Sitting on an edge, far north Monterey Bay, Capitola tucked behind an echoing bluff. Her old wooden pier an offering to the sea, Pleasure Point capping the farthest reach of land. Here I’m gently held by the horizon, that asks nothing in return, just bestows silent comfort as it surrenders, softly circular, to the duet of earth and sky. I find myself yearning for this, quintessential wide open space, whenever I’m hemmed in by urbanity.
I wish I could remember the name of a book read in my early twenties. The young protagonist was newly embarking into the work-a-day world. Her alarm rings on Monday morning and in that dream ‘tween state she imagines the 8 to 5 week ahead. She fully awakens, stunned by the agenda she has unwittingly agreed to. Trading her life away for a mere two days on the week-end.
At this same age, this realization slowly dawned on me as well. It’s what spurned me to chuck it all before I turned thirty and crazy travel for four months. Not once, but twice. But life has a way of tumbling forward and all that brilliant awareness was buried under marriage and children, home ownership and careers. The middle class American dream-come-true. And yet…so much beauty, not one regret.
But wide open spaces never stopped calling me out. And what I am coming to understand is that the natural landscape/urban world dichotomy is a physical one, yes, but the metaphor of it lives inside us. And I’ve been an eager student unknowingly soaking up the tutelage of wide open spaces my whole life. Two decades ago my 8 to 5 shifted into something much less predictable but actually just as time consuming. I appreciated the change up, barely knowing what the day might hold. Time off was weirdly interspersed and, as the years went by, slowly became more plentiful. Covid totally boosted that down time.
Interesting phrase: down time. Because mostly I am finding it very uplifting. Very seductive. Very about time. There certainly has been more travel to the landscape of wide open spaces, especially in the form of camping. Which I’m up to right now. But the fact is, I am increasingly tuned in to the wide open space when I’m home. An agenda-less afternoon here; a list-free morning there; an evening with nothing in particular to do. This feels new, at times interesting, curious, exciting. At other times weird, frustrating, frightening, boring.
There are many emotional scales like this one. Which is not particularly fabulous, but caught my attention this week:
You can look at it for general attunement to what you feel right in this moment. Pretty limited, but a good starting point. What captivated me more was where I generally hang out these days. And it’s fascinating how that has shifted of late. Because to tell you the truth, I am mostly, and most simply, content. Pretty even keel. Lacking of melodrama. A little nostalgic for the old roller coaster at times.
Notice that right beneath content is boredom. And here’s what I’m noticing: boredom is sprinkled throughout the field of wide open space. Frustration and doubt are scattered there as well. Travel up the scale to see all the other juicy feel-good inhabitants co-existing in the wide open space.
However, those challenging ones—boredom, frustration, doubt—can often turn out to be uber-rich fertilizers of that field. These sentiments can be so exquisitely uncomfortable that we doubt the beauty of the field and do anything to steer away from those wide open spaces.
With all the changes in my work life, with all the ways I am working with younger people and willingly taking steps back, it sometimes feels like I’m putting myself out to pasture. And I suppose I am, partly cuz I’m intrigued with this wide open pasture. Willing to move with boredom, dance with frustration, be face-to-face with doubt. Content to breathe and be. Satisfied to sit for awhile, right here and now, and see what authentically arises of its own accord.
It was good, that life in the fast lane. But you’ll find me way over in the right lane now. Falling in love with noticing, appreciating and harvesting the complexity and simplicity of an endlessly transformative scene slowly passing by.