclusively hails from Sicily while my mother's, although shrouded in some mystery, comes from Odessa (a trip to Wikipedia has taught me that this part of the world was actually called the Odessa Soviet Republic, later the Soviet Union and ultimately Ukraine).  After two recent DNA tests on both sides I've learned that my father's family has a history of Ashkenazi Jew while my mother's has a strong history of Russian Jews probably persecuted and relocated over the years.  I didn't know much about this until recently and I have some personal research of my own to do before I look further into this new information.

I've strongly associated with my father's side of the family, mostly because of the obscurity of my mother's, and Italian-American (specifically Sicilian American) culture has been a strong part of my upbringing.  My grandparents had 'Americanized' their surnames by means of pronunciation.  The surname Ardagna is pronounced much differently in Sicily and after a month long trip to the beautiful Italian island I have chosen to pronounce my name the original way (ArdanYa - as GN names a Y sound in Italian).  My grandparents however chose to pronounce our name differently and I assume they did this to become more accommodated into American culture.  Giovanna (Jenny) is the name of my grandmother and still the most beautiful name I've ever heard.

In 1982 I was born an only child into the family of Louis and Rhoda Ardagna.  35 years have passed and I have since circumnavigated the globe several times in search of answers that have only yielded more questions about the nature of human beings in general.  At one point I had almost given up on my search but rather chose to take these questions introspectively.  The question of where I fit in the world became a question of where I fit in the universe.  This came from the days of a seemingly life threatening illness which overcame me in Madagascar a few years ago.  Again these questions have proven to be too much for me and I have since changed my pursuit of answers into a pursuit of honest observation.

Now I live in Latin America, Guatemala specifically, and at this point of my life I couldn't imagine a world without an understanding of our neighbors nearby.  What does America mean to you?  If you were to tell people in Guatemala that you were from America you would be greeted with a mild amount of shaming as 'America' truly is an ambiguous term.  In some senses of the word it means the western hemisphere while in other perspectives it refers to people who are strictly referring to the United States of America.  This is a struggle I felt constantly in Turkey as nobody seemed to care what the word means outside of a generalization encapsulating everything that is exported from the USA including music, movies, politics and culture.  

So what is America?  

I find that people of other countries have their own ideas of what it means to be American and the opinions range from the best to the worst.  I've never felt myself confined to a specific stereotype (maybe because I'm not tall and don't eat cheeseburgers) but regardless of what you consider yourself to be there will always be preconceived notions about my people.  'My people'... sounds strange to say as I've spent about a third of my life abroad and have called about a half dozen countries my home.  I used to hide from the label 'American' but there is no point to bearing shame of where you are from.  Again.. after writing the word 'shame' I wonder why such a word surfaced from my vocabulary.  Am I ashamed to be an American?  No, absolutely not.  Am I ashamed of the direction this country is taking us?  No.. strangely I'm not.  I think the direction this country is taking us is inevitable and surely change is the only constant recognized by the universe.  I just wish people were nicer however and more respectful to others.  We could all stand to be better listeners, this author could for certain.

When I was growing up there was a term being passed around which we called the American dream.  The dream, from what I've been told, has to do with surpassing the previous generation in terms of wealth and success.  Ouch.. again a word stings as I write it.  Wealth.. Is a wealthy man one who has gained financial prosperity?  Is a rich man not one who has planted his own seeds of happiness internally and watched them grow into the fruits of personal satisfaction or peace from within?  Yet I wonder why these values were never taught to me and why I had to learn them for myself.  I watch the generations who have come before me focus much of their energy on the preservation of their success while I could hardly count (if any) financial successes I've experienced in my life on one hand.  Yet even this 35 year old tattooed Pisces who struggles with depression and undiagnosed anxiety feels content knowing that he has seen the true beauties of the world.. at least I'm trying to keep my receptors open for such light.

It's beautiful here in America, this continent/subcontinent/nation/ideology.  I still stand with this country and have chosen to call it my home yet it must be mentioned that I call and have called many places my home.  Shit.. I'm so lost sometimes that I don't even know what home means but I do know that to some people this is the greatest country in the world.  I would argue that claim on many terms but not in this blog post.  As I get older I am more often invited to sit at the same table as those who forever have seemingly disagreed with me 100% across the board.  I sit with far right conservatives and gun-toting republicans while attending religious conversation as an atheist.  One might think that these certain notions which have become personal beliefs have ostracized me from the American community yet I maintain that these are my freedoms of being an American and I am entitled to my own beliefs.  Perhaps that is the patriotic ideology that allows us to celebrate this country as being great.

