Getting Away for A Week, A Day, An Hour …..

Reentry can be a wickedly wild space.

As anyone who’s been on vacation or retreat can confirm, landing at LAX is akin to stepping into an alternate reality. The crush of bodies, the press and stress of customs, the jostle of luggage and long lines and the just-too-many-people in one small space crashes down upon us. I often wonder how astronauts feel after a shuttle run or a sojourn at the orbiting station, where stars and empty space were their primary companions.

Outside the airport lies the 405 Freeway. Need I say anything else? Especially at rush hour, which seems to be the only time I can arrange an arrival, traffic hurls past at immeasurable speeds, or worse, doesn’t hurl at all, but rather puddles in steamy exhaust laden pods. Where is everyone going? I ask myself. And why?

There is a rhythm and perspective that is gained when we step away from our everyday lives. If we’re lucky, we can find a way to let time stop. At least the hands on the clock that tick-tock tick-tock, and mark our days with “got to get to work, got to get the kids to school, got to make that meeting, got to get to dinner, got to go to, got to buy.”

When we step away, the list of “dos” gets tossed over the shoulder, and we find ourselves slowly and steadily digging into what calls our hearts, what quiets the “neediness” of our busy lives. Maybe, just maybe, we even unplug — the laptop, the iPhone, Blackberry, Facebook, YouTube …

Maybe, just maybe, for a few hours and/or days, we disconnect from what we think we need to do. We let go of our guard. We let ourselves hear our deepest inner voices.

In that space, dreams begin to bubble up once again. The critical mind is at rest, and so nothing seems silly or impossible. It’s as if the world sighs with us as we conjure new pathways through the minefields we have identified as problems. Distance reduces immediacy, and as our thoughts clear, we are better able to process and craft solutions.

I think Lagunans are luckier than most in southern California. We have both blue belt and greenbelt for mini-vacations or instant get-aways. Hiking deep into the wilderness park, it is possible to arrive in canyons where no trace of man — no houses, roads, constructs — is visible except for the dirt path behind and before. While not the total immersion of a lengthy get-away, a day in the back country both freshens the mind and allows for connection with wild spaces. The endorphins kick in from hiking, and flora and fauna re-invigorate the natural senses.

At the shoreline — well, what needs to be said? I don’t think there is anyone (at least I’ve never met them) who isn’t refreshed by a walk along the ocean’s edge. The sea carries a mystical magic. A long while ago, scientists postulated that negative ions from the water itself create a feeling of well-being.

When I was an adolescent and confused (weren’t we all?) by life’s mounting challenges, it was to the seashore I ran. Oak Street was my beach of choice, and all I needed was to sit on the rocks and gaze across the watery space. As long as I could see the horizon (OK, foggy days were not so simple), I knew that there was someplace else, something else … that life was not going to stop at the juncture of my then current problem.

Sunrise and sunset remain my favorite hours for contemplation by the water. It’s something in the sun’s angle, mixed with the color of the sky. Softness precedes or overtakes the harsh light of day, and the sense of between spaces is quite clear.

At this juncture, I straddle two worlds — my sweet hometown Laguna Beach, and Loreto, BCS. I feel gifted on those days when I wake with sunrise over the Sea of Cortez and Isla Carmen, and end with sunset over the Pacific with the silhouette of Catalina. It’s a kind of zig-zag existence, but matches current circumstances, and has given me a grand opportunity to expand my own point of view.

Retreats can be as simple as an hour or two a day, but their affect is enormous. Give it a try! Unplug, disconnect. Listen to your own thoughts instead of what is broadcast. Watch your own footsteps on the dusty trails or the damp sand. Let go of need to — for just a while — and celebrate the joy with which you return.

See you on the beach or back-country trails.

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