I was in the forest with a notebook and pen, listening to a message from the trees. The energy was easeful, spacious, curious. I wrote and listened and breathed in the slightly smoky sweet air, resting in the crunch of fallen leaves. Walking away, I noticed I had lost my pen cap. At that moment, I remembered Gandhi’s request to his young grandson to find a pencil stub he had discarded in the farm fields on his way home from school. I turned back to look for the pen cap in the forest. It was resting in the place I had lain. I reunited it with my pen and went on my way.
I was conscious and deliberate as I made my way back to the dorm, packing my computer, tablet, and things into my backpack for transportation back to my house. I settled my bag in my car, took a warm and cleansing shower, letting the water flow over my body, enhancing my meditative mind. In this aware, alive state I returned to my car. I was conscious of the time and my desire to bake Abbas a cake for his birthday. The grocery shopping was done and the supplies spread out over my kitchen countertop.
In the driver’s seat, I reversed my car, drove up the entry path, and did a clean three-point turn onto the main road. In my mind, I noted my increasing fluency in driving the dirt roads: what was once a five-point turn had become just three. I was awake, pondering the message of the trees and the chocolate strawberry cake waiting to be baked. As I drove, Mariposa passed on my left – there was the dorm, the garden, the forest in which I rested.
Breathing in, I rejoice in the ease of being home.
Breathing out, I settle my body.
At my driveway, I paused for a moment without coming to a full stop. I was not looking at my phone, eating or drinking, or daydreaming. I did not fall asleep. At the moment I turned left, my eyes were on the road. I was going a little fast for the moment, but not overly so: maybe 10 mph.
The top of my driveway is elevated in comparison to the main road and it descends to the right on a road about 1.5 car widths wide. To drive down the driveway requires me to surmount the small elevation and there is a moment while doing so where I can’t see the road. On that day, I turned onto the road and for a second was blinded by the sun hitting the windshield. Everything was bathed in bright white light. I could not see the road due to the sun, the elevation of the gravelly road, and perhaps my own size peering over the hood of my Honda Pilot.
There was a metal clank and my tires slipped off the road. The car quickly accelerated down a fairly vertical slope. The ground was not level (higher on the left than the right) and the imbalance in pressure made me fear that the car would flip over (that the left side would flip clockwise to the right). I worried about damage to my neck or head. And then the car leveled out and collided with flat ground. My head slammed into the top of the steering wheel. My passenger side window shattered. Metal crunched. And yet the car somehow continued its descent, veering across the driveway. I had lost sense of my own ability to control the car. I wondered when and how the car would stop. Please make it stop. I can’t remember if I was pressing the brakes or steering at all. I was holding tightly to the steering wheel, I remember that.
When I next looked up, the car was rapidly approaching a tree. This is how it ends, I thought. We crashed hard and the car stopped. My head hit the steering wheel again. I did not blackout or otherwise lose consciousness. The ride was over.
My head recoiled from the second collision with the steering wheel. I opened my eyes and light entered. I blinked. I could see, and not only that, my brain was aware of seeing. Consciousness settled in my body. I was alive and my brain was working. My right arm was bleeding and my head was fuzzy, but I could move my hands and fingers, my feet and legs were mobile. Thank god. I was alive, I had survived.
Breathing in, I am aware of my body, seeing, thinking.
Breathing out, I am grateful to be alive.
My body was in a survival state and my brain was panicking. I need to get out of the car in case it explodes, I thought. Both doors were stuck shut, and the driver’s side airbag had blocked exit through the shattered window. I climbed over to the passenger side and spread the airbag to the side. I could just stick my head out into the fresh, expansive air. So this is how it’s going to go, I thought. First my head and then shoulders and torso emerged from the car wreck, alive, working limbs.
My shoes were on. I leapt from the car door onto the floor, landing cleanly. Adrenaline pulsed through my body. I remembered My in the garden and sprinted through the forest towards the main property, with the hope that she would still be watering the plants. I arrived and pulled open the wooden door to the garden. I was operating in a singularly focused survival brain. Must find friends in case I blackout, I thought. Jonathan and My were relaxing in the shade of the apple tree. At that point, I knew I would survive the incident. I was with friends and they would look after me.
