Badass of the skies

 

Photo by Merlin Tuttle.

In honor of International Bat Appreciation Day, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite bats, Antrozous pallidus. Commonly known as the Pallid bat, this species can often be found in desert habitats ranging from Canada to Mexico. They even reside right here in Nevada!

These adorable badasses are very skilled hunters who eat half of their body weight each night! What’s more fascinating than how much they eat is WHAT they eat. Pallid bats have very large ears and listen for their prey’s footsteps while stalking them on the ground. They typically consume a variety of large insects, but have also been known to eat centipedes, rodents and even lizards. Their claim to fame, however, lies within the fact that they will feast on scorpions since they are immune to their venom. A Pallid Bat wrestling with a scorpion is an incredible sight to behold!

Pallid bats will also go after cardon cactus nectar in a display that is quite entertaining. Since they don’t have long noses or muzzles to aid in their quest, they literally shove their head and torso into night-blooming cactus flowers. This comedic act results in the bat’s fur being covered in pollen, and as they visit more flowers, the pollen is widely dispersed. This mutually beneficial relationship between Pallid bats and the plants they visit makes them highly effective pollinators.

Bats are some of the most vilified and misunderstood animals on the planet. Most of their activity goes unnoticed by humans during the night, yet we all reap the benefits of their contributions to the ecosystem. It takes nothing more than a pursuit of knowledge and an open mind to see what magnificent, valuable creatures they truly are.

Photo by Merlin Tuttle.

Photo by Merlin Tuttle.

Aerial silks and the island life

Photo by Govan Adrian Basson of Totalkaos Photography.

Around this time last year I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand for some aerial workshops. I have always wanted to visit Thailand, and since my weekends already revolve around my aerial training, I figured that it made sense to give it a shot. I love learning, and the three coaches teaching at the event all brought something interesting to the table.

While looking down from the plane upon landing, Thailand appeared completely unreal. The landscape had countless palm trees surrounded by the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Upon landing in Phuket, I was even more impressed by the incredible energy of the city. I have always been a bit of an urban explorer, but do to massive flight delays, my time in the city was cut very short. That being said, I did wander for a little while and fell in love with the organized chaos.

Staying at Railay Beach was quite an experience. It was so awesome to check out the local culture on a daily basis and I had fun scouting some pretty fantastic caves. I definitely want to go back and rock climb! One of the coolest parts of my trip was having the opportunity to observe wildlife. There were troops of monkeys everywhere,  and I have enough videos of their antics to last a lifetime! Every night, colonies of flying foxes would fill the sky, their wingspans so large that they looked enormous even when viewed from the ground. Some of my favorite bat species are native to Thailand and I hope to do a bat survey there someday.

To sum it up, my trip had some great moments, but I left Thailand feeling like there was so much more to experience that just didn’t fit with the structure of the event I was attending. I had barely scratched the surface of what that unique country had to offer. Needless to say, I was already planning all of the things I want to do next time around before leaving the airport for my departure flight.

I have discovered that I love sharing the amazing things I see during my travels, albeit sometimes not blogging about it until a year after I get back home! Over the past few weeks I have finally taken my camera off of auto mode and am learning the basic principles of photography. I hope to create some lovely photos during my next adventure!

For those of you who want to follow what I’m up to on a more frequent basis, check out my Instagram profile @rebecca.r.edwards.

XOXO!

I’ve always loved photographing signs when I travel and had a blast exploring Railay Beach. This tattoo shop was quite charming.

Cave decor.

One of the many scenes that caught my eye during my brief time in Phuket.

Stunning limestone karst.

Real coffee.

Words on walls.

Lost in thought.

Playing in the mud. Photo by Jen Crane.

Cappuccino, Hong Kong style.

Nightlife.

I’m only happy when it rains. Photo by Govan Adrian Basson of Totalkaos Photography.

As part of a national initiative showcasing contemporary art, Krabi was chosen to exhibit emerging artists in outdoor scenery. Artist Chusak Srikwan utilized Phra Nang cave as the home for his unique sculptures. His concept was based on folklore and inspired by local crafts from Thailand’s southern provinces.

Phuket.

Photo by Govan Adrian Basson of Totalkaos Photography.

Thailand’s most adorable party crasher.

Due to flight delays, I had very little time in Phuket. I did, however, spot some beautiful things near my hotel.

Wednesday Addams at the beach.

Rare moment in the sun. Photo by Govan Adrian Basson of Totalkaos Photography.

Thailand’s tattoo history dates back to ancient times. It was amazing to see how many shops offered bamboo tattooing.

