My little shithole apartment in Maryland was being buried, inch by inch, in the frozen snow, until nothing was distinct or identifiable unto itself – not tree, or car, or front porch steps. Meanwhile, I thrust myself into the life breath of Northern California. From my new, much-improved Airbnb in Pittsburg, CA, a very suburban town to the Northeast of Berkeley and due east and across the bridge from Corte Madera, I began to explore. I came out here in search of an experience, in search of myself, my identity as a writer – like TRULY a writer – and that is just what I began to unlock.
I found myself in this beautiful house full of people, quite alone; quite lonely. No friends nearby, no friends that I’ve made while here available to get together. Friends at home were dealing with snow, lost in their own struggle for warmth and a semblance of normalcy despite the piling odds. Distant friends were evermore distant. It was the first time I questioned my decision to go to San Francisco for 5 weeks. In my solitude, I turned on my writer brain and started to observe what was happening in a new way and my whole demeanor changed. I decided it was the last night I would spend staring at the walls of a bedroom feeling sorry for myself.
The next day, I discovered a canyon of green, located on the other side of the hills outside my bedroom window that Adrian, the homeowner of my Airbnb, didn’t even know was there. Just as soon as my little rental car turned into the park, the cacophony of suburban sprawl went silent, completely blocked off by these gigantic green walls of grass and California clay. California clay is no joke – you have a finite amount of time to liberate anything it comes into contact with before it becomes a permanent addition to it. I’m sure my feet gained 10 lbs each with every step I took past the preserved houses, windmill and water tower and up the hill. It became a game of how far my feet would slide for every step I took, could I make it back down without falling. I laughed at myself and almost forgot to look up, but was grateful to the sun for casting sun shadows on the hills facing me or I would have missed the most glorious sunset.
That night, I took myself to Oakland, to do something else I’ve never done before: a flamenco performance. I went in, thinking it would be a man and woman doing some percussive Spanish dance. I was so wrong! The women stomped their feet at unrivaled speeds, to complement the most amazing guitar playing I’ve ever watched and heard and the warbling whining undulation of the singer. They clapped and contorted their bodies – so fiery, so raw and passionate. The most amazing guitar playing! It was such a far cry from the sorry state in which I found myself just a night before.
By Sunday, I was in the beautiful hills of Mill Valley, at the home of a potential client, where the food was all organic and healthy and so yummy, and the company equally unique in cultural, economic and life-calling background. The house was situated across from the most spectacular view of the area’s most distinct natural landmark, Mt. Tamalpais.
Sunday night, I became acquainted with a guy who could not only direct me to a Buddhist temple that is in my lineage, and by Monday night, I was getting a tour of the temple and sitting with him at dinner.
By Tuesday night, I had a new client, a beginning to my travel story – oh yeah… I’m here in San Francisco to write a story and learn how to pitch it! I should probably work on that.
How often are we guilty of not unlocking the gems of our own backyard, much less the gems within? I know there are parks and beautiful places that remain undiscovered in the DC suburbs, even after 18 years of living there. I don’t know if Adrian or her husband or father will ever venture to the Black Diamond Mine Regional Park or not, but sometimes it takes a stranger’s perspective, or the perspective found being in a strange place to unlock us from the routines that can kill our creativity. They say it takes at least 30 days to form a new habit. I am hopeful that my routine of going dull because of the shithole I live in or because of the chaotic, uncreative energy that I feel when I’m in Maryland will be dead and buried by the time I get back there.