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Six Places and a Lack of Focus [Aug. 12th, 2011|12:09 pm]
I’m corrupting this a bit – purposefully interpreting this as places I’ve been and WANT to be instead of the beige veal pen masquerading as a workspace that I’ll spend the day in. In thinking about it, I got Chinese menu syndrome – seventeen pages of entrees and how the hell am I going to pick? I thought about re-visiting an exercise I did in college where we had to describe significant places and the moment that made them significant – and I made it all about places where I got hurt pretty badly – a log bank fence my horse stumbled at and dumped me onto, the long hill where my bicycle chain came off, shooting me face first down the rest of the hill to land underneath a parked car, the lawn covered in gypsy moths where I bent down to look more closely just as the dog ran by and caught his tooth in my eye socket, the the giant old maple tree that caught me and my sled at the bottom of a snowy hill. When I presented the essay, I pointed to each of the resultant scars. I got an A. Now I’m old enough to just sit here and for the most part, feel the ache in my bones from each incident...and I don't know that an "A" was sufficient reward. So I’d just as soon stop the trip down THAT memory lane. But I could go with places that are significant in other ways...or places I want to go to, but haven’t yet...or beautiful places, awe-inspiring places...or...

With that endless Chinese restaurant menu, I have to pick a protein/main ingredient out of self-defense, to cut the dithering and get on with my meal. Here I pick places where I am at peace. And would love to be RIGHT NOW.

1. The hayloft. The sweet, dry smell of hay, the sun beams coming in through cracks of the barn wall or a window, putting a spotlight on the dancing hay dust. The slight tang of animal floating up from below, wafts of sweat and leather. The crackle of the hay on the floor and the prickling of the stems as you sit on a bale. The baling twine with its winey scent, burning at your fingers when you toss a bale. It was a place to escape to as a child, a place where grown-ups rarely went and we could play and hang out and nap. Still a hidey-hole as a teenager, and home to a fair bit of romantic encounters, but also a place I built each summer and fall, laying in feed for my horses.

2. A hilltop village in Provence. Any one; they’re everywhere. Me, a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, a bottle of wine and a companion of nearly any sort. Sitting under a tree, overlooking the valley below, spread with sunflowers, and lavender fields and olive groves, perfumed breezes floating up, the sound of cicadas a constant background.

3. My car, going on a long road trip. Okay, ANY car – I have no attachment to my own. It doesn’t need to be a nice car, a fast car. One that works and has functioning air conditioning. Driving someplace. Alone. Or with dogs. But the only person. So I can crank the music, sing heartily. Going places, unreachable, answerable to only the laws of the road and those I interpret quite loosely.

4. There is a pasture in Sakonnet, Rhode Island, and the pasture ends at a rocky cliff that overlooks the ocean. And once there was a single cow, standing at the edge of that pasture, looking out over the ocean, and the sun had broken through a cloud so as to spotlight that cow looking off across the water. I want to live in a place where that can happen. The sight embodied so many of the things I love and all sorts of profound truths. Let's face it, a pasture full of cows is by far the most peaceful place in the world. You cannot lay down in a field full of cows (assuming you LOOK before you lie down) with a blue sky, white fluffy clouds, surrounded by mellow, grazing cattle, and feel anything but peaceful. The only thing better than a field of cows would be one near the ocean. To be at peace with cows AND smell the ocean. And to be able to choose between contemplating white fluffy clouds wafting across a blue sky, or roll over and look out onto the ocean's infinite, roiling surface? If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would own an ocean front pasture in Rhode Island. I would break a finger dialing a real estate agent.

5. I found my ideal beach in St. John. White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, yeah, whatever. But – trees that hang over the beach, so that you can be on the beach, looking out at the beauty, sipping your iced rum, snacking on cheese and olives…and be in natural, palm tree frond rustle-ly shade. Move your chair two feet farther out and you’ve got sun if you catch a chill or need to dry off. And sometimes the iguanas come out to check out what you’ve got for lunch. And a few steps and then a short swim to a reef teeming with wildlife where you can see sea turtles and nurse sharks and barracudas and even get your own remora. Because pretty isn’t enough for me if there aren’t critters. And relaxing is only fun if you can spike it with physical activity.

6. In a beanfield, picking green beans. The sun beating down on you, searing a halfmoon tan in the place where your t-shirt rides up from your jeans, one you can earn in two days and wear all summer. The smell of baking soil, the vegetal scent of the leaves, slightly bruised as you pass through, stripping beans from the plant. The sound of the bushel, as you scrape it along the slightly rocky soil and the thumping of the beans as they hit the bushel, hollow and ringing at the bottom of the bushel, plumply thudding as the bean pile rises. Your knees creaking, your back creaking, the muscles in your arms and chest pulling and relaxing. The quiet rhythms of your co-workers in other rows, breathing, stripping, tossing, dragging. An occasional joke or conversational exchange, but mostly just the sounds of nature, the rustle of leaves, the drone of bees, the low-level noise of a small herd of human animals working together, foraging. We have done this forever.