When I first told my friend S about Kripalu, which is a yoga retreat center in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, she burst out laughing and said, "Is it a coincidence that their name can also be pronounced Cripple-You?" The idea of being jammed into Scorpion Pose by people at a place whose very name offers the risk of quadriplegia sounds like the kind of thing you DON'T want to pay several hundred dollars for.
A neat little rock cairn from a hike behind Kripalu.
And yet everybody does. The place is always full of people swooshing around in their organic bamboo pants and their lululemon tops and their peaceful expressions, talking about crystals or wearing buttons that say "In Loving Silence", which as far as I can tell, means they're part of a meditation retreat and are taking it Very Seriously and means you shouldn't talk to them.
I think you can find spirituality everywhere, frankly, and although I think Kripalu is an excellent place to do it because it's neat and out in the woods, and the food is delicious and provided for you and there's three yoga classes a day (although one's at 6:30am) and there's ayurvedic massage and classes on Kundalini and chanting...I also think that I might have been just as happy swinging in the hammock with the volunteers I met. One of them offered me really terrible organic gum, which is exactly how he presented it, and then we hung out in companionable chatter. The breeze and the birds...so peaceful. Hammocks are my sense of God.
Usually I don't like cities at all. I hate them, actually. Small cities are okay, but big ones like New York and Chicago and Los Angeles? Hate. And this may seem pointless, because I actually live in Los Angeles now, which seems like a unique form of self-loathing, but I like grass and real nature smells and birds and trees. I like sounds that aren't man-made and not having to drive everywhere.
But last night Justin and I had a date. We went to his friend Beth's art opening, and looked at her photography and ate all her cheese and crackers. Then we had nowhere to go and the sun was warmly lighting all the buildings, so we just drove. We drove past the alien palm trees stepping down off curbs, and through the condominium spires of Beverly Hills, where there is nature, because people can afford it. Finally we tipped out at the ocean and parked in one of the Santa Monica parking structures, which are free for the first two hours.
We walked along the beach and the moon hung above us, and the pier was all lit up. We ate in a restaurant that was like the fantasy of a boat, all dangling glowing glass globes (say that five times fast!) and criss-crossed bamboo ceilings and the bathroom sinks were copper bowls sitting in roughly-hewn wood and the waitresses were REALLY pretty. And we walked along the Santa Monica Promenade and saw a dog skateboarding. Justin said, "Did you see that? That was amazing!" And I shrugged and said, "If you've seen one skateboarding dog, you've seen them all." And he said, "Have you seen a skateboarding dog before?"
And I said, "No."
Squid from the aquarium in Mystic, CT
We watched the sun set in the cloud city that could have been Hohoq, drifting out of the sky and populated by Thunderbirds. I turned to Justin at one point and said, totally surprised, "Los Angeles is really pretty." I don't usually think that, since I spend so much time hating it here. But he just smiled his soft smile and said, "Yeah. It is."