My life has been a strange and fairly unique journey.  It's hard to ever predict the future whereas I don't have any means of instruction to follow.  I just continue traveling and learning and trying to be the best version of myself I know humanly possible.  I hope you enjoyed reading this and forgive me for my grammar.  I love this country and I want to see us prosper.  

Sunday, June 4, 2017


I know we've been told that moderation is the key and that the secret to happiness is finding a balance yet it took me quite a few years to understand the deeper meaning of all this.  It seems to me that nature, the great metaphor which was intended to be so obvious, has a way of balancing herself should enough time be given.  In the forest there is destruction which comes from natural causes, i.e. wildfires or mudslides.  Death is given into rebirth and a cycle is completed, 'homeostasis' I believe it is called.  Since we are actually human animals imagined from nature's own creation, why should it be such a stretch to believe that we can stabilize ourselves in a similar way?

For everything there is a season..

Yesterday I felt down.  It was a bit of creative blockage, the easy to remedy kind, that can be solved with a walk through this ancient town under the warm sun.  I'm lucky to live here.  When I came back I not only felt a resurgence of creativity yet an almost overwhelming sense that anything I became involved with, guitar or paintbrush, would make something inspiring.  Honestly it was almost too much and I found myself navigating through too many options.  It felt off balance to me yet the curious thing was that I began to apply this sensation to other aspects of life.  I wondered about times I've been sad or bogged down by anxiety, which perhaps I created for myself, or times when I've been in over my head with the world around me and my own interpretations of life's experiences.  I feel useless when I'm down and almost out of character.  What is really holding me down and why can't I find a balance?

To find a balance one must let go... mindfully

On a seesaw, (teeter-tawter? did anyone used to call it that?) specifically the dangerous ones with springs and poorly painted Disney characters, the metal bar always seems to be level.  What happens is that one kid, the older or heavier one, will sit on one side while the skinny kid is hoisted well off the ground with his or her feet dangling below.  If the heavier kid is a jerk, he or she will get off the uncomfortable saddle/seat abruptly causing the skinny kid to plummet.  I remember that hurting my back.

We're all adults here, close enough, and I wonder what would happen if we presumably matured folk were to be placed back in those metal seats.  I'd assume that after a bit of devilish horseplay we'd probably let the lighter person down slowly allowing them to exit the playground unharmed.

Just like life, eh?

What's holding you down and are you letting it go with grace?  The secret to happiness is to not be a jerk at the playground.. no really, the secret is to find a balance mindfully.  Whatever it is that causes us to feel overburdened with life is not to be taken lightly (no pun intended).  These are serious matters that need time and patience to alleviate themselves and we cannot expect to drop them off suddenly with no consequence.  It's all about finding a balance and letting go while being mindful of how we reach that balance.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

el mundo de las vistas y los sonidos

The rainy season builds heavy days of humidity in various cycles which begin with a deep feeling inside that storms are brewing.  I can relate.  If anything has ever been more true to my life it is that there are circles complete and some yet still unfinished.  Wherever I may be in my cycle through the cosmos I know that it is not truly important where you are going as long as you recognize that the only certainty is that we are in this moment right now, together.

The night brought heavy rain sounding in familiarity as the fat drops of rain slammed into metal roofing panels covering the villa in which I reside.  Dreams came and went and throughout this very peaceful morning I found each one of them slowly becoming remembered.  I walked to the market and dodged puddles gathered from the night before, parts of the surrounding mountains draining shallow rivers of dirt and mud in between the cobblestones which pave the streets of Antigua.  Aphex Twin is playing on my cellphone from my back pocket, echoing ambient background music to an already surreal day.  I feel good, que buena onda. 

Colonia El Manchen, Antigua, Guatemala.  One of the places I call home.

I noticed something about Guatemala that had not previous occurred to me.  I took in the hint of village life which had once been so familiar to me, always been familiar to me since I lived in Samoa long ago, and it hit me that I’m uncomfortable without this smell.  Perhaps uncomfortable is the wrong word but I have also come to realize that life here is never completely indoors.  Houses are built with great openings exposing them to the elements and you never really feel like you’re inside at least in the sense of how (U.S.) American houses are designed.  Houses back home are squared off and secluded from their neighbors yet here you are all up in peoples’ business (sorry for lacking in eloquence in my description.)  My neighbors are part of my home, literally we share a villa and each day begins and is delivered with greetings from friendly faces.  There are no short ‘hellos’ however involved conversations about the day.  This makes up much of the day, as it should.  I’m not in a hurry to be anywhere else but in this moment of right now, it is the only thing I know is real.

