This was the title of a writing workshop at Esalen that I took last week from poet Patrice Vecchione. Esalen is an interesting place — all about hippie capitalism. It was started by two Stanford grads in the ’60s and now it has 10,000 paying visitors a year. A long time before that it was Esselen Native land. There are natural sulphur springs on a cliff above the Pacific that are amazing. I was the darkest person around for all three days I was there.
Patrice was a great teacher, and I was glad to have time to soak and write poems, and I learned a lot from her about creating a safe environment while teaching. One evening we walked out into the night. Afterward we came back to the Little House (really it was called that!), and I wrote this poem.
Writing Into the Dark
The search party goes out at night
with headlamps & eyes in their toes
climbing the cloud-stroked hill,
fanning out around the stones.
One carries a Smith & Wesson.
One has the map of the territory
inscribed inside the brain. Everyone here
has had sex, love, maybe more than once
on the way to this destined task.
Passing the licorice fields,
the drunkards’ ball,
they persist to the edge of the land.
The one who knows the mission best
reads out the master’s orders. When
the wild loon calls, they begin
the hunt for song, for words
to meet that cry.
OK, the Smith & Wesson was a flashlight.
Here is a picture of me in the Esalen garden, pulling cabbages out of their cozy bed at the end of the growing season. This photo was taken by another student in my class who asked permission because she was documenting the whole class. That was cool with me. Other people I didn’t know walked by and took my picture because they were excited by “all the color.” Really they did.