Every so often some friends who live in a quiet, secluded gated community in Santa Barbara offer to let me stay in their place for several days or even a week or so while they are usually off on some wonderful trip somewhere. They like someone to stay at their place to dog-sit, so I owe these times to George, the bulldog. George is quite a character and he adds a lot to my visits which I briefly describe later.
Eagerly I say "yes", pack up myself with at least one of my own dogs* and head up the coast, looking forward to a time of solitude and reflection. And of course I plan to write and maybe work on some other creative projects. And oft-times, I succeed.
I find when I get settled in the quiet serenity of the place is mesmerizing. There are scads of things to do and see in Santa Barbara, but I always find myself wanted to cocoon in semi-isolation from an world that is at times too much with me. So I walk with George, or rather George walks me, and then I walk again for long meandering walks all around the area with Miguelito.
Occasionally I turn on the radio or TV, but usually I just savor the nothingness of no sounds other than birds chirping, bunnies rustling in the flora, the crickets and frogs by night. When I eat, I eat in silence, savoring each bite of food as if for the first time. A glass of wine thrills my pallet. I am enchanted with my own company.
Self-indulgence is me! Well, quite frankly, I don't care. I deserve it. I forget how much I like being with me. Of course my little dog is here. This time its Miguelito. He seems to enjoy being the chosen one. And of course, there is George. George is a presence and will not be denied attention. But even George is companionable with occasional fits of grunts, guttural groans, lickings and more, but he indeed is glad I am there. All is well with the world tonight and I will sleep soundly as George snores in the corner and Mig nestles in the bed with me.
It's now Saturday morning, final full day in my "reclusive retreat". It has been good. As usual it feels like the time has flown by while the days themselves seemed long and pleasant. A minor "crisis" at home brought me back to the realities of life. But the crisis was resolved with the aid of friends and neighbors. (The neighbor behind me demolished a portion of the little house that has been a "wall" to my backyard for probably over 50 years. Could have been much worse. And it will work out fine as these things always do.) Anyway, I was able to return to some sort of my temporary normal here in isolation of sorts.
The good thing is I got away, had plenty of time for rest and reflection. It is funny how in just seven days a routine was established. It began to feel like home, even temporary as it is. I've noticed that happens whenever I am away for a while. Its as if my real life is a distant memory that I could just leave behind. But I know in my heart, that is not what I want to do. With some adjustments, things will just be fine. While I like being with myself, I also enjoy being with others. As they say, though, moderation in everything is the key. "Moderation in everything...including moderation," said Ben Franklin. Amen to that.
*My great neighbors take care of my other dog and my house! Thanks be to them!
When the Muse leaves town, or hides its light beneath the bushel, is there any point to chasing it? The Muse is very good at hiding. It does not like to be hounded. It cares not to be controlled. It refuses to be disciplined. So chasing it, even looking for it, does no good.
Sometimes the best thing to do when the Muse is absent is to wait. Silently. Quietly. Hands folded. Still beneath the spreading bodhi tree, in a hammock or comfortable chair. Other times it is best to take to the blank page on your screen or paper and just begin to write. Whatever comes, it is better than to chase the Muse. The Muse, its seems, is curious. It will come only when you are paying it no heed. And when it appears, listen. And create.
Its all you can do. Chasing you could trip and fall or get hit by a bus. Invite the Muse by engaging in its favorite activity: creation. It will come. Inspiration will appear only when you open yourself to it and let it in.
Start now...just as I have here. It seems to work...most of the time!
I have an invitation to meet for cocktails at the inn before dinner on the patio. The inn is the Mission Inn, a famous local landmark here in Riverside, southern California and beyond. It is now know for its annual Holiday Extravaganza and more. Serveral Presidents have stayed there including Teddy Roosevelt, George W Bush, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. The Nixons married there and the Reagans honeymooned there. For a full list, see: Historical Figures Who Stayed at the Inn Not only Presidents, but dignitaries and celebrities and more have visited the Inn over its 100 year plus history.
The Inn in the jewel in the center of Riverside's historic downtown. When you walk through the doors, it is almost as if you have been transported to Europe. I'm sure its founder, Frank Miller, and current owner, Duane Roberts intended just that. I always feel like I'm not in Riverside any more.
Anyway, one can always go to the Presidential Lounge if one cares to, but I seldom do. It feels like it is so sophisticated and lush that it should be saved for special occasions. Well, that's just me, I suppose. I love the Inn. And I treasure each time I have been there for drinks with friends, a wedding, a tour or a special event. It is not Marie Callendar's or Denny's to be sure.
