I sat on the edge of my bed, too hot to move, and cursed the yipping dog across the street. I cursed the sirens, the leaf blowers, the loud man on his cell and the incendiary news of the day. I wanted to throw rocks and bash people over the head with pillows. I hated the city, the heat, my neighbors and even my friends. I needed the Great Out Doors, and I needed her fast.
The next day, I drove to the Sierras through a valley of smoke to visit a friend at her cabin. At an elevation of 9,700, the place literally took my breath away. The air was “mountain warm summer”, perfumed with the scent of lodge-pole pines. I caught my breath, drank a ton of water, changed into jeans, a T-shirt, and hiking boots, and then we set out up the mountain.
The soft, dirt trail was narrow, bordered by red Indian paintbrush, skunk cabbage, and wild purple iris. Mountain peaks rose around us on all sides, with patches of snow at the ridge. I walked from the trail into a staunch of trees and wrapped my arms around the trunk of a lodge-pole pine. Debra calls it forest bathing. The noise of the city washed from my body and was absorbed into the earth. I pressed my cheek against a warm granite rock and let her steadfastness anchor me.
At the top of the trail was Red Lake. The clear, glassy lake is flanked by two mountain peaks whose melting snow becomes the lake. We were the only two humans under the cloudless sky. Without a word, I sat down on a rock and untied the laces of my boots, pulled off my socks, stripped down to my birthday suit, and walked into the water waist deep, step by agonizing step.
“Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my god.” I bellowed, as my voice carried itself across the lake. The water lapped at my waist. I swirled my hands in and out of the water, in an attempt to restore sensation to my fingers. Then, without ceremony, I submerged my entire naked body into the water. My breath caught. I kept my arms and legs dancing beneath the surface in an attempt to absorb the shock. I shouted across the water to Debra, “I’m never going home, ever.”
I stayed five days in that paradise. It was enough time. There are still yipping dogs, sirens, leaf blowers and loud cell talkers. But they don’t rattle me. Mother Earth, infinite in her intelligence and generosity, has restored me. She quieted the noise in my own head, calmed my ruffled feathers and reminded me that the stars are always in the sky, the trees are always listening and the lake is waiting for my return.
My blessing for you—that you find restoration in these incendiary times. Now more than ever, we need your steadfast, generous, refreshing spirit.