Thursday, May 12, 2011

Yoga Retreat: Crone Power

These experiences are almost four years gone, but still live within me:

Just back from my first Yoga Retreat. Not so great at yoga, but needed a weekend getaway, and this one was held at La Casa de Maria which is part of San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito (near Santa Barbara), an easy and beautiful 90 minute drive north of L.A. It's on a bosque, which is Spanish for forest, and it originally stretched down to the ocean, which is very close. I could smell it over the eucalyptus and oak.

There's an Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal on the property, and nuns disguised as ordinary women. There were several groups seeking renewal on the grounds this past weekend including an assemblage of mostly older women attending a conference: Gather the Women, Save the World based on Jean Shinoda Bolen's work. She wrote Goddesses in Everywoman back in the 80's, which I own and haven't looked at in years. Also The Millionth Circle, a sort of tipping point for focusing women's circles and thereby changing the world (I imagine ever-widening ripples on a lake), and the intriguing, Crones Don't Whine.

Her conference was a call to action for women of all ages to save our planet, our society, our economy. A big bite. Huge. But I admire the strength and energy of post-menopausal women since I've arrived there, intact, and full of curiousity and not afraid to ask questions and challenge one and all. Even myself.

All the various groups gathered at the same cafeteria, so I had a chance to meet many of these women. I met some gorgeous 80-year-olds. Not in the hiked-up, pulled-back look of the unfortunate women I see in Los Angeles, but women who have lived a life --- done stuff, knew they were doing it and lived to tell about it. "There was a time when I knew the streets of Paris better than the streets of Santa Barbara," one told me. Now, why didn't I ask her for her telephone number so I could hear more?

The 80 + year olds were fascinating. An inspiration. Bhavani, my yoga instructor, didn't want us to discuss politics in our group, but the Crone group had received no such warning. They were eager to share their opinions: they liked Hilary, but had a soft spot for Obama. A few felt the two were unelectable, so were counting on Edwards. If there were Republicans present, they didn't speak up.

Of note were the women my age, all of whom looked, dressed and acted older than me. Not sure if I should take comfort from that or clean up my act.

I slept in a room with four other women, yoga aficionados one and all. Never went to summer camp. This may be as close as I'll ever get. Didn't sleep much (curse of the light sleeper) what with the alien snoring (not my husbands's) and middle-of-the-night bathroom visits (theirs, not mine). But I'd selected my narrow bed well. I faced a bank of windows (the vertical blinds were inoperable so the windows were bare) where the tops of trees swaying in the wind were my first visual.

Plus there was a 6:00 a.m. meditation, which I think is insane, but probably means I'm not evolved enuf to get it. Three yoga sessions a day. Figured I would do one. Brought my laptop and the first draft of my vampire novel.  It's all marked up and I planned on working in the rose garden, but it never left the trunk of my car. On the first day did two yoga sessions. Skipped out on the third yoga class and sniffed the flowers in the rose garden, befriended the black cat named Poki (who killed a lizard for sport, gutted it and walked off flicking his tail), and talked to an ex-nun who gave me the history of the gigantic stump (at least 15 feet in diameter) of an oak which formed the centerpiece of the rose garden. It had a vine with orange flowers encapsulating it.

In addition to the two yoga sessions (one at 7 a.m. because I was awake and had nothing else to do), I subjected myself to an arousing five-mile hike in search of a waterfall with a young woman from Baltimore who does construction. The hike was easy for her, but I was breathless, probably because I was flapping my lips most of the way. She asked me if I needed to rest. I said, "Where there's shade."

I pointed out a small corner next to the back gate of another Montecito megaplex-in-construction (a private home) with a hose snaking beneath a gate. "Would you like me to spray you?" she asked. I flashed on prison movies and the unfortunate inmates being tortuously hosed down. Conversation as follows:

"Do I look like I'm about to have a heart attack?"
She said, "No, you look hot."
I tested the hose --- it had a trigger handle. "Okay," I said, handing it to her. "Point it up."

The water burst forth in all its pressurized glory. At that moment, a Mexican construction worker came out. The drops fell, cooling my skin and the Mexican worker smiled, and we --- the sprayee and she, the sprayer, smiled back.

Also went shopping at a huge fund-raising event in Montecito --- May Madness --- a giant garage sale at the Music Center where I stood in line and spoke to yet another interesting 80-year-old woman discussing dragons (she wore heavy, solid silver, two-hundred-year-old bracelets with dragons on them that were once worn by Chinese farmers). Went inside and found a whimsical iron dragon! Will try to post a picture of it later.