Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My Special Place

RHYS BOWEN: I'm sure you've all found the past weeks as stressful as I have: spiteful, hateful political ads, voter fraud and intimidation, then the shooting in Thousand Oaks, a community that seems like the epitome of the American dream--elegant homes amid rolling hills, and those same hills being devastated by fire.

If I didn't have children and grandchildren in this country I'd seriously be thinking about moving somewhere else . The question would be where could I go? And would I want to uproot at this stage of my life? So what I have been doing is creating a fantasy escape in my mind.
I'm picturing that little English village (just like the ones Debs is now visiting). There are thatched cottages and an old stone church with a tower where bells ring every Sunday. There is a pub,  where there is a welcoming fire in winter and everybody knows everyone else.
There are flowers in gardens and horses and cows in fields and a village green where there is a cricket match every Sunday all summer. And I'd come out of my cottage, with roses climbing around the front door, put my basket on my arm and walk into the village to buy fresh bread at the baker's. And chat to other people along the way.

Doesn't that sound delightfully perfect? 

In moments of severe stress I also have another picture in my mind: a walk I did up to the Matterhorn in Switzerland. It is May and I'm walking through a carpet of flowers. The air is fresh and scented. There is the gentle sound of bells around the necks of cows in the meadow. I pass a little hut, come around the bend in the path and there is the mountain ahead of me, gleaming unbelievably white. And I just stand and stare and breathe.  I recall that image now when I need to breathe and be calm.

How about you? Do you have a place to escape to in your mind?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, it sounds like a Mary Pilcher novel! I love her books, which have people experiencing genteel tragedy and triumph in the most luscious domestic settings possible. I can't remember the plots, but i can still recall the description of the "fragrant David Austin roses gathered in a shining silver bowl." The bowl was on a table well-polished with beeswax, natch.

I love your country destination, but after decades of Maine winters, my fantasy location is somewhere warmer.  If I had my druthers, I'd head for New Zealand. Beautiful landscape of mountains and seas, friendly English speaking people, rich history and culture dating back thousands of years, and it's home to a liberal Anglican church. Plus that adorable accent! I swear any man sounds sexier when speaking in a Aussie or Kiwi voice.

HALLIE EPHRON: In moments of stress, I "take a walk" in the neighborhood I grew up in, go 'shopping' in the department store I could walk to, imagine floating in the ocean at one of the beautiful (hopefully still) beaches new San Juan in Puerto Rico. I also look at photo albums -- images of my children and grandchildren are enormously comforting. And I'm not going anywhere... I plan to be here to vote in 2020.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, there's a description of fragrant, climbing David Austin roses in the opening chapter of my new book! Maybe I need to add the beeswax...

Hallie, I look at photos of my granddaughter, too. And of my dogs and cats and my garden. Having just been to some of Rhys's idyllic English villages, I definitely see the appeal in that, and will probably spend a good bit of the next few months re-imagining my time there. I think about the Scottish Highlands, too. But my biggest stress-relieving fantasy place is almost always London. I know that seems a little contradictory, this huge, bustling city that certainly has its own share of problems, but I think I am never happier than when I'm just walking in London, and that's a nice thing to hold on to.

LUCY BURDETTE: And add the horrific California fires to the list of our stressors! After looking at your photos of the Cotswolds, that place sure appeals to me Debs. And I love Paris the way you love London. But just taking a walk through the back streets of Key West helps, as does walking along the beach in Connecticut. I lost my best stress relievers this year--Tonka and Yoda. We are sorting out whether to get a replacement, and if so, what. King George (Jenn's little rescue kitten) is a very good role model.

And ps, tempting as it might be to move, I'm here for the long run too!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Moving. Hm. You know? No. In moments of stress--which is like, always--okay, well let's put it this way. When I need to relax, I think about the pelicans on Nevis. We sit on the beach white white sand, not a person for miles. And the pelicans one two, three at a time, skim over the water, incredibly close, in two inches it seems, they'd hit. And they're fast. And then in an instant they go really high, then plummet into the water. Boom. And two seconds later, come up with a fish, gap it, then float on the surface. And every time they shimmy their little tail feathers. I could watch that for hours, and I can see it, vividly,  in my imagination. It calms me every time.  I'm seeing a lot of pelicans these days.

