how i got here
I came here to the Owens Valley to “give my internship hours” to the School of Lost Borders. I wasn’t really invited. I had the idea last June, the night before I began teaching a six month yoga teacher training. At the time I knew that if I did not carve out a time to get away and be in the uncertainty and anonymity of a totally foreign place, what needed to emerge would not have the time and space to come through. I was no longer going to be a yoga teacher and not yet a chaplain all the while knowing that I will be both and neither.
This story is older than that. It’s an ancient thread about love and loss, life and death and paying attention to the short amount of time in-between those worlds. I like to sneak into the Zendo at Upaya when I am there and did so two years ago after everyone had gone to sleep. It is my way of staying wild in the discipline. As I sat, I felt I was in a room full of spirit babies all sitting on laps of awakened beings. Steven Foster was there. The next day someone asked about the Jizo Boddhisatvha in the garden. Roshi Joan Halifax shared that some of Steven’s ashes are buried below the statue.
I sent Meredith and Joseph an email asking if I could come volunteer/intern in 2013 for six months. The School of Lost Borders does not have an internship program and has never accepted an intern. They said “yes”. Maybe “yes” because I came without expectations, only to serve what needed to be served. Sure I have helped with very minimal logistical and administrative tasks that have been received and appreciated, but in my mind, I have done very little for the School of Lost Borders. Looking back at our email exchange doing anything was never requested, it was more just showing up to whatever was being called. I have showed up. The stories that unfold contain in them the teachings from this place as they have worked me and through me and are full of personality, poise and pandemonium.
The question of where I would live in the Owens Valley came to life. I had overlaid Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras onto a council practice for the teacher training I was giving. The Way of Council was my companion for that summer. Council was relatively new for me as a practice and relatively ancient in my bones and that book kept my mind at ease as I guided fourteen through the process of becoming. The phone rang during a lunch break, I put the book down on my lap and it was Gigi Coyle. “Funny you should call. I am reading your book now”. I was invited to Three Creeks. I showed up in September for 8 hours, enough time to say “yes” to returning for these six months.
I see it now that Meredith, Joseph and Petra heard my request to offer them my “internship hours” as my unspoken request and deep need to be in the threshold. They met me there awake, with open arms and also saving me a spot in the ferry that I would end up being asked to row across the water with a coin in my mouth. The price I would pay to carry myself and a place to safe harbor would be returned though the beauty of spring, the solitude of silence, and the harlequin kin of this watering hole.
Just to have time to be in a small boat on the water be it the River Styx or the pond at Three Creeks would have been gift enough. Time has been the secret opposition. Parents who have lost children in one corner, time in the other. The bell goes off at the moment of death and time begins throwing punches... always in the form of theft and either in the form of nostalgia or distance. Both steal you away from life right now. One pulls you in the direction of wanting to stay in the intensity of loss and the mystery of the veil , the other pulls you in the direction of one more day of feeling like you have abandoned your kid. And then in a plastic boat wearing boots at dusk with a hundred bats... all of the sudden, Re-Birth. Instead of time coming in with a right hook, time starts gently rowing the boat and accompanying me through this passage. Life feels big and full again, and not just for the fight of it.
I have crossed this water many times since the others have left. I have welcomed bobcat, coyote, heron, lizard, skunk, bat, robin, red wiggler, frog, snake and hummingbird...their medicine like a cold pale-ale after a long day on the land. I have sat dozens of times in the Heron Hut as a council of one and also with musicians, strangers, colleagues, friends, mothers, and Elders with a big “E”... learning that it is possible to listen with the ears of a rabbit and find the underlying current of what brings us together in this oasis even when it floods.
I leave with ears awake with more stories from this desert to follow.