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Just for Fun

Why Ojai?

3 Comments 03 January 2010

Of all the CA central coast towns I visited in October 2008, why am I living in this one? This small (pop 8,000) agrarian hot, dry, hilly place?

Locals ask it like I’m prescient or sagely; others like I’m a total idiot. Either way, it’s a question I can only answer with a shrug after being here a week. The Ojai Valley, like the Roaring Fork Valley, has a kind of feminine grandeur and strength and softness..I couldn’t have left for anything less. Ojai chose me as much as I chose it.

Intuition is only right 100% of the time, so who am I to know why? Why did Thoreau choose Walden Pond? It’s “not wise to ask the whys.”

It’s definitely not because of Brothers & Sisters or because Ted Danson and Mary Steemburgen and Reese Witherspoon live here.

It’s not entirely because Krishnamurti had his residence and retreat center here and you can still feel his energy and presence in the orange and avocado orchards.

It may not even be because of the Chumash Indians who settled peaceably here 13,000 years ago doing Chumashy things like paddling around in canoes, trading shells, making baskets, and painting on cave walls.

It might be because Ojai means “moon” and “nest” both. I am so so ready for a nest.

It is at least partly because it is a sweet high vibe valley with hills on two sides like the one I left, and two crops of oranges (and orange blossoms) a year, and all the avocados and strawberries you can eat.

It is partly the great tennis club and the guys there and the fact that there are two varieties of health food stores and a super groovy farmers market.

It was partly looking at my vision boards on my office wall in Snowmass Village and feeling like a total fraud and hypocrite for living out of alignment. It was partly working with Jeddah Mali and Rod Stryker and this Masters program in Spiritual counseling at USM.

It was partly knowing at least one person here..thanks Kathleen!

Mostly it is that I feel great here, and that people seem to know me and recognize me in advance or out of time..I keep bumbling into these surreal moments of familiarity that are almost like déjà vus without their repetitive threadbare quality. Wasn’t the check-in process on Fantasy Island something similar? More than just a cursory “we’ll leave a light on for you,” it’s as if my entire life’s itinerary has been pre-arranged, booked and lifted skyward, first-class.

The handshakes here are solid, the smiles genuine. “Oh, Doug Ellis? We’ve heard all about you and you’re good friends with so and so and know such and such? Great to see you again! (for the first time), go past the thing, you know past the doo hickey, and turn left at the burning bush and go see <blank> and tell them blah blah sent you,” all in a rapid fire sort of pidgin English shorthand reserved for longtime locals who can fill in the blanks. And I’m just nodding and smiling dumbly and on to the next adventure.

The paranormal has become my new normal.

Leaving Colorado was rough. It was like ripping off a bandage or something that happened to someone else. I drove fast out of Glenwood Self Storage under the cover of darkness with my back turned to Mt. Sopris.. She held such powerful and loving space for me the past 12 years. I can feel her still like this rock goddess lover who doesn’t yet know we have parted.. I can trace her contours with my hand by heart, and was afraid to say goodbye to her, of incurring her Kali/Pelee wrath and staring down my own grief.

Mostly though it is because I am almost 40 and I have been hearing people like Carolyn Myss say things like “finance your faith, not your fear” and even Susie Ormon, who says things like “Do what right for you before you do what is right for your money.” How could I coach people through transitions without navigating my own? Since I was bored and tired with myself I thought why not create my own crisis? What a privilege to create your own crisis instead of having one foisted upon you.

What if David Whyte was right?

“What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.”

Click here to read the full poem entitled What to Remember Upon Waking.

In three months I have shed hundreds of pounds of magazines, furniture and extra detritus of living, cleared out my storage shed of two years, left a steady job at a creative and prestigious nonprofit just days before the financial meltdown. All of this swirling chaos and fear has added a sense of drama and excitement to the endeavor, as if I were a ship captain taking my little dinghy out of safe harbor and into the eye of the hurricane. I should buy an eye patch.

For those of you who have thought of reinventing yourselves, your life, truly becoming one with life and refashioning it to suit the new expanded you, I say jump in, the waters fine.

Blessings and Namaste,

Doug E


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