Well, I have no idea how to start this post, but I find myself with a little injury-induced downtime and a perfect opportunity for catching up. But I must admit that I’m not really in the mood. My mind is in a cloud of melancholy and I don’t quite know what to say. Seeking solace in my digital memories, as I so often do, I remembered starting this post about our snowshoe outing a few weeks back. A few weeks…or six or seven…whatever. Oh, how I would love to find that secret hiding place, that mysterious abyss where all this missing Time gets tucked away! Anyway, my hubby is out for a snowshoe adventure today while I am stuck at home, pitifully longing for some snow play of my own. And wistfully yearning for a view.
Ah, but the beautiful thing about this digital memory bank of mine is the access it provides to an all-encompassing view at any old time I choose. This particular view was from the window of a stone ashram perched high on a Sierra Nevada hillside overlooking the Owen’s Valley. This was a sacred space, a peaceful place and it was a perfect day, the day Evan and I hiked up the trail to find it. Yes, I think this will be the perfect spot to spend my time today with my wistful wants and memories.
A few weeks back, in February, Valentine’s weekend to be exact, my husband and I packed up the car and headed to the hills for some solitude. We have spent many a Valentine’s Day this way and we always manage to have a perfectly fitting adventure (we have been very blessed that way). This day we were simply exploring, hoping to find a little patch of snow in which to play. We dug the snowshoes out of the closet, tossed the tent in the car, haphazardly threw together our food supply and headed out the door. We drove toward the Tuttle Creek Trailhead and set out for a leisurely hike. We had heard about this stone ashram that was built somewhere along the Tuttle Creek Trail and we wanted to see if we could find it. Though there was enough snow that we had to park down the road a ways, there really wasn’t enough on the trail to warrant breaking out the snow shoes. It was very quiet and we set out at a peaceful pace enjoying the sunlight, the snow, the crisp mountain air and the solitude.
We hiked along, we got off-track (beware those tempting short-cuts!) and just as we began to think we were not meant to find the object of our wandering, we spotted the stone structure tucked among the trees, carefully camouflaged against a background of granite walls. Built in the shape of a balanced cross, the Tuttle Creek Ashram measures about 2,000 square feet and sits on a ridge line at an elevation of 7,600 ft. The ashram was constructed over a period of 20 years and though it was never finished, the building of such a thing, in such a place, at such a time…well, it seems an impressive feat to me. And the views, literally all-encompassing with doorways and windows from which to gaze along all four cardinal points of the compass.
This large altar, built of stone and mortar, sits on the floor in one corner. On top of it some anonymous soul felt compelled to carve this prayer:
Father, Into thy eternal wisdom, all creative love, and infinite power
I direct my thoughts, give my devotion and manifest my energy
That I may know, love, and serve thee.
Though not original to the ashram, I thought it brought a peaceful sort of purpose to this space. We stayed for a while, taking it all in. And with one last pause to breathe in the view, we headed back down in the quiet cold while the afternoon shadows slowly crept across the trail.
On the way back down the road we came across a perfect-looking campsite, so we parked there, set up camp and settled in for the evening. As I said earlier, we very haphazardly threw together our food supply, so dinner was…shall we say…”rustic”. But it was perfect and we enjoyed it with a sunset view of Owens Lake. It was not too cold once the sun went down, considering it was only February, but still a little chilly for the likes of me. So, when E. was up and about in the wee, wee, morning hours trying to capture some stars, I stayed in my cozy cocoon and snoozed until the sun made its dramatic entrance and graced us with its warming presence.
It looked to be a lovely day, so we packed up and made our way north a bit, driving up the road toward Onion Valley. We thought we might be able to find some snow along an old mining road that would lead us to a little valley known as “Little Onion Valley”. We had never been there and we were in an exploring sort of mood. Sure enough, the trail was still covered in snow and we had a great time getting reacquainted with the snowshoes. It had been a couple of years since we’d had them out, a couple of very dry years in the Sierra. Snowshoeing is an activity that I will always enjoy and I love my little, blue snowshoes. My dad gave them to me for Christmas about 20 years ago and they have seen me through many snowy winters in Utah, New England and California. And on this particular trip I discovered that if you pair them with an engineer you got yourself a nifty little backcountry tripod…perfect for Valentine Day selfies. I keep thinking I should probably upgrade to a new, more modern pair, but I find myself rather attached to these. Besides, newer is not always better, right? I so enjoyed this snow day with my favorite explorer. It really was a fitting way to celebrate a perfect pairing.
I have many things on my mind today, I continually move through many moods, but I keep thinking about that ashram. That peaceful place, built upon a foundation so carefully laid out in the shape of a balanced cross, symbolizing equilibrium. As I revisit that view, my thoughts return to those certain things in life that always seem to bring me back to center. Yes, I am so grateful for my memories, for the experiences that created them and the digital library that enables me to revisit them again and again.
Equilibrium is a tricky thing. Find your center :)