Balloons and Stories

Back in April 2013, I started listening. I walked around Boston for a day with a cardboard sign, an audio recorder, and bunch of balloons.


People talked to me, all sorts of people.

I met homeless Vietnam vets, a woman dressed up as Lady Liberty who lost everyone on her block to the earthquake in Haiti, a T employee who swears that his mother was dead for 48 hours and came back to life after he prayed to have just one more coffee with her, and a retired Spanish teacher who swore that the Statue of Liberty was modeled after Marie Antoinette.

So, some backstory:

It started out as an act of healing. The Boston Marathon bombings had happened just a few days before. After being stuck inside on lockdown, I wanted to get out in my city––to talk to people and to listen.

Cycling home from class, I passed the tail-end of event in Conway Park. I don’t know what they were celebrating. Someone was giving away bunches of blue and green balloons. I took a set of six and tied the orange ribbon holding them together to the handlebars of my bike.

I cycled home and stashed the balloons in my room.

The next day, I scavenged in the recycling bin for an old cardboard box. I cut the box open and covered it with a paper bag. I used a Sharpie to write: “open call for stories” on its face. I poked a hole on either side of the top and threaded a green piece of ribbon through so that I could wear the cardboard sign around my neck, and use both hands to record audio unencumbered.

That was four years ago. Since then I’ve been recording stories about water and climate change in 11 countries, mostly on my bicycle. I haven’t intersected with balloons on the trip. Until now.

This weekend I’m visiting Julie Zauzmer in Washington, D.C. Julie is a bad-ass balloon twister who doubles as a reporter for the Washington Post. Back in college Julie started a club on campus called Class Clowns, which I joined because I know how to juggle and unicycle (but not at the same time). It seemed like a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Fast forward to 2017. So back in February I sent Julie a message asking if we could make “some kind of story-collecting-booth out of balloons.”

She said yes.

We spent today twisting.

Tomorrow we’ll be at Malcolm X Park starting around 9:30am. I’ll have my audio recorder with me. Tell me a story about water and/or climate change?

Here’s a small preview. More photos to come.


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Women’s March on London + audio


On January 21, 100,000 people took to the streets in London to protest Trump’s inauguration, marching from the U.S. Embassy to Trafalgar Square.

I tagged along with my audio recorder, and recorded interviews with 18 activists who attended the march.

This turned into two reported pieces, one for Cosmopolitan UKand the other for The GroundTruth Project.

You can read both here:

Here’s a small sample:

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And if you’ve ever found yourself thinking: Devi makes audio recordings — why hasn’t she shared many of them with the world?


The GroundTruth Project created a playlist of my recorded interviews. You can listen to the recordings on SoundCloud here:

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In love and resistance,


“The Power of Slow”

Hey, world! I have an essay in the September 2016 print edition of Bicycling magazine about the power of slow cycling.

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You can read the essay online here:

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In listening, I give the whole of myself—my ears, my heart—to a storyteller. In cycling, I give the whole of myself—my body, my spirit—to a place. I move through the landscape and the landscape moves through me. Slowness has become part of my daily practice.

Check it out!



Yours Truly on the TV

A few months ago I did an interview with NationTV 22 in Bangkok for the show Mong Rao Mong Lok / มองเรามองโลก.

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me & Veenarat Laohapakakul, who asks wonderful questions

Here’s the full show that aired this weekend in Thailand –– it’s in Thai, but the interview is in English with subtitles! Hope you enjoy:

Rhythm (yes, again)

I have written about rhythm before.

Silence is rhythmic architecture — the places where we build things. Silence is beautiful.

I’m wrestling with a 50,000 word beast and crafting a letter to send to literary agents, yes, but my days in this river town are bookended by sweat: rowing and boxing.

I like working hard and punching the pads of my kick-ass boxing buddy and gliding on the misty morning river. I like it a whole lot.

The sound of my gloves colliding with her pads or her gloves colliding with my pads is not unlike a firework.

This year on New Year’s Eve I embraced my inner nannaish tendencies. I did not go out. I made myself an elaborate meal of veggies dipped in hummus. I wrote three letters to friends back home while listening to episodes of On Being. At midnight I played guitar for no one but myself. I sat on the porch and listened to the sounds of fireworks going off all around. It was a night I loved for its stillness––an evening so still I could see my own reflection.

A few days ago I made a list of things I love. Because, hey, it’s beautiful to be alive. Also, pesto. Nuff said.


While I was writing this list, the sky was being itself. I love watching the sunset from a porch. Every minute, every moment, was brand new.


It’s beautiful to be staying still. It’s beautiful to be writing and to be getting those words out into the world.

Three more things happened today:

  1. The piece I wrote for Harvard Magazine went live:

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2. I went live on the air with ABC Darwin (National Radio in Australia) to reflect on the past year & the unfolding mysteries of 2016: 

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Public radio is an intensely intimate experience. I love that about it.

3. I made my favorite recipe in the whole world, Carrot Pie from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest––domestic bliss for this little touring cyclist that could.

carrot pie recipe // nut crust recipe

There’s magic in stillness, ya’ll.

And eating is a way of knowing. Listening is a way of knowing. Loving is a kind of surrender.

There is rhythm in motion and there is rhythm in staying still.

So glad to be here on this journey with you. The year is off to a whirlwind of a crazy-gorgeous start.

Love to you,





Dancing at Kura Tāwhiti

Some places are full of the stories
of all the people
who have passed through here before.

Kura Tāwhiti is one of those places.


When I dance, I hear landscapes differently.

I dance to honor places.

Dancing is sacred to me.


Arohanui to Nicole for taking these photos, and for the adventure.

The Power of Deep Listening

“If you say a word often enough, it becomes you.” We are, in other words, made of the words we give breath to — the very sentences we speak into existence.

We build ourselves houses of words, and we live there.

We are the stories we tell ourselves.

I just published a piece over on Medium. It’s a bit of a manifesto — why I listen, how I listen, why I believe listening is powerful.

Check it out: