It was a spider-web morning along the dewy path, and the gossamer patterns hung from the trees like baubles of lace. One airy circle was suspended by a silver thread from the branch of a giant oak. Another was spun with a flaring tail as if it were the handle of an intricate paper fan.
This was on the grounds of the Golden Door Spa near Escondido, Calif., where guests check in for a week of intensive care amid the beauties of a country place styled after a Japanese inn.
I felt wrapped in the charms of old Kyoto from the moment I crossed the wide wooden bridge and slid back the traditional shoji screens of rice paper.
The quiet was magnified by the chirping of a bird in a gnarled black pine and by the toll of a 300-year-old Buddhist temple bell.
Around each subtle turn one feels the undertone of water, sometimes gently trickling from a bamboo pipe onto a bed of pebbles, sometimes rushing in a frothy cascade to rest in a deep, still pool. Tall stone lanterns grace white-sand gardens and knolls of shining grass.
Cool Hillside Gym
A friend spending a week here was wearing a long, crisp robe, a blue-and-white y ukata . Her mood was merry. She said that she had been cosseted with kindness and herbal lotions. She had been cajoled into hiking and dance. She had been encouraged to swim and to work out with lean, mean exercise gear in a cool hillside gym. She had stretched her mind and body in the spirit of Tai Chi.
And she had eaten very well.
At lunch by the pool she seemed strangely serene. She nibbled at swirls of watercress and other salad greens from the lavish organic garden and never once begged for more dressing. She ate grapes one at a time and paused for leisurely sips of lemonade.
I watched in amazement. This, mind you, is a woman who can destroy a Mexican combination plate with chips and guacamole and salsa in less time than it takes to say Carta Blanca twice.
She introduced me to some of her new friends, women from Geneva and Stamford, Conn., from Pasadena and Hong Kong, from Peru and Italy and Ohio.
"After 10 days at the Golden Door I have one firm resolve," she said as she pushed up from lunch and studied the scale of the bonsai and the size of the fish in the koi pond. "When I get home I am hiring a Japanese gardener."
That sounded like a healthy move, I thought as I drove away, but so much of what I had heard made good sense for the journey that is life. Relax. Breathe deeply. Appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.
Above all, listen to your body. It knows what it needs.
My body said bananas.
I stopped at the next market.