JENN McKINLAY: In times of stress, I go to the cosmos. I know, I'm a weirdo. When the Hooligans were little, we took them to the San Diego Space and Air Museum. They were having a special extraterrestrial exhibit - so fun with 8 and 9 yr old boys - and I bought a coffee table book of photographs from the Hubble Telescope. Whenever I am stressed by the world of humans, I look to the stars in that book. They are so bright and beautiful and a bajillion years old. I am fascinated while being reminded that human beings really aren't much more than cosmic dust, here for fleeting moments in the universe, and while it's important to live your best life, the things that we consider problems or tragedies aren't even a blip to the ever expanding cosmos surrounding us. I find great comfort in that.

RHYS: We have to confess that when Jenn started mentioning the cosmos we thought it was the drink (Cosmopolitans, you know?). And we all agreed they are quite good stress-relievers too!.

I think I'm lucky in that I find the Arizona desert is a great stress-buster, and also the walk we always take by the creek in California is pretty special too.


How about you, dear friends. How do you find peace in your hearts in stressful times?

54 comments:

  1. Like Jenn, I find stargazing to be a great stress reliever.

    And we have no plans to move, either.

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  2. When I feel stressed, I want to go home. At home, I have the fragrant roses (in season) and the loving dogs and cats. I have art on my walls and projects on my computer and in my sewing room to keep me occupied, and enough stuff left to do around here to allow me to make visible improvements any time I apply myself. Plus there are naps. Naps are splendid. I can walk from my home into a beautiful neighborhood where people wave at me and--if I wander a couple of blocks over--are apt to offer me that cosmo Rhys was picturing. Home is great, and getting better all the time. I don't want to move. I just want to work on making things better right here.

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    1. Love that sentiment Gigi, thanks for stating it so clearly

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    2. I confess to being a nap-aholic, too.

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    3. One of the best parts of working from home: Naps!

      Now that my husband has moved his office into the house, we often one or both retreat to our separate preferred napping spots, no longer feeling guilty about it.

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    4. So interesting! Nope, I’m not a napper… sometimes I’ll pull out a drawer, though, and organize it. It is so mindless, and sometimes nostalgic.

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    5. What home lacks right now, oddly enough, is music. Technology has moved on, and left my giant stack of CDs in the dust, but I'm not quite ready to invite Alexa into my home.

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    6. Gigi, a few years ago I copied all my CDs into MP3 files, some onto my PC, and the rest into iTunes. Apple, damn them, started deleting any music I had not bought directly from them, so I stopped connecting my iPod to the internet.

      But I still have a music library on my computer, and now can access it from any of my Windows devices. One of these days I'm going to finish uploading the CDs into my PC that I foolishly put into iTunes.

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    7. I bought a new computer a week or so ago, Karen and there are no CD slots. I'd have to buy a special peripheral to rip my CDs to Mp3 files. I have an iPod (very old) but one of the foster dogs chewed through the power cord on that. I have an even older 5-disk player, but have lost the rig that connected it to the speakers. It goes on. I'm looking at new tech for Christmas, if I can still find it.

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  3. Those are all comforting images. Thank you, Reds. I was feeling stressed yesterday and went for brisk my walk around the neighborhood. It was clear and crisp and I could feel my mood lighten step by step. I also escape into a good book. There's nothing like curling up on the couch with an excellent mystery. This afternoon I'll have warm homemade bread to go with it.

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  4. The ocean on the beach in Florida is where my stress slides away. I rent a condo for the winter (escaping New England) and spend hours and hours walking the beach. For the rest of the year: books, baking, time with friends (including long emails, texts, and handwritten notes, hugs from children and their smiles, reading Jungle Reds daily, and ice cream.
    After being shut out of commenting by whatever computer stuff happens, rejoicing today that it works. (But for how long?) ;-)

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    1. OH yes, Elizabeth. I find the beach very calming too.

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  5. I escape into a photo from our first narrowboat trip to Wales. The canal is surrounded by lush green foliage, reminding me of where I grew up in Indiana. The brightly painted boat is moored near an old stone bridge, with stone steps that lead up to the lane into the village. Obviously, there is a pub, and we can order pints of their best bitter, and chat about the World Cup match, before we head back to the boat under the moon and help the farmer herd his escaped sheep back into their enclosure.

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    1. Lisa, I'll take your vision anytime!!!

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    2. it sounds perfect Lisa. I wonder what you're eating??

