What I Learned from the Destruction of My Sanctuary

poolLoss is eternal, just like losing socks in the dryer and getting stuck in traffic. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Still, nothing prepared me for the massive California wildfire that has consumed one of my most favorite places on Earth, Harbin Hot Springs. Along with it went the lovely small town of Middletown.

Harbin owners have not been able to get on the property to officially determine the damage. But photographs on social media today show a picture of complete and total devastation. One of the last people to leave wrote of watching flames approach as he ran to leave one final blessing at the feet of the Goddess, Kwan Yin. It appears that only the pools remain in tact.

Today what I know is that life is impermanence. And my quest is and must always be non-attachment.

Easier said than done.

My heart is heavy and I move in slow-motion. All day yesterday, I combed the Internet, praying for some official word that at least part of Harbin was spared. I found no confirmation. What I came up with instead was loss, longing, a grasping for things to be as they were.

Yet, they cannot be. Life is change and we are always changing as well. Harbin was my healing sanctuary when I left my marriage in 2010, when my relationship ended in 2012, and again when my daughter suddenly died a few months later.

Each time I went there in a cloud of grief, shock, or despair. And each time I emerged lighter and more whole again. Floating on my back in the silent meditation pool, looking up at the ancient fig tree overhead laden with fruit, stars twinkling just beyond, is one of the happiest memories of my life.

There I witnessed unconditional love. Being in that warm pool, surrounded by others, silent and naked, simply being in the water together, was one of the few times in my life when I truly felt my oneness with humanity.

Harbin left my soul a little cleaner each time I went; I became more forgiving of myself and the world. I went back again and again over the last five years simply because I had to.

This was and will continue to be the gift of Harbin, should they choose to rebuild. The waters will never stop flowing; they were glorious even in a four year drought. The waters truly do have a healing essence. And so they have always been.

Since it began in 1870, the property has burned three times. Who knows how many times prior to that, when it was the temple of Native American shamans.

As ever, Harbin will continue to beat to its own quirky, beautiful, generous heart, whether there are wildfires or not.

I feel blessed to have received the gifts of this paradise and now wait patiently to see how it will impact generations to come.