Sunday, April 2, 2017

What's wrong with being alone?

What do you do?
Excuse me?
What do you do when you're there?
I can feel the smile unfurling over my face before I even realize it
Nothing. I tell them. I do nothing. 
I take a week
Every year
I go to the mountains 
And I do nothing
it's glorious.

I rise early, I haunt the bookshop intricate enough to be a small town of its own, I  fortify my stronghold at the back table of the coffee shop, as I've mentioned previously, I convince a marvelous chef/owner couple to cook me a multi course vegan meal as I get drunk very slowly on something gingery/bourbon-y, I avoid writing my book, I take pictures that usually involve levitation/skulls/or hair flipping, I go to the unrivaled farmers markets and geek out with vendors over lion's mane mushrooms because everyone has to have their passions and mycology is an amazing thing, I watch an awful lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation- or as I like to call it, Saturdays with Jean Luc. I go on literal and figurative tangents.
I do nothing.
The best kind of thing.
If I could stay a month, a season, a year, a lifetime, it wouldn't be enough.

Doing things like this, these miraculous nothings, can bring about a lot of questions, or a lot of statements disguised as questions. You're married, what does your husband think, but what do you do, is that safe, don't you get lonely, and why. Some people get kind of angry and that throws me off.
Honestly, I don't know why it isn't more of a thing. I don't understand why everyone doesn't do this, circumstances not withstanding. I know, I sell my soul for the majority of the year (re: I've worked in finance for twelve years, please send help) so that I can actually get away to do this. Working with that concept, even on a small scale, to take yourself out to dinner, take yourself out to a movie, to get to know who you are when no one else is around because it's critically important to understand yourself, and because it just feels good. Do it because suffering in your day-to-day is not a badge to be proudly displayed. Do it in the name of self care. Tell any naysayers that Vanessa told you to. You can blame me if you need to, I've got your back.

Typically, I go loaded up with books I've been meaning to read and art supplies I've been meaning to break into. I take all the things and projects that I look at in my daily life, lamenting for more time, and so I don't travel light. The other side of that coin is that I very rarely touch 90% of what I bring with me and often curse myself while schlepping it back. Instead, I immerse myself in my surroundings, finding new books to read, new ideas for pictures, new recipes to try, though I'm comforted by having the options I brought along with me if I decide to change my mind. I spend the weeks leading up to said vacation making lists of what I want to do, what I'll bring and questionably what I'll use, what pantry items I should take because it's a full condo for that immersive alone experience, and what books I've been looking forward to. Lists of even the senses of things I've been missing, the crunch of gravel beneath my feet, the smell of the wood, the vault of the sky that seems somehow unique to that place. I pick out the music I'll play in the car while I ride up, I look up the route in case I've forgotten it (I haven't), I'll stare longingly at the forecasts for the area, and I wait.

Despite the name, alone vacation isn't about the avoidance of people. Yes, I go up in the off season so it isn't crazy crowded, but there are the hushed crowds at the bookstore, the two old professors in the cafe talking about getting credits towards their teaching licenses and how that gets more difficult the older they get, the off beat teen in the top hat that may have something to prove or may be ahead of their time, the baristas that have started to recognize you, the kid in fatigues at the farmer's market who strikes up conversation with you as you listen to the fiddler and the cicadas (forever pronounced: Chi-ca-dahs), the antique vendor that helps you identify the skull you've taken a shine to, and the woman at the candy shop that gives you an extra quarter pound of the fudge you give as gifts upon your return. The sounds and sites and normalcy of life going on all around you, and the role you play within it, is a part of the experience. At the end of the day you can return to your fortress of solitude, comforted by the liquid baritone of your favorite starship captain, feast on some foraged mushrooms, and reflect on it all. You are the captain of your own ship, and the path you take is decided by you alone, and so is what you take from the experience. That freedom can be daunting, even in the most simple of tasks, but it is rewarding because it's yours.

Around March/April without fail, the dreams begin. Slightly heightened, as if something has turned up the volume, and over-saturated, I dream of the mountains, the roads to get there, and of never having to come back. Seeing my life from a birds-eye view, an actual map spread beneath me, full of high summits and deep water, and picking that one clear path I know is the answer. Like those damned Helvetica font faced trendy mugs or posters boasting the Muir quote "The mountains are calling, and I must go." The mountains do not gently beckon, they do not whisper, they roar, they echo, they demand, and each year, I heed. I would tell you to come with me, but that would defeat the purpose now, wouldn't it?

1 comment:

  1. Vanessa I have no words to express my feelings about your beautiful writing !!!

    If my feelings could only speak the way you do !! Please write write write