"Everything I was I carry with me. Everything I will be lies waiting on the road ahead." Ma Jian
Monday, August 12, 2013
This morning as I prepare to write the chapters of my life while living in Big Sur, I went back to this article I wrote for the Examiner in July of 2009, eight months after my return. The seeds of what I will sculpt this week were planted then and it's a wonder to see how very far I've come in creating a new, healthier way of being.
Blessings to everyone in my Esalen soul family: Kinga, Sheila, Ken, Craig, Shirley, John, Chris, Margie, C. Ray, Eva and Sanjay, Cathy, Anne, Seema, Lars, Simee and a host of many others. Thank you for being an integral part of my life....then and now.
July 8, 2009
I drove back to Toledo, Ohio nearly eight months ago and yet the sting of leaving Big Sur, California still lingers. Last November I said a tearful good-bye to Esalen Institute, a place I had lived and worked as a gardener for nearly a year. I had hoped to make it my permanent home, but due to choices both in and out of my control, I’ve come back to my hometown to write and take responsibility for the gifts I’ve been given.
It's been the most difficult journey of my life to let go of a place that has touched me deeply and allowed me to grow as both a spiritual and human being. Still, I know that Toledo's fingerprints are imbedded deeply within me as well. Driving through Maumee a few weeks ago I passed Richland Street and instantly remembered the day my family moved to Washington D.C. when I was four years old. We lived there just one short year before moving back to Toledo and settling in the south end. I went away to college, and taught a year in Troy, Ohio before coming back to work for Washington Local Schools in the late eighties. It seems that Toledo has a boomerang effect on me. I leave and yet, somehow, time after time, I return. Sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes with deep gratitude to see familiar faces and places.
This spring I've been gardening nearly every day. It's been a lovely season after a long, arduous winter. Growth is abundant and I am grateful for the warmer weather and sunshine. Still, my mind lingers in the shadows of the past...the moments at Esalen that tore my heart and the ones that are indescribably lovely. I imagine a part of me will always be there on the coastline, working in the gardens, dancing in the surf, sitting in silence while watching the unforgettable sunsets over the Pacific. And yet, I am here now. In Toledo. In this home and in this life as it is.
Last week while pruning my way through the wildlife of a friend's backyard, I realized how much the old, overgrown weeds and thorny vines were choking out the loveliness of what lay beneath. Even though some of the brush was vibrantly colored and amazingly lush, it was taking the life of what was originally planted. Even yesterday, while delicately pruning the trumpet vine in my own backyard, I've come to understand yet again the benefit of letting go of excess, of old growth and burned out blooms in order to let new life push its way through. The same is indelibly true for my own life. Letting go of the past, be it delightful or demonic is a gateway to the gifts of the present. They come in all shapes and sizes…the solace and sanctuary of my home, the evolving storyline of my novel, the purr and pounce of my cats. In the delightful smiles of the yoga students who come to our classes and in the stillness of my own spirit.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Big Sur or the friends who have drifted to all corners of this world. I don’t know when or even if I will see them again. Still, this is a choice I’ve made for now. In time I will choose again…and again….and again. I trust that in time I will create a new place that was conceived in the choice of acknowledging both sides of myself and ultimately choosing the one who knows how to embrace the unknown with grace and acceptance.
Playing and working in the gardens at Esalen, 2008