Big Basin State Park is California’s oldest state park, established in 1902 in Santa Cruz county. Winter is a lovely time to visit if you have an aversion to crowds and don’t mind wet, muddy pathways. Not surprisingly, there are also a number of branches and saplings down across trails that may lead one astray, turn one around. Not that that happened to me yesterday. Okay, it did.
One could not possibly get too nervous as the park road was often only a half mile away from the trail I’d chosen (although there was nary a car on that road you might detect), the creek was often within hearing distance, and the sun was at midday, so, my feet just kept wandering. As Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.” hahaha… Seriously, it was almost a blessing. I’d already forgotten my phone at the cabin and consciously left my trusty camera behind to just-be-there and this simply pushed me into true disconnect. Sublime. (And I cheated on the photo above- with no camera in the park, I settled for these young beauties on my friends’ property)
True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible…In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.
– Wendell Berry –
Word reached me this morning, here in my retreat, of the sudden death of a friend back home. Sigh. Yesterday I was caressing and leaning into old growth forest, absorbing its ancient energy and strength that I may replenish and carry with me. All around, there were fallen and decaying trees infusing life with their death. I know that is how it goes in the universe yet these shocks are becoming all too common these days, in my circle. The more friends and family you are blessed with, the more loss you can suffer. But, conversely, you also grow and love and feel more- and isn’t that what life is, why we’re here? This is still very hard. I’m grateful for that fill-up…
This morning (before the email) as I lay warmly ensconced in a mountain of blankets, the frigid cold of the off-grid house trying to pry it’s way under the covers, hearing only the soft patter of rain on the skylight and the faint ticking of a small clock (why is that sound always making itself present?), I thought, “Silence is a relative term.” The dogs are still asleep, we are at the end of a long, dirt road with no visitors, we are in between generator cycles (the back-up to the solar) and even the refrigerator is at rest for the moment. By some standards, this is quiet. It is. But the ruckus between the ears begins to make up for it. Seems to me there is a balance to be reached there. But how?
To do nothing. How often do we do that? I don’t have to check email. I don’t have to answer my phone or texts. Walk the dogs. Done. Build up a good fire in the wood stove. Done. Brush my hair and teeth just that I might maintain some self-respect. As good as it gets… Meditate on the fire, as I did on the creek several times yesterday, like a hypnotist in the movies waves a pocket watch before the eyes of his client, I sneak off into oblivion.
Conceitedly, selfishly, I imagined, “only artists and writers never get to really turn off their brains.” Admittedly, mine was pretty much shut down. Running water balances my spirit, restores the negative ions, and simply soothes my mind. Flames licking about in a controlled fire, mesmerize with their dance over the tinder and logs. “Should” is a word I’m trying to avoid these 10 days. I’d much rather meditate on these natural, mystical offerings or the rain clouds ebbing and flowing through the valley and hills.
Stepping outside for a moment, away from my projects, to play with the dogs, get some fresh air and stretch, throw my shoulders back, look out over the tree tops and smile…I feel taller, able to take more in, come to think of it- but only the worthwhile stuff.