I was in a place last week many people consider paradise: San Diego has temperatures averaging 70, sunny and dry days, light breezes to ruffle the palm trees, the Pacific Ocean right outside your door. At the house my family and I rented, we could sit outside and eat, admire the pink flowering bushes, the brightly colored hummingbirds, the shimmering turquoise blue of the swimming pool. For our meals, we picked lemons off the tree in the backyard. Every morning I woke to exotic bird cries.
Of course, there’s a downside to paradise because everyone wants to live here. The roads are clogged, as are the beaches. It felt like we spent most of our time sitting in traffic, endless bumper to bumper cars. This was complicated by the fact that our group of six necessitated two cars and constant communication on our cell phones: make sure you turn here, did you miss the signs for the highway? You’ll have to go back. We’ll pull over and wait for you.
Even harder was navigating the difficulties of six people with different ideas about the best activity, best route and what to eat for lunch. By the time I got home, I had too much of driving, never having enough time, negotiating our plans endlessly each day, never being able to find a parking spot, everything taking three times longer than it should. And when I got home, I had deadlines to make. After a few days, my mind rebelled. I didn’t want to do anything that I was supposed to do.
So I headed to the cabin, and as soon as I saw the buff-colored granite rocks of the St. Vrain Canyon, I could feel myself breathe again. Traveling the 15 miles or so through these steep rock walls, I saw only four other cars. At the cabin, all was quiet except for the birds, a few new springtime cries, and the drip of the melting snow off the roof. When I sat to meditate, I saw a coyote trotting down the road. When I went for a walk, it felt like the world had been vacated. I saw no one, not even a car, and heard not a voice, only the barking of a distant dog.
March and April are not beautiful months up here. The still huge piles of snow have become crusty, pocketed, lost their luster. Where the snow is melted, the grass is brown and matted. The landscape is various shades of brown, with dark green thrown in for variety. It’s a far cry from San Diego’s pink bougainvillea, lush green lawns and the sparkling turquoise of the ocean. Instead of pelicans flying low over the water, Stellar’s jays squawk at me.
But at the cabin I can hear myself think, slow down to the pace of the water dripping from the roof, open myself to the sun filling the valley every morning and have a wordless conversation with the rabbit I surprised behind the back deck, its nose twitching madly.
I’ve been to paradise and back, and I’m glad to be home.