welcome to Esalen.
Club Med or Disneyland for the spiritually inclined.
the first time I arrived at this intimate resort, the lawn and the air above it took on an amber glow from the late fall setting sun. I glanced around for Jean Luc Picard, sure I had just landed on a Star Trek TNG planet. it was stunning and I truly felt transported.
then my mind screamed "this is not utopia!! don't think it's utopia! there's all sorts of stuff wrong here that no one's talking about! people sleeping with others' partners and lying about it! stealing office supplies and food and sheets!"
ok, ok, I said.
well, no I didn't. this battle raged in my mind pretty much that whole 3-day visit. probably my mind trying to save itself from itself once again when that one part gets sucked into some deep survival-level yearning for an idyllic place and wouldn't it learn its lesson already!
that was 5 years ago. this time I arrived at night, not exactly on purpose. and with all the narrow winding little roadlets on this slippery hillside, I wouldn't recommend it for your first 20 visits. but at least my mind was more like, ok, we're gonna (yeah, it's a "we" up here) hang out and just take in the place and enjoy it and then we're gonna leave.
I know, I know ... why'd I go if it was this hard to get myself in, to a place I was choosing to pay for? that's a totally different part of my brain, which will probably show up later in this piece.
this place is about an hour's drive south of Monterey, CA. no cell phone service. for the whole drive. it's about as remote as you could imagine and still be under a 3 hour drive from San Francisco. the main and only road (Hwy 1) that services this area has been knocked out by huge rockslides and mud flows recently such that supplies had to be helicoptered in. for months if i'm not mistaken.
and it's along the coast. did I mention that yet?
that IS the Pacific Ocean.
the f-n' Pacific Ocean.
to get to each meal I had to walk alongside it.
three times a day.
hear the regular splashing of waves on the rocks ... gaze at the blue spanning forever.
and then on the way back, guess what I had to do.
do you know how repetitive that could get? me neither.
so, this Esalen place has calming winding trails through lovely groomed flower and vegetable gardens. you can get centered as you walk to your yoga class or massage, which seems to defeat the purpose. luckily I was only heading to a writing workshop.
Buddha Schmuddha. oh, anything that appears too spiritual or full of self-importance, I have to make fun of. it's my job. luckily I know that Buddha is on my side in this one <wink to the Buddha>. well, Jesus is too but a lot of his friends here don't know that yet. Buddha and her friends - we're in.
a Chinese-ish message in stones. earlier someone had spelled "ignore this".
I took some eucalyptus leaves and spelled "ok".
maybe this (Chinese, Japanese, Korean? Kanji?) msg is saying "get a life", or "fuck off, girl! can't you respect just one thing? you Americans can't leave anything alone."
it seems like four Kanji characters, which usually translates into at least three English sentences.
who knows, maybe it says "peace" or "I wuv u".
aah!! a snake in a tree!
no, it's art.
no, it's real!
it's Esalen. it can be anything you want it to be.
garden. this is a garden - as in vegetable garden. the food we ate here actually grew on the property - well, a lot of it - and it was picked by people we saw just hours ago in the garden picking it.
novel, eh? definitely got my attention.
my family had a decent garden when I was growing up and so I always knew where my carrots came from.
I remember being fearful that most around me just went to the grocery store blindly, it seemed, and didn't they know that all our food was coming to us by trucks! and what if the trucks stopped coming?
our garden was largeish but barely fed our 6 inhalacious mouths for its summer season. and then what?
smurf houses. several times a day I passed these houses built into the little creek hillside. started singing my own song, "I'm a little munchkin..."
I'm making fun but would I love to live here? ha ha haa! absolutely!
but they do make me feel like a little elf or troll poking around the place.
strolly footpath below with the main highway above. don't expect to go more than 30mph over time getting anywhere on it. windy, not as in gassy, but with a long "i".
too lazy to create an animated gif of this hummingbird but I've never seen one so tame.
given the Pavlovian training he's had at this place, he knew not just that he wasn't in danger but was feeling honored that he could be the target of my meditation and proudly embued all his hummingbird goodness onto me.
right. left right. left right left. strike the pose.
