We cracked open a beer when we hit the dirt road. Joey threw the truck into four-wheel drive and we crawled over rocks, climbing the hill, then dropping into a landscape of meadows, evergreen pine trees, leafless aspen, a winding creek and snowy mountains on the other side of a narrow valley. As the screech of the sage brushing against the truck broke the awe-inspired silence, Joey looked over with a smile, “Sierra pin-striping.”
We descended a side road into the canyon and set camp next to the stream and a fire-ring constructed of locally-found granite rocks. We crossed tussocks rising above marsh grassland drenched in snow melt with occasional snow patches to gather wood. After the sun set and the first star rose in the indigo sky, we built a roaring fire and gave words to the movement of the flames – licking, wisping, lapping. The bright crescent moon cast a blueish tint over the mountains covered in striations of snow, making them look marbleized.
Though the cold air froze our water overnight, I felt rested and rejuvenated by morning. Sitting in our camp chairs, Joey named each of the distant peaks and I was overcome with a feeling/memory of summer vacations in Yosemite led by my father John who wanted so much for me to understand peace and love this land.
That innocent, uncomplicated feeling of being secure and happy to be small in a really big world filled me so completely, it was as if the morning sunshine ran through my veins. I felt outrageously joyous, whether hiking overland to a grove of pine trees, looking for compressed deer beds, seeking heart-shaped rocks in a talus field, using rolled up sage for perfume, or admiring cascades of opaque and crystalline beads of honey-colored sap. I carried this feeling back to Joey’s, where we made sun tea and I rode a dirt bike for the first time; looking at those inspiring mountains fueled the flame of joy in my heart for days. Joey’s presence, love and acceptance made me feel safe and content.
After a few days in suburbia, I lost my grip on the lightness of being. I should be looking for a job, I told myself. I should be doing the responsible thing. Then (because it was Sky’s homework assignment) we watched the Woodstock documentary. All at once understood a fallacy that had stifled me much of my life – the fear of the outcast. Ostracized for being Mexican, Woman, Feminist, Witch, Slut, Bitch, Christian Scientist, Pagan, Hippie. Bearing witness to the simplicity of nearly half a million people sharing three magnificent days of peace and music broke the levies and I was suffused in ecstatic appreciation for my genuine enthusiasm, optimism, open-heart and brazen free-spirit.
I pulled the tarot card “Raise Your Standards” from my fairie deck and deviated from conventional training for safety and success by removing the stuffy, corporate clothes from my closet that do not spark joy to make room for my bohemian clothes – to shelter and honor a gypsy life that financially and spiritually supports me, my creative muse and playful passion. This is my highest measurement of success.