Posts Tagged ‘Ojai’

A little taste of Eden to help us cope here in the insane asylum

November 25, 2013
Sunday night, November 24, 2013
Now the mountains are pitch black–the last reflection from the setting sun all gone. Even the shapes of trees look solid, almost human, like black giants lumbering toward me.Looking toward Matilija Canyon, the sky is a pale blue-white light; toward Lake Casitas the horizon is a polluted orange-gold. I stand stone still, holding the quivering Chico against my chest, and wait for the evening stillness to descend. The bigger dogs know my habits; they don’t worry about why we don’t hurry home, but lie still in the weeds.

I turn around and lean back over a boulder whose shape is perfect for looking up at the sky. At first the barely light sky looks empty, but then I notice the black shapes of formations of birds speeding overhead–perfectly aligned groups of five or more, sometimes a row of three . . . and a few lone birds aiming to catch up. I can see the white flecks on their wings, and they keep coming and coming . . . I sit up and try to see if they land nearby, but they vanish in the air.

420152_10150741781489703_1319035889_nFor a moment the evening silence is broken by an airplane, buzzing like a foreign monster overhead. This triggers a deep-time  memory . . . my ancient, primitive brain remembers the past–the long-ago past beyond this brief flicker of a lifetime . . . and something in me also has an imaginary inkling of the future. 

But, here in the present, lights are going on in nearby houses, and poor little shivering Chico wonders why we don’t get moving and go inside. I tell myself that if it were not for the dogs I might still be meditating on that rock, but, truth be told, I’m hungry and my mortal stomach calls.As we walk the few steps home, my noisy modern brain hears the first crickets. If you’ve heard that amazing recording of the chorus of crickets slowed down, then you know their song is a celestial sound . . . a little taste of Eden to help us cope here in the insane asylum.

 

The wild wind sweeps through the river bottom

November 14, 2013

The wild wind sweeps through the river bottom . . . Honey is crazy with joy, and her canine exuberance is contagious! She runs with the wind like a whirling dog-dervish. She dances and prances and follows a thousand invisible scents. Little Chico scrambles to keep up. His whole Chihuahua being trembles with excitement! For a moment the wind is so intense that it kicks up the dry dirt and we pass through a cloud of dust. I’m aware that wind can blind us, can destroy all in its path. But here, so far, it’s a joyous, cleansing, healing wind that just blows the past right out of you and lifts you into the present . . .

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Into the underworld of chills and fever

October 17, 2013

October 16, 2013 

buddy542212_685309024830274_335351423_nEarly this morning, for the first time in about ten days I felt strong enough to rise from my sick bed and follow the wind just past the gate near my house—a place where I can lean against my favorite boulder, high above the dry river bed, sip my hot potion of lemon and raw honey, and take in the panoramic view of the mountains.

I was just thinking how great it felt to be steady on my feet again when a large wolf-like coyote appeared in the not-too-far distance. At that same moment I noticed that little Chico, who was supposed to be home safe in his basket, had followed me and the larger dogs. Chico—so innocent and oblivious– looked pleased that he had found us on his own. I wanted to linger and study the coyote, but I quickly shouted to the dogs and headed back toward the gate. This flurry of activity caused the coyote and his invisible pack to start yipping. My own pack and I bolted through the gate, and I locked my dogs safe inside the house.

I couldn’t resist having one more look, from the safety of a point just a few feet past the gate. Sure enough, there were now three of them, looking almost blond in the early morning light and trotting down the same path that my dogs and I walk almost every day. One stopped to pee—just like a dog. What did I expect? They were moving in my direction at a good pace so I slipped quickly back behind the gate and waited for them to walk by, but they took a different direction home.

About ten days ago Mother Nature had her way with me, snatching me out of my busy life and dragging me into the underworld of chills and fever. She slammed me into my bed and told me in no uncertain terms, “I gave you plenty of warnings, but you ignored me. Now I’m gonna show you who’s the boss!”

I can perfectly understand why primitive people believed disease was caused by evil spirits, because it felt like two conflicting devils were in a raging battle inside of me. But truth is, our modern-day superstitions that blame hokus pokus flu bugs are not much better. I can’t in good conscience blame germs for my sorry state; I brought it upon myself. And now I had no choice but to surrender.