Norman Rockwell moment.

I was thrilled to stumble across this troop of Spectacled Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus)! These adorable primates are also known as Dusky Leaf Monkeys and can often be seen feeding on fresh leaves, fruits, and flowers. Spectacled Langurs are generally docile and engage in many forms of play. Sadly, they are considered to be near-threatened, primarily due to hunting and habitat loss.

Island life.

Feeling Batty!

Special thanks to photographer extraordinaire Daniel Whitby for adjusting my camera settings and creating an incredible set! I still can’t believe that I was able to catch an image of this exquisite bat in flight!

In honor of International Bat Appreciation Day, I’m finally posting about my incredible trip to Panama! I have been fascinated by bats ever since I was a child and have dreamed of being able to study them in a real world setting. Last year I became aware of a bat survey being held in Panama and jumped at the chance to attend.

The expedition was being led by none other than Merlin Tuttle, a world famous ecologist who quite literally wrote the book on bats. The trip was co-led by Daniel Hargreaves, an extremely knowledgable conservationist from the U.K. Our team conducted a survey in the Mamoni Valley of Central Panama, a biodiversity hot spot teeming with life. We stayed at the gorgeous Cocobolo Nature Reserve which covers 1,100 acres of lush rainforest.  Over the course of a week, we studied 367 bats, which translated to 46 species.

I cannot begin to express what an amazing experience this was and I look forward to participating in more field work in the future. I also spent a day exploring Panama City before heading out to Cocobolo Nature Reserve and have included images from that location as well. There are a few photos of me taken by others where I was not sure who to credit; my apologies. To learn more about the amazing world of bats, please swing by www.merlintuttle.com!

While visiting Panama, I fell in love with Casco Viejo’s historic buildings.

I spent some quality time with this little Pygmy Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus phaeotis).

Cocobolo field station.

Nighttime in the cloud forest felt like magic.

This identification guide was an invaluable tool for studying bats in Panama. The species list is very expansive and the devil really is in the details!

Scenic photo from the first night we set up mist nets in the river. This is shortly before I stepped into deeper water, which resulted in my boots becoming completely flooded. This process would repeat for another night or two, and each time, I was amazed that the water could outsmart me so easily. I eventually just accepted my fate and embraced the experience. The jungle is no place for divas!

Look closely and you will spot an adorable White-throated Round-eared Bat (Lophostoma silvicolum). These bats are especially fascinating because they roost inside of termite nests!

The data collected while studying bats is recorded on a processing sheet. This information helps conservationists better understand bats, which aids in protecting them.

This little guy was swimming with us while we were netting in the river one night. Cheers to Alex Shepack for bringing him to the field station so that we could admire him!

Panama City skyline.

Check out this sleeping bat silhouette! Some bat species construct “tents” from leaves by nibbling on them until they fold. Once modified, the leaf can serve as a shelter, which offers protection from harsh elements and predators.

On the riverbank, trying to ID the bat I’m holding…

Daniel Whitby wanted to try an experiment with the settings on my little Canon PowerShot camera. The next thing I knew, I was able to take this amazing photo!

Merlin Tuttle leading the charge! This hike to the Continental Divide ranks in my top five favorites of all time.

Spotted outside of a small market in Panama City.

I absolutely loved working outdoors and becoming familiar with the sights, sounds, and hidden mysteries of the rainforest. It’s awesome how alive the jungle becomes at night! I learned so much from the people in my group and will always be grateful to them for their camaraderie, patience, and impeccable instruction.

Look at the ears on this charming Lophostoma silvicolum!

Fun with spandex

Since closing my fashion line to focus more on personal endeavors, I’ve been having a blast making my own costumes. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would be stocking up on spandex. I’ve also made quite a few dresses and skirts from some awesome novelty prints! There are so many great fabrics out there and the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few cool images from a photo shoot I did with Radiant Inc. showcasing my circus costumes. The heels I’m wearing in the top photo were painted by my awesome friend Anthony Palladino 🙂

Just your average American family?

I have been focusing so much on aerial and flexibility training over the past couple of years that I have had very little time to work on projects. I knew this would be the case when I closed the Poison Candy shop, however I expected that I would have managed to crank out at least a few masterpieces by now. I have declined pretty much every freelance offer in favor of swinging from the rafters, however I recently signed on for a fun costuming gig.

My friend Christopher Brown is a brilliant actor and an equally talented director. Chris introduced me to the play “HIR” by Taylor Mac over the summer and I instantly fell in love with the script. When Christopher mentioned that he would be directing the play for Cockroach Theatre, I was thrilled to come aboard as the costume designer.

