BY KIMBERLY MAYER
“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.” Pearl Buck
Traveling east in a van on Rt. 188 the earth turned red and glacial boulders, large and rounded, studded the hills. Behind us was San Diego, ahead was more of this mountainous landscape as we twisted on a narrow winding road between the desert and the sea. Tecate, a city that straddles both sides of the border, is where we disembarked. And there, with Customs officers and the formidable wall behind us, we were ensconced for a week in Rancho La Puerta, a sprawling Wellness Resort and Spa in Baja California, Mexico.
It isn’t on every trip that we carry intentions, but that’s precisely what I’d brought with me. The intention to resume daily meditation practice after all these years, and to paint and draw again. In this way I arrived at a place I’d never been before in hopes of finding some things I’d lost along the way: a Transcendental Meditation(TM) mantra long forgotten, and a hand in art that, over the years, had given way to writing.
There began the inner journey. “When we engage in a creative recovery,” writes Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, “we enter into a withdrawal process from life as we know it. Withdrawal is another way of saying detachment or nonattachment, which is emblematic of consistent work with any meditation practice.” Much like checking passports into the safe, our cell phones were tucked away for the week. I know I’m not alone in saying I left sleepless nights over the war in Ukraine back in the states. War doesn’t go away; we were just less embedded in it.
Brick paths wound through 32 acres of naturalized gardens in the 4000 acre chaparral landscape, and our casita was a good distance from everything, by design. Walking like that, in nature and by oneself, is meditative in itself. The rituals I treasured all week were Morning Pages, Meditation, Poetry as meditation prompts, and Sound Healing. I learned the simple truth that all meditation works, it needn’t be TM. I bypassed spa treatments, avoided arduous exercise, and walked endlessly.
A labyrinth in the woods called to me. My creative life was nothing if not a spiral path.
Every writer will know that The Censor is something we deal with constantly in an effort to keep her out of the room. The Censor is perfectionism. So what did she do but grab her post over the years as guardian at the door of artwork. I couldn’t get in. Here at The Ranch sat a sweet little art studio, empty most of the time, full of supplies, and a sympathetic instructor who strolled through now and then. Somehow I gave myself permission, and from then on nothing could keep me out.
There is so much joy in painting like a three year old again! Drawing is harder, but I worked at it, loving that the instructor called gum erasures “Prozac for artists.” Like Morning Pages there were no good drawings or bad drawings. It doesn’t matter at all; it only matters that I’m doing it. I’ve got this! I thought.
I had to come all that way to unblock—and now I had to figure how to bring it all home with me: the meditation practice and the practice of making art. The week was ending and as if on cue the climate was warming, time for me to migrate north. A writing hut awaits me on San Juan Island, which will now be shared with sketchbooks, charcoal, kneeded gum erasures, blending stumps, brushes and watercolors. Oh what a happy little hut it will be.
Like the Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain, from here on out I’ll be painting and drawing if not writing.