The following is an excerpt from Writing as a Path to Awakening: A Year to Becoming an Excellent Writer and Living an Awakened Life
September 2017 Sounds True Publishing
©2017 Albert Flynn DeSilver
As we sink into the depths of summer—guided by the muse, buoyed by our audacity to take the creative-spiritual plunge in the first place—we deepen our commitment by being devoted. We are devoted not only to practice and process, but to self-inquiry—devoted not only to writing, but to the full exploration of our creative and spiritual potential.
Many years ago I served as a campground host at a remote state park cabin on a rugged section of the lost coast in Northern California. It was a time of wonderful solitude, creativity, and connection with the natural world. One evening around sunset I set off for a hike toward Chemise Mountain, a giant uplifted chunk of greywacke sandstone with a virtually sheer western face dropping a thousand feet straight down to the Pacific Ocean. On the way up I strolled through grassy meadows clumped with lavender iris and past a favorite weathered-to-bright-bone Eucalyptus that refused to fall. Then I hiked along the volcanic sea walls of Whale Gulch and wove my way through a dappled forest of alders. Up and up I hiked along the narrow trail until I found myself at the top of that cliff edge a thousand feet above the ocean. The waves crashed far below. I felt them thrumming though my body with the muffled roar of thunder, their tiny foam doilies shifting across the beach far below. I came around a soft bend in the trail and there facing me was a huge male Tule elk with a rack of antlers like the majestic reach of a old-growth oak. Our eyes met. We stared each other down, frozen in time, suspended in the salt air in a kind of magical embrace, species to species. I’m not sure how long we stayed like that, but it felt like a brilliant sliver of eternity.
At that moment, my heart burst open, my senses amplified—I noticed the horizon line and how it halved the elk, how the evening light grazed his wet nose, the musky scent of his sweat. I stepped forth in a daze, my surroundings glowing as he unceremoniously wandered off into the brush. The ocean rushed my eyes and receded, the redwoods laughed, the clouds breathed in sync with my lungs, the alder leaves shimmered electric green and began to giggle. “Who need be afraid of the merge?” boomed Walt Whitman, echoing in the air like an omniscient god. I looked around to see if anyone else heard it. There was no one else. And so, in that moment I surrendered into the whole weird magical brilliance of the experience—tears glistening at the corners of my eyes. At that moment, the self I knew as Albert merged into elk and alder, ocean and sky. I became awake to the immense presence and infinite beauty of this wild and mysterious world, and realized, yes, I am that!
About the Author: Albert Flynn DeSilver is an American poet, memoirist, novelist, speaker, and workshop leader. He received a BFA in photography from the University of Colorado in 1991 and an MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1995. Albert served as Marin County California’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide including ZYZZYVA, New American Writing, Hanging Loose, Jubilat, Exquisite Corpse, Jacket(Australia), Poetry Kanto (Japan), Van Gogh’s Ear (France), and many others. He is the author of several books of poems and the memoir “Beamish Boy,” which Kirkus Reviews called “a beautifully written memoir, poignant and inspirational.” His nonfiction book, “Writing as a Path to Awakening: A Year to Becoming an Excellent Writer and Living an Awakened Life,” based on his popular writing workshops by the same name was published by Sounds True in 2017. Albert is also a speaker and trainer having shared the stage with U.S poet laureate Kay Ryan, Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Maxine Hong Kingston and many others. He teaches writing and mindfulness workshops at The Omega Institute, The Esalen Institute, Spirit Rock Meditation Center and literary conferences nationally. He lives in Northern California.