A seemingly endless spell of hi-90 degree and triple digit days (108. 103, 105 or such) with unusual amounts of humidity, combined with what’s (by the reactions of my poor eyes) clearly an inordinately high pollen count, has been making life in Ojai a bit challenging lately. Though I thought I’d refined all the glitches in my recent re-do of the drip irrigation system for the garden, the excessive heat has revealed several locations that needed retooling – this tweaking seems to go on and on. All outdoor chores have to be done after seven at night (when things cool to livable temperatures) or before ten in the morning.
During the rest of the day, I wander around indoors feeling a bit like a zombie, despite a reasonable air conditioner and several efficient ceiling fans. I think it’s their noise that numbs me as much as the heat does when I turn them off. Working on and reworking texts for the introduction/invitation and back cover for the in-process journal workbook (Tenderly Embracing All the Ways that I Feel and Am: Journaling to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion for Our Precious Selves) has kept me from heading down to the ocean to cool off. My friend, though, tells me that it’s been gloomy and fogged in down there most days, not exactly a wonderful alternative.
As the garden struggles against being seared, the roses fry as quickly as they open and watering has become an almost daily affair. Still, the brilliant yellow kangaroo paws and two kinds of yellow rudebeckia (black-eyed Susan looking flowers), the lavenders, lily of the Niles, Shasta daisies, purple lantana and zinnias of many colors seem quite able to withstand intense heat. The last of the pansies, though, are barely making it and the supertunias have expired. I’ve planted some new flowers, among them orange and red marigolds, a blue star-shaped flower and a few others whose names, alas, flitted right through my brain leaving not a trace. Happy new faces smiling in my garden.
Recently planted new red, green and romaine lettuces, arugula and three kinds of kale are managing well despite the high temperatures, though the arugula starts to flower if I don’t nip its buds every morning. Abundant cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumbers and a small but sweet crop of strawberries are all luscious daily additions to my plate and palate.
All eight (51 ounces each!) hummingbird feeders are emptied after the hummers’ dinner hour every third day. They arrive up to forty strong at a time. They launch from the nearby privet tree where they are in the company of hordes of bees feasting on the now blooming privet flowers – which daily cascade to the ground in clouds of pollen. (My sister would have had a fit: me, so allergic to their stings, puttering in a garden humming with so many bees! I do, though, have two Epi-pens handy for any emergency.)
Both of my kitties spend most of their day zonked indoors right next to their equally zonked mom. (The photo we posted “Position is everything in life,” is of Sugar collapsed on her scratching box.) It’s summer in Ojai, sigh! A good season for resting except for all the watering/feeding chores that need tending to.
Apropos of resting, it’s just three weeks ago that I arrived back from my delicious ten-day trip to a pair of deck-connected cottages overlooking the ocean at Bodega Bay. There my only chores were to prepare food to feed my self and to set up my daily vitamin portions (no small task!). Despite having had some fleeting trepidations as I anticipated a week of life without all the house and garden putterings that daily ground me, I absolutely reveled in having nothing whatever to do.
I’d brought along a large plastic crate full of art materials: brush pens, watercolors, my collection of various-point-sized black pens for drawing, a collection of pads and blocks for pen and ink or watercolors as well as the yarns I’m using to coil the foundation of a new mask: all just-in-case the spirit moved me to create. It didn’t and that turned out to be fine with me. All the goodies were great fun for my godson-by-choice’s two delightful, bright and articulate daughters, one just shy of six and the other nine. With a brought-from-Ojai sheet as drop cloth, we had a permanent art workshop during the weekend that they shared the rentals with me. (Their dad, mom and the girls stayed in the second one-bedroom cottage but the girls spent a good part of each day in my cottage coloring, drawing and painting.)
The weather was kaleidoscopic: being blown in by gale force winds the day I arrived, then a couple of days of brilliant sunshine with clear views of the ocean from the living rooms and decks. Three chill days of dense fog/no views and intermittent rain followed before a final day of sun: an array of all the seasons in a week’s stay. I loved the gray, wet days. I spent them cuddled in my sleeping bag on the couch reading, listening to the ocean and watching the fire in the glass-fronted wood stove. Though it was actually a gas stove, it was filled with such realistic fake logs and gas flames, I’d frequently start up from my muzzy trance thinking it must be time to add more wood. Then, I’d remember: ah, no such need, and slip back down into la-la land.
