By Chi Varnado
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” These are the words the young maiden, locked away in her tall tower, hears when someone wants to visit her. This is also the world in which I’m living these days as our dance studio’s production of this story nears.
As I wander through the canyon these days, the weeds, like Rapunzel’s hair, are growing long and thick. And like the witch in the story I, too, am enjoying the beauty of all the young growth while dreading the work that this beauty requires. She, too, ends up whacking off Rapunzel’s long hair just as we have to weed whack around our house.
Aren’t fairy tales wonderful? I love the way they can take the mundane and magically transform it into something amazing, or at least entertaining. If only we would, in our daily life, look at things in a different light and perhaps enjoy them more fully. It’s constant, isn’t it, seeing or hearing, assessing, and then jumping to conclusions? I’m trying to practice pulling away from what I’m thinking at the time and allow other factors to come into play. The results are sometimes surprising.
For example, it rained a couple of times recently after a lot of us probably hoped that our last weed whacking might have done it for the year. Yeah, darn it, we’ll have to do it again. But if I steer my train of thought to another direction, I realize that these rains have brought the possibility of new growth: more grass for my horses to eat (lower feed bill), a longer and greener spring, a little more runoff for the reservoirs and our water supply. Now the pros seem to outweigh the cons, and that feels better.
Every morning, through my open window, I wake to the beautiful symphony of bird songs, especially prolific this time of year. I can hear the mourning doves, black phoebes, house finches, and the canyon wrens with their descending whistle calls. And at night, if I’m lucky, a pair of poorwills talk to each other across the canyon. We can see and hear lots of bird activity and it feels so peaceful to us. But this must be a very stressful time of year for them, flying to and fro for nesting materials, finding mates, and taking care of their young — the endless search for food.
As I head up the trail this morning I scan the usual places: the eucalyptus that held last year’s huge nest, the tip of Hawk Rock, the tops of the oak trees on the south ridge. And, oh yes, “There you are, my fine buteo friend.” One of last year’s red-tailed hawks is perched up at the very top branch of the tall eucalyptus tree near our log cabin. I’m always thrilled to see him.
My dog, Job, and I continue our climb up to the Saddle, the lower swing of the mountain connecting the north and south ridges. The morning is spectacular. The dewdrops everywhere are glistening, thanks to last night’s drizzle, and this morning’s soft, clouded light is interspersed with shards of sunlight dancing through. Four ravens are carrying on around the highest peak flying in and out of the fog, which is beginning to lift off. There are still a few lilacs offering their last remaining blossoms to the wind while the sage and chamise are in full bloom.
Job and I summit the Saddle and start down the other side to sit on a rock outcropping. I cross my legs to settle into a delicious meditation, as well as take in the visual splendor, and Job sits next to me.
I hear wild turkeys in the valley below and the creek running toward its destination, San Vicente Lake. Job cocks his head and I turn to listen and hear a bobcat in the distance. Its unmistakable “whisper bark” is welcome to my ears.
The huge purple mountains in the distance are shrouded in various shades of grey clouds. I’ve heard that Cuyamaca means “in the clouds” in the indigenous language. This is one of the most magnificent sights I know of, gazing out over the layers of mountains with the clouds hovering across them. These are the same ridges that I watched the Cedar Fire burn over on that unforgettable night. But now, the view feels gloriously vast and wild. Not much evidence of human kind up here.
Just before we head back down, while I’m standing at the Saddle, the sun bursts through the clouds. I feel a wave of gratitude wash over me and I remember a poster I had hanging in the old house. It read, “The sun shines through even the darkest clouds.” The words were printed over a scene not too different from the one I’m witnessing right now.
Walking back down the trail gives me time to reflect on the things I’d seen or heard: the ravens, the red-tailed hawk, the bobcat, wild turkeys. I had been caught up in my own world and, until now, hadn’t thought about all the different livelihoods going on in that same moment.
Who was the bobcat calling? What were the ravens carrying on about? How many wild turkeys were there down in that foggy valley? There must be a million and one stories going on simultaneously.
We call our little farm Gnome Wood, in honor of all those little invisible beings, at least to us, whoever they may be, that co-inhabit the canyon. Each being has her own tale to tell, her own take on something we’re all experiencing. Oh, the stories they could tell.
This spring’s story of Rapunzel will come alive in ballet form (and tumbling and hip hop) to be presented by The Ramona Dance Centre on Friday May 11, at 6:30 p.m. The concert will be held in the PAW at Ramona High School. Tickets are $5 each or $20 per family. Come enjoy the story!
Chi Varnado, a Ramona resident, directs The Dance Centre of Ramona. She encourages visits to www.thedancecentreoframona.com & www.chivarnado.com.