It’s been a weird 2 or 3 years. The weirdest in my life, actually.
People I love/loved have variously gone insane, self-destructed, gotten divorced, battled and survived un-survivable illness, had beautiful babies prematurely, married, found love, faced-down demons, moved cross-country to live their dreams, taken up new professions… Died tragically. Died unmercifully. Chemo-therapy. Psycho-therapy. Physical therapy. Not enough therapy…. In short, life has been stampeding by, hard-and-fast. Almost unbelievably brutal at times. Near miraculous at others.
Yes. I know. Life happens.
And exhaustion has been creeping up on me for weeks.
It was time for a “break-state.”
BREAK-STATE is a term used in hypnosis and NLP. It’s a pattern-interrupt. You are in a particular “state” — or you are running a pattern of behavior that you can’t seem to get out of — could be panic, hysteria, catatonia, self-doubt, free-floating anger or fear, the throws of passion — any state. A “break-state” is an event that interrupts that state so thoroughly that you can’t get back to it easily.
Like when your grandma calls while you’re in the middle of having sex.
Like — that old commercial where someone is screaming uncontrollably and a stranger walks up and slaps them hard. The screamer stops screaming because their state was interrupted by something so radical and unexpected that they have to stop and consider what has just happened to them. They have to think about what an appropriate response might be. Run? Slap back? Cry? Yell at the slapper? Pass out? Laugh?
But whatever they do — it has stopped them from screaming uncontrollably.
Well, I wasn’t really in danger of screaming uncontrollably (okay — maybe once or twice). But I was in danger of loosing perspective. I was in danger of reacting inappropriately to daily stresses and challenges. I was in danger of fighting with the details and losing sight of the bigger picture.
Add to that nearly 3 months of heat in the 100+ range, a year-long drought, the generally unhealthy political, economic, and social climate, and I was just about to run out of string.
So for the first time in slightly over 3 years — we got away. Away. Just the two of us. 12 days. Hardly a cell phone signal. No air conditioning (and no need for it.) Thunderstorms echoing through mountains every day. Museums. Galleries. Theaters. Craftsmen, artisans, and artists so thick the streets practically ooze paint, sawdust and granite dust. Unbelievably good food at even more unbelievably reasonable prices. A little pocket of the world with so much to offer that it shows hardly a sign of the economic hardship so evident in every town we drove through to get here.
There are solar farms. Wind farms. Vegetable farms. New housing and business growth. A dozen white-water rafting businesses along the river. 5 new local boutique wineries have product available. A dozen micro-breweries. Double the art galleries and studios that were here at our last visit 3 years ago. Local produce in the markets. Locally owned cafes, delis, and bistros. Hardly a chain store or national brand in sight.
It’s now a weekend and the old town streets are humming with tourists — most flooding in from the heat and drought laden landscape we escaped. Cafes and shops are filled with people (and with many well-behaved dogs….) But by Monday morning, it will be quiet again.
You can tell the tourists from the long-time visitors and the locals. They order standard road and tourist fare from the menus. It’s good — but it’s not the local cuisine. And their cars stick out on the road. Too big, too loud, trailing exhaust — they’re the ones with bumper stickers like “Stop Global Whining.” This is not that kind of America.
As we drove here, it wasn’t just the landscape and the geography that changed. The air changed. The energy in the air changed. The way people move though the energy in the air changed. Instead of suppressing and strangling the unconscious — every mile of the drive was like loosening one of the bolts that held the huge, rusted, heavy iron plate in place. It let in light and fresh air and color. The collective unconscious of this landscape is totally different from our stapled-shut and tightly stitched-up collective unconscious in the Texas Panhandle. People actually smile and talk and laugh here. They walk to town. They carry their groceries home on their hip. They stop to admire somebody’s garden and flowers.
There are no manicured lawns or oscillating sprinklers running against the seasons and the natural landscape. People are balding and lumpy. Unshaven and dressed for the current temperature. Cotton. Linen. Sandals. They have dry hair that wisps around without styling gel or chemical dyes. They’re drinking sodas made with sugar and caffeine. Juice squeezed from a real piece of fruit. And nobody seems to be smoking — except the tourists.
I haven’t seen a suit, male or female, since we arrived. And very few haircuts or clean-shaves. Lots of bicycles. Bicycles everywhere — enough to support at least four cycle shops — which is a lot for a town of fewer than 6,000 people. Lots of skateboards. Lots of motorcycles. Everyone seems to be driving a car purchased either for its fuel economy or its low environmental impact –or because of its clear utilitarian recycle-ability.
Most astoundingly — the sky is the clear, cerulean, deep-water blue I remember from when I was a child. The closest airport (except for very tiny personal planes) or multi-lane interstate highway is well over 75 miles away. No rail. Hardly any access at all except for the winding and twisting and roller-coaster 2-lanes through the mountains. This is a place off the grid. So far off the beaten path that nobody ever gets here by accident. If it isn’t intentional — you’ll never find it. A lot like Never-never Land.
Even the GPS — which recognized the address and got us from our home state to this completely different state — had trouble telling which way was up once we got beyond the last familiar 4-lane highway.
This is a Break State. Probably not for the people who live here — though I suspect it is for many of them. There are a lot of outsiders who have come here and just stayed forever.
And it is working for us.
Our first meal was at a place called “India House” — and it was. A family of immigrants from India cooking their family recipes; the US popular-culture favorites of Americanized Indian cooking; and a few of the better-known regional dishes from different parts of India.
Having never been to India — I can only compare it to the lush Indian cuisines found in the UK. And that comparison was wonderful.
Since then, we have eaten organic vegetarian soup; transplanted NY deli sandwiches; coastal Mexican/Yucatán dishes; Cuban; traditional Native American; dazzling bakery pastries — and ice cream cones dipped in melted Dove chocolate.
Today’s breakfast was a handmade green chili and fresh cheese tamale with green chili and cheddar; western hash browns (huge pieces of steamed potato and sweet onion fried up with green chilis and black pepper) and eggs. No need for lunch. Just a nap.
We’re staying in an historical building with walls over a foot thick — like a grotto. And I’m sleeping next to an open window.
That’s right. Asthmatic, allergic me. Sleeping next to an open window with 2 juniper bushes growing under it, both loaded with juniper berries.
We have been listening to audio-novels, including the latest wild and wooly Dresden Files novel, Ghost Story. (Jim Butcher’s Dresden has passed temporarily into the near theological path of Anne Rice’s vampire, Lestat.) No. Not literally. — though there was a short detour into the mind of Gene Roddenberry.
We have seen movies. And movies. And movies…. Thank God it’s summer!
And we have been recharging our batteries and answering that all-important question: what’s next?
More on that another time. Maybe. If it’s important.
What’s really important here is that the spell is broken. The pattern has been interrupted. This is an unconscious state — no facades. No barriers. No kidding.
The previous state is broken, and I am unwilling to think too hard about it.
And we’ve still questions to answer. Still books to read and paintings to paint. There are enough galleries and artists’ studios that we couldn’t visit them all if we stayed 6 more weeks. And movies. Stories. People. Experiences. Beautiful land. Beautiful rain and thunder and lighting and wind.
Double double toil and trouble….