Part I of the Shaman Series: The Vortex on Mountain Drive

This is special guest writer Gertrude Gingerly. She has traveled to corners of the world seeking spiritual refuge in search of finding something she does not know, but knows exists. Gertrude is going to write a four-part series on Shamanism. From the jungle of Costa Rica to the mountains of Santa Barbara, Gertrude’s series is an exploration of one’s will to find their own truth.

Anxiety and fear seeped through my spirit as I approached Mountain Drive. Winding and winding the roads rose steeply. The roads were narrow, so narrow that at some points on the road you could only fit one car. It was the second time I had been to Mountain Drive. I was going to visit a dear friend of mine, a shaman, avid swimmer, and salsa dancer. My fear steeped from the last visit. Emotions had overflown in a way that I had not expected, leaving the energy in myself concentrated, ready to pour out. The energy concentration was not bad. It was an unexpected guest in my house of emotions.  A feeling you know deep down inside you but you are not ready to face, yet.

Dr. Lotus’s house is located on an energy vortex.

Energy vortexes sit on land masses that move in a rotary motion causing a vacuum or depression at the center.  Whatever energy you have inside of you is amplified. Rather, I should say, whatever energy is concentrated in your body will be amplified. Where a vortex is located it is thought that the veils to other dimensions are diminished. There are well-known vortex sites in Sedona and Oregon where people travel from all over to feel the transformative power of the vortex. If you are not prepared for the vortex, it can be a fearful experience.  

Mountain Drive is located in the St. Ynez Mountains outside of Santa Barbara. Driving up the mountain is a treacherous affair.  To get to the small community that houses about 75 people you drive up a steep, winding road with hairpin turns. When you get closer to the top of the mountain,  two-way roads turn into a steep one-way road.  The proper protocol for coming up the mountain when you encounter a car coming down is to reverse down to a turnout spot so the car can pass you by.

The road to Mountain Drive is not only treacherous but full of surprises.  As you drive you may run across groups of cyclists biking up the steep, narrow drive, or people on the side of the road free bouldering, both of which I encountered.

The Chumash tribe were the first recorded people to live on Mountain Drive. The Painted Cave is a local tourist attraction, thought to have been painted by the Chumash.  In the 1940’s a man named Robert McKee Hyde began to buy property in Mountain Drive area. By the end of World War II, he had started to sell parcels of land to friends. People were free to build as they wanted. This was a time before building codes existed. Many people had handmade homes.  By the 1960s over forty families had joined Robert “Bobby” Mckee. The community was bohemian and being free was a value held strongly. Some of the original families still remain from Bobby’s time, but Mountain Drive has changed into a more conservative place, although there still remains a naked gardening day to this day.

I had trouble finding her house in the small community. GPS does not work on Mountain Drive. Finally, after some searching, I pulled up to what looked like an unassuming two-story brown house with the correct address. I parked my car, grabbed my overnight bag, and walked up to say hello. Dr. Lotus greeted me with a warm embrace. After she gave me a brief tour of her house, I put my belongings down and she asked if I would like to join her on a walk around her neighborhood. I agreed and we started out into the hot, mid-afternoon day. 

She pointed out the Juniper Trees that were growing in spirals in her front yard, which is a sign of a vortex. 

On her property there were several boulders you could climb up onto,  finding secret passages into surrounding yards.We took one of the passages, climbing up steep boulders, me, carrying my small dog who is not an experienced climber. We passed through her neighbor’s yard onto the nearby road. Everybody in this area knows everybody’s name, there is no such thing as trespassing. As we started walking onto the road, Dr. Lotus picked flowers off of a Lavender plant.  She was collecting it to use as a soap. Dr. Lotus knew every single plant in her environment and often collected plants to use for cooking and making tinctures. We walked down the road towards the painted caves.

As we were walking she said, Dr. Lotus told me with a prophetic tone full of confidence,

“My house chooses the people that come here.”

