By Rene Parks
Close your eyes for just a moment and let the days worries fade in to the background of your mind. Snap out the extraneous thoughts as they try to pop back in and invade your quiet, peaceful mind. Breathe in deeply, all the way to your diaphragm, bring your breath to your belly. Exhale slowly. Release all the day’s tension and anxiety. Clear your mind and swallow this pill. You are at the spa for some long awaited, well-deserved days of relaxation and pampering. You have the week off from school and have absolutely no worries, no obligations, and no stress. You’ve shed your stiff, restrictive clothes and are currently wrapped in a fluffy, white robe that smells lightly of lilac and was thoroughly warmed just before you slipped it on. You sit, reclining on the chase of your balcony, taking in the woodsy view. A bottomless glass of iced lemon water leaves your mind feeling sharp and your bladder full. Urgent though it is, your mind feels completely open to having a new experience, as advertised. This place is literally booked months in advance and you are stoked to sit in the outdoor hot springs and meditatively mosey around the nature preserve. On your way to the spa, as you were driving up the piney, winding mountainside you could see the steam rise from the hot springs creating an eerie ethereal fog as the pine branches glistened brightly in the morning sun. The windows in the car were down and the thin, wet air quickened your breath. The construction of dark timber and tall stone chimneys rising above mountainous outline made the spa look more like a lodge, and decidedly timeless. The first part of your experience involves a massage that is out of this world. You are seriously considering asking the masseuse back to your room. Essential oils, hot stones, and gentle hair pulling are now as high on your list of priorities as food. Food. The only thing that may draw your out of your reverie as you lay in quiet subdued warmth and total spiritual comfort. Your tummy gives a little growl and your thoughts shift to the unlimited buffet, food that feeds your soul. Whatever your heart desires, clean food, soul food, or comfort food. It is there for the eating. You get up to dress. Looking for something in your duffel bag with a level of comfort somewhere in between the warm fluffy robe and the stiff, restrictive clothes you wore previously.
After more than several tense moments, wandering the carpeted halls in complete disorientation with a slow building fear replacing the hunger in your gut while tears prick the backs of your lids. Finally, the dining room makes itself known and although it is early, you are surprised that there are no other guests there for the buffet. Happily you notice iced lemon water on tap for your drinking pleasure. The tangy smell of lemon and the ice cold touching your top lip is just so refreshing. Your mind is finally feeling settled once again and the satisfaction with your current position in life brings a feeling that is very near happiness and your lips curl, though only very slightly, upward. Then retiring for a dreamless post-dinner nap on the anonymous fluffy white pillows in your room, you suddenly awaken to the realization that it will soon be time for your experience. Butterflies flit momentarily in your stomach. Maybe, you think, you’ve had enough experience, considering the massage and the dinner and the nap. You certainly paid enough, you could just stay in your room for the rest of the week if your chose, spoiled and contrary. Though the whole idea of the experience is the reason you made the trek in the first place. Just because you are nervous doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. How intuitive could this place be? Psychologically prepared, as you are, you rebuff these arguments with counterarguments and deliberately quell your nervous energy. Up for an adventure, you are. Open to an experience, yes you are! Your personal philosophy is the embodiment of the experience, which is how you even got yourself here in the first place. ARGH. No more analytical brain talk. You begin to make your way to the hot springs. The springs themselves are a fount of experience at 103 degrees. You make your way up the rocky path. The path zigzags at a dizzying elevation of 600 feet in excess of your current elevation. Light headed and out of breath you do not encounter another soul and are not even sure you are on the right path. Although you read the route and description numerous times and deep down you know it is right, the desolation of the path is unnerving and sucking your physical stamina. You silently give thanks to the buffet gods and are glad for the three plates you dirtied. The climb intensifies your heart rate but the air is noticeably cooler as you conquer one zig at a time. You reach out to touch a tiny White pine growing inside the elbow of a zag, its soft baby needles bend to your touch and you feel the strength to persevere bubble up, like sap, inside of you. When you finally reach the top, unexpected tears force their way up and out. Your mind and body are quiet as you assess the reserves you’ve tapped in order to make this trek. You sit down near some sandy, rough bull grass that you grasp as an anchor, your eyes close, and then…
A rambling rhythm moves your body. RAM-ble, RAM-ble, RAM-ble, RAM-ble. A dry heat suddenly envelops you and a trickle of perspiration makes its way down your forehead to the fork of your eyebrow. The dirt rimming your lips crunches in between your teeth as you wiggle your tongue around in the dryness of your mouth. Your legs hug the rounded ribs of a strong, loping palomino beast. Your feet feel weighted by heavy boots and spurs as they bounce rhythmically in the stirrups of the palomino’s worn leather saddle. As your eyes adjust, you see the expanse of land stretched out before you, around you and behind you. On the back of the horse you are sitting about six feet above the dry, rocky trail and you realize gratefully that your hands are gripping the leather horn of the saddle. In the distance tumbleweeds race each other across the open plain and the landscapes neutral pallet plays tricks with your eyes. Angled toward the setting sun, you are utterly alone and the realization dawns that you have been transported to the wild, wild, west.
Instinctively, you reach forward and stroke the palomino’s smooth, muscular neck. His skin twitches and his muscles ripple beneath your hand, his tail flicks reflexively. The smell of the sweaty horse is pungent but as you inhale its odor, it seems familiar and almost comforting to the deep restlessness inside you. The singularity of your situation sets in and you kick your heels into the flanks of your horse to catch up to the mass of cattle some half a mile ahead of you. As your body lurches forward with the horse, your hand reaches atop your head to steady the Stetson that’s about to take flight and you lean your chest down to almost rest on the mane of the horse. The galloping of the palomino heaves up a powerful blast of dusty dirt in its wake. A welcome relief comes from the wind as it dries the sweat around the band of your hat and under your armpits. You catch up to the cattle as soon as the sun begins to disappear on the horizon and hundreds of thousands of stars are twinkling to life. Soon the Milky Way is glowing its milky glow in the night sky and coyotes are howling to create a cacophony with the crickets and hoot owls. Far off in the distance you see a small fire spark to life. A thin column of smoke rises like a prayer, appealing to the shine of the stars. You and the palomino move the cattle toward the flame like a herd of moths, their beating hooves thundering the night. As you approach the fire, the herd spreads out and you realize, you feel the distinct softness of the posh bed in your room at the lodge. Your eyes flutter open to the soft white light of the dying day. A grin spreads on your face in anticipation of tomorrow. Sitting up, you double check the arrangement of tiny yellow pills in the plastic M T W Th F Sa Su container and then purse your lips lustily on a glass of lemony iced water.