My favorite part was when I lowered my window to the scent of fresh pine pouring in as I neared my destination, Yosemite.
The scenic transition from Southern to Central California goes through palm trees, deserts, valleys, mountains, rural Native American towns, and a blanket of woodsy trees signaling the emergence of a more rugged California terrain.
I drove to Ellery Lake that night. I parked my car and turned my high beams on. Realizing they made no difference, I turned them off and ate a sandwich under the moonlight and shining stars. I could hear the sound of water gently lapping against the shore, but under the pitch-black sky, I couldn’t tell where the land ended and water began. I imagined canoes floating across the lake toward campfires in the distance. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I started to make out the silhouette of pine trees and snow-capped mountains standing before me. Leaning against my car that night, the entirety of one mountain couldn’t fit in my vantage point. I admired the snow as it glistened under the night sky and inhaled deeply.
The next day, I stopped at Lake Tioga for fresh air and quietude. I wandered until I found a secluded area by the banks of the lake. Taking in the vibrance of the autumn colors and crisp air, I walked into a shallow creek. It was so cold, I don’t know how I ever submerged myself underwater during summer camp as a kid.
I finally made it to the park entrance where I met a friendly ranger. “First time to Yosemite?” he asked. “Yes, and I’m already amazed by the drive here.” “It gets even better!” he promised, handing me a map.
I spent the next few days among lakes, mountains, forests, and meadows. I wanted to enjoy the spontaneity of nature and find sacred pockets of nourishment. I visited Lake Tenaya while enjoying the sounds of a saxophone playing in the distance. I was amazed by the butterflies and the lake’s colorful blue and green hues. As I continued to explore, I discovered nature’s divine mysteries.
“At moments like these, the heart opens in recognition of something we cannot name. For a moment the veils between the worlds lift and the beauty of this world awakens a memory of the inner beauty our heart knows but we have forgotten.” -L. Vaughan-Lee
I questioned how I had never been to Yosemite before. Years ago, I planned to visit but canceled at the last minute due to being “on available” for a commercial I ended up not booking. I winced at the memory, not only because I canceled a trip for a mere chance at a booking (“on available” means exactly what it sounds like), but that I put my life on hold. I remembered informing my agent that I had plans. She told the simple truth that “clients and casting don’t care about your plans. If they smell difficulty, they’ll cast someone else.” Nowadays, I’d shrug and make peace with whatever wildcard decision they’d make while knowing my next booking was around the corner. It always was. But I simply didn’t trust back then, so I canceled my trip and waited by the phone only to learn I hadn’t been cast.
I drove along the Tuolumne Meadows, empty and clear as far as the eye could see. I spontaneously pulled over and ran from my car to the meadows and frolicked, giggling like a little kid. Dry grass up to my knees, I considered the possibility of snakes. I found a tall rock to sit upon while listening to the sounds of bugs and imagined the meadows awash with snow come winter. I sat and grieved the part of me that needed to succeed in that career, and that ever put the needs of clients, casting directors, and agents above my own. In any case, I was finally at Yosemite now.
I watched the sunrise each morning overlooking Mono Lake from my porch. I sat in the 25-degree morning air meditating while listening to the sound of rushing water just beneath the lodge. Curious about it, I found a hidden trail and went for a stroll.
I visited Mono Lake one afternoon. Mono Lake is famous for its tufa, jutting rock formations in and around its sulphuric waters. Like the Dead Sea, one can float on Mono Lake, but the 30-degree temperature kept everyone bundled-up and dry. Listening to the ambient sounds of Brian Eno under the setting sun, I imagined myself as an alien visiting Earth for the first time, then as myself visiting another planet for the first time. I wasn’t sure which I liked more, but both suited the environment perfectly. As moonlight illuminated Mono Lake’s still waters, the scene grew otherworldly.