Seize the time… Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart – Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Señor Tao (April 17, 1948 -)
April 17, 1998
Since my arrival in November, Esalen has been closed to the public. The highway was damaged by earth slides on both ends isolating the Big Sur area. I borrowed the money to stay for a second month as a work scholar and by the end of the month I was offered employment in the office. I had not planned to stay but nothing else was on the burner so it worked out well. There were maybe a hundred staff at the compound including work scholars, administrative, maintenance, massage staff and grounds crew. Many of the permanent staff had homes or rentals in the area but I managed to acquire housing on the property. This is where I wanted to be. The work week was thirty-two hours. The rest of the time was my own. This was Esalen’s gift to me. Time without many constraints.
The California Highway Commission estimated a complete opening of the Highway for April 17th, my birthday. After almost six months of closure, everyone was eager for a return to the normalcy of their previous everyday life. I was perfectly happy with the way things were going. The community of Esalen had come back to life. Without guests to cater too, we found and rediscovered each other. People spent more time getting to know one another. We shared stories and silence. The massage staff gave free class and reduced rates for massages. We all shared our gifts, whatever they were.
Esalen was ready to reopen. The closure had been financially difficult for some but we all supported each other and adjusted. We went all out for the opening. Dave’s band was hired to perform. Barbecue pits were prepared. Food, drink and many kegs of beer were purchased. Then the highway department announced on the fifteenth that repairs were not complete enough to permit traffic through. The best laid plans ….
Many of the instructors and welcomed guests had already arrived via various means during scant road openings but it would be two additional weeks before full traffic could be permitted. In what I found to be typical Esalen nature, they made sweet limonada from the sour lemons. Esalen opened its gates to the Big Sur public for the first time and they came. The residents were waiting at the gates when we opened at ten in the morning and many stayed until that time the next day. It was Esalen’s Grand “Almost” Reopening and also my birthday. This is my party. All these people are here celebrating me, at least in my mind.
My mother was a very wise woman whom I love very much but we did not always get along. We had many disagreements about my life choices. A void developed between us after I divorced my wife and left the corporate world. I wandered for a while, searching, experiencing, living and loving life. She wanted me to return to a normalcy of which I was no longer a part.
My roommate came running from the dorm, yelling to tell me my mother was on the phone. We had not spoken in while so I immediately thought something was wrong. After wishing me a happy birthday and catching up on the last few months, she said, “You know dear not many people get to live the life they choose but you always have. You have always been true to yourself, and I am very proud of you.” Whatever self doubt might still have existed. Whatever questions of whether or not I was doing the right thing with my life, in that moment disappeared. My mother finally accepted me for being myself and it only took fifty years of life.
After mom’s call I was elated, high, happy and celebratory. It was the longest party I had ever attended and I had just received the perfect gift. Acceptance. The Big Sur residents came in droves throughout the day and they did not come empty handed. The brought a myriad of salads, homemade beers, breads, cakes and so much more. For the entire day and into the night the air was filled with music, laughter, conversation and pot smoke. It was a grand affair. It was my fiftieth birthday after all. It is now ten o’clock in the evening and someone is setting off fireworks over the ocean. My colleague Sammy and I are in my room eating the chocolate cake she baked for me and slow dancing to Johnny Hartman’s sweet vocals before going back out to join the party. What a life I live!
Note: A portion of this essay was previously published in A Writer’s Diary – Acceptance.