Life in Ojai: A year ago today

July 7, 2015 ·
After only two or three sips of Natural White organic wine (no added sulfites), a different persona emerges. My Gemini Twin? Whoever she is, she’s not my yoga teacher self. Although she embraces the yogini aspect of the Goddess, she is far beyond all that.
She is the persona who wonders, who remembers, who questions everything. She is the artist who painted all night long in that rented room in the Haight Ashbury during the 1967 Summer of Love. She is the persona that existed long before I identified myself as a yoga teacher, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother, as a grandmother, as an author, as a mayor, as an animal advocate. She is beyond all the hats I’ve worn in this lifetime.
Every night, when the sky turns dark, when the merciful coolness descends on this dry, hot valley, my dogs force me out of my house, out of my home office. They demand that I step out of my small world where my sole goal is survival: paying the relentless rent, month after month, for this safe, celibate, utterly hopeless, unsustainable nunnery I’ve trapped myself in for so long now . . .
Every night I put on the same white cotton India shirt so the occasional driver can better see me, and the dogs and I wander the neighborhood, invisible. Even without the occasional sips of wine, it’s pure magic. Along with the nighttime coolness, a deep, mystical silence descends on the Ojai Valley–on this Valley of the Moon. This magic hour enables me to sustain my unsustainable Life.
Tonight I let the dogs lead—let them sniff every bush to their hearts’ content. We sat for a while on our favorite thick lawn in front of a church. They rolled on the sacred grass while I sat still to absorb the ambiance and bask in their innate doggie happiness. After a while, I saw someone approaching from a distance with a high-powered flashlight—maybe a nighttime jogger with a dog. I decided to avoid a close encounter and we hoofed it toward Ojai Avenue.
There, after the dark quiet of the downtown side streets, two speeding police cars with blaring sirens and red light flashing, one right after the other, seemed intense—very intense! They were followed by an endless river of speeding, brightly lit cars. I felt like a Neanderthal woman stepping into the 21st century.
The dogs loved all the excitement on Ojai Avenue, but still I ducked into the sanctuary of the Ojai Museum courtyard. There I sat on a sculpted stone bench. I looked up at the Madonna and Child mosaic window, and was reminded of how, decades ago when I was a child, this museum was a bona fide Catholic church. My next-door-neighbor friends, Kate and Heather, went to mass here while I was indoctrinated in the Pentecostal Church. In our teen years we tried to rebel, we tried to leave it all behind—but it was too late. That childhood religious conditioning was branded into our consciousness.
Sitting on that bench in the Ojai Museum courtyard, with the dogs quiet and content, one thought led to another until I finally had to put a stop to it, had to get up from that bench and walk past the MOB Shop, past the Oaks health spa, past the World University, and back into the present, into the reality/unreality, the transiency, of the ever-changing present moment—back into my writing-yoga-doga-grandma life.

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