What was that sound, Jonathan asked calmly. So calmly I thought, for what I had just been through. I just got into a car crash and I need help, I said. They stood up slowly. Are you okay? Do you want to go back to the lodge and wash up? Jonathan asked. Somehow at that moment I was able to inhabit my body. I collapsed on the ground, crying without tears.
My body, which until that point was in a state of hyper-activation, could re-enter a state of regulation and start the process of healing. Maybe I should go and get my phone, I said. Do you want to do that before washing up, Jonathan said. I considered the options and decided that the phone could wait. Jonathan’s logic made sense. I would get medicine and wash off the blood before returning to my car. At that point, I was alert, aware of my options, and made the choice to prioritize my health over my belongings.
Breathing in, I see my intention to take care of my body.
Breathing out, I am grateful for this intention within me. I free myself from responsibility for the choices of others.
My, Jonathan, and I walked through the garden and up towards the lodge. My led the way and Jonathan lingered back with me as I stepped forward slowly. My left foot was in pain and my head ached. I remember the solidity and calm of Jonathan and My, my complete trust that I would be cared for with love. I walked to the large bathroom where I had showered less than an hour before. This time I washed off the blood on my arms and examined my bruised, swollen face. The bruising and tenderness was mostly at my third eye (in between my eyebrows) and the inner creases of my eyes towards the nose bone. My vision was blurry. With gratitude, I noted that I had been wearing contacts and not glasses at the time of impact. I briefly contemplated the outcome of having glasses twice slammed into my face. I emerged from the bathroom and walked to sit on the cozy chair outside of the women’s dorm. The chair was comfortable, like a mother’s embrace.
My approached with a box of medical supplies. She urged me to cover my right arm in healing ointment and brought two cold tea balls to place on my head. They were really cold! Jonathan brought a bag of ice as an alternative. I took two ibuprofen to ease my head pain.
The three of us formulated a plan to go to the emergency room or Urgent Care. My would bring the car to my house, and Jonathan and I would walk back to the scene to pick up my phone and devices. We walked slowly and purposefully back to the site of the car crash. I found my phone strewn in the passenger side, upside-down, credit cards and id still in place. My backpack was on the passenger seat, all zippers wide open (even the tiny pocket with the broken zipper). I remarked to Jonathan how strange it was that the crash had opened all of the zippers in my backpack. I could not find my computer at the moment but figured it had been thrown somewhere in the car, and I would find it after the hospital.
I acknowledge now that prior to this time, in the 30 minutes that Jonathan, My, and I treated my injuries at the lodge, another human or humans likely stopped at the site of the car crash. They surveyed my front seats for things to take. They opened all the zippers of my backpack, and took the things of material value they could find: my computer and tablet. They left my notebook with the message from the trees, my chiropractic tools, and piles of books. They did not take my phone. I would not come to this realization until later in the evening, and would not accept this version of events until a day or two later.
There was so much cognitive dissonance: I was and am living at Mariposa, a safe and welcoming refuge, and my car was clearly wrecked. I was in a survival state, defenses down. How could some person or people make a decision to cause further harm? I feel sad and angry at the very thought that others might be out to cause harm after a severe car accident.
Now I include my sadness and my rage alongside a new understanding: humans, including me, can be opportunistic. They may not have an ethical framework in which to take refuge, or a community of friends and teachers to hold them accountable. Their communities may condone theft or other crimes as a means of survival. I have no way of knowing who they are or why they made their choice to take my computer and tablet just moments after I crashed my car. I will likely never know.
Breathing in, I touch into my confusion, uncertainty, and rage.
Breathing out, I allow room for all feelings to arise.
