It is 1pm and 110F-ish. I’m hiding in the shade of a rock lip in Vasquez Park.
I missed the desert.
Every few moments, the wind blows. The temperature in the shade drops 10 degrees. It’s unbelievable.
I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a sticky situation. If I want to press deeper into the park, the path splits. I stood at the fork for a few breaths to look at each path before the sun drove me back into the shade.
To the right: treacherous certainty. A steep downhill over the back of a rocky sheet. Down into a valley. Then up a bit to reach another patch of shade. The wall of overhanging rock stretches for hundreds of feet to the left and right. Shin-high grass between.
To the left: deceptive easiness. A gentle path winds down around the face of a rock, then reappears 30 feet away going the opposite direction. It seems the path must loop around and connect, but no guarantee of shade. Not until, a while later, it joins up with the larger patch at the end of the right fork.
I sat for a while, listening. It feels like there are only two layers of sounds. The farthest is everything within 20 feet. The wind rushing over the lip of the sunny rock and sand. The wind between the dry stems of the woody bushes. Then the close sounds. The wind right around my back and over my ears. It feels like being wrapped in a glove.
I’ll go right.
Down at the base of the fork is a unique triple rock. It forms a pair of tunnels, winding through. Two paths, like the paired upper openings of a W. This time, the left is the way through. The right narrows down to a small circle that may be squeezed through with effort. The left is a drop down into a small cave. I’m here now, where it’s coolish again. There’s an opening around 4 feet in height.
I’ve gone across the sunny divide to the real shade. Unfortunately, the rock is hot through and through from the sun on the backside. Being cooked like bacon. I can’t sit here long.
I rushed on down the path, around the far side of the rocky upcropping. I practiced some Sitali pranayama, which dried my tongue immediately. Quick bursts of three breaths as I went the quarter mile down.
I made it to a beautiful shady cave. Here it is so cool that the wind feels warm by comparison. Amazing. Here I practiced resonant breathing for a little while, then listening. Another wasp joined me. It’s hanging out a dozen feet above, still in the wonderful shade. I think we can get along for now.
Eventually, it was just too hot. I decided to cut back to the car, run some AC and fill up on water. I went back by another route I’d spied on the way down the fork. This took me back to a point near the entrance, but no shade all the way. Instead of the 2 stops between, I had to wait until all the way back at the second stop I’d made. It was relatively easy, but a great deal of up and down. My heart was yammering. I rode the backs of the rock spines one by one, and the valleys in between.
I dropped into the shade, in view of the parking lot. Maybe 800 yards, mostly at a gentle downhill. I started to cool for a bit. Then a wasp joined me. I’m not sure if it’s the same wasp following me or if each patch of shade is allotted one persistent wasp… but I pushed on towards the car.
Now I’m sitting here with a mild headache and burnt elbows. And AC. I’ll cut up the photos later. I couldn’t take them at some times, when the phone was heating up like a one-man game of hot potato. I finally had to shut it down completely and stick in the backpack, next to the water bottle.
Goodness, that was a fantastic day. But I think I should bring more ice next time there’s a heatwave like this.
It was a challenge to meditate and breathe in that kind of atmosphere. The heat made simply being a chore. I’m glad to have learned about Sitali breathing and had reason to apply it. Ultimately, it was too hot to practice for any length of time. It really makes me appreciate practicing indoors, where the temperature is easy and there aren’t nearly so many wasps. Being deep out in nature to really listen and breathe in the air is an experience I truly recommend.