It's so strange, how you can feel yourself shift into a completely different place, just by changing your physical location. On Tuesday night, I decided that a Wednesday road trip was in order. It had been a while since my last one, and could feel that familiar travel bug setting in. Although it isn't quite that time of year yet when the leaves are changing, the weather lately has brought me into fall-mode. And what better place to celebrate fall than Vermont?
The stifling humidity and 93 degree temp was kind of a disappointment. For some reason, I had images of the temperature dropping with every mile further north I drove, and I was almost surprised when, yes, Vermont was also hot as hell. I could feel my hair becoming more voluminous by the minute, as beads of sweat beaded my upper lip. All I wanted, more than anything else in life, was to take off my pants. I could feel my jeans sticking to me, and I cursed myself for my stubborn refusal to dress for the weather.
I picked a tiny little town called Bellows Falls to explore. Nothing in particular beckoned to me, except that it seemed like a town frozen in time. There was almost nothing there: a ramshackle diner car nestled within an empty lot, on an empty street. A few antique shops. A bookstore.
I got out of my car, feeling the heat slap me in the face, and began to walk. Here, at home, I would have been annoyed at my enormous hair, my damp jeans, the sweat trailing down my forehead. Yet, for some reason, I felt everything begin to slow down within me. I felt listless, leaden, calm. The pervasive heat of the day seemed to sit inside of me, weighing me down. This wasn't an unpleasant sensation; in fact, I felt my breathing deepen and relax even as I made my way up a steep hill. At home, I walk quickly, and I often look behind me. This isn't because I'm afraid of being snuck up on; I just don't want to be that person holding someone else back from getting where they want to go. Here, there wasn't anyone around, so I continued on my meandering path, not focused on what was either behind me, or before me. I just let myself be where I was, and it was okay.
With no destination or plan in mind, I found myself walking into a rundown antique shop, and my nose instantly filled with the scent of wool, age, and dust. Within five seconds I knew that there was nothing there for me; I also began to itch from the air itself, and I turned to leave. Before I was able to make my escape, I was caught by the store proprietor, who was roughly 150 years old. So sweet, but so old.
She asked me if I was interested in some hand-knit wool mittens, and I bit my lip to cut off a smart-ass reply; if it was 93 degrees outside, it was at least 100 in the shop. I was melting...slowly melting. I could hardly breathe from the heat and the dust, and I would rather have plunged into a lake of acid than tried on a pair of wool mittens. Yet, I didn't leave. If I were here, in the city, I would have been out of that shop in 30 seconds, but for some reason I felt that leaving this tired old woman alone with the smells and the heat of this crumbling old building would have been an insult. She wanted to talk; I let her talk. She told me about her children, about the hours she had spent since childhood working on a loom, spinning yarn until her fingers went numb. She talked about walking into the house she spent her married life in, and how it was like falling in love; that there was no feeling like having a home call to your very soul. She talked about her past life as a social worker, about turning her love of spinning into something that she passed on to her three girls, who in turn fell in love with the craft and earned their livings doing the same.
I was hot, but not impatient. I let her words flow over me, and found myself almost hypnotized by the rhythms of her voice. As the sun began to drift lower in the sky, it occurred to me that I would never have imagined that I could be so very still, for so very long. I am never still. I am all about the next. Even on vacation, each effort of relaxation is planned as a means to a particular end; that's just the way my brain works. Is my mind ever this smooth and untroubled when I am letting time slide out of my grasp, unused and unaccounted for? Never.
And like a long, deep massage, the aftereffects of my short journey lasted after my immersion into small-town life came to an end. I woke this morning with a million things to take care of, and I found myself simply breathing and letting go of it all. Every day, I create a healthy breakfast...and then cram it down quickly, trying to get the eating part of my day over with so that I can have extra time to do all the things I need to do. Not today. Today, breakfast was a leisurely, enjoyable affair. I was present. I was mindful, in the moment, for once not focused on something behind me, or up ahead. And it felt like this was taking me a small step closer to becoming my best, most authentic self.