The Empress’s New Bikini

It’s startlingly quiet here in the walnut orchard.  I mean relative to cafes teeming with urban sounds.  I see a large hawk standing on the ground, stretching his rusty brown wings on the other end of the orchard.  Oh, it just took flight, sailing gracefully low, along the grassy, earthen floor.  No, I’m not being fictional.  I am on a yoga retreat at Full Belly Organic farm in Guinda, California.  And actually, it’s not quiet at all.  The birds are doing some serious vocal celebration.  In stereo.  It’s pretty cliché for writers to seek out quiet places, retreats if you will, to go pound out their latest literary masterpieces… but I find being in this strange, down-tempo quietude a bit daunting.  I am so used to bushwhacking my way through urban chaos to find my voice and my inspiration… When I first sat down in the grass with my back against the sturdy walnut trunk, I felt a wave of panic.  What can I possibly think of to say amidst this pristine, leafy grove of peace?  But now that I have put my fingers to the familiar silver keys of my trusty laptop (whose name, by the way is Hanuman), the spell is broken and I am just as much a writer on Full Belly Farm as I was back at Pizzaiolo in Oakland.  Phew.

And it’s a bloody good thing, because I want to share with you some of the relentlessly spilling beauty that I have been bathing in since I got here yesterday afternoon.  My tiny tent (which collapses on me while I sleep due to a broken, crucial pole) is pitched right on the bank of Cache Creek.  Cache Creek looks much more like a full on river, than a creek to me.  It is so wide and majestic.  Its current is strong, but you wouldn’t know, because it moves almost soundlessly, as though it is stalking something in the distance, taking great care not to be noticed.  When I just sit and watch it, it looks like an ever shifty mirror, reflecting the blue, cloud smeared sky and the distant, rolling golden hills, dappled with gnarled oak trees (which look more like miniature broccoli forests under the optical spell cast by distance).  The creek is a transfixing liquid mirror, more luminous than life its self, whispering subtle prophecies only to those with enough quiet space inside to receive Her covert though incessant whispers.

I’ve always considered myself a wimp when it comes to submerging in cold water.  I think I learned that from my mom.  As a kid, I have a collection of images of my mom in various bathing suits, standing sheepishly at the edges of rivers, lakes, oceans and pools, dipping a toe or three in and shuddering.  As I recall, she was mostly always content to stand at the water’s edge and wet her feet.  Now don’t go making any vaster metaphors about my mom’s character out of that slew of snapshots.  I would not say that that is how she lived her life as a whole… (would you, Mom?)  But I had a breakthrough in this area a few years ago.  I used to always be that girl standing at the edge and WISHING I was the courageous type, who just threw her little some’m to that Greater Some’m and dove on in.  I would see others partaking in such unbounded behavior and feel that part of me aching to be liberated.  So one day upon a time, I had the idea to endow my submersion with inspired meaning.  I made it into a prayer.  Since I am such a spiritually ambitious creature, not to mention competitive, this got me wet real fast.

What did I pray for?  Oh, probably to release soul pain and be a more purified and full expression of my divine self… honestly, what else IS there to pray for?  Global peace and healing?  I would argue that beyond the semantics, it’s really the same thing… What’s inside is outside and what’s outside is inside.

Today after breakfast was my first chance to plunge into the healing current of watery prayer.  I stood naked* on the bank, contemplating what to pray for and feeling much like those childhood images of my mother on the shore.  I stepped in and startling, sensuous shocks raced through the souls of my feet, up my spine.  Eeeek.  I stood, calf-deep in the frigid water, searching my interior for the prayer that would compel me to break through the stifling density of my comfort zone.  It felt elusive and slippery, so I just stood there timidly as the water swept effortlessly around my legs.  Something was crystallizing in the space that is both of my heart and mind.  God… God… God… Serving God.  Serving the Highest. Gahhh-ahhhh-ahhh-d. Something beckoned my gaze, and I looked skyward.  A balled eagle gracefully swept the vast blue.  It must have been pretty high up because it looked tiny, but I could clearly make out its white fan of a tail, its white head and nearly black body.

In the medicine cards, eagle represents spirit.  I had just been extending my mind in the direction of All Pervading Awesomeness, and LO!  Without haste, a messenger hath cometh!!!  Inside, I melted into a puddle of elated revelation and then my prayer became a simple, concise mantra, THY WILL BE DONE.  Thy will be done.  Thy will be done, I chanted inwardly as I unabashedly dove into the subtle, strong current.  And then it was all shooting stars and bucking unicorns inside me!  WOW, was it cold and beautiful!  Everything I am tingled and sang with immediacy!  Thy will be done.

*Then I got out and dried off, and soon all the other retreatees flocked to the shore in bikinis and made their way into the brisk, holy waters.  Bikinis?!?!  Kimber instructed us to bring bathing suits, but come ON… Who wantsta wear a dumb old bathing suit in a cool, sacred creek slicing taoishly through an organic farm?  I didn’t bring one.  But because everyone else did, I began to feel awkward being naked and free.  I hate that.  Maybe I’ll play The Empress’s New Bikini, and pretend that I’m wearing one made of such regal, expensive fabrics that you can’t even see it!  OMG, that old story, The Emperor’s New Clothes is a HOOT!  I mean come ON… imagine if George W. commissioned some really posh tailor to make him a hella fancy suit to wear as he made an important speech to the nation… and he showed up like a naked fool!  We woulda loved that!  At least I would have.  It wouldn’t be quite as amusing if Obama did it… But still worth a chuckle, I guess.

The birds are still chirping away, full throttle.  All the walnut trees are standing so still, windlessly silent and sturdy.  Yesterday during her yoga class (we practiced here in the orchard), Kimber reached up and took a fist full of smooth, bright green, almond shaped leaves in her hand, letting them slide through her fingers so lovingly, as though the tree were her own child.  It was a quick moment that rose and fell in the space of a single exhale… but the deep, rich, love in her heart stained my mind.  She loves this farm so dearly.  She has been coming here for over ten years and yesterday she told us this is her Hawaii.  I liked that… since I want to go to Hawaii.  Little did I know that I was already here.  In Kimber’s Hawaii.

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