I had dutifully pushed myself out of bed to teach an early-morning yoga class. The room felt cold, although normally I have good circulation and an unheated room doesn’t faze me. About halfway into the 90-minute class, it was like someone had suddenly pulled the plug. You don’t realize how much effort and energy everything takes until your energy system collapses!

In the middle of that last class, I suddenly became aware of the daunting effort of merely walking across the room. Still not fully realizing what had hit me, I sat on the floor and instructed the students to go into various restorative poses. The students seemed far away –almost as if they were in another dimension. I had a strong instinct that I needed to get out of the building while I still could. So I ended the class a few minutes early, left it up to the students to put away the props, and headed straight for my car, which seemed a long way off.

I remember thinking I might just drive to a nearby residential street to lie down on the front seat and take a little nap. But, as I drove down the street, I reasoned, “I’ll just drive a little further, to my parents’ house, and lie on their lawn, in the nice warm sun, till I get my strength back.”

Then, as I passed my parents’ house, I reasoned that I was almost home. I coasted down into the river bottom, past the pigs, parked the car, left my stuff in it, and collapsed on my bed.

Even then I was in denial, thinking I’d be fine in a few hours.

But Mother Nature had a different agenda . . .

Continued Part Two:  Deep Rest is the Cure

Walking the river bottom at dusk

October 9, 2013

October 7, 2013

Walking the river bottom at dusk, my first real walk in three days, my reverie was broken when Nubio appeared out of the brush down below, near what once was a running creek, with something large in his mouth. It looked to be the size of a rabbit, but I knew right away it wasn’t a rabbit. “Drop it!” I shouted, on the slim chance it was still alive. And, whatever it was, he needed to get it out of his mouth. Honey ran up to him, ready to scoop it up if he dropped it, so I yelled at her to get away, too.

As I got closer, Chico straining on the leash, eager to get in on the action, I could smell that unmistakable stench of a decomposing body. When Nubio finally reluctantly dropped it, I saw that it was the perfect head of a deer, its big, soft brown eyes open like it had been decapitated, like the heads some hunters mount on their walls.

Darkness was falling fast or I would have examined the head more closely and gone looking for the body. Did it die of thirst, or did a cougar kill it? I wondered.

I had to get the three undaunted dogs away from the head, so I left it where Nubio had dropped it, out in the dusty, bone-dry open space, and hoofed it back to the house. Tomorrow, early, I’ll go back without the dogs and see if it’s still there, or if another wild animal carried the head away in the night. I’ll check to see if the rest of the body is nearby. I know there are bears, coyotes, bobcats, and possibly cougars (mountain lions) back there, but in all the years I’ve walked the river bottom, I’ve never come across a dead deer.

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The stars are like a portal . . .

October 3, 2013

October 1, 2013

It’s a dark, starry night. First the dogs and I wander, but I forgot my flashlight so we don’t go far. Tonight the river bottom is stone still, no coyotes yipping. I lock up the dogs and turn off all the lights, so now it’s pitch dark and I can see more stars . . . And, as I sit, the stars are like a portal, and I realize that my daytime life is just a dream, an obligation . . . it’s my contribution—what I do to keep my ship afloat. And now perspective comes . . . totally unexpected, but that’s what happens when you sit still long enough. Suddenly I remember last night’s dreams, or maybe it was the night before . . . the night dream world when the deep soul incarnate shows her true colors. It’s when the male and female energies merge . . . when the shadow side is allowed to live . . . when I roam the universe. For just a moment, the stars help me remember, and then it fades away. But even now I see my life and all the lessons, stripped bare to its very essence.

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I feel the life force returning

September 21, 2013

With the cooler foggy mornings, my vows to leave hot Ojai evaporate. Still riding on the full moon energy, I follow a trail of coyote droppings and rabbit pellets into the riverbed. While Honey and Nubio snarl and charge at each other, and then run wild, I find a perfect spot for a long, deep Uttanasana, yoga’s restful Standing Forward Bend that brings the head below the level of the heart.

At first I practice with my feet embedded in gravel. After Uttanasana comes Vrkasana, Tree Pose. Outdoors in Nature is the best place for balance poses, where your eyes can sweep the landscape and then focus on a tree. Then I balance on a smooth, flat rock. Now the standing foot is more anchored and steadiness comes.

