Saturday afternoon found me flying solo at the coffee shop. Among the reader, writers, and chatters I noticed a man in the corner, eyes closed, face peacefully upturned to received the kiss of the gentle winter sun. He captivated me with his longing look of hopeful serenity. And then I had to smile. He was holding Total Freedom by Krishnamurti! Oh Ojai, no matter where I go, there you are…
I recall the dry, dusty smell of your valley after many hot months when even the moss in the swimming holes has moved on. And when, at last, the rain arrives, I pray it lingers long enough to wash that seemingly eternal dust from deeply worn crevasses in flesh and stone.
The heat’s expression is rivaled only by the intense solitude of the Ojai people – even those ‘social butterflies’ who meet each sunset at one or another gathering in yurts, temples, cafes or pubs. Artists and healers standing shoulder to shoulder; I could not escape the quietly frenetic turning, churning of so many souls longing and searching for their Great True Expression.
I mourn your mystical myriad flora and fauna here in the city, cannot find a fraction of the stars, and never hear my coyote family singing in the darkness. Tiny tears fall that I will not see them walking by my house or see the streetlight reflecting in their eyes as I say “hello, goodnight, brother”. The owls and frogs don not sing us lullabies. There are no poison oak to sternly remind me when I’ve gone off the path.
I grieve my friends who continue on with walks and potlucks. Their waterland smiles and supple bodies hug like the sea on a kind day. Sometimes it’s as if I’ve died or was never born. It’s as if the wind took me away like the jasmine in the heat, its smell so deeply penetrating in its subtlety, then gone. Just the memory of a flower. Just a delicate vine without sound.
And then I wake again to the bright sunlight of Denver, and it doesn’t scare me. Because I know it won’t burn my skin for months on end. The wind will come and pull a cold rush down upon my day, maybe even bring heavy snow or rain. And my lungs will open with the possibilities that change brings. My shoulders will drop into place and I will breathe. And tomorrow – or later today – the sun will return her rays again to warm my face. And I see that this, above everything, is why I’ve returned to this Rocky Mountain place. I am a mountain bird. My wings need wind and my heart needs change.
Here, 4000 feet above the nest, I rest my feathers in a city decorated with people of every shape, size, color, and background. We walk the paths of sun-speckled parks, raising our children side-by-side in grocery lines and on buses. The intense stillness of your world has been replaced by a humming, musical, collage of sounds, signs and colors. Here I feel free to be seen or invisible, whisper or scream.
Even in the safety of this new expanse, I appreciate the ‘cradle’. For, my daughter was born on your silent shores, Ojai. The insistent, persistent slowness of the vortex finally settled my heart and body enough to give birth. For this, I thank the stillness.The cosmic, collective movement resulting in this creature, Kiya, drew it’s momentum from a long, quiet exhale I could only take in Ojai.
In silence, each day, I return to you. In movement, each day, I say goodbye. And so, in this way, it is with you, Ojai, that I live and die.