It’s a funny thing to transition from hustle and bustle to stillness. For more than forty years, peace came from walking on the beach staring out at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. I lived within five minutes of my beloved Trader Joe’s, friends and family were nearby. I wove around traffic to a multitude of restaurants, boutique shops and movie theaters. Always there was the hum of life – like bees on clover. Busy. No busier. Almost good enough.
I craved time alone with nothing – like one of those sensory deprivation tanks. I wanted to settle deep into myself, into the quiet where no one whispered a thing about my productivity. Not even me.
Then I moved to Crowley Lake, a cluster of homes with a general store/gas station and Tom’s Place, a local haunt that has been around since 1917: it’s walls covered with 100 years of posters, maps, brochures for the local ski resort, bumper stickers, firehouse patches, antelope and deer heads that are draped in garland and lights during the holidays. I love knowing the entire staff and the 70-year-old friends who never miss a Taco Tuesday.
Living in the sticks, you don’t get billboards but a lot of dropped calls. Four cars traveling beside me on the highway is considered a lot of traffic. Wind caressing the leaves has a soft silvery sound on some days and an urgency for winter in autumn.
I miss farmer’s markets, Trader Joe’s and wholesome food, not iceberg lettuce salads with Wishbone Italian dressing. I literally crave a fancy movie theater that sells craft beer with buttered popcorn and has plush, reclining seats. I get super excited making shopping lists for visits to the “city.” I’m definitely getting Marie Calendar’s pumpkin pie on my next visit.
After a little over a year, I have learned to relax for hours in the hammock listening to the creek gurgle, looking up at the bluebird sky through the changing leaves of the Aspen grove. I adore watching the multitude of stars twinkle on a half denim-blue, half indigo night through a lodgepole pine forest. I sink deep into warm sulphur water at hot springs and enjoy a new vastness of craggy mountains and monochrome high desert. I watch mama deer teach their young and notice when the babies’ spots fade.
I’m learning to be still.
I may be forever in joyful admiration of contentment in the slowness of life, most especially when I find a new hidden gem, like the Ghost Town of Bodie.
Bodie, a booming gold mining town in the 1860s, was scorching hot in the summer and 30 degrees below zero with snow drifts in winter that covered its wooden buildings, where they used newspaper for insulation and still some died in their beds.
It’s reputation as “one of the most furious, vehement, violent and lawless towns in all the Mother Lode” intrigues me, especially when juxtaposed with the haunting beauty and normal life that one day they all just left behind. Their memory is preserved with faded velvet on chaise lounges, kitchen goods in the cabinet, poker chips left on the roulette wheel, colored bottles in the mercantile window, the huge billow in the foundry, opium bottles, ostrich feathers, high buttoned shoes, guns, and teapots in the sink.
It is in these quiet places where the beauty of stillness most touches my soul. I willingly take this leisurely stroll, a perpetual journey to find my persistent, still voice that will speak loudest when I write.