“I thank you God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”
- E.E. Cummings
When I was young, my family was a beach family. During the intense heat of the San Fernando Valley summers, we would pack up the Buick with blankets, umbrellas, towels and tuna fish sandwiches - all we needed for a full twelve hour day at the beach. In California, Fall weather is usually very hot and dry; Santa Ana winds blow toward the ocean and wildfires are common. It didn’t matter whether darkness came early; we were often the first people on the sand and the last to leave, wading into the Black Sea before packing up the remnants of our day as darkness fell into the evening.
In order to get to the beach from Woodland Hills, my father took Malibu Canyon, a gorgeous passage in the Santa Monica Mountain range that leads from the Valley to Pacific Coast Highway. About halfway through, you can feel the change in temperature as you drive through a thick wall of intense Valley heat, into the cool grey mist coming off the ocean. It’s a palpable change. The canyon is steep and covered in Native chaparral, with sharp angles of rock creating shadows of light. I still use Malibu Canyon several times a week to get from one side of the mountain to the other and it’s beauty never disappoints me. I can feel my nervous system settle down away from the harshness of the “fight or flight” world as soon as I enter its beautiful and loving curves. Maybe because I know it so well - the shadows of light shimmering, like the backs of sleeping dinosaurs. To this day, I think of Malibu Canyon as home.
Now, by some stroke of luck, I have been lead to a house nestled in a forest of old oak trees, with trunks the size of city buildings. I mean it- these are old trees, thick and alive with creatures. The community built within these trees is appropriately named Oak Forest, Land of Robin Hood. As I wait in limbo, for the Board of Directors of my former community and the government agencies in disaster management (FEMA, the SBA) to decide when we, who lost homes in the Woolsey fire one year ago can rebuild our homes, I have been guided to live in an old oak forest- and, I'm grateful.
While waiting on the deck for the landlord to arrive before signing the lease this past June, I realized that my nervous system had, for the first time in months, dropped into that soothing and gentle place that I had almost forgotten existed - the parasympathetic nervous system. Like a long lost friend, my mind and body drifted into an empty, calm state. It wasn’t the house, particularly, but the forest, with its giant limbs hovering above, holding the community and me in its twisted arms. Even the neighbors are calm and relaxed because of the forest surrounding them. Since being here, I’ve learned that the trees are protected and can not be trimmed without a permit from the city.
As I’ve done with almost every home I’ve lived in, I barely looked inside the house and instead, felt its energy before signing on the dotted line. My mind was still and quiet; I was not thinking at all. It was transcendental.
I’ve now lived here since June, gone through the summer, shaded by the oaks. Fall has brought a different energy; acorns as big as footballs have begun to pound on the roof and, when they miss the roof, drop down onto the long deck. Birds squawk day and night, their calls echoing through the branches as a lone peacock walks the streets like a hooker and the trees whisper among themselves.
I’ve been told that this warm and friendly community was built inside the oak forest many years before and the old version of the film, “Robin Hood” was filmed here. You realize this when you see that all the street names come from the Robin Hood legend: Friars Lane, Little John Lane, Nottingham Road and my street, Sherwood Drive. All this blends into a comforting mixture of Nature sounds, like the constant humming of a familiar tune. It is a welcoming place, safe and peaceful; being here is like being held in a giant hug by ancient grandmother trees, constantly whispering your name, telling you to stay.
After moving in with just the bare necessities from generous friends and neighbors, I have contemplated the things I left behind that fill empty space and truly make a home: Framed art, collected from years of living, purchased or bartered; photographs; inherited objects, family treasures. Even small things that need to be replaced: A hand brush to dry brush my skin before showering; sewing kit, to hem the curtains; blender, to purée the green soup; wonderful linen sheets and towels, all to be collected and used in another round of setting up home. I was never much of a shopper and don’t like clutter, so as I collect my new things I ask myself, as Marie Kondo would, Will this spark joy?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Body as home? Isn’t that the most important home, the one that follows us throughout our lives no matter what our address, the one that changes as we go from infant to adult, the layers of energy fields that shape us, outside and inside. How do we live and take care of this, most important home?
Our Bodies as Home...stay tuned, and, until then,