It was a sensational trip.

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Batteries Not Included

I was asked to document my sensory experiences of the retreat this past weekend. I didn’t realize I had so many words in me. Might as well make it into a blog post? Here goes:

I hate falling asleep at the wheel. Especially when I have important cargo, like the retreat speaker and his wife, the sound system, and my son. I tried to get as much rest as possible the night before, but when you’re driving down the monotonous 101 Freeway, it’s easy to get droopy-eyed. The bumps on the lane dividers help jolt me awake, though, so that’s good.

We drive by Gilroy, and I’ve always loved driving through Gilroy – we often roll down the windows and let in the magnificent scent of garlic, and my son and I inhale like our lives depended on it. But this time there is no garlic scent. Somewhat disappointing.

Once we pull off the 101 Freeway, I remember driving through some green hills littered with cows and other such animals grazing. At one point, I remember driving down a sloped hill at which point the road opened up to farm land as far as the eye can see. Rows upon rows of neatly lined dirt piles, no doubt machine-hewn, most likely already seeded. I especially like driving by plots of farm land with neatly lined trees – depending on the angle you look at the plot of land, you see different row configurations. It’s hard to describe but it speaks to the math geek inside me.

Pulling into the Pajaro Dunes resort is an experience – it is a gated community, so you really get a sense of separation from the outside world. Once inside, as you drive along the main road, you start to catch a glimpse of the … interesting assortment of architecture in the houses. There are castles, houses that look like dogs, houses that look like they are sliding off the cliff, houses with spiral staircases that seem to go nowhere.. It’s like the owners hired architectural madmen and allowed them to build their dream projects. There are lots of odd angles and shapes. Again, it tugs at the math geek within my heart.

I like going down to the beach – beach access is provided by wooden walkways that take you up to the top of the bluff and leads to a wooden stairway going down to the beach. That moment when you come to the top of the bluff and see the whole beach laid out before you for the first time – quite a glorious sight. Wide open space far as the eye can see. Sand that’s been repetitively smoothed over by the waves’ gentle, but sometimes rough caresses.

On the beach, we come across an interesting phenomenon – dead crab shells. Literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, crab shells littered the beach. Here and there a crab body with legs, but mostly shells. It looks like someone had a crab fest out here. They’re mostly small, like toddler crabs, with an occasional daddy or mommy crab shell. The small shells are very fragile, some of them breaking at the gentlest touch. I go around stepping on the shells that I see. Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s very satisfying. I feel powerful.

At some point in the afternoon, a group of equestrian frolickers came galloping down the beach on their horses. Against the setting sun, the shadow of the horse and rider left a majestic impression. Too bad my camera phone was too slow to capture any good shots. One of the riders really liked galloping at top speed through the shallow waves. I still remember the clop/splash sound of each hoof hitting the water and sand at brisk pace. He looked like he was having a lot of fun. The rider, too.

The house we stayed at had a huge gnarly mangled tree in the back (yard?). The bark was peeling off on several limbs, leaving strips of bark hanging down, almost like a willow tree, but not. The branches seem to snake out from the stump and come toward you, as if approaching for a hug. But I keep my distance. Face to face with a little space, some have said. Good advice.

The third floor of the house was a small loft, with windows providing a 360 degree view of the dunes. I spent a few minutes up there one night, after everyone had already left. The windows were open, and I could hear the distant roar of the waves – funny how waves always seem to sound louder at night, no? The view at night was quite different than day; I liked it a lot more. The moonlight shimmered and glistened on the waves, constantly moving, yet staying in place. The houses were for the most part vacant, making the dunes look rather lonely and deserted. A few scattered lights could be seen here or there. I wonder what it would be like to live out here year round. I really like this room up here. I could sit here all night staring out into the dark, the ocean roar my soundtrack for the night. I wonder how many other people have been up here. I had taken a quick nap here in the afternoon, hot sun beating down on my face. I woke up slightly sweaty. I really would have liked to spend more time up in this room. Upper Upper Room.

We lit a bonfire on the beach. It was already underway when I arrived. Some of the high school kids threw in crab remains they found on the beach. It smelled good, salty. Made me think of Korean BBQ. The remains quickly charred. Other students were throwing in seaweed, which would curl and squirm as it burned. It looked like Snakes On The Pain. Wait, was that a movie? We fed the fire some large wood planks, and I think at one point it reached a height of over 10 feet (the flames, not the planks). The intense flame made it difficult to roast marshmallows. Most of the humans present were not able to come within 3 feet of the fire. Some seemed to bow and worship the flames. But I know their hearts and that there was no idolatry in the action. I think they had just fallen down.

That night, a fog rolled in over the beach and into the housing area. The fog wasn’t thick, but it made it hard to see, especially since there isn’t much street lighting.

The last day. We had to vacate the conference rooms. It took about two hours to fully set up the chairs and sound system on the first day. On the last day, with everyone’s help, we had the hall vacated in about half an hour. I stood in the empty hall, remembering all that had gone on in the last 48 hours. It’s eerily quiet.

And that’s about all I remember.


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