It had seemed that California might have escaped the worst of the fires this year, but the Kincade fire put paid to that notion. Before I left for Wilbur on Friday, I took a ride up Twin Peaks, and could see the smoke drifting south, as predicted. On the way up, there was a long line of it over the hills to the west.
There have been some personnel changes at Wilbur and it seemed that my planned visit had fallen through the cracks; when I arrived, I discovered that it was a weekend for a yoga retreat, who were taking over the yoga deck where I would normally offer meditation. As it happened, I had been discussing for at least a year the idea of offering meditation hikes, and had decided with a previous calendar organiser at Wilbur that October would be the perfect time to do it. I had written a blurb for the newsletter – its non-appearance had alerted me that there might be some issues.
Quickly enough it was decided that I could offer the hikes as planned, instead of doing any sitting while the retreat was here. Then it also transpired that the retreat had planned a meditation hike, and would be delighted if I were able to lead it for them. So on Saturday, having taken a couple of people up to the medicine wheel earlier in the morning, I took a large group of retreatants up there – via the wishing tree – so that they could enjoy the view and enjoy a silent packed lunch. It was a lot of fun, and I am grateful to Katrina and Laura from Moxie Yoga for being open to it.
Hortensia in the office had warned that the wind was due to get up at eleven that night. I was woken at 11:30 by something sounding like a door banging repeatedly; the cabin shook several times in the ferocity of the gusts, and I was hoping that the power lines at the end of the valley had been turned off, as the thought of one of them falling and setting the valley grass on fire was not restful. So I did not sleep terribly well.
The wind also caused the temperature to drop a fair amount, from very pleasant days in the eighties. It barely reached the sixties, and felt colder whenever the wind blew. In the morning I took a mother and daughter – from a family who had initially cancelled their birthday celebration, but decided to come since they were liable to be evacuated from their home, having packed photo albums and passports – along the valley, to the wishing tree, the labyrnth and the wind chimes, which were making a rather spooky cacophony.
I was feeling rather uneasy all morning, and had serious thoughts about leaving. We were getting reports, initially second-hand, but then confirmed as a few of us gathered in the office, that highway 16 was closed, as was highway 80 in Vallejo. As Rebecca pointed out, with all the evacuations as well, it was not really a great day to be on the road, so I decided to stay put.
A part of the unease was discovering that my former rigged-up method for recording myself for the various apps no longer worked on my new laptop. Something I had planned to spend much of my free time on Sunday was now no longer possible, but instead would have to be added to the number of things to try and get done during the week. I could spend a little more time on the writing, but felt at a loose end, and noticed that I had absolutely no desire to go for a run to burn off the energy.
Having decided to stay though, the agitation disappeared, and the place quietened down as well, not just the wind, but most of the guests leaving after their weekend. I stayed out in the sun at the baths until it dipped behind the trees at four, and set up the yoga deck for an evening sitting. I think it was my first time sitting with the lights, and it also felt very powerful and grounding just to be sitting upright after all the movement. One person came, and she asked for the lights to be turned off, so we sat in the very last of the daylight; she did not have much experience sitting, but was raised as a sufi, and had many thoughts about meditation, trauma and healing, so we ended up talking far more than sitting, until I was ready to sleep.
Waking up terribly early on Monday, it soon occurred to me that I was unlikely to go back to sleep, as I would be turning over all the things I had to try to get done – not least of which was the fact that Zachary had said he wouldn’t be able to make the meditation on Monday, so I would have to collect the cushions, as well as dropping off my rental car by eleven, getting myself to and from the sitting, then back out to teach in the afternoon – with my student group in the evening. Rather than wait out the rush hour, or have to sit in it, I had the idea I could get ahead of it.
I had a bit of coffee and set off earlier than I have ever done before – though there was still a fair amount of traffic even for the ungodly hour. Indeed, at Vallejo, where the smoke was dense, the lines of traffic on the 80 at five in the morning stretched right through the city, as there was still a lane closed just by the bridge; and the half-hour it took to get through that meant that the Bay Bridge was starting to seriously back up as well. Nevertheless, I still got home before light.
Of course, once I had a signal, I discovered that Zachary would be able to make the sitting, and bring the cushions after all, so a large proportion of my fretting had, not unusually, been in vain. I thus had plenty of time to catch up on emails, news and football; I was just very tired during the various sittings, alleviated only by a sense of real meeting during my evening group, something that is always energising, and reminds me why I do all of this.
The thinnest of new moons visible before sunrise on Saturday.
Dawn colours at the bathhouse.
Bright sun on the smelter trail on the way up to the medicine wheel.
A year’s worth of wishes on the tree – they will all be burned at the end of the year.
The labyrinth oak.
Although some smoke was visible from higher up, the skies could not have been bluer.