After two very long, action-packed weeks, each brimming with holiday happenings and visits with friends and traditions and travel, I desperately needed to wind down.
I began with a trip to the barn for a riding lesson. The moment I approached Vick, the strong-willed, strawberry gelding who was my mount for the night, I knew it would be a good night. Dusk hung over the tri-valley like an exhale of mist in the air before my face. Around me were the sounds of the stable... boots on dirt, leather slapping against leather, buckles clicking together, the scrape of the bit against the horses' teeth, stomping hooves, snorts, the buzz of the arena lights coming to life.
Towards the end of my lesson, I noticed that my husband had appeared at the rail. He watched me absorb the instructions and attempt to carry out directions from my place in the saddle. My fingers had been frozen at the outset of the lesson and, as soon as I had dismounted, returned to that state. Jonathan, romantic, wonderful, chivalrous man that he is, presented me with a Starbucks hot chocolate... just the thing to chase the nip of cold from my fingertips.
Once Jon was on his way to the gym, I drove down the hill to visit my
dear friend, Alisa, and her two rambunctious, tumbling kittens. I
opened the door to her beautiful little condo and was greeted first by
her smooth, sweet call from the floor above and then from the scent of
a hearty chicken noodle soup... something she'd whipped up for our
My Alisa is lovely and kind, and she's at her best when she's helping, doing, working... usually on behalf of someone else. Tonight she moved back and forth in her colorful little kitchen, like a shuttle on a loom, heating the soup and cleaning her already sparkling counters, offering me a hair clip to tame my oddly-swirling mane, dancing a green laser pointer on the floor to watch her kitties scamper in pursuit, placing a package of cookies out for my dessert. All the time she was moving, graceful and deft. Watching her rhythm lulled me into the beginnings of an almost ecstatic relaxation.
Forty-five minutes with kittens is as therapeutic as forty-five minutes can be. I giggled as they chased toys, the aforementioned hair clip, my fingers, each other... tackling and tangling, all paws and delicate ears and big, curious eyes. From time to time I'd lift one up and snuggle her to my neck and chest, delighting in the feel of her plump, warm belly in my palm, breathing in that kitten scent atop her head. When it came time for me to go, I tarried, saying long, soprano-pitched goodbyes to each kitten in turn.
At home I settled into the desk chair to upload photos to Facebook. It's time consuming but ultimately pleasing to be productive. And besides, the pictures Cindy and Amy and I took in San Francisco last Friday while carrying out our sixth annual Ya-Ya Black Friday tradition are priceless and needed to be shared.
Then, finally, hours and hours later, the thing I'd ached to do, yearned to do for an eternity, came to fruition. A tub of scalding water swirling with skin softening bubbles and fragrant scented foam consumed every inch of me, purifying my thoughts by requiring an absolute focus on my slow, deliberate descent into the water. While bathing is essentially relaxing because it means soaking for an extended period of time, it is this entrance, this origin which sets the tone for a clear mind, a soothed soul.
Instead of music or a movie, instead of reading a magazine, I opted instead to listen to a podcast on my iPhone. NPR's interview with Christiane Amanpour, the famed foreign correspondent for CNN, caught my interest earlier in the day, but I didn't have time at lunch or after work to hear the complete broadcast. Thankfully, I was able to download the complete interview. There, buoyant and sleepy, I drank in Amanpour's articulate alto voice like a glass of Cabernet.
She is, of course, dynamic, experienced, wise, brilliant, eloquent, strong. But her sincerity permeated every thought, every answer, and blew me away.
When the interview ended, I rose from my place in the water and sauntered to my bed, happy to fold myself into the creamy sheets and close my eyes.
That's when I found a second wind. Not to go out for a jog, or put stamps on my Christmas cards, or scrapbook my trip to Europe, or watch an episode of CSI with Jonathan, or craft a long-overdue email to an old friend, or fold laundry, or paint my toenails, or take out the trash, or prepare a slice of toast as a late night snack. No. Rather, from within the heavy, impenetrable stone which was my creative soul for the last two weeks, a spring bubbled forth. Words trickled from the center of the rock like tears. I had to write. I had to unleash it.
Now I will close my eyes and slumber, warm and soft from the soles of my feet to the crown of my hair. It will be good. I have found my way home.