On the sunny days, I wandered to and along the secluded, semi-private beach – a half-mile down a somewhat steep overgrown jeep track. At low tide, you could walk forever watching the waves pound dark monoliths of rock out in the ocean. The girls and their mom built a magical house out of driftwood and seaweed while I scavenged for likely contributions to their artistry. On the rainy, chill days I, quite happily, barely ventured from the couch and fire. I loved being a slug.
The four of them had arrived six hours after I did on Friday, so I’d had time to settle in and do what little unpacking I did. Mostly I left things in the plastic crates I’d packed in and simply found places to stow the crates. Of course, I’d packed everything I could imagine I might need for a month’s stay on a desert island – just to be sure I’d be able to take the best care of me in this unknown territory. Though much of it languished unused, it was great never to have to travel the twenty-minute gravel and rutted black top back road out through the gate to the highway and then the additional few miles to civilization for supplies.
It was a lovely setting for us to visit in – away from their hectic, intense city life and from all my ordinary chores. We could simply be in the moment and with each other in various combinations. When they left in the late afternoon on Sunday, everything was suddenly so still. It took a while to switch gears into my cherished solitary time. There’s always a bit of out-of-sorts ness for me as I regroup after having anyone staying over in my space at home. It was the same at the rental. It’s not as if I’d want my guests to stay any longer, just that I have to reorient, to move back into my more familiar solitariness. At home, the rituals of putting things back to the way they usually are when I’m alone carries me gently through the transition. At the cottage, doing my regular Sunday ablutions (bath, cornmeal body-scrub, wash hair, manicure, pedicure, facial masque) served to settle me back into my self-time.
For my Monday, I had set up appointments to spend the afternoon and early evening revisiting Osmosis Enzyme Baths and Spa, an extraordinarily sybaritic and gorgeous place I used to visit four times a year when I sat in two women’s circles that met seasonally in the area. Just shy of forty minutes from the cottages, Osmosis is an oasis of magnificent Japanese gardens and meditation pavilions adjoining exquisitely landscaped ponds. With esthetically beautiful massage rooms and massage pagodas, sweet and skilled practitioners offering massages, facials and tending to you as you spend your twenty minutes buried in a dry hot tub filled with a composting cedar shavings-enzyme mix whose heat draws toxins from your body, this place offers luscious opportunities for self-care.
Your bath attendant, after a brief version of a tea ceremony to introduce you to what’s to come, sends you off to a changing room where you find kimonos and mesh caps for your hair. Once you’ve changed and stowed your belongings in a locker, she leads you to one of the enzyme bath rooms and helps you climb into and recline on a hand-contoured bed of shavings that she readjusts for your absolute comfort. She gently sweeps shavings back to cover you up to your neck in the compost heap (where you can, if you feel the need, liberate your hands, feet, arms and legs – even your whole body – quite easily). Your view out the wall of windows: a lovely Japanese-style pond and garden landscape. She visits every five minutes to check on you and wipe your sweaty face with an ice cold cloth dipped in lavender water. She leaves another such cloth folded on your forehead to cool it, offers you sips of water through a bent straw and, if you choose, pours lavender water on your hair (that’s in the mesh cap). When your time is up (or sooner if you’d rather) she and you, with long narrow silky–bristled brushes, dust off (onto the wood-decking floor) whatever shavings have stuck to your damp body before you head into a shower.
If you’ve no further treatments scheduled, you move to a room where you recline and rest a while on a futon, wrapped in a light blanket with headphones playing (if you choose to have it) hemi-sync music. Since I’d scheduled a ninety-minute deep tissue massage, a seventy-five minute aromatherapy facial and a box lunch, I moved slowly onto my next treatment.
(Renting the cottage for a week and planning this extravagant half-day at the Spa was my splurge of a gift to my self. A magical celebration of all the work I’ve done completing the Go Slowly book/assignment from the Grandmothers and of the work I’m now doing in collaboration with Barbara to birth the Journaling book as a kind of inspiring/exploring companion to Go Slowly.)
The deep tissue massage was the deepest I’ve ever had, even with my two regular back-in-Ojai deep tissue masseuses: heavenly. Lunch and tea was served on one of their porches overlooking the gardens. Though it was tasty, I’d opt next time to bring some of the fabulous bread (goat cheese, sun-dried tomato and rosemary for example) or scones (like a Meyer lemon, blueberry and poppy seed or a nectarine, plum and cardamom) from the Wildflower Organic Bakery just up the road.
