It is a very special day in Arizona. The blue readout in the car broadcasts 75 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s 8:30am. Just a few days ago it would have read 95F. Something else to celebrate, the drought plagued Sonoran Desert is enjoying a light rainfall.
At the end of June I experienced a similar morning. A resident of Los Angeles stood next to me and told me, “It’s called June gloom”. A low hanging mass of cloud shielded the sky but she assured me that “it wasn’t going to rain”. A small group had gathered on the 10th floor roof-top patio of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. My other life, my ‘day job’ (not the writer/photographer) had brought me to a luncheon meeting in a very privileged location.
Standing at the railing, I allowed myself a moment to understand the view. The suspended mist acted as a shortsighted filter that softened the edges of the buildings that were more symbols of wealth than bricks and mortar. On a map my finger would be resting on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. At street level, tourists by the hundreds take pictures of the “Pretty Woman” hotel.
An elegant meal was served while animated conversations unfolded around me. I collected my notes in very different folders. My business purpose was very clear and focused on the task at hand. The lunch was dynamic exchange of ideas and networking amongst business associates and clients. On a more subtle level, something triggered a need to assume a more Zen like posture and truly connect with the place.
During the lunch it was a tactile sensation that triggered a memory. The intermittent appearance of the sun warmed my bare skull. Then during the in-between moments, the June gloom absorbed the warmth, a residual cool breeze wicked the moisture, applying a mask of coolness. For the scientist amongst us, the human body using sweat glands to cool, latent heat expelled through evaporation.
Residents of Arizona don’t often get to experience this. With an average annual humidity of under 10%, moisture evaporates before it can leave an impression. It is the same phenomena for chilled beverages. Arizonans can often be seen tracing circles in the bubbles that form on the outside of a glass, watching with uncommon fascination as the disturbance produces tiny rivulets that coat the end of the finger and run down the glass creating circles on the countertop.
But on that day in LA the coolness in the air was a poignant reminder that there was an ocean nearby — something else that this Arizona resident longs for. In our world a cool breeze is always traced to an A/C unit.
On a very personal level the physical sense memory that emerged was from the previous summer. An idyllic week spent on the Northern Gulf Islands of British Columbia at Hollyhock, a retreat on Cortes Island.
It was a triptych of three specific memories. Idle time spent soaking in a hot tub gazing out at the ocean. Peaceful walking meditations on the cool corrugated tidal sands. And finally, the start of the journey home, a bitter sweet water taxi ride back to Campbell River. The first of many transfers en route to Arizona. The rush of the bow in the dark waters, the wind curling around the fiberglass bulkhead, no hair on my closely shaved scalp to be tossed in my face – just the sweetness of salty air and a gentle coolness as delicious as a scalp massage.
At the time I was acutely aware of the threshold that I was crossing, leaving the embrace of a sacred place and returning to my everyday life. A life which a year later took me to Los Angeles and a day which had me looking up at the June Gloom and awakening to those memories.
A simple cool breeze generated a flush of gratitude to be able to connect these seemingly disparate moments, those in-between moments. That wasn’t ‘my other life’ but a continuum of this one that as a writer I get to string together with words.