My arrived with the car, we all donned face masks, and began the short drive to the emergency room in town. There, I was kindly received by hospital staff and was given complete care within two hours. I emerged with a CT scan, rabies shot, medicine for nausea, and diagnosis of likely concussion. On the way to the CT scanner, the gentle large man assigned to wheel me was careful and smooth in his movements; the technician was conscious of safe hand placement when he laid the heavy cloth protecting me from radiation across my chest. The woman doctor was prompt and clear in her questioning, the nurse was friendly and helpful. I was treated with respect and quality care at every interaction (even including the brusque woman who checked me in).
When I left the ER, Jonathan and My were outside eating veggie burritos from Lalo’s. My had purchased me one as well, alongside a decaffeinated tea drink (Pineapple Mint for me, Guava something for My). I sat for a moment and ate a delicious burrito with my friends.
Breathing in, I take in the love of my friends in that burrito moment.
Breathing out, I am grateful.
Three weeks since the crash now and my brain has almost completely healed. I am dwelling in the wonder of this body, healthy and happy enough for a life of wellbeing and ease. Abbas drove up to Mariposa on the Sunday after the crash (his birthday), and I gathered the energy and focus to bake the chocolate mocha strawberry cake with dark chocolate ganache. He said it was the best homemade cake he ever had for a birthday. I woke up afraid of the noises in the dark and Abbas was there to investigate and comfort me. He also had the audacity to start and maneuver my wrecked car to the driveway, where it would be less visible to passing cars.
I made time and space for healing, canceling all volunteer work and meetings for the week. I crafted art out of the shattered mirror and broken glass from my car windows, making a big piece with angel wings and praying hands. I used oil pastels on giant strips of white paper, drawing out the crash in vivid color.
Kim came by with Eric and carried many of the things in my car into my house. Joann picked up packages and necessities for me from town. Later in the week, when Abbas left for the Bay Area, Ivan drove up and brought the new MacBook I had ordered from the Union Square Apple store. I spoke to a variety of friendly and helpful staff at various pawn shops asking them to let me know if they saw any new computers or tablets come in.
After these first days, I rented a car from the Hertz agency in downtown Ukiah. A driver from Redwood Taxi picked me up from Mariposa’s lodge and drove slowly to the Hertz facility, where a kind office worker reimbursed the cost of my taxi and gave me the keys to a clean Toyota Corolla. I was afraid to drive for the first time since my accident and calmed my nerves by ordering a chicken burrito from Lalo’s (my new comfort food) before getting onto the freeway.
I survived my first long driving stretch from Ukiah to Pleasanton. When I arrived home, both my mom and dad welcomed me. I recounted the story of the crash to my dad, who listened attentively, looked at my photos, and expressed gratitude that I was alive and relatively unharmed. Neither of my parents seemed to care that I totaled a car they purchased and gave to me; rather they were glad they had gotten a car with good safety features that had kept me safe. Ivan lent me his old Volkswagen Jetta for two weeks, and I drove back to Mariposa for a nourishing retreat focused on unearthing the healing waters within us.
I sold my wrecked car (still at Mariposa) to Copart for $2,200. The day before the tow truck came, I held a quiet ceremony in the shadow of the great trees and the soft singing of the wind. And on Tuesday, October 21, a kind and reliable driver came to pick up my car. I kept the front license plate, the metal warped from impact.
My dad helped me search for good used cars and I became well-versed in the engine, drivetrain, and feature set I was looking for. Last Friday, October 24, Abbas and I drove to the Ford dealership in Fairfield, where I drove and purchased a white 2016 Ford Escape Titanium with a 2.0L engine and tan leather seats for $14,294 before tax ($16,149.06 after tax, testing, and DMV fees). On this day, Abbas and I had our first real fight and reconciliation, a process that required both of us to step into a vulnerable place without defenses, and to listen without judgment to the suffering of the other, going slowly, releasing anger.
I am grateful to be surrounded by people that love me and take care of me when I’m suffering. I know that I exist on this land in a state of relative ease and wellness because of this bountiful love.
Breathing in, I dwell in abiding love.
Breathing out, I am grateful.