After lunch and a brief sit in their meditation pavilion watching the drizzle pock one of the ponds from above while the goldfish sent bubbles up from below, I moved on to a wonderful facial. Each treatment room and each waiting area in the wood paneled main building is arranged with exquisite care for comfort and beauty. It was a day in a very special paradise, even as the rain precluded a snooze in their field of hammocks or a leisurely stroll through their extensive gardens.
Though in Ojai I already live in paradise with regular access to incredibly gifted body workers who know my body well, this extravagant week of indulgences was a delicious visit to an alternate paradisiacal world. I loved every moment of it.
Tuesday and Wednesday I mostly lazed about the cottage in the rain. But, on Wednesday I also took a jaunt to nearby Sebastopol. I went there to bring sample books to a specialty shop (Milk and Honey) whose former owner used to carry many of my cards and to stop, as well, at to two other bookstores on the main street. I hadn’t committed my self to doing this beforehand, but I did bring along promo flyers for bookstore owners and several books – just in case I felt moved to make any contact. Though the specialty shop was no longer ordering anything (they may have to close their doors soon), I left a book and a deck of the Rememberings cards on the coffee/resources-for-reading table in the area of their Elixir Bar. And, I had a lovely conversation with the owner of a modest spiritual bookstore (Many Rivers) who was delighted to stock my book. It was a pleasant interlude in the middle of my lazy days on the couch at the fire.
Thursday was the day set for taping the New Dimensions Radio interview with my old and dear friend Justine Toms (the appointment in Petaluma that opened me to the impulsive jaunt to Bodega Bay and Osmosis). I was excited at the prospect of sitting down with Justine to a conversation that had the promise of being juicy and fun. It was both and even more delightful than I could have imagined. Justine is a marvelously gifted interviewer who clearly reads one’s book carefully, connecting deeply and personally with what she’s reading. She loved the book and was as eager as I for our reunion and talk. We had a small audience: the woman artist in whose living room Justine’s interviews are taped, the sweet man who engineers the recording, his wife (who does some IT work for New Dimensions Media) and a good woman friend of hers who was visiting from Colorado. Once Dan had set me into the headset and microphone I’d wear through the interview, everything and everyone disappeared from my consciousness: it was just Justine and I, wandering the landscape of my tales and life. It was even more special than it might have otherwise been since Justine had sat with me in the Women’s Lodge Circles in which I first brought the me I’d been growing in solitude into my sharing with others. And, she had, in those early days, also been a source of many laser-like insights/reflections that helped hone my newly emerging social-me.
We had a fabulous time ranging every which where together. At the end of our hour and a half of conversation (a one-hour program and a second twenty or so minute separate conversation for their web-radio Café) I had almost no idea of what we’d talked about. She graciously sent me a raw CD of it all so I wouldn’t have to wait for a copy of the postproduction version to know where we’d gone. We were both absolutely thrilled with how the conversation unfolded (so was our mini-audience who applauded us heartily at its end). Once Justine sets the date the program will air, we’ll put that information on our Facebook page and here in the blogs. Then when she sends me the postproduction CD, we’ll make that audio available on forthelittleones.com.
I brought in books (from my stash in the car) for everyone who didn’t yet have one (Justine and Peggy, whose house we were in, both already had copies) and we all debriefed a bit. After the others left, Justine, Peggy and I visited while I ordered a giclee print of Peggy’s chiaroscuro painting of a Hawaiian sunset that faced (and entranced) me where I’d sat for the taping. Then, Justine and I went off to a fabulous Indian restaurant (Avatar) in Petaluma for an early dinner and much catching-up. It was another perfect day in my more-than-a-week of perfect days away from home.
On Friday, as part of the first leg of my trip back to Ojai, I had lunch with an old friend from my Big Sur living-in-my-van days (1973-74) with whom I’ve kept in loose touch all the years since. A gifted artist, the luncheon tray she created was a work of art almost too beautiful to disrupt by eating. To it we added the fabulous breads I’d brought from the Wildflower Bakery. Afterward, we toured her studio where I got to see her recent works. Then we spent a juicy few hours touring each other’s lives. We’ve both grown so in these now 40 (!) years since we first met and profoundly touched each other: each of us always becoming more fully her self. The connection is still deep even though there have been long periods between contacts.
After that visit, a long, slow road trip (through rush hour traffic in its first segments) two thirds of the way home. Falling, exhausted, into a motel bed just off the road at 10:30 P.M. A leisurely drive, then, from there to Ojai after an outdoor breakfast in Pismo Beach the next morning.
