Day 12. Shelter Cove, on the rugged Northern California coastline.
No cell service. No supermarket. Hardly ever coming within 50 yards of another human, let alone 6 feet.
I’ve tried to unplug from social media, but I admit, in the midst of the most intense and terrifying news cycle of my life, I’m finding digital detox harder than I’d imagined.
Still. I’ve been reading books with paper pages, planning and teaching my online yoga classes, getting some writing done, running along the ocean, doing freelance work. And also trying to take time to just be here now, in this extraordinary place, as a practice unto itself...
Sit with sea lions and deer and look right in their eyes. They stare back with hardly a twitch of earflap or flipper, a shudder of flank -- curious, calm, and willing, so open and unflinching. I’m always the first to break the spell.
Sink down into black pebble beaches and comb fingers through billions of perfect round stones eternally rolled by a section of sea so fierce you can only get near it in a few small protected coves. Pick out tiny bits of sea glass, consider the ocean’s ability to transform our sharp, hazardous, careless flotsam into something smooth and winsome.
At night we invest real time in staring at the horizon. Catch the sunset: golden hour before, precise moment it vanishes below the hard blue line of Pacific, then long denouement—up here, so far north and west, where it’s still light at 10 pm—the subtle shifts in light and color, during a 2-hour day-end event, long straight lines of midnight-cobalt-persimmon-apricot Rothko sky, its edges faintly furred with mist and a drop of whiskey.
Dinner can wait, and does, till 11 pm or later.
When I work with young kids, I often teach postures based on a theme, “On the Farm” or “Things with Wings,” for example.
I decided to get playful with my grown-up classes this week, creating flows inspired by this stunning environment. Exploring the physical and energetic relationship between poses named for things I see here--mountain, tree, dolphin, seal, fish, rock, moon, and of course, sun--consciously allowing the way I move to be informed my surroundings--water, wave, wind.
During one class, I told my fellow yogis about an eerie feeling I sometimes get here deep in the night—something between agoraphobia and claustrophobia—surrounded by nothing but wide-open space of nature. Out over the ocean, into the hills, across unbounded sky. Feeling both unmoored and hemmed-in at the same time.
Nowhere to go.
I wake, gasping for breath, reaching out as if through deep water, feeling suffocated by the completeness of the dark.
Friday evening, we went to the cliffs to watch the waves explode —the rush and rumble and howl of rising tide. The vibrations beneath our feet. Eric showed me, through binoculars, the many starfish clinging to the base of the rocks 50 feet down. Slick, fat purple giants, and smaller, coral-colored cousins, glistening in the sun just above the waterline.
Late-late, Violet and I grabbed blankets and binoculars and cuddled down on the deck to look into the night. Out here there’s no light pollution, and the sky blankets every direction, dropping like a velvet curtain behind the mountains at our backs and meeting the endless expanse of sea in front of us. As you stare up, the blue-black backdrop recedes further and further and the stars come toward you, distinguishing themselves from space. The eyes go in and out of focus, but gradually, in moments, even the white spray of Milky Way begins to discriminate its billions into individual pinholes of ancient light.
Sometimes it’s unnerving to be reminded of your own smallness in the Universe, but lying there, staring, I found it comforting: the heightened sense of all that is out there, beyond the tininess of our aching planet—or might be --myth, mystery, matter...
nereids and perseids, the echo between ocean and sky, two Great Beyonds endlessly mirroring one another, both studded with stars we get only a glimpse of.
I slipped into that trancelike state when you think you’re awake until someone wakes you. When Violet turned over and mumbled, “Mama, we should go in, it’s the middle of the night.”
The next morning as I was practicing some yoga, I remembered a dreamy refrain that had played spontaneously in my head as I drifted off on the deck:
stars above, stars below.
So Sunday morning I taught a class entirely based on stars--the many ways the shape shows up in various postures, the poses named for stars, the arms/legs/head as the five points, the spread of the hand when it’s supporting our weight or stretching up and away. Fold forward, stars below; open upward and face the sky, stars above...
But most importantly, in this time of often smothering darkness—it’s a way to remember the radiance we each emanate when we simply plant our feet, unfurl limbs, uncurl fingers, spread palms wide, expose the heart space, and reach for the light.
7/15/2020 11:37:12 pm
What a poetic story Jenny. Stargazing is something I planned to do in Joshua tree national park, but as always, too little time. Still on my bucketlist. I love that you were almost one with mother nature and that the deer wern’t squared at all. So it’s back home and being very careful again. I read that home teaching is still in order after the summer holidays. I wish you all the very best.
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Jenny Sheffer Stevens
All text and images, except where credited, are © Jenny Sheffer Stevens and The Regular Jenny, 2015-2020-- All rights reserved.