The nocturnal hours of the weekend were spent watching other people stumble around in fog and chaos on the cliffs of Mendocino. There’s something about Hill House and the coastal streets, radically planted with succulents, nasturtiums and gargantuan purple kale that seduces the stress out of my body, clearing any worldly residue with gusts of warm wind from the rocky cove. No wonder I returned.
First it was a herd of elephants trumpeting a message I’ve not yet worked out. Each of them were performing distinct tasks in four locations; dotted along descending muddy footpaths which they plodded up and down, bathing, playing and spraying in tide pools. The elephants are Buddhist; chop wood, carry water, play, rinse, repeat. They were braying or praying, alarms or invitation, I can’t say witch, for sure. Which is why I wish the powers that be would just spit it out sometimes rather than sending us night after night to the Dream Cafe. Yes, I’ll have that blueberry scone, a decaf coffee and my current life lesson please.
The sign said Hill House for Cheerios. A cheeky play on welcomes and breakfast, likely designed by the spry inn keeper. She had a white halo of curls and wore an ankle length, denim blue prairie dress, dotted with white flowers. Despite her harmless appearance she informed me I’d be participating in the 800 person pageant hosted in the grand ballroom, right now.
What? Oh. No. Oh yes. Just behind an unsuspecting foyer was an expansive wooden room with parquet flooring and cathedral ceilings. It was lit like the interior of both a church and a casino. The perimeter of the sunken dance floor was edged with rose and gold floral carpeting and up lighting which accented flimsy cocktail tables. I waited in vain for a disco ball to drop from my subconscious.
Instead I was turned towards a full length mirror by Ma Bell to discover I’d been frocked in a navy blue and silver sequined gown featuring resurrected shoulder pads and a fabric belt to cinch the waist I’ve never had.
Managing to escape across the ballroom floor through a back door, I crossed a pebbled path through yet another enchanted garden and found myself in a filthy bathroom tucked into the foothills of the cliffs. Beach bathrooms are perpetually wet and covered in sand; this one was also dripping with piss and an embarrassing lack of privacy. No relief.
It was here that I met with a former executive who confirmed there was still no plan and not a soul had a clue or the motivation to attempt to wrangle the confused and roaming masses into order. Despite her grimm report, she was smiling. I’ve learned not to trust first expressions.
Rather than parent the world, I opted to find my smokes and watch the elephants, hoping to decipher their mysterious message before sunrise.
This morning my mind was spinning like a broken record; pied shag, pied shag, pied shag. I woke up and googled it, knowing I’d heard it before. It’s a bird but I called it by a different name. Why pied shag? It means: cormorant, sea raven, messenger of making obstacles visible so they can be fished out from our path. I had an close and personal encounter with one in a Florida swamp almost ten years ago. We danced on the shores of gator infested waters. Despite ample probability of being devoured by that decade, I surfaced, emerging with renewed standards, goals, drive, desire and hunger for something which had previously been buried under what felt like an insurmountable mountain of work.
It’s clear now, the work is done and just begun. xo
Fall dreams are by far my favorite. I took the cormorant photos at Myakka State Park in Florida and the rest in Mendocino. I’m trying to convince my husband that once I publish my book we should probably move there before the ocean cracks open and swallows it.
Enjoy Greg Brown’s Dream Cafe for inspiration.