So tonight I am having cocktails at the Inn with a dear friend from Santa Barbara. I have to pinch myself because it seems like I am in the vortex of a Venn diagram where two worlds overlap...even if just for an evening. I'm still a northwest Detroiter at heart, of sturdy, unassuming stock. But still, when I chance to pretend I am a "sophisticat" comes up, I submerge myself completely in the experience. There'll be stimulating conversation, ideas exchanged, and perhaps a fancy drink imbibed followed by a lovely dinner on the Las Capanas patio restaurant. "High falutin' ", my grandmother would say. Then she would tell me, "Enjoy! You only live once!"
You may have heard about how some folks have bad days because they got out of the wrong side of the bed. They're cranky, things don't go right, etc and so on. Well, what happens when you intentionally go to bed on the wrong side of the bed? I decided to find out.
Last night I was feeling in a bit of rut, so I decided to shake things up a bit. I got ready for bed as usual, but then as I was turning down the covers, I thought to myself, "How many times have I done this the same way in the same manner, night after night, year after year? Always on the left side, first lying on my back, then eventually shifting to my right side. For as long as I've had this mattress and probably the mattress before. Single people choose sides, and I apparently chose mine and stuck to it.
I flipped back up the covers, then went to the other side. I have a lamp and night table on either side. I imagine the light on the right side has many more hours left in it, than the left. I called the dogs and put them on the bed as usual, but confused them by getting in on the wrong (right) side. But dogs are flexible I guess. I got into bed and they quickly assumed the reverse of their usual positions. (Before you judge me for sleeping with dogs, don't. I have always and will always sleep with my boys. The bed would be so empty otherwise!)
Anyway, I felt strange. It was as if something was not right, but I persevered. I turned out the light, and surprisingly, fell fast asleep. In fact, I slept rather well. Soundly. Very weird I suppose, but changing sides, didn't change much for the night. And, surprise surprise, I awoke in the morning, still on the wrong (right) side.
But then came the getting out.
It's not true. Getting out of bed on the wrong side, is just like getting out of bed on the right side. Even when the right side had been the left for years and years and the wrong side is the right side. There were a few wrinkles in the day, but overall, I was not grumpy, did not have a bad day, and went about life as usual. I guess sleep in sleep and a bed is a bed and a side is to be chosen, and chosen again. It's up to the sleeper.
I suggest you try it. Would love to hear about your experience in this experiment. And maybe you won't have to turn the mattress so often if you use both sides!
Disclaimer: Any typos or grammatical errors in this blog are probably because I got up on the wrong side of the bed!
I went to church this morning and when I was getting out of the car in the parking lot, I realized I didn't have my phone. I checked my pockets. I went back to the car. I had left my smart phone at home. Egads! Someone, it seems, was messing with me. Maybe God? Maybe He wanted me to pay attention in church this morning? Perhaps...
Anyway, I found my usual spot left side, row three, next to my friend Bette. I took my place. I was a bit distracted at first. I hoped I had just left it at home, on the counter, where I last remembered seeing it. I felt myself shrug as I returned my attention to the service: the welcome, the opening hymn, the prayer, the anthem, communion. All those immediate experiences one supposedly goes to church to participate in. Yet all the while I was thinking about how this felt good. Freeing. Perhaps I should "untether" more often.
And of course I thought how this would make a good blog.
I realized how my attention span had suffered. My mind wandered. I found myself thinking about how it used to be. We couldn't take our landlines (we called them phones) everywhere. We would just have to wait to get home and check the message machine. And then I recalled the time when we didn't even have those! If we weren't there to answer the phone, well, they would just have to call back.
One odd thing that kept catching me off guard was finding myself trying to check my cell. I mean, frequently. And it wasn't there, in my pocket or on the pew next to me. Then each time I'd remind myself it was at home. I was still tethered, but only in my mind. It reminded my of how sometimes I go to call someone long deceased like my mother, my aunt, my grandmother and then realize that they won't answer. Similar, but not exactly the same I suppose. But disturbing all the same.
Long story short, I now realize just how much I have become a slave to my devices and social media. When I forget my phone, I feel set adrift. I might miss something. What if I want to show someone a picture? Set a date? Share a Facebook post? Ah, the good old days. Memories come lazily back as I remember what it was like to live in "real time". I think how we used to be ever present and not connected to unseen, and sometimes, unknown entities.
Coming untethered means I can be totally present...or at least have a better chance of really experiencing my life as it occurs. I can post about it on Instagram and Twitter later. Sometimes, cutting the cord...or at least leaving it in your car...makes life much more interesting.