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    3. Probably a steak and ale pie, or something with a fantastical name like Dragon’s packet.

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    4. I've always wanted to do a narrow boat trip. On my bucket list

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    5. The narrow boat trip is on my bucket list too. I first became acquainted with them when I read Deb's book, and in September I visited Nantwich and saw the boats she wrote about. So lovely on the canals.

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  6. I have thought about leaving--just to get away from all the ugliness--but, like Gigi, I am rooted in home and family. Last night, youngest nephew gave me a private rehearsal of a new song he's writing and his brother has been learning all these upbeat Christmas songs on the piano. The cats definitely help. And LOTR--first I watched (and re-watched) all the theatrical releases, then I discovered there was an extended version of the three movies, and then I found the appendices to the extended versions--currently working my way through those--the detail is fascinating--from the Tolkien scholars to the costume designs. And, of course, books--old favorites, new releases by favorite authors, and new-to-me authors to explore.

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    1. Wow! Talk about visiting a new place! Where would you like to live in the books?

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    2. Hank, since I'm not really Hobbit-sized, perhaps Minis Tirith--the City of Kings--so many little streets to wander....

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  7. What lovely escape fantasies we all have, and maybe they aren't really fantasies. Maybe. Like you Lucy Roberta, my favorite place on earth is Paris. When I'm stressed, or sad, or just longing for something different than ordinary life, I take myself to the 7th Arrondissement, to the little apartment just off the Rue Cler, where we've stayed for ten years now. It's tiny and time worn and right in the middle of the loveliest neighborhood in the city. I know every nook and cranny, where to buy the best bread, who has the best Bellinis, and what time the gentleman in the news kiosk packs up his business like an origami puzzle. It's quite the performance and lasts thru at least two glasses of wine.

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    1. Count me in on that image Ann! Is that the neighborhood that was the focus of a book?

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    2. Lucy,yes, more than one book I think.
      Hallie, we think this is the best place to stay in Paris. Walking distance to lots of things and public transportation is great. Also feel safe there.

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  8. Where I live is rather peaceful already so I don't plan to physically leave. But sometimes, usually in the middle of the night and I can't sleep and I hear the wind I have sort of hypnotized myself into hearing not wind, but waves crashing against the shore. So much better!

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    1. That’s so interesting! So wind keeps you awake, but water puts you to sleep. I love that!

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  9. I have to say just looking out at my backyard - with the occasional family of deer stopping by to visit is pretty relaxing. That and watching the flames in the fireplace.

    I'm simple, I know.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. GREEN! I'm with you, Mary. Better actually BEING in the backyard. She said as the temperature dropped into the 30s.

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    2. You are so right about the backyard! I could watch the ducks for hours… And it is so restful.

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    3. Mary, nothing wrong with simplicity. I enjoy watching the birds out of my kitchen window, which reminds me I need to put some more feed out today.

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    4. Hallie, yeah, it's gotten rather frosty here. And my yard is rather marshy with a slope, so having the big windows (all of which open for fresh air when it's warm) is the next best thing.

      Hank and Kathy - in addition to the deer, there are endless squirrels and birds (my neighbors have a feeder). And the variety of cats that treat my yard as a pass-through. Oddly, they don't scare off the birds and squirrels.

      Mary/Liz

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  10. Yes recently peace was hard to find. One of my friends left DC last year to retire to Uz├Ęs in the south of France and I wonder why I don't go. After all I was the French professor and can speak with the natives but then I have family and friends here. Last night my husband and I had a wonderful time at dinner with 15 friends at a restaurant in mid-town. This morning I have a church chapter meeting with good women and this afternoon a time with needlepoint friends. But really what has helped is to dive into your books. Some of them have become more than well-thumbed. One other author who helps as Julia mentioned is Rosamund Pilcher and I especially love WINTER SOLTICE. Set in Scotland, it always soothes and reassures me.

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    1. Being with friends makes such a difference! It is so… Perspective making!

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    2. Recently we've been renting a place in France in the summer. I love the way the French take time to talk and eat So civilized!

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  11. Yes, the deer! Thank goodness for the deer, who appear as if by magic, then vanish just as mysteriously. As much destruction as they cause, seeing them never fails to calm me, those graceful creatures.

