Seeking respite from the concrete jungle and cacophonous vibes of Santa Monica, today I rolled a mere fifteen minutes to a country redoubt. Landing in Topanga Canyon, I posted outside of the Waterlily Café (hippie style stained glass lettering) in the cool air and bright sun. My short journey was ten miles and forty years. The air was fragrant with the scent of patchouli and I surveyed a truly unique scene. Posters advertised the upcoming Topanga Days festival with a roster of local and international bands. A guy walks by in cowboy hat, another jumps in his old, big pick up truck. A middle aged couple speaking in Persian and wearing leather get on their Harley and roll off. A small pop-up tent is pitched in a corner of the parking lot next to yucca and cactus mixed among the sage and palm trees. A 50ish woman dressed in full horse riding regalia gets out of her Lexus SUV. At the table next to me are a young, bearded guy with big shells poking through his left and right ear lobes and wearing hiking boots and his girlfriend dressed in a floor length black skirt, black sweater, and charcoal scarf. In other words a rather eclectic crowd.
My thoughts drift to a girl I dated many years ago, who lived in a trailer and kept two horses she rode in the Canyon. Then there was the wild night listening to Canned Heat at the long defunct Topanga Corral. A smile crosses my mind when I think of the night when our obstinate buddy refused to leave a party we had crashed 100 yards from this spot. And the unforgettable once in fifty years snowfall in the Canyon. Of a recent romantic night at the organic, chic, creek side restaurant, Inn of the Seventh Ray. Finally, of yesterday when I attended the sixteenth annual Earth Day celebrations and purchased a red, gold, and green tie dyed T-shirt.
Much water has flowed under the bridge and more is yet to flow. How to bathe in this water of life with its saudade (yearning for the past), nostalgia, memories, and melancholy? In everyday life we identify time with arbitrary beginnings and endings to organize what is actually a seamless life. My drifting reverie was not just about the ‘old days.’ It is a present experience with reminders of an earlier time. Too often I dwell in my concepts and not the ebb and flow of experiences, all the while seeking a full life. Wandering the world, from tropic isles to desert rocks, wooded spiritual retreat to urban chic, today at last I see what is offered next door. Like Voltaire’s Candide, I have made many trips that have led me back to the beginning. It was always there but my vision has been occluded by familiarity. In my own backyard country peace, cultural congruity, and my tribe are at hand.
The idea of tribe is full of import for us Baby Boomers as we move into the elder years. When we were young we could identify our tribe through certain signs; beads, incense, long hair etc. In our time of elderhood we have a boon to offer the tribe. The community needs us to share our hard earned wisdom, to not let the dream die with us, to revive our vision. What is your tribe? Your gift will be made clear when you find them. Like mine, they may be next door in a neighboring canyon.