"Now, I want you to leave the yurt," our teacher said. She pointed to the windows as if we did not know what was outside: pine trees, eucalyptus, redwoods, the Pacific Ocean and clouds heavy with potential rain. "It is too beautiful to stay inside." She asked us to go towards what's calling us. She promised it would speak to us. She said it would tell us what to write. "It can be a flower, a tree, a bird, a wagon wheel. You will know."
We were in Esalen, Big Sur, a magic place, where people say those things and no one laughs.
We put on our shoes and jackets, and off we went in all directions, notebooks and pens in our hands. Some of my fellow explorers seemed to know exactly where to go. One sat down next to a bush, one touched a tree. Most seemed a bit lost and still searching like me. We walked slowly, stopped, looked to the sky, into the distance, to the earth.
I was tempted to go back to a place I had discovered the day before. A small house with wooden shingles, silver grey, ten steps from the cliff with a view past pine trees to the sea. My dream house. A place where I would want to live. A place where I might even want to die. I listened.
This house was not calling me.
I walked into the opposite direction. Downwards. First on a narrow path of moist dirt between soft grass, then on an asphalt walk way wide enough for just one car. I looked. I listened. I took a deep breath. I felt inside my heart. "What's calling me? Or who?" I asked. This tree? No. The pine cone I picked up from the road? No. The bright red flower between bushes of purple primroses? No. This moss on a stump? No.
I kept walking.
Then, a sound hit me like a baseball bat. Then, I heard the water. Then, I knew.
I stood in the middle of a path that winds down towards a wooden bridge. To the right is a round meditation hut. To the left a wrought iron gate, the start of a hike through fairy grounds of ferns and redwoods. I was surrounded by trees. The sky looked as if water could fall down and wash me away any minute now. Still I felt safe. My old blue sweater kept me warm. My face was cool from the air. The pine cone rested in my palm like my mother's hand. Weathered. Soft. Knotty in spots. Light as a sparrow.
The power of rushing water echoed from the canyon. It called me!
I passed the meditation hut, found a rock to sit on, took my shoes off and my socks, let my feet into the water, which first felt like ice, then like pure pulsing energy that entered me.
I told you, I was in Esalen, where you're allowed to think and feel and even talk like this.
I started to write.
The River called
I sit still
Before constant change
Bubbles and puddles
Ice tubs full of birth
Ecstatic here and now
Water and air
Eucalyptus and redwoods
Power and my body
Stay! Rush! Stop!
Rest in a pool
Made of moss and rocks
Stronger than granite
Softer than silk
Into your freezing force I melt
Into your symphony I breathe
From your water I drink