thomas m wilson

Leaving the Tribe

April 22nd, 2008

Having left Esalen I have had moments of missing the place. What I missed was the sense of being enmeshed in a small community of people. While staying at Esalen I sometimes found this overwhelming and without respite (and thought to myself that I wouldn’t want to live in an eco-village), but now away from it I realize that I also found it satisfying on a visceral level. For most of human history we, as a species, have lived in stable groups of between 20 and 200 people for just about our entire lives. With this in mind it comes as no surprise that after I’d slaked my thirst with a few days of peace and solitude, I started to miss the easy access to known characters that walking into the Esalen lodge (the dining area) always provided.

But there were things about that place that I had tired of. And although I’ve left the country and come to the city, I’ve not left nature behind. My path continues. Just to the west of the towns of Marin county is an area of woodland and hills. I’m regularly to be found up winding paths such as this one. As you can see, spring is here in this part of the northern hemisphere.


I’ve been into downtown San Francisco a couple of times. As you walk past Grace Cathedral into downtown proper the streets dip dramatically, and the ornate hotel facades, glimpses of the water through canyons of tall buildings, and well hallowed cable cars rattling up the incline, all make for an intriguing cityscape. I like it. The other day I and a friend visited a gallery downtown that exhibited the black and white photographs of the Californian photographer Brett Weston. I particularly like his photograph ‘Reeds, Japan, 1970‘. Abstract brush strokes from the creator.

I’ve visited Berkley across the bridge on the more polluted east side of the bay, and found that the energy level on the street there is far, far greater than over here in sedate and peaceful Marin County. As you walk into a pub it will be commonplace to hear a snatch of excited conversation about politics or philosophy from someone who is quite likely an academic or a student, or at least highly educated. I’ve also made a day trip down to Stanford University, south of here in Palo Alto (just around the corner from where Apple has its headquarters). The area Stanford is located in reminds me of quiet Canberra back in Australia, and doesn’t have the same rough vitality of Berkley street life. The architecture of the main quad is, strangely enough, just like the Byzantine style of the old buildings at the University of Western Australia (but UWA has a smaller and prettier campus).

But mainly I’m back in Marin, the area just north of the often fog-shrouded Golden Gate bridge. I lived here twelve years ago, but this time I’m more appreciative of the quiet valleys to be found in the hills around me.