462701_10150741764309703_1020063683_oThe shapes and surfaces of Nature make the best props. I find a flat stone that has the perfect slope for placing the feet so heels are slightly up, raising the pelvis higher, and a boulder in front of me to help lengthen the spine. I begin to notice more and more coyote droppings on the stones and boulders all around, as if they had a full moon gathering here. Chico wisely sticks close to my heels.

Honey and Nubio settle down beside me. I feel the life force returning. Last night I felt a little lonely and lost so I caved in and turned to YouTube. I felt like I’d reached a new low–opening a can of organic chile beans like the proverbial bachelor who can’t cook for himself. I doctored it up with vegan olive oil spread and Gomasio sesame seed salt . . . and then turned to the screen for comfort.

I stumbled onto a Dateline episode entitled “Married to Mother.” I half expected a segment on being married to a mama’s boy . . . or a domineering mother-in-law. But as I watched the chilling true story of the greedy narcissistic nurse who gave her handsome, altruistic doctor husband a lethal injection and then set their house on fire, it soon became evident that “mother” was a typo. The real title was, “Married to Murder.”

I confess I watched three true-life episodes of unbelievable greed and cold-blooded murder where one of the spouses murdered the other. By the time it was over my life looked so sweet, I stayed up another hour gratefully washing the dishes and mopping the floor. I fell asleep on my old hippie mattress, looking through the window up at the bright full moon . . .

All this I quickly scribbled in my journal, sitting on a rock, enjoying the quiet, cool fog . . . writing yoga . . .

420152_10150741781489703_1319035889_nIt’s a new day –so far, so good!

Sunday Sunrise Over the Valley of the Moon

September 8, 2013
For just a few moments, the ashen clouds are on fire, surrounded by waves of gold. The sky is radiant in all directions. The Earth is alive with early morning coolness. The cactus blossoms, the white and yellow squash blossoms, all the flower blossoms are abuzz with bees—brown honey bees, and big, black, fuzzy bumble bees. With every breath the Earth is more illuminated. In these moments of happiness, the anger and outrage I feel over all the injustices in the world fades away. We all have to find a way to make the shock of life bearable—and this Church of Nature, with the celestial sky above, is there for those who have eyes to see.
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A Random Act of Pig Kindness

August 20, 2013

Every time I pass the dry, barren, dirt pig pen on the corner of Rice and Oso Road, I feel a pain in my solar plexus. Once you’ve had pet pigs, once you see their unique pig personality and intelligence, and have devoured books like The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals by the great animal author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, the whole world of expanded pig consciousness opens up and you begin to see the different breeds of pigs a bit like the different breeds of dogs.

Early this morning, on my way to yoga as usual, I vowed to later on check on the condition of a pig I had begun to notice in a pen near the horse corrals. I could see from the road that it had no shade except for a board propped up on one side of the fence to block the afternoon sun. I told myself that this pig has a better life than factory farm pigs stuck in steel crates, and that maybe I’d better just mind my own business. But, today, I could no longer suppress the urge to have a closer look.

So after yoga I parked nearby, grabbed a ripe banana, and tried to make myself invisible as I walked around the pen. I could tell from her nipples that this was a girl pig. She was lying in a tiny patch of shade. Her water bowls were dry. I tossed a couple of pieces of banana through the fence. She got up to investigate—not a potbellied pig, just your standard “farm pig.” My guess is that they’re fattening her up for slaughter. (If her owners read this and I’m wrong, please set me straight.)

She had no shelter, no straw or alfalfa hay bedding, no igloo (my pigs all loved their own igloo). It was hot, and I didn’t want to get in trouble for trespassing, so I didn’t stay long. I watched her eat the banana and then went home.

The afternoon grew hotter. I felt compelled to check on her again. I first thought her pen was empty—no pig in sight. But then I realized she was pressed against the fence where the shade-providing board stood—the only shady spot there was. Her water bowls were still dry, so I walked back to the car to get a gallon of water. I distributed the water in the two bowls. With the first splash of water she immediately scrambled to her feet and started drinking and scooting the bowls with her snout.

