When I was living in California, I decided that I wanted to go on a vision quest. Being a city girl, I decided to start small and just camp overnight on Angel Island. Angel Island is in the middle of the San Francisco bay and has camping spots with probably the best views in the entire Bay Area.
I bought myself a really great mummy sleeping bag and some great treats to store in my bear proof container. The night before I went I ran into my friend Prisco at a local cafe and excitedly told him about my vision quest and that is would be my first night sleeping alone by myself in the wilderness (with a great view of the city…) He looked at me and in the most serious tone said, “Humanity has spent all this time trying to get away from the animals and people want to intentionally go out and expose themselves to them.” I was like, okay, thanks for the encouragement and that seed you just planted in me.
So off I went the next day bright and early on the Angel Island Ferry which leaves from the most tourist infested part of San Francisco, the Marina. The boat was packed with young kids and foreign languages and it a was loud. We finally got to the Island and I took off with my sleeping bag, my meager provisions for the night and my little map of the trails. The further I walked, the less people surrounded me and by the time I got to the area where the campground was, I was the only one there.
I am thinking it was around September when I went, or maybe it was August. At any rate, I did not expect to be totally by alone. It could have been that it was the middle of the week, a Tuesday. Oh, well… I pulled out my sleeping bag, unrolled it and found a not so lumpy spot to lay if out and began my journey into the night.
If you have ever been to the Bay Area, you know it can get foggy at night and as the sun began to set, I could see the fingers of fog begin to move across the Golden Gate Bridge, but miracle of miracles, it stopped right at the Bridge!
So there I was, by myself, watching the sun set and getting ready for the visions and possibly, the wild animals. I heard that a lot of a what a vision quest is is about facing our deepest fears. At that moment, as it began to get dark, even with the city lights twinkling before me, all I could think about was that maybe there were bears or other animals on Angel Island. Until that moment, I did not even know that was my deepest fear! I did not sleep a wink all night. What did I do? I watched the starts pass above me, actually watched the sky moving, sometimes dozing off and waking up to a whole new sky of stars! It was so beautiful! I also listened to the night sounds . The world really come alive in a different way for me that night. Sounds that I never heard in the day. There were also new smells and colors dipped in gray, dark blue and brown black. At some point, I had to surrender to my fear and just give in the energy of the possible bear, or bobcat or mouse that might be scampering around me. In this surrendering, I felt myself completely alert all my senses heightened, yet safe. Not safe enough for a deep in my own bed slumber, but safe enough to enjoy the wonder of the night.
The day dawned clear and crisp. My sleeping bag had kept my body warm, but my face was covered with dew and chilled. As the light came up, I felt the remnants of my fear dissipate and with that also, my senses began to dull a bit, to depend more on the known of the daylight word.
I thought back to what Prisco had said and realized that the night had been for me an awakening of my animal self and I had really spent the night exposing myself to myself. And I felt I had an inkling of what the animal in me can be, so quiet, so alert to the sounds of the earth, so living on that edge between predator and prey. It’s a far fetch for one night spent in a national campground in one of the biggest metropolises in America, but a crack opened in my mind and I have been finding my way back to my animal self ever since.