Valerie Carpenter Bernstein and Tim Cummins photographed by Richard Brusky.

Good art is subjective and “HIR” is no exception. I imagine that most people who see the play walk away with a very unique perspective. Mac embraces the concept of “absurd realism”, and “HIR” is no exception. The story is an American comedic tragedy featuring a middle class family trying to navigate the ever changing culture and attempting to establish their place within it. Each character has embarked on a person journey, causing various types of clashes and sometimes disturbing revelations. “HIR” is one of those stories that tricks you into laughing only to leave you feeling like you have been emotionally dropkicked by the time it has concluded. I could theorize about the complex artistry of the production all day, however I will leave you with this great review which does a stellar job of describing the overall narrative.

The script did mention a “massive beauty pageant wig”. This is the result of two combined wigs, 14 ounces of hairspray, and approximately 3 hours of styling.

Most of the smaller shows that I have worked on have centered around glamorous performers flaunting their various attributes. It was a wonderful challenge to take on a production where my characters were more typical in some ways and completely over the top in others. I was also tasked with providing wigs which gave me an opportunity to shake the dust off of my teasing brush and drown myself in hairspray. I had a blast reacquainting myself with glamour makeup and learning how to create a believable, simple false beard. My new friend Stephanie knows every makeup trick in the book and was quick to share her extensive knowledge.

I finally had a chance to watch the show a few nights ago and I am very pleased overall. It was wonderful to sit in the audience and witness their honest reactions. The performers brought their best and I thoroughly enjoyed how Taylor Mac’s characters came alive. Much like my beloved “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, I plan to see “HIR” performed by as many theatre companies as possible.

“I believe whole-heartedly in craft. I believe craft is essentially a commitment to learning the past, living in the present, and dreaming the culture forward.”  ~Taylor Mac

Brenna Folger and Levi Fackrell photographed by Richard Brusky.

The Beauty of Spontaneous Order

Artwork by Think Outside the State.

A couple of nights ago, something horrifying happened. I was on my way to see the play that I just costumed when my companion and I became involved in a hit-and-run collision. A vehicle was driving the wrong way down the street which resulted in another car being struck and spiraling out of control. As luck would have it, we narrowly avoided being hit, although the incident showered our car with quite a bit of debris. The driver who was at fault took off, leaving witnesses confused and a severely damaged vehicle containing two passengers stranded in the middle of the road.

When incidents like this happen, everyone reacts differently. When you’re dealing with a group of individuals, there’s no surefire way to predict every behavior. This is especially true when reacting to new or uncommon situations. There were several people who saw what happened and numerous others who stopped to help. I was in awe as complete strangers took the time to check for anyone who might have been injured, stuck around as witnesses, and did everything within their power to assist. The division of labor unfolded naturally and it was quite a sight to behold. I was amazed by the open communication that ensued between numerous people who had no relation to each other, yet worked diligently to improve a horrible situation. I can’t speak as to what everyone else walked away from that incident feeling, but for me, it was a jumble of emotions along with one glaring observation.

The most profound feeling I experienced was an overwhelming sense of appreciation. It also became apparent to me how effortless it can be to interact with others when we see them simply as humans. Nobody on the scene of that collision had any sort of criteria that had to be met before they cared about the others. There was no discussion of who voted for Trump or who voted for Hillary. Nobody based their concern on religious affiliation or race. All that mattered to this group of people was that everyone was safe and that the situation got handled in the most respectful and efficient way possible. This is the beauty of spontaneous order. This is the beauty of humanity.

If you distance yourself from the divisiveness of politics and internet fighting, it becomes easier to spot these incredible acts when they occur. I’ve seen situations where people have refused to accept responsibility for their actions, thus complicating the lives of others. I have also witnessed occurrences where people truly care about their neighbors, oftentimes at their own expense. I am in no way suggesting that one should ignore the current political climate, but merely pointing out how tempting it is to be consumed by all that is distasteful without acknowledging the areas that are flourishing.

I’ve been extremely disgusted by the behavior exhibited by so many over this last election cycle. As a libertarian, I’m consistently disappointed in government, so perhaps my expectations are lower than most. Even so, it has been shocking to witness how grotesque the current political discourse has become. I’ve watched as people I know have ended friendships over a ballot box, or held fast to ideas that they know are wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence just to maintain an ideology.