I remembered how, when I had pigs, we put rocks in the bowls to weigh them down to keep the water from spilling. After she drank, she went over to a box-like contraption. I saw then that this was some kind of automatic feeder. Maybe the water stimulated her appetite for pig pellets. I observed a few moments longer, then went up the hill to help my dad with paperwork (another story). From there I drove to The Farmer and the Cook and scored a stash of small, pig-sized apples.

Much to my relief, when I returned two hours later in the hottest part of the afternoon, her pen had been watered. There was mud, glorious cool mud! And I could see that her sunburnt pink skin had been hosed off. As soon as she heard me approaching she started grunting—that sweet, familiar sound that my pigs always made when they heard me coming. She started pushing and pressing against the fence—just like my Rosie used to do before I opened her pen every morning.

I reached through the pen and scratched her bristly wet back. My brain went into a swirl . . . I didn’t want to give her too much hope. I couldn’t set her free to wander, to root and explore. I put two apples in her pen; what more could I do? This is a world of pig-eating carnivores . . . She has a date with destiny, just like you and I. Do you suppose if she learns “The Secret” that she can alter her fate and visualize a new future for herself?

About the photos: This lucky potbellied pig lives in a private Ojai pig sanctuary.

Related stories:  A Visit to an Ojai Pig Sanctuary

 

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Her cousins on the factory farm are not so lucky.

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Tonight, as the soft summer dusk fell

August 10, 2013

Tonight, as the soft summer dusk fell, I walked the dry brown landscape, surrounded by black mountains sharply outlined against the sky. I was struck once again by how the streams of light and darkness in this world flow simultaneously, seemingly without rhyme, reason, or mercy.

What is it that gives life to that stream of unceasing atrocities and horror that flows through every segment of society? After so many centuries, so many lifetimes, so much suffering, why has this stream of cruelty not dried up?

Tonight, with Venus and the crescent moon shining high above and crickets singing away, buoyed by the boundless love of my dogs and the magic of an Ojai orange margarita made by my daughter—out there in the boonies, out in the open, out in nature—I cast all my worries to the wind, stepped into the stream of light, and quietly watched as day turned into night.

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The City Yogi and the Country Yogi

August 8, 2013

Part Two of the trip to LA for the yoga and scoliosis workshop with Elise Miller.

3 a.m.

The psychic force in me to write is stronger than my need for sleep. Already the scene from last Friday night, as Olivia and I entered the yoga room full of students with twisting, turning, curvy, bendy, zigzagging spines, is fading. I can’t resist working on the story while the world is still and dark, while cool night air wafts through the wide-open windows and the sound of crickets is like a balm. No writing workshop could provide a more perfect setting.

Just as I wrote that, Honey started whining, alerting me that there are intruders outside. I muffle her barking and listen intently. Sure enough, if I stop typing and hold still I can hear nocturnal creatures moving about through the bushes and branches, chewing, gnawing, and occasionally breaking a twig.

This awareness of nature right outside my door, after only three days in sealed buildings where the windows would barely open, where the whoosh of the freeway never stops, where garish billboards urge families to dine on pizza and coke, fills me with gratitude. Like the country mouse in Aesop’s fable, after visiting the city yogis I’m utterly content to be back in my humble home, living the life of a country yogi.

Before I go further, I should mention that, when our ride from Ojai dropped us off on La Cienega Boulevard, there was the dilemma of how to get back to the Marriott Courtyard when the evening session ended at 9 p.m. In my small-town brain I was optimistically assuming that I’d surely see someone I knew, or would ask around and find that someone driving in our direction would give us a lift back to the hotel—that’s the way it would happen in Ojai.

So there we were at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in L.A., sitting cross-legged on our mats, two folded blankets under our bottom. Scanning the room, I was happy to see that there were students of all ages, including several young men. I wanted Olivia to meet other people in her age range who were doing yoga for scoliosis.

For those of you who don’t know the workshop teacher, Elise Miller is a Senior Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher from Palo Alto who teaches yoga throughout the United States and internationally. She works with a wide range of health professionals, including surgeons, chiropractors, Rolfers, and other therapists. I first met Elise in the mid ’70s while attending the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. She’s a world-renowned expert in the field of yoga and back care—professional and compassionate, plus totally fun and down to earth.

