Struggling against the force of the wind, I bent forward
and walked toward the edge of the cliff. Drenched and cold, I stood
looking out into the sea. This is what I was seeking. I wanted to feel
the storm in my bones.
A movement caught my eye. I turned, and facing me was a man who seemed
to appear from nowhere. The wind was blowing his white hair straight
back. Thunder burst in my ears as the man stepped toward me, watching
the waves as they broke over the path. He nodded his head and said with
a quick glance, “I’ve been waiting for you. You wasted no time in
getting here. That is good.”
The wind drove the rain hard into my face. I heard a second thunderclap,
and I could feel electricity tingling on the bottoms of my feet. I
figured he must be one of the crazy derelicts who lived under the
bridges. I stepped a few feet backward, afraid he was going to attack.
But he didn’t move. He just stood motionless, facing the sea. This was
my chance to escape fast and abandon the storm.
Then, just over the howl of the wind, I heard him say, “We waited pretty
long years to be able to meet with you.”
Now I knew he was nuts. My stomach tightened up and my head ached at the
temples. I started to walk away through the mud. Lightning filled the
sky a third time. I couldn’t move fast enough.
“Are you going to throw away so many years of preparation?” he asked
I was stopped in my tracks, and as if the old man and the thunder were
in league together, the thunder and lightning jolted again. It must have
been striking very close. I noticed for the first time that the man had
an accent, though I couldn’t place it. I turned to look at him. He still
hadn’t moved. He looked like he was in his late seventies or early
eighties, maybe slightly over five feet tall, with darkish skin. He was
wearing sandals, peasant pants, and an old, disheveled poncho. Despite
his age, I felt physically threatened.
“Leave me alone,” I yelled, stepping backward, the wind almost blowing
me over. Lightning and thunder hit twice, once on either side of me. The
sound immobilized me.
His words seemed to flow out of the sky around me: “It is time for you
to learn the balance. Ka ta see. You have much work to do.”
I was so cold and wet, I ached and buzzed. I could hear a seagull
screaming in the distance off the cliff to my left as the thunder came
the seventh and final time. I wanted to scream at him. Anything.
Obscenities. It didn’t matter. I even wished the wind would push him off
the cliff. Then he lifted his head and opened his eyes fully for the
These were not the eyes of a drunken derelict. They were calm, knowing,
and caring. They were strong eyes reflecting something mysterious. His
stare was softly compelling, which scared me even more. For a moment, I
didn’t know whether to stay or to run. The wind pushed around us
furiously. I made up my mind and started for the car again. I wasn’t
going to let anything stop me this time.
I raced to the car, turning to see if he was following me. He still
hadn’t moved, but he held out his hand and yelled, “We will meet again.
Ka ta see. Soon.”
I opened the door as fast as I could, hopped in, and started the motor,
never looking back.
Two weeks later I was sitting and writing, as I often did, in the coffee
shop at Stevenson College on the University of California campus at
Santa Cruz. My kids were in school, and I wasn’t working, so I often
rode into town with my husband on days when he was attending classes. A
sudden huge gust of wind blew over one of the tables outside. I looked
up, and to my astonishment I saw the same old man sitting at a table
next to the window.