I fell in love with the metal work around this place. light fixtures, fences, gates ...
the baths, the Baths!
squint as you look into the mid-distance in this photo and you'll see a building-esque shape at the end of a downward path cut into the hillside.
it houses open air massage tables and several tubs - hot and cold, big and small. under the sun and stars. suits optional. 24/7. no appointment necessary. no time limit. ok, I'll say it again. no. time. limit.
many earn their pruneskin belt here.
done with class and wanna soak? have at it. after dinner? just show up. instead of class? it's your life. soak as you please.
I think people come to Esalen to soak. then, if they have time, they eat and do some other stuff.
you won't come here for the phone booth. and you won't stay for the WiFi although they will leave the light on for ya.
a few cute little enclosed booths scattered around the property held these quaint but very large call-making devices. you go in and "dial" a number.
ok, they didn't have rotary phones but how weird to realize I'm not really that old and I've spanned the change from rotary to cell. I remember being so happy when I was 15 and we got an extension cord so I could talk privately around the corner in a closet with the door closed.
check your cloud email to the left if you were actually restrained enough to not bring your laptop to this idyllic place.
my room! my room!
see the little open door?
oh yeah, so I came to Esalen to attend a writing workshop and, like, write. I did do a fair amount of that and some of it was actually fun, like playing.
I hated to write as a kid. but who knows what grabbed me more than 10 years ago to sign up for my first creative writing course and meet a few of my muses. gosh, they're entertaining. who needs movies when one has a brain this busy and silly... .
I was hoping to get a bunch of work done on 18 fronts that I'm writing on now. instead, my mind wrote stories from my ego's perspective, I held parties in my head with dead people, and Buddha and a rat told me how well my truck fit them. lovely. now, how is that going to pay the bills?
we did a number of exercises that were like scales for the choir performer. one had a strong meditative bent in an unusual way and I felt it profoundly, so profoundly it almost killed me.
we piled up a bunch of stuff in the middle of the room to create "chaos". then we took our pencils and followed a line ... s l o w l y with our eyes and pencil.
like, imagine you're looking at this scene. and then ...
with your eyes, you follow the line shown in this image.
and you take an hour to do it.
mesmer-IIII-Zing. like i'd fallen into a black hole. zenned out, man. coooooollll.
but then at lunch my gaze fell onto one of many large jade plants...
stunned... I stared.
my eyes s l o w l y followed the lines
of the big jade plant.
I pulled my gaze away ...
only to land on a more blue-green version of the same.
Hours later an Esalen crew rescued me, muttering under their breaths about another one of Gillian's exercises gone awry.
so, about this said writing that this said author said did.
since Gillian (informed instructor) was familiar and even dare I say highly supportive of my doily art, she asked me to bring some of my doilies to the workshop. I obliged but was highly sensitive to this being a writing workshop, not a dirty cock vulva asshole pissdrop doily show. but at some point the doilies were broken out (a cardboard tube of refrigerated biscuit dough with a pudgy pasty white cartoon character come to mind) and allowed to infuse into our surroundings.
fuck, no. Gillian grabbed the little guys and put them into the empty candy papers and placed them next to our gorgeous wineglass centerpiece of a lovely deeply-scented rose contributed by Diane.
by the looks of this image, if I hadn't been there, I'd be looking for fang marks from that Leo that surely pounced them, head whipping left and right, gobs of frothy slobber flying.
then she placed the mini cock on David's foot, as a 6th toe? yeah, that's a common euphemism for it.
luckily, David's a surgeon so he could do the removal himself.
"hey guys, i came here to write. whenever you're ready" I pleaded.
are you kidding?! I enjoyed every second of this, laughing big with people who weren't learning for the first time from my crochet work what female genitals look like, who weren't begging me to keep these things covered up, and who were doing new fun things with them that hadn't even been imagined yet! and we were doing this in mixed company, even!
... more writing was had ... more soaks ... more sharing of stories ... more truths revealed but we didn't see them 'cause we were laughing too much.
on my way out, I happened across my most serindipidous sighting of the week on these pristine utopian grounds - a bra and a cup. er,
two three cups? er ... .
the tree in this photo has a branch that's totally upside down but still living.
as silly or unintended by the tree as this may be, I take that as encouragement that if we actually get a chance to appear upside down to others before we die, we're lucky.