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Laurel Nobilis



One of my dear friends has been traveling as a model for many years and recently delved into spirituality. To set the stage, I didn’t personally know her yet but she had traveled for two weeks shooting a bikini line with a few of my oldest and closest friends (the longest of the friendships is now my housemate) Together we brought a three day music festival to life in 2013 ~which led me to my deepest and most profound spiritual experiences. I heard enough stories about this model from my friends and saw enough of her on the internet and in various publications to the point that she was a common character in my life - even having never met. I somehow felt her, knew her essence, long before having met her directly. I had even used her as reference in several paintings.


She didn’t know me at all.


A few days ago, my other photographer roommate knocked on my door and asked if I could assist him with a little shoot in the backyard. I helped him set up and we went inside to wait for the model in the house.


The light was strange that day, the air felt different, charged.


The model knocked and stepped inside, it was Laurel. There are moments when I meet certain people in which reality seems to sing before me, where the presence of someone seems to bend spacetime. The meaning behind the moment resonates with a higher tone, high definition. The feeling is a magnetism, a pull that begs to be followed.


We greeted her, began to chat and enjoy her presence. She’s a very unique soul. Out of the blue she mentions Klea McKenna, Terrence’s daughter. A man who's talks and writing led me to many of my most profound experiences. That morning I had talked to Klea about a book she was writing that showcased butterflies Terrence had collected during his frequent travels to Iquitos in Peru, chasing the mysteries of Ayahuasca. I too collect butterflies and was very interested in the shamanism of Peru.


Very few people know of Klea...so when she spoke of her I nearly fell out of my chair ~floored by the synchronistic nature of this connection. This whole situation was blowing up my intuition like a star.


“Pay attention...” my soul whispered. You are very close to your path.

The closer I am, the more synchronized my experiences become.


We took photos of her outside and I was held in a dreamlike state in her presence, she’s other-worldly. Butterflies fluttered above in the red-orange light from wildfire stained skies, their shadows dancing upon her skin. What a surreal day!

During breaks between shooting, I asked her about her experience with spirituality and found that she had only just began her journey in March. I shared my intention to travel to Peru and how afraid I was. She said, fear suggests this journey is exactly what I should do. I knew this philosophy and smiled, perhaps she had crossed my path as encouragement. Her words, the smallest push I needed to set a journey in motion.


Before she parted, she shared her website with me, she had a passage that described the origin of her name. Laurel Nobilis, a tree, what kind I wondered. Not even a week before, I bought a bay tree on eBay, called to maintain memories of my Bay Area roots, I began to care for this little tree as a reminder of the forests where I first fell in love with nature. But I wasn't aware of it's scientific name, I googled the tree she mentioned, it was the same exact species I had bought. More and more synchronicity.

While scrolling through Instagram I found a post speaking about the significance of that day. (8/8/18) They called it the “Lions Gate Portal” and it was a day that symbolized the opening of great change and potential for the path ahead.


Of course it would be a lion, hello again my friend.


The lion is a symbol I follow as guidance in life and spiritual matters, I had an ineffable spiritual experience with the lion at the festival from my past. The same festival I built with the friend that knew Laurel.


I decided to write her a long thank you and share all of the synchronicity I’d experienced. Perhaps I’d never see her again. I left my number.


She texted a few days later to say,


“Your letter brought me to tears...”

We began a fun little back and forth and I continuously tried to hang out with her. No luck, she was always busy or disappearing. After a few weeks of trying, she suddenly moved to Bali to study ChiGong; It is an ancient form of energy work.


I went on my way to Peru to explore sacred ceremonies, plant medicines, and yoga.


After a long radio silence, I texted her to wish her happy holidays. I found out she returned from Bali and was planning a new journey. I asked her where her next adventure was and she says Africa.


Oh hello again synchronicity. Let me guess, Kenya? Yup. I tell her my mom was born there. What day will she be landing... the sixteenth? Yup. My moms birthday.


So I suddenly had the idea to assign her a quest. I bound a set of crystals together that I had a particularly strong connection with. If you understand the concept of quantum entanglement and the direct connection our consciousness has with this state, you could say that I'm bound to these crystals and they are bound to each-other, from any distance. I thought of the perfect gift for my mother on her birthday. I woke up at 6 and pushed through LA traffic to Laurel’s address, numbered 7777 ...gave her my crystals and said,


“Bury these in the soil of Nairobi where you most feel connected to the land.”

...we parted and on my moms birthday I gave her the other set of crystals, bound to her homeland. Laurel placed them somewhere near the Giraffe Manor which I showed my mom and she said, “Wow I used to ride horses through those plains, 20 minutes from my house!”

For some reason we lost contact after I suggested visiting Kenya during another one of her adventures.


Many months passed and my Laurel Nobilis tree died. I couldn't understand why. I wondered what I had done wrong.


Recently I found a ticket voucher I had received when a flight was overbooked during a visit to my brother and father's house. It fell out of a sketchbook I had forgotten about along with a greyhound bus pass. I considered a trip to Maui I had been putting off because of time and money. I was invited by three friends who were going on a long journey into the jungle. My cat had nearly died from a urinary block a week before and I spent almost $3,000 saving him. I felt like it wasn't the right move but I yearn to travel.


That same day I was swiping through a dating app and found a profile who's photos were all of Laurel. But it wasn't her obviously. Very strange when people decide to use another beautiful soul's photos as their own on a dating site. I reported the identity thief and decided to reconnect with her. I texted,

“Thinking of you. How are your adventures lately?”

She messaged back with a warm response and told me she had was packing for Maui.


I mentioned that I had been invited there for a camping adventure and it seemed we were always ending up in the same places. She remarked on how thrilled she would have been if I was in Maui as well, and just like that I knew what my voucher was for.

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Photography by Benjamin Sumner Franke