The last remnant of the morning’s fog shrouded the sun making for a cooler ascent up the Oakwood Valley fire road. A short hike brought me to a widening of the trail, and turning back towards the way I had come, a view northwards to distant Mt Tamalpais framed by eucalyptus trees.
The afternoon drew on with an assortment of dog walkers and joggers passing by. A thin olive-skinned guy—blue bandana restraining tousled black hair—ascended the trail and soon retraced his steps as if not finding what he was looking for. A lady with a blissful smile sauntered by as if in some dreamlike state.
“You’re being productive.” It was Jerry the animation guy whom I had met earlier in the week. He stopped for a chat, his row of earrings catching the sunlight as we talked about the painting process. Our conversation was abruptly broken by a loud discordant ringing, and Jerry was off, alerted by his cell phone to attend to some more pressing matter.
“Wow, its come along!” It was the blissful lady on her return down the trail. “It was all red before.” We discussed the aesthetic benefits of having a red underpainting and how it interacted with the later paint layers and brought unity to the picture.
“I’m Tara, Green Tara. She was a goddess you know, perhaps from Tibet, I’m not sure. She may be around here now”. Tara gestured with her head to indicate that this wood was perhaps the Green Goddess’ latest stomping ground.
“I come here to commune with the wood nymphs.” I feel my throat tighten as I fumble for an appropriate response, not wanting to corroborate on the report of diminutive woodland folk. Instead I fished in my backpack and pull out a postcard with one of my previous paintings of Mt Tam on it. Perusing the card, she lightly traced her fingers over its surface, mirroring the brushwork in the painting.
“This is a very spiritual path” she continued. “Can you feel it? You can feel it too—that’s why you’re here.”
“This is a very special place" she said "and I am moved—and now I have this.” Tara gazed at the postcard, then suddenly clutched it to her chest as if rediscovering some long-lost keepsake. With a parting smile, she turned and then resumed her journey down the woodland path.
I continued my painting until the light faded. I mused on my earlier interaction—the ethereal intangible quality of woodland nymphs, and the meaning of a “spiritual path.” Then I considered the man foretold in Hebrew writings, rooted in history, flesh and bone, yet divine. Who lived a life of suffering for us and affirmed “I am the way” the spiritual path for weary travelers. In reflective mood, I packed up my easel and made my way home in the dwindling light of the woodland path.