I drive out to the Sonoma “North County” Coast to do ceremony each month on the full moon. It’s a six-hour round-trip drive plus the actual time at the beach, and the day becomes a meditation on the changing cycles of my life and my connection to the changing cycles of the world around me. The strongest evidence of change is the difference in the actual coastline from one month to the next. Huge boulders appear as tons of sand are swept away by the tides. In time, they are buried again only to reappear in even more time. The beach itself changes shape with slopes becoming carved into drop-offs and natural seawalls only to be smoothed into high slopes once again. The beach can be strewn with driftwood or swept clean of it depending on the ways of the surf.
The days are foggy, misty, and sometimes downright rainy. Rarely, there is full sunshine with blue skies. Sometimes the wind blows with such force that pieces of salty foam roll along the beach having been blown from the waves as they crested and broke on the shore. Somewhere between the harsh gusts and the less frequent calm breezes are the usual days of ocean-side wind that is strong enough to whistle past one’s ears but not necessarily call for bundling up against it.
Behind all this is the constant roar of the surf in its never-ending dance of ebb and flow and waves that keep their own rhythm of ferocity. When I arrive I spend some time just watching the waves, counting the rhythm between the larger ones. Every now and then, the dreaded “sneaker waves” come from the surf with a huge force of energy that sweeps everything in its path back (including the unwary sight-seer standing on a large rock or too close to the edge of a bluff) into the cold, deep waters.
When the time came for me to leave the Napa Valley in April of 1999 and set out upon a new trajectory for my life, I was certain that I would never return. There was no reason for me to do so. The short trips during vacations to either drop Kyle off with Mike or to pick him up softened the letting go of the place that had been my home for twenty years. Each time I made the trip over the following couple of years, I became more estranged from what I had known during my time there. Napa was changing, becoming more the small metropolitan “San Francisco, North” and less the small community. The tides of the time were washing it clean and reshaping it into something I did not recognize; nor did I care for it.
Eight years passed. Nearly six of them were in the Verde Valley of Arizona, honing my skills as a bodywork therapist and feeling the fullness of the life that Kyle and I had there. Another two years in Boulder gave me the time to complete my Hakomi studies, travel to both Scotland and New York twice, and try to develop a private practice in somatic bodywork while maintaining a “day job” at a hotel spa. Kyle began his adult life and found his own way through work and making friends. My private practice never became full enough to be my sole support. With two separate post-graduate programs in somatic psychotherapy and three large massage schools in the immediate area, there was nothing to separate me from the hundreds of others trying to establish themselves.
In 2007, a friend asked if I would come back to Napa for a month to house-sit and care for her diabetic cat while she went to Australia. My reluctance was matched and finally overcome by my desire to travel away from the routine spa job that I had in Boulder. The excitement of foregoing my polyester uniform for a reunion with old friends and former clients and setting my own schedule again became a larger issue than returning to a place I’d been all-too eager to leave. I came back to what was nearly a completely different town. The tides of the Valley’s change had shifted the entire culture of the area. All but one or two of my friends had moved on to other locations and the vacuum they left had been filled by more and more of the San Francisco wannabe elite.
The word of my temporary return spread quickly. Former clients came for appointments and recommended more people as well. In the first two weeks I was there, I made more money than I would have in a month at the spa. The grapevine wound its way around the valley and ended up with an acquaintance I’d had from the years before Kyle was born. She was a massage therapist, too, and had parlayed her practice in to consulting for spas. One of her clients, the management of a spa that was just getting ready to open, was not happy with the spa manager that they had working for them. My name had come up as a possible replacement. After a meeting or two with various parties, I was offered the job. A sudden shift in the tides was going to bring me back to Napa to live, and to become the Manager of one of the first fully “green” spas in the country. The place that had been so empty for me years before had become full again, and I had an opportunity to create more fullness for myself.
By the end of April, I had a flat in a Victorian in Napa even though all my furniture and belongings were still in Boulder with Kyle. I continued to pay rent in Boulder for quite a few months until I was able to get my things shipped out to me. Kyle did a great job of handling things even though he was not very happy with me for choosing to return to Napa. I knew that he saw the reality that I had been offered a grand opportunity to create something wonderful in the spa world and that it was something I really wanted to do. It was a difficult transition period for both of us because our lives had shifted so suddenly. There were spates of time that I referred to as the “dark side of the moon” when we did not communicate much, but we are woven together, he and I, and we got through it. This was a period of waxing and waning at the same time. We both had loss, and we both gained. A year later, he came to visit and to introduce me to the young woman who would, in time, become his life partner.