I spent Saturday afternoon surrounded by the flowers of Esalen, an institute and retreat center in Big Sur.
The flowers are near the gardens,
and visitors are encouraged to take a sweet pea or two with provided scissors,
There is incredible energy in this place where those seeking to learn arrive for workshops and seminars,
to see parts of themselves unfold in brilliant colors.
From the gardens, I could hear the poets on stage as part the day’s Arts Festival, so I left the orange dahlias,
to see what words were being spoken—
beyond impressed with Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis’s performance, especially her (famous) “An Upbeat Black Girl’s Song” that rang out over the grounds.
I wandered over to where hula hoops revolved near the mineral baths,
and plantings of succulents,
and returned to watch the opposite stage as someone chalked a peaceful heart in blue near my feet,
as the tribute to to Francisco Aguabella (1925-2010) with Jesus Diaz & Pedro “Muñeco” Aguilar began, and I was inspired by another fierce female artist, Kati Hernandez, who commanded the audience’s attention.
Kati was joined by another dancer who left his microphone to dance in front,
until she appeared in a different costume (the blue costume symbolized the maternal force of water, known as Yemayá in these traditions).
Then, the two danced together after the different types of Afro-Cuban rumba (Rumba Yambú, Rumba Guaguancó, and Rumba Columbia) were explained,
and the group’s performance on the bright stage hung with prayer flags ended with a huge audience conga line around the space and everyone on their feet (also, the drummer in the center with the cap was phenomenal).
As they finished, the festival founder and creative director Jayson Fann (here in the hat) was readying the next performer, Viviana Guzmán—part of a seamless string of talent that graced the stages throughout, and not an easy feat with an entire day of different acts.
As Viviana’s set started, beautiful local food began to be served:
a local halibut, local corn, and three salads with lettuces grown at Esalen ( “greens that haven’t seen a mechanized vehicle!” a proud server crowed).
Grateful to my friend Bella Shing for alerting me to the event (she’s lovely, and ran a filmmaking intensive as part of the festival), I left the celebration of artists and food and nature to drive into the sun around Big Sur,
inspired by all the views of the day on the misty drive back to my cabin…