Queen Teen and Rick flew to Austin, Texas to visit family for 10 days and since I had my last internship meeting this past Saturday, I couldn't go. Okay, I admit it, there's a part of me that was happy not to go. I would love to see everyone and I miss my girl and hubby, but the peace and quiet has been amazing! After a few days, the constant ache in my jaw and shoulders dissipated, the knot in my stomach faded, and my thoughts stopped hopping around like a drunk frog on a hot plate. I could take a deep breath and feel calm for the first time in... how long? Years?
I went to the coast with my dear friend, Jody, and stayed at The Howard Creek Ranch B n B, an eclectic, beautiful property tucked between the ocean and a thick grove of redwoods. Built in 1879, the rooms are in the old farm house and the redwood coach house, both crammed with antiques and odd treasures. Hummingbirds battle for the garden, which overflows with flame-red, yellow, ice-blue, and white flowers, nasturtium, berry vines, and roses. Fat, friendly cats curl up in your lap when you sit to read in the sunshine. The inn is run by an older couple who serve you a hearty breakfast every morning. There's a narrow swinging bridge across a creek choked with blackberries, and at night you can hear the ocean crashing back and forth on the beach. It is my favorite place on the Mendocino Coast.
Jody and I spent three days there, lounging, going for hikes, talking, eating, and writing of course. I finished an essay that had been haunting me for months, and started working on my play again. By the time I got home after all that relaxing, I felt as if I'd been smoking dope on a hot beach. My head was fuzzy and the world seemed strangely distant. Walking into my house, the silence felt as loud as a rock concert. There was no Queen Teen shouting "Mom!" as I walked through the door, no husband cussing in the bedroom while he works on another computer, no dog bounding at me in greeting (she was at the kennel), no roar of a dishwasher or radio. Everything was still. I went to bed early with a book and breathed deeply the solitude.
Is it possible to have stress withdrawals? I'm so used to the pace of the last 2 years of grad school, of being mom and wife and keeping a roof over our head and food on the table and running a publishing company... feeling calm was bizarre. I soaked up relaxation like a starving person and now felt fat and lazy on it. But God I wanted more! Give me more calm and peaceful days, more silence. Let me get sick on it until I turn into a lump in the hammock with a book stuck on my nose. I've done constant stress, I'd like to try constant calm.
Saturday was my last internship meeting and during class our teacher explained the certification test and the master's exam. After listening for half an hour, the fog lumbering through my mind cleared and I felt the tension return to my jaw and shoulders. Ah, there it is... the churning knot in my gut. The fear lapping at my ankles. Then when she told us how much the fees for those exams are, I felt a rush of adrenaline flow through my body, chasing out the last bit of lazy still wrapped around my bones.
Back to normal once again.
But now that I know what calm feels like, I wonder if I can duplicate that feeling during my normal days? Can I learn to hold on to the feeling of sitting quietly in the garden at Howard Creek with a fat, black and white farm cat curled up in my lap and the hummingbirds dashing around, fighting for the best blossom just inches from my head. Even though I could feel them flying past me so close their momentum created a breeze on my cheek, I wasn't startled. I watched them and smiled. They are so like me, like all of us I suppose, zooming around and fighting for a crumb of pollen from the best blossom, not able to see the beauty of the flower they're fighting for.
Bourre the dog is back, worn out from playing with the dogs at the kennel for four days, and Queen Teen and Rick will be home on Tuesday. I have several tasks to get done before then, and an awful lot of studying to do in preparation for my master's exam. But the bigger goal is to remember to stop and enjoy the flower I'm fighting for, rather than being a humming bird all the time.