I contemplated that. I wasn’t sure if I should feel honored, but I did feel my being there was to serve a purpose even if I was not aware of that purpose yet.

We returned from our walk and Dr. Lotus made a delicious meal of fish and vegetables. We drank wine and caught up with one another, and our lives.

At night, the wind always picks up on the mountain. You can hear it howling through the trees, howling into your window panes, and through the crevices in the house. Dr. Lotus told me that she was having trouble sleeping because the gateways to the spirit world were open here and they often visited her in the night, keeping her awake.

This thought did not scare me, it made me curious. We said goodnight to one another and I laid next to my dog in a pull out bed. The wind’s howling roared, keeping me awake while thoughts swirled in my head. I was exhausted physically, but mentally I was alert. I tried to shut my eyes. It was that feeling when having your eyes closed and you are dreaming, but you are wide awake.

I spent the whole night feeling like this, tossing and turning. I had dream after dream, finally waking with the rising sun peeking over the mountains. I could see the Pacific Ocean shimmering in the distance. From a distance it appeared calm, docile, a still lake, windless, and unlike the restless Pacific, I was used to seeing up close. I heard Dr. Lotus rustling around in the kitchen and although I was tired from my night of restless sleep I decided to remove myself from my chamber and forage for some coffee. I walked into the kitchen and immediately smelled the coffee.  Toast and eggs, with homemade jam she had made from fruits of the mountain, were laid out on the counter.  She asked me if I had slept well. I said, yes.  I was thinking no, I didn’t want her to feel bad She asked me if I had remembered any of my dreams. I said no. I really could not remember any of my dreams.

She said,

“You will remember your dreams when they happen,”

with a confidence, I could not question.

As I picked at my breakfast guzzling down coffee we talked about my nonexistent, often tumultuous love life at the time. I knew that my mistakes were continuously finding people that were emotionally unavailable or broken, and not knowing when to leave. She told me that I would be married one day, that the true love of my life would be an older man. I felt weird at that moment. I had the feeling that someone had been in my head the whole night rummaging around. I wondered if my tossing and turning had been my attempt to keep someone out from rummaging and picking through pieces I wanted to remain secret.  I had the feeling that someone was her.

I also felt as if something sour and lingering had been snapped off of me in the night. I had no idea what it was and had not been aware of it before. But my body felt much lighter. My mind more clear. My channels were cleared of the pollution that had lingered there before. After finishing breakfast she gave me a lavender plant to wash my face with. The violet petals fell into the sink as I rubbed them onto my hands, creating a lather. I lathered my face and then rinsed with warm water. The plant exfoliated my skin and my face felt like silk after.  After patting my skin dry, I took a look in the mirror. Was I really going to marry an older man?

I thought about this for a moment. I had already had some monumentally unsuccessful relationships with older men. I knew at that moment I absolutely would never date someone with a child again. And whether or not the shaman believed it, I did not care. Because that was my boundary. The thought occurred to me that she was projecting on me. I knew she was in the market for a new love. And she was in her fifties, so she would most likely be looking for a man of a similar age. Was she talking about herself? She had confessed an interest in a local man who she was trying to pursue. I knew she was struggling to date after being out of the dating world for a long time. I could not blame her. It was difficult navigating that, I had recently chosen not to navigate the world of dating, and to focus on myself.  I was much happier this way.

I left the mountain that morning, bidding goodbye to Dr. Lotus, hoping to see her again in the future. I drove away, feeling a relief I had not felt in some time. I knew the path forward meant letting go of the past, and being on the mountain had snapped off pieces of me that needed to go. These pieces, already on the edge of my being, were no longer helping to support my spirit. They would float somewhere else, off into the abyss.

What I learned from my experience on Mountain Drive is to listen to what is around you, but to be careful of the vessels the voices come from. Words can be tricky, it’s better to listen to what you cannot hear.

What you cannot see.

That is where all of the real magic lies.


Song for inspiration:




Leave a Reply