The word “scoliosis” is derived from the Greek word skol, which means twists and turns. The Friday session began with Elise running her fingers along each student’s spine, feeling the twists and turns to help everyone identify their particular scoliosis.

She gave us a handout with drawings of the four main curves. Here’s a link to an explanation of the curves: http://www.yogaforscoliosis.com/yoga_journal.htm

Elise gave a PowerPoint presentation describing the anatomy of scoliosis, rib displacement, twists in the shoulders and hips, and how scoliosis shifts the body’s center of gravity. The most obvious symptoms of scoliosis are cosmetic, but pain and cardiopulmonary complications (due to compression of the heart and lungs) are also common. (This is the main reason why my niece Olivia was scheduled for surgery back in May.)

When the evening session ended, I began asking around as we made our way out of the yoga room to see if anyone was headed in the direction of the Marriott Courtyard. I soon realized what should have been obvious even to a country bumpkin like me: L.A. is not like Ojai, where almost anywhere you might live is only a few minutes out of someone’s way. One of the assisting teachers was kind enough to look at a map with us. But, as much as she wanted to help us out, our hotel was in the opposite direction from where she lived in Santa Monica.

So Olivia and I found ourselves outside near Babies R Us, which was still fully lit, with families shopping, even though it was getting close to 10 p.m. “Well,” I thought, “we have 24-hour fitness; why not 24-hour shopping?” The idea of the sun dictating one’s activities is passé.

Fortunately, as a backup plan our Ojai driver had arranged for something called Uber, which I later learned is a close cousin of the concept of car sharing, an alternative to taking a bus or taxi. I felt completely safe with savvy 18-year-old Olivia by my side. No need to freak out; with her iPhone the whole world was at our fingertips! After a brief conversation, she announced that our Uber driver would arrive in 10 minutes.

Our driver arrived promptly, as promised. It felt a little bit strange to get in a car with a stranger, but Olivia had her iPhone and our friend from Ojai had the name of the driver on his screen, too. The trip back to the hotel that earlier had taken almost an hour in peak traffic took only about fifteen minutes.

Soon we were safely inside the Marriott, where a Friday night wedding was merrily rolling along in full swing. I wanted to walk up the stairs to get an aerial view of the festivities below, but the plush carpeted stairs stopped on the second floor. So up we flew in the elevator, back to our room on the 7th floor.

Not having a TV at home, the giant flat screen next to our giant bed was a novelty. Olivia flicked on the cooking channel, and after a few minutes I begged her to find something else. Then we stumbled on the adventure channel, where we caught a rerun of the man who walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. He was praying to the Almighty to keep him from plummeting to his death. The camera zoomed in to the faces of his wife and children watching their beloved husband and father teetering on the brink of eternity. Olivia remarked, “If I were his wife or kid, I would be so angry at him for putting us through this!”

When I woke up early the next morning, I felt confident enough to venture out alone, without the still-sleeping Olivia. I took my cell phone and key card and headed for the elevator. Turning to where I thought the elevator doors would be, all I saw was the snack vending machines, signs for how to escape in case of fire, and some unfamiliar-looking doors that appeared to have a plastic shower curtain hanging over them.

So, eager for a cup of coffee and still half asleep, I decided to open the door that said “Stairs.” As I walked down, I began to feel like one of those characters in a scary movie. These were cold, barren concrete stairs that looked like no one had used them in years . . . I quickened my pace. When I saw a door that said “Fourth Floor,” I thought I had better open it and try again to find the elevator.

But that door opened to an empty room, and I didn’t want to risk getting lost. So I just kept speedwalking down the stairs until I hit the ground floor door, which led to a kitchen area that I quickly slunk through, and then I found myself deposited in the dining room. I sat down and tried to look normal while a friendly server brought me coffee. I called Olivia on my cell and told her I’d wait for her to come down for breakfast. When I told her the saga of how I couldn’t find the elevator, she thought that was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. I later learned that those doors that looked to my eyes to be covered by a plastic shower curtain had long since replaced the classic dark elevator doors. My old brain just hadn’t computed it!

Part Three and photos of the workshop to come.

Photo credit: Olivia Klein, “self portrait” of Olivia enjoying her yoga practice

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