When Balmy Air and Aureate Light Ushered in Aphrodite.
She took over before I was aware of it.
The smooth hiss of sand beneath my feet and warm breeze that ruffled my hair announced her presence as much as the warmth that pervaded my neck and face.
An errant breeze seemed to draw my glance over my shoulder, he had followed, and it pleased her.
A flicker of startled indignation subsided as I beheld him clearly in the golden light.
The last vestiges of Artemis, Mistress Of Beasts, and her shaded forest realm receded like the tide and I felt a different kind of beat in my body.
Not the wild, free drumming of my heart pounding alone, but the rhythmic percussion of Aphrodite inviting interweaving harmony.
In a moment I was in her embrace, leading him to the waves.
I’ve long denied her, my rituals are those of autonomy, solitude, the untamed calls of birdsong carried on slow-moving fog and the forest’s funneled winds heady with pine.
The flash of a red-tailed hawk’s claws angling down to sweep up a foraging animal.
These are the movements I’ve been carried by.
On this balmy August day in the midst of a heatwave, I was possessed by a different energy, one of being seen.
I moved slowly, somehow an excitement fused with a languor in my body, a manic stupor that sent my pulse rioting in my throat as it slowed my limbs like those of a bee in honey.
The coastline shone like a white-hot strip of molten light merging with a deep cobalt, aqueous eternity that kissed the sky before becoming it.
Everything around me felt connected, not in the way I’ve felt the forest, where each creature and plant had a name and a purpose all its own, but in a way where everything had a song, a melody that beckoned and yearned for union with the tones around it.
The sand wanted to slide with warm liquidity beneath my feet just as my feet desired the caress of the sun-stoked granules.
I walked faster, I felt him walking faster.
In this new world of music, the strands of connectedness could be sensed, honeyed threads of weaving gold that interlaced all things, everything was both enchanted and enchanting.
The feeling was so surprising I almost didn’t recognize it, my initial reaction was a shocked affront, the directness of the gaze I caught seemed lurid, an imposition.
I had seen him on the trail through the wooded park, sweat-slicked, a yin-yang tattoo emblazoned in indigo across his tanned, muscular upper back. I registered it briefly before passing him and leaving him in the shifting periphery like I do all things on my runs.
He was distinct, but as noteworthy as a handsome oak, the glint of a raptor’s talons, a wet stone catching a ray of light in the ambling stream.
He was seen and dismissed as I whirled through the path threading through Golden Gate Park, alone and one-in-myself.
For years, Artemis has been the occidental goddess I’ve felt most profoundly, she of the woods, of solitude, of virginal seclusion.
Forsaking the connective, sensual realm of Aphrodite, she who seduces, she who desires.
The weather changed everything; balmy air and aureate light ushered in the goddess I had not appeased in recent years. Aphrodite gliding in on the sheen of sea foam, as ever.
I realized that I’ve been not just coolly indifferent to attention, but cold.
Frigid separateness, the remote, woodland places in the city surrounding me like a seething mantle of inaccessibility.
French feminist writer Ginette Paris has said, “Contrary to the values symbolized by Aphrodite, who relates and unites creatures through sexuality, Artemis personifies a force which urges us to withdraw form human relationships and to seek elsewhere, in solitude, another kind of self-realization. One cannot, at the same moment, remain faithful to Artemis and to Aphrodite.”
I walked through the filmy foam, an iridescent, liminal threshold, prismatic bubbles winking knowingly as I entered the water.
Casting my mask and armband onto the sand, I waded in. “Catch me if you can!” I thought cheekily. Without the hardness and challenge that might carry the thought on a run, it was more invitation than boast.
The water was bracing, the salt stinging my sunburned lips as I swam under the waves.
Dark emerald and gold flooded my squinting eyes each time I took a breath above the surface.
He was in the water beside me, a small, comically bobbing head, our dance felt so hilariously miniature I laughed a saline gurgle and felt an unspooling of intoxicating compassion in my chest for our tiny, human antics in this roiling basin of life.
The warm sand called me back, suddenly exhausted I collapsed on the rumpled beach, imprinted with the journeys of other humans. A shadow swayed through the sanguine vista of my closed eyes turned up to the sun, and I knew it was him.
Tawny hair, I remembered it being swept up in a tousled knot, red shorts cut high on sinewy legs, a broad face with light eyes, I was unsure of the color, and the novelty set my heart beating faster.
I opened my eyes slightly to the dazzle of the sun and the stinging of salt and the vision of him draped along the shimmering sand near me, close.
I thought maybe even closer than six feet.
But in that moment the ravaging pandemic, the tyrant leader, the impending political maelstrom, they all felt remote and laughable, distant history or an impossible future.
We were just two small creatures caught in sunlight and song.
Those things had nothing to do with us.
The burning cities, the closed borders that lock our country in, they felt like a hazy memory or dim portents, nothing existed outside the immediacy of the moment.
I could see his rising chest through my sneaking slit eyes and it seemed to be in sync with my breath, with the waves.
I wondered if this was the closest I’d been to anyone for months. Perhaps since fall, I thought idly.
That too seemed funny. I’ve been living like a wild animal, I thought giddily.
The memory of all other moments seemed like an echo, the cry of a bird in a dream, barely remembered.
I don’t know how long we were there, alone together in the sand, every breath sending us to drift further away from dystopian fever dreams of a ravaged, locked-in land.
We seemed to be on an island. A sun-splashed sylvan Cyprus, I mused dreamily, said to be the first place Aphrodite stepped ashore.
Just as I had felt Aphrodite come with warmth, I felt Artemis enter with the cold.
The fog was coming in, breaking the spell.
He was too close, the sand took on a sinister, gray cast. The warm glow draining from it just as I felt it ebbing from my breeze cooled body.
My armband, mask and sandals were collected in one cruelly efficient swoop, hawk-like. I had what I needed.
I required nothing else.
The landscape was green and blue now, the rugged shrubs on the dunes, the stretch of the darkening ocean, the sky taking on that mingled opalescence of a San Francisco late afternoon when the fog pulls apart the clear blue sky with hazy talons, when the gold acquiesces to the gray.
I turned towards the trees and ran, away from the ocean, the man, the goddess that had lured me into a trancelike vision of beautiful, human connection.
My breath and body were again my own, a creature running barefoot across The Great Highway towards the park. I entered the shadowed woods, slipped on my sandals and hurtled along the brush-covered trail.
“Catch me if you can,” I thought wryly, knowing that nothing could.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.