Disclaimer: This post is a little touchy feely/woo-woo. Prepare yourself.
You know that feeling you get when you just vibe with a place? It’s like your body relaxes and you feel a sense of being right where you should be at that moment in time. A friend described it recently as "being in a harmonic vibration with your surroundings.” It is a lot like when just the right song comes on when you need to heat it the most. I have written about this feeling when I lived in San Francisco and while visiting in Portland. Colorado: not so much.
I have visited Colorado dozens of times. Growing up in Albuquerque, Denver was one of the closest big cities and was often an overnight or weekend road trip. I have camped, visited friends, driven through, had my heart broken, broken others hearts, danced all night, and all stayed in quite a few places. Me and Colorado are well acquainted. Once I even drove 5 and a half hours up with friends just to buy a pack of clove cigarettes when they were all the rage and not available in New Mexico. I have had a lot of fun and some really bad trips, but, in all of those times I have never been able to set my compass on where I am or where I am going. I feel lost, stressed, and panicked whether in traffic or on the open road. Once, I got altitude sickness on a family vacation so bad I had to suck on a can of oxygen (I thought that was a gag in Spaceballs, but it is in fact a real thing. Who knew?). Because I live at about the altitude of Denver and have traveled to many other high altitude places, I will attribute this (perhaps somewhat unfairly, I admit) to the level of unexplained anxiety that I get when visiting Colorado.
I guess given my history with Colorado, it was possibly not the best choice for a weekend retreat to reset after a busy summer. I was attracted by the idea of getting to be an off the grid introvert in a judgement free zone. Originally, I was going to come right before my 40th birthday last April, but life happened and here we are. Maybe I am just trying to hard to make sense of my literal place in the world, but I like to be clear about where I stand with a place when I visit. Don’t get me wrong, Colorado can be one of the most beautiful places (the picture below are evidence of that) and I have had lots of good times. In fact, I will be back in just a few weeks to see one of my favorite bands. But taking this trip, it occurred to me how this year of travel has changed the way I see the places I visit and Colorado came into focus as a place that has never called to me.
I did, however, come to realize that you can still enjoy your time in places where you do not vibe perfectly with your surroundings and the people. Being at a mountain retreat center was a great opportunity to spend some time really unwinding from my daily expectations and habitual patterns. I did yoga, meditation, napped, finally read the book I have been trying to get through for a year, wandered around the woods and fields, and found a healthy appreciation for the quiet and peaceful beauty of a place that feels really in tune with itself. I never assume that a single experience will change me, and this one didn’t; but I did recognize that when it gets quiet, I unplug, and I have just me to keep me company--I have a pretty good time.
Usually, I keep busy with this or that. My life as a parent and consultant has a long daily to-do list that I have to stay on top of and this retreat forced me to slow down: to observe the world at a different pace and to really face parts of my life that I had been avoiding. I was able to fill the quiet with music or thoughts when I needed them, but I didn’t feel the hunger to keep moving to the next thing or to check in with anyone. I didn’t have a moment of grand clarity or find any new answers for myself (my last trip to Portland did more of that for me). In fact, I made no great discovery or plan of action while away. I did have high levels of frustration and not much sleep for a few days, so it was not a relaxing getaway as much as a challenge to let the present just be what it was and accept that for a short while by not judging myself or others too harshly and not running away. If I left with one grain of wisdom, it was this: I don’t need to run to the mountains (or a record store for that matter) to be present or to enjoy quiet time by myself. I can find these same things no matter where I am. I don’t feel deeply changed after only a couple of days of quiet, but it is remarkable how that simple thing can give you a renewed appreciation for really spending time with yourself and I hope that I can keep holding that as long as possible.