There were no significant illuminations or messages from Spirit/The Grandmothers during my travels, the time in Bodega or even once I’d return home. Re-entry was gentle and, but for bird and garden chores, the energy of home was not really much different from the energy of being away in Bodega Bay. Although I went without any particular expectations for the time, something about this trip felt like it might bring some new awarenesses. In the end, what’s come of it is simply the realization that my life these days is lived fully present-in-just-this-moment, no matter where I am or what I’m doing (or not doing). It pleases me to see how so this is.
In the past week I’ve been reading the about-to-be-released Heal Yourself with Writing, a lovely little book filled with focused journal-writing exercises crafted by an extraordinarily accomplished, multi-talented Ojai woman I know who teaches writing workshops all over the world. Catherine Ann Jones speaks much same language as I do, similarly shares (but more briefly) tales from her own inner and spiritual journey and, though in a much different way, also invites her readers to drop into their deep, inner knowing places to uncover their authentic selves/voice. It’s been fascinating to be reading this book while in the middle of assembling (with my amazing-collaborator-in-charge-of-everything, Barbara) a journaling book of my own. I’m delighted to have Catherine’s book to recommend to women for whom the guiding of her gentle exercises may provide the more structured approach that might work best for them.
The structured exercises would not have worked for me. I’ve always chafed against structure/guidebooks, however gentle they might be. I suspect that’s precisely why Tenderly Embracing All the Ways that I Feel and Am: Journaling to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion for Our Precious Selves is instead filled with bits and pieces of poems, prose and song-chants meant to serve as possible seeds of inspiration – a more free form approach to inviting one to in-depth journaling with words or drawing.
It’s been fascinating and confirming, as I closely read each of the many exercises in Catherine’s various chapters, to see just how fully in the middle of my authentic self I really do live these days. There’s nothing I want to do that I’m not already doing with my life, nothing I would change if I knew this week would be my last on the planet, nothing from my past that’s keeping me from being and delighting in my full self, no secrets I have been keeping from my self and I feel deeply connected with The Grandmothers as my Spirit helpers/guardians. I can see that, if this were not so and if the person for whom it were not so felt comfortable with structured journal-writing exercises, Catherine’s book would surely be a great gift.
Clearly, I’ve been reflecting on and feeling profoundly blessed this past week (and since returning from my trip) by how much wholeness, self-awareness, self-acceptance and magic is woven into every day of my almost 73-year-old life. (Feeling very full of my self and how much healing I’ve done!) At the same time, in this week that marks the three-year anniversary of my sister’s death, I’ve been saddened anew by how unable she was, in her too-short lifetime, to wrest from the damaging legacy of our childhoods the right and permission to compassionately embrace and take loving care of her self. I spent some time rereading the Memory Book that one of her dearest friends created compiling the notes of loving and funny rememberings from a wide cross section of people whose lives she’d deeply touched. It brought tears and aching for her just as it did when first I read through it and when she died. Such a bright, warm, caring, incredibly funny woman, so beloved by so many very long-term friends, professional colleagues and students she had mentored, yet she was never able to open to loving her self.
I’d felt so helpless in the face of her endless struggles. She’d use me as a confidante, run things by me that were troubling her, frequently asking for my take on whatever it was, for some reframing. She might use that input briefly before recycling back to her own problematic way of coping. Sometimes she’d ask me for suggestions or strategies that she could try to use to help her take better care of her self. She’d get excited for a day or two as she tailored whatever I’d offer to suit her own style, calling me to report on how well it was working. But, inevitably, by the fourth or fifth day, she’d abandon the pursuit. It was so challenging and so sad to be dedicatedly re-mothering me and mentoring so many other women I worked with into re-mothering themselves while I watched my sister be so unable to incorporate any of these skills. It always made me think of the old saying: the shoemaker’s children often have no shoes.
Barbara’s been urging me to try to write more often and maybe even sometimes shorter pieces for these two websites and our Facebook page. So far, it doesn’t seem to be happening, sigh! Instead, I’ve committed to posting something weekly from the enormous collection of quotes I’ve gathered on my own and from pirating various friends’ collections of quotes. And, it seems that she, my amazing-collaborator-in-charge-of everything who is also a gifted photographer, has been adding some of her exquisite photos as backgrounds to the quotes I send her for posting! Enjoy and do pass them along!