I have rather strong opinions about many things. Truth be told, there are very few people in my life who agree with me on most political issues that I hold in very high regard. There have been times when I have felt separated from the people I love because of things like disagreements over public policy and opinions about religion or lack thereof. It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining people in such a narrow terms, but humans are more complicated than that. As a seeker of truth, one of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to be exposed to ideas that you disagree with, to interact with people who make you apprehensive, and to actually listen when they speak. If your goal is to understand the world and approach it from a scientific standpoint, then you must swiftly escape your comfort zone. An echo chamber does wonders for ego, but will not encourage growth.

It’s undeniable that terrible things happen in this world and there are people who perpetrate unspeakable deeds. There are also people who will step up when they’re called upon, not because they are being ordered, but because it is the right thing to do.

Someone wise once pointed out to me that it’s easy to take inventory on everybody else, but the real effort begins when we acknowledge our own flaws and then work to correct them. By only focusing on negativity, individuals fall prey to an endless cycle of cynicism and fear. I have lived this way before and refuse to return to that place. By favoring constructive discussion over angry debate, it’s possible to develop a better understanding of others, and consequently, ourselves.

Over the hill.

I recently had a birthday. It was the birthday that many people dread. It was the birthday that solidifies being a certified adult, and dare I say, the birthday that many view as signifying the beginning of decline into old age. I turned forty years old on April 2nd.

Bendy birthday Barbie modified by my awesome partner in crime.

Bendy birthday Barbie modified by my awesome partner in crime.

I hadn’t thought much about being “over the hill” until early March. One day I was in flexibility class when it hit me. I looked at my coach and said, “Wow. I’m turning forty in a few weeks.” It was a strange realization and I wasn’t sure what it really meant for me. So many people make a big deal about this one particular birthday and I wondered if I should care more about it. I’m at a point in my life where I truly love myself and am proud of my accomplishments. It’s difficult to stress about such a milestone when you’re in a good place and feel like a badass most of the time. Then something really annoying happened. I ended up injured.

I had made a really bad decision months before. Instead of taking a rest day from training to let some major soreness subside, I chose to pretend that my body was super human. While doing an inversion on the pole, I felt a pain akin to an icepick on my shoulder blade and chalked it up to something that only needed a few days recovery time. Fast forward to two months later when I’m in urgent care getting an x-ray on my ribs because the pain is so intense that I’m on the verge of tears. I was unable to take a full breathe and could barely drive my car there, let alone work or train.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my “minor” injury was actually micro tearing of the muscles on my scapula. I sometimes have a difficult time differentiating between discomfort and pain, so training normally for two months just made it worse. My body reached a point where it would no longer cooperate and I ended up laid up for five days in bed. After sitting around for almost a week, I was able to return to work, but not to training as usual. I have spent the past month and a half going to physical therapy three times a week and trying not to lose my mind. My coaches have been very understanding and have tailored my workouts to accommodate me. It’s incredibly frustrating to cut out 80% of your physical activity and there’s always a fear of losing ability. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson and don’t ever want to wind up in that situation again.

My birthday landed right in the middle of recovery and all of a sudden I didn’t feel so fabulous. Turning forty was great when I was swinging from the rafters, but not when I was struggling to get my arm over my head or carry anything over five pounds. I was really angry at myself and felt like a complete failure. I began to wonder if the people who have told me that I am too old for aerial were right and I became shrouded in a cloud of negativity and self-doubt.

Joven Desde rules and the video below proves it.

Luckily, I’m surrounded by friends and family who care about me and don’t allow me to wallow in self pity. It was difficult, but I managed to silence the negative thoughts and waited patiently for my body to heal. I began gradually going back to normal activity last week with no pain. I saw my orthopedic specialist today and he is very satisfied with my progress. I had the opportunity to train side by side with my amazing flexibility/aerial coach today and I left the gym this evening feeling like a million bucks.

Now, let me get to the point of this blog. This whole birthday ordeal, topped off with injury drama, has inspired me to address something that I try not to talk too much about. I don’t keep my age a secret, however I don’t broadcast it either. There are so many people who are age obsessed that it becomes the focal point of how they look at others, and eventually, themselves. Older people are often disregarded as being irrelevant and out of touch while young people desperately fear growing old. There is a pervasive thought that certain things must fall by the wayside as one advances in years. I thought I was past that type of thinking until I ended up in a tough spot on my “big birthday”. I hate to admit it, but I became my own worst enemy for a short time.

I was thirty-seven when my dear friend Katherine convinced me to try aerial silks. I felt great when we were together, but was extremely intimidated to go to class on my own. It was very clear to me that I was not taken seriously by others in the various studios where I was training and a few people I knew discouraged me from trying because I was “so old”. Not one to shy away from something I want, I went for it anyway. For six months I struggled, barely showing up to class and feeling like an epic failure when I did. I pretty much stopped going altogether and hated myself for it. Two weeks after turning thirty-eight I began training flexibility and aerial silks with Kristi Toguchi at Aerial Fitness and I haven’t looked back since.