The sea is calling me big time like holy shit I can’t stop thinking about it (eloquence).  Our bodies are made of water and we are slimy fish things as soon as our human form hits the sea.  We are tossed through the waves and we challenge our limitations by inventing ways to breathe underwater and see clearly in ways those poor delicious creatures and sharp pointy spiky things never saw coming.  It’s incredible what happens to me when I’m by the shore.  I’ll fall apart at the right waterfall and I’m really happy in the rain.  I hang off the side of ferryboats shouting “take me with you!” to passing dolphins. 

I love my mom and dad so much.  35 years will make me finally admit that all the nautical themed house decor they accumulated over the years kind of had an effect on me, especially that old lighthouse keeper painting in our living room who used to call the walls of our cabin up north his home.  I give in.. I’m having a moment, all good.. I just wanna get wet.

Rio Dulce, my entrance to the Caribbean and a place where I will also call home soon.  ;)

For now I’m finding a cozy spot in the house to gather creative energy and turn it into art, music and colorful food.  The place where I live speaks loudly to those who listen and the word ‘coincidence’ is almost a waste of breath to utter as it is so obvious to us that we live in a spirit world guided by uncertainty and chance.  Of course we found this place as this place found us. 

I don’t know where I’m going but I know I’m on my way. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

a hero named homer and a devil named burns

It's been quite a few months since I've written and even now as the keyboard rests under my fingers I feel an instant familiarity calling me to let the words do the speaking for themselves.  

Today is Sunday, Mothers' Day actually, and I'm home on the couch in my parents' living rooming doing what I always do in the early days before leaving on another travel.  I'm rifling through old photos and blog posts from times passed and reliving some really good memories I have from the road.  I love world travel and I almost equally love introspective journeys into my own mind as I see no limits to the world inside.  Perhaps this is the spirit world, a place where aspects of our personality bear curious resemblance to certain traits that have been passed on to us by our ancestors and perhaps even furthermore the spirits of our past do indeed reside within us guiding us through this very dangerous world.

..and as I write this my beautiful mother, dressed in her mother's jacket, heads to the cemetery to visit Grandma's grave. 

Something wakes up inside of me when I'm about to take an adventure.  I feel this deep connection to what I call 'the now' and it occurs to me that we are truly only capable of understanding what this exact moment means to us.  The future seems to us like a big mystery, as it rightfully can take everything away from us while rebuilding a different living future for another.   The past may never have even happened as we remember yet the only certainty is 'the now'.  

I feel connected to 'the now' when I travel and I think that is what has permitted my ability to continue traveling so extensively for over a decade.  There was a time only two years ago when I was completely certain of what the future held for me and in that certainty I almost considered hanging up my travel hat for a while perhaps to start something new in life yet as I've finally come to learn from life the future is a calamitous thing and like the changing winds above the sea we can easily be blown off course.

yet it is the sea which calls me.... now

During this visit home, a visit which was purposefully planned around a brief yet intense bout of work at various local marinas, I gave some deep consideration to where I see myself in this strange world and suddenly I begged the examination of an all too familiar questions, 'what do you do?'.

I wondered why we ask people this question and what we really mean by it when we ask ,'so what do you do?'.  I think the obvious answer to the question come by saying your occupation or student status, that is to say 'I am an engineer' or 'I'm a sophomore'.  The question is actually, to me, begging a deeper answer in which I vary my responses accordingly, 'I double dip' or 'I leave the seat down because I'm a gentleman'.  Somehow I don't find people satisfied with my answer and they ask again, 'no but really what do you do?' to which I realize they want to know how I make money.

That's just money.  It doesn't really exist and neither does the question.. otherwise my admitting to being a double-dipper is in vain.

I'll be in Guatemala in a few days back with my awesome girlfriend, some awesome permaculture folks and furry cat friends.  I get to paint again.  I had time to paint when I was here but I felt no inspiration yet rather introspection.  This next chapter is going to be a wild one so stay tuned if you like my story, I sure love it.

..and I'm gonna sail the Caribbean.. I guess that was more important than ramblings.  More on that later..

Wednesday, March 15, 2017