Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Garden of, Garden of Sea & Shore.


I love the idea of a beach. It's as close to a Garden-of-Eden scenario as I can get. In my head, I imagine a time of freedom in body image, good health, contentedness in being, close communion in Creator/creation relationship. Absolute perfection.

My idea of a beach: public space where all shapes, sizes and colors congregate - not to host a constant slew of cocktail parties with shallow communication - but to just be. To enjoy the mighty creation of the sea and the sand, wave upon wave, the salty wind in our hair. I truly believe this is what makes the idea of coming to the beach so appealing for me. And yes, so far this day has been gloriously restful and peaceful - lying on Folly Beach, napping, observing, writing. In my observations, however, I have been reminded of something else: the ugly lies of body image insecurities that plague so many, particularly noticing females today. Lots of skinny, tanned girls with skimpy bikinis. Lots of not-so-skinny, not-so-tanned girls (and guys) with t-shirts on over their bathing suits.

I hate the pressure put on women to be a certain color and body type. Driving to Folly Beach, I passed a Subway sign that simply stated, "It's beach season. Eat Subway. Get skinny." Yes, really. No exaggerations here. What were they thinking? Were they thinking?

Maybe part of this frustration stems from the battle with my own skin color and body image. It has taken many years (and still a choice I have to make nearly every day) to feel beautiful in my own skin. I think about how hard it was for me as a child to accept that I had freckles. I used to be so embarrassed by them. I noticed that most other little girls were not as freckle-y as myself and I allowed these observations to give birth to strong insecurity and a belief that I was, in fact, not very beautiful. These days, I cannot imagine feeling beautiful without them. What a creative Father I have! Some get tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery, wear lots of makeup...not that I am against these things, but I've never felt the need for any of them simply because I was already created with splashes of color...

And so I see these different shapes and colors along the beach and I know they are to be enjoyed and truly appreciated...looked upon as one of many creations from what was once many blank canvases. I am stunned by the beauty all around me.

Alas, our media does not feel this way. Sure, there are lots of pretty magazine article titles about "being yourself," but don't gain an inch of width, conceal all of our naturally created beauty and pretend you were born to look like everyone else's skewed idea of what beauty really is. And this, I fear, has become the new definition of "being yourself."

I suppose it is only fair to bring up the topic of good health. I see different sizes here, yes. I would be a fool to not acknowledge that many of the additional (or subtracted) inches I see are a result of improper stewardship of our health.

My "Garden of Eden" is full of varied sizes and good health.

There now, I am done thinking about this topic for now. Time to rest my mind.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Surface thoughts from an afternoon.


3:32 pm.
As cliche as this is, it never fails: the chubby guy with a cute puppy always gets the attention of the bikini-clad female. Always.

3:55 pm.
No, I'm not trying to look artsy. It's just hard to think of ways to entertain yourself when you've taken a vow of silence for your solitude retreat. Now back to collecting seashells as I wistfully gaze into the endless blue of the ocean whilst reciting poetry in my head...

4:01 pm.
Dude, just because you have dreadlocks and I look bohemian, doesn't mean we'll make a great couple. Or beach hook-up. So look the other way, please.

4:05 pm.
There's a man on a bicycle walking two puppies in front of him. I just heard the "Ben Hur" chariot race theme music in the distance.

4:06 pm.
Can't wait to tell Stephen Morrison that I heard his voice singing, "Nobody knows my name" as I walked around the hostel by myself this morning.

horseshoe crabs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Arriving.


It is cozy in this private room of Charleston's NotSoHostel. Titled the "Dylan Room," I cannot help but wonder if it is named after the great Bob Dylan. Single bed. Bare, wood floors. A quaint, antique-looking desk in the corner facing one of two windows.

Took three trips to lug all of my things into this room. This is my retreat, my getaway. So I want it to feel as comfortable as a simplified, bare-essentials-kind-of-way.

11:21 pm.
My TomTom (affectionately called "Templeton" on occasion) informs me that I have arrived at 516 Spring Street. So why can I not find what I'm looking...

11:42 pm.
Still driving in circles within a half-mile radius, I'm sure. And...sleep.

12:15 am.
My things are loaded in. There are quite a few people sitting and chatting on the second story porch outside of my room. Maybe I'll say hello?

12:16 am.
Oh wait. One predominant male voice is discussing (lecturing, perhaps? Certainly not conversing - I only hear one voice..) the economy and taxes. At 12ish am? No thanks. I'll be an introvert tonight.

12:50 am.
Room complete. So homey. Perfect for solitude. Now do I move it all out before 10 am? Money issues...

12:59 am.
Wash hands. Face feels gross. Everything feels gross after sitting in a car with myself for nearly 6 hours. Need to wash face. Why not use the hand soap for my face? Who says I can't? My face is covered in skin just as my hands are covered in an outer layer of skin. Done. My face feels awesome. And smells like lavender. Sometimes rebellion is the best option.

1:35 am.
(1) Time for sleep. (2) I'd really like to write more, though.
Okay you win, Option #2.

1:36 am.
On the drive here, I had a hypothetical glimpse into my near future (some prefer to call this a "daydream"). In this daydream, I chose this solitary retreat to be one not just of solitude, but a vow of silence. My dorm room neighbors were fascinated by my quiet manner and eventually asked me to explain. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the words: "vow of silence. spiritual thing." The girls were intrigued and invited me to the beach with them where we never spoke words to one another, but instead shared in the bond of peaceful, wordless days on the shore.

Such 'saintly' daydreams. We'll see how that pans out.

Now I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to spend my time in (1) silence. (2) Or mostly silence.
Option #2 again.

Okay sleep. Good night, me.


Lessons in Solitude: Reflections from a Vow of Mostly Silence.

I had been desperately craving to get away. Not in the usual wanderlusting-can't-stay-in-one-spot sort of way. I needed to be alone, to breathe without uttering words in conversation. It was a strange craving for someone like myself - someone that thrives off the words from good conversation, the verbal or non-verbal company of someone else. But it was undeniably a part of me and a part of me that I would soon remedy, given the first opportunity.

This first opportunity arrived for me in the form of spring break. The studios & school that I teach for were all taking this break on the same week, hallelujah! I quickly began researching hostels on the east coast, found a cheap one in Charleston, and made my way there on the night of April 20. My car was packed and I had Ollie, the travel owl and my bicycle for company.

Once there, I made a list of vows for myself - vows of "mostly silence." My life is filled with people, talking, conversation, introductions. All beautiful things, but it is my belief that an excess of anything is in need of a break at some point.

And yes, I was at that point.

One of these vows required me to write as much as possible, ESPECIALLY when I wanted to talk about it instead. I frequently begin talking about issues and struggles before I really let them steep and sit and be meditated upon. I am not against talking to someone you trust about the things you go through, but I do believe I am at fault for too quickly speaking and not enough time spent in thinking things through first.

Which leads me to the point of this note: my journal gained a good number of ink-filled pages throughout the duration of my stay in Charleston. This week I plan to post the thoughts I feel most publicly appropriate - lessons learned in solitude. Lessons learned in steeping. Lessons learned in resting.

We'll keep it light and simple for the first couple of posts.