    I'm on S18 of Midsomer Murders, and as idyllic as those postcard-pretty villages are, they all seem to carry ugly secrets, just like everywhere else. The same is true of our beautiful part of Kentucky; all along our three-mile long road there are dramas going on all the time. I guess, in the end, there's really no place like home.

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    1. Karen, yes, the stuff that mysteries are made of. My book-in-progress is set in an idyllic village, but of course it is not so idyllic after all--or we'd have no mystery.

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    2. Deer are the objects of my stress, Karen. Always in my street, my garden, eating everything. Ugghh

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    3. I hear you, Rhys. They are best seen at the farm, where they are too wary of humans to get close to the garden.

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  12. The Cape Cod beach where I vacationed for most of my life: the perfect summer day, a gentle SW breeze blowing, shore birds feeding on the outgoing tide, gulls overhead, song sparrows singing their plaintive song in the dunes, the osprey fishing off shore and flying back to the nest in the marsh.

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  13. My husband and I escape to Half Moon Bay, CA for a 5 mile walk along the coast and brunch at a local restaurant at least once a month. Our yearly escape is to rent a house at Sea Ranch, CA on the Sonoma/Mendocino coast and spend a week walking the coastal bluffs. Alas with these fires right now, we can’t escape. The Bay Area air quality is so horrible we are all wearing masks.

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    1. Last summer, when the temperatures started to soar here in Texas, my finger was hovering over the "Book It" button for a week's getaway to a lovely boutique hotel along the shore near . . . Well, Mendocino, actually, but then everything caught fire and I stayed home.

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    2. Half Moon Bay and The Flying Fish for lunch, used to be part of our weekend routine.

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  14. Hub is a beach guy - any beach anywhere anyway - and he’s calm. Just being outside makes me happy.

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  15. Dear Reds Community- this blog today has been a gift. Without too much detail, I live 15 minutes down the freeway from the fires, friends have been under evac orders and my beautiful beaches ... my places where I go to "escape" well, they are not places of refuge at the moment, are they?

    I've bookmarked today's blog and I've made a promise to myself to return to it "as needed" during the rest of the week.

    Thank you so much for sharing so graciously the things that matter.

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  16. Oh Lyda, I didn't realize you were so close to the fires. Be safe.

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  17. Rhys, I think your English village fantasy is perfect, and I'm going to borrow that one. Of course, realistically, it would be wonderful to have a hideaway closer where I could go to enjoy the nature of trees and walking paths and babbling brooks. I miss brooks or streams. When I was growing up, there was a lovely brook we rode beside in the car on our way to my parents' hometown. So, I think a brook is high on my list to provide peace and calm.

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  18. Rhys... have you read the Lady Hardcastle mysteries by TE Kinsey? Your ideal village is the setting for these books, though they are set at the turn of the last century. Although your description also reminds me of Constable Evans’ village....did that occur to you? I too would love to escape to London....the city does so well mixing the modern world into its history. I love how you can be walking down a perfectly normal street and turn a corner and feel like you’ve stepped back in time. My solace has always been the beach...I grew up an hour from Monterey CA, and walking those beaches brings me home in my mind. I now live in the mountains... it’s close, but not quite the same...

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  19. I snuggle with my kitten when I feel stressed (she is a VERY snuggly kitten once she has done her daily kitten parkour circuit). If there was teleportation I would get a little cottage in the Scottish Highlands to hide in. But my family is here so....

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  20. I write, I swear, then I write more. A notebook is handy at all times.

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  21. I don't really have a special place in reality. A fantasy special place, eh I don't know. To combat the BS that I can say is "damaging my calm", I usually just shut out the world. Lately I've found that on Sundays I don't even open the door to my house and just stay inside and avoid everyone.

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  22. This is still the greatest country in the world. The problem is the left still hasn't accepted that Hillary lost. Instead of coming up with ideas they're busy threatening Tucker Carlson's family, and other Republicans. My faith is not in the government. God is in charge and your faith has to be in Him, not the president, not the democrats, not the republicans. So am I stressed? No because God is first. If you want to leave the country, leave, you're not a tree, but as I said, you won't find a better country than this.

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  23. My #1 place is anywhere in the UK. When I’m stressed I walk myself through trips I’ve taken over the past 20 years to the UK and picture myself in some of the most calming places—Golitha Falls, Pilleth Church, Beachy Head—to name a few.
    #2 spot is Key West, FL. I’m currently spending a month each year in Key West and will probably increase that time when husband’s retired.

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