Splits!

Kristi always has my back! Behind the scenes during a recent photo shoot with Shane O’ Neill.

 

I warned Kristi of my age when we spoke on the phone before my first class. I expected to be turned away, but instead, she told me that she would train me like a performer even if I had no plans to ever become one. I was skeptical, but dragged myself to her class anyway. Imagine my surprise when I found myself part of a community that supports and encourages each other. It has been my commitment to this group of people that keeps me going on the days where I feel like giving up. I would be lying if I said it was easy. Some days I wonder what the hell I am doing when my body reminds me that I’m not a kid anymore. These are the days that I push myself the hardest. These are also the days where I reap the greatest reward.

Most people I train with are considerably younger than me. The person I train with the most is thirteen years old and an adorable force to be reckoned with. It’s not easy keeping up with her, but I have an abundance of determination and enjoy the challenge. She inspires me to be the best version of myself. I consider it my duty to show this young lady what is possible for her when she reaches my age. I want her to remember our time together when people someday tell her to stop being an aerial star and act like a proper, boring grown-up.

Ernestine Shepherd trains like a boss. Watch the video. Trust me.

So there you have it. Here’s the take-away:

1. Don’t be stupid and train when your body needs to rest. Your ego will survive a day off and you aren’t falling off of the motivation wagon by resting when necessary. Being stubborn will only make matters worse when you trade that one rest day for six weeks of it. Plus, it really sucks admitting to an urgent care nurse that you are an obstinate asshole.

2. Don’t sabotage your success. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt. One of the reasons I share so many photos and videos of my progress on social media is to document my work and hold myself accountable. When you start to feel like your accomplishments amount to peanuts, remember how far you have come. Even better, remember the people who told you that you would never make it. You can spot them easily, sitting on the sidelines of life, silently scolding themselves for shooting down your dream because they are too scared to chase theirs.

3. What’s the truth about turning forty? It’s awesome! I have had an incredible life so far. There have been many ups and downs, but it has been one hell of an adventure! I believed at thirty-three that since I had accomplished my goal of being a fashion designer, all that was left on my bucket list was to travel more. I am happy to say that I was terribly wrong. I am excited to see where I can go with my training as well as my other pursuits. There is so much out there to experience and I am grateful for each day that I’m on this Earth. Is it more difficult to train at forty? You bet your ass it is. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Don't forget where you began! Progress is gradual. Give yourself credit for your hard work and accomplishments.

Don’t forget where you started! Progress is gradual. Give yourself credit for your hard work and accomplishments.

Pink Poison

I recently had the pleasure of working with the insanely talented Tristan Risk. As you may already know, she is one of my favorite debaucherous darlings and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to outfit her in something special. I have been wanting to pattern a burlesque bustle skirt for some time, so creating a custom creation for Little Miss Risk made perfect sense.

DSC_6488 copyweb

I also threw  in an exclusive Swarovski bat necklace and the Vegas inspired “Showgirl Flower” hair clip. Tristan added a couple of her own pieces to the ensemble and the result is nothing short of exquisite. I am eternally grateful to Shimona Henry of Pin-Up Perfection Photography for documenting this delightful collaboration. Swing by her site to witness some truly awe inspiring imagery.

DSC_6526 copyweb

 

Flexibility fun

The aerial school I attend recently had a performance at Lorna Jane. It was so much fun to see the girls I train with show off their skills! My flexibility/aerial coach Kristi Toguchi choreographed some wonderful acts and it was awesome learning new tricks.

I tried adagio a couple of times last year when my flexibility and balance were pretty much nonexistent. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could comfortably grab my feet in this pose while Danielle picked me up. The hard work really fell on her, however, as she had to parade me around. It’s a good thing she’s so damn strong 😉

Being carried around by Danielle

Being carried around by Danielle

My flexibility is coming along nicely. I feel like the next couple of months will produce some amazing progress! It was great to be paired up with Emily as she is an incredible contortionist and inspiration.

Getting bendy with Emily

Kristi has been teaching monthly free stretch classes for “Workout Wednesday” at Lorna Jane. If you have ever been interested in getting more bendy I highly suggest you swing by the store or check out her Aerial Fitness school. I can’t recommend Kristi enough! I just had my one year anniversary training with her and it’s crazy to look at how far I’ve come. I am so excited to see what I accomplish next 🙂

Backbend progress