Location, Location, Location—How A Place Can Call Your Name

1982? 1983? Youthful, happy, reckless, free in C’ville with Molly and Bridget.

Here I am back in Charlottesville. Again. Or should I say: againagain. It’s been nearly a year since I spent two weeks here. There was an unplanned extra week as I waited for my car’s new transmission to be installed, attended the gun control march in the wake of the Parkland shootings, and worked remotely as I tapped in to the energy of a place I have loved for 42 years, since the first time I saw it.

Albemarle County, country road… ah Virginia…

I was 17, a senior in high school, and envisioning what my life might be. As much as I loved the town, Albemarle County (full of horses and country roads), and the University, I did not at first think I was going to go to UVA. It was quite big, and I was still thinking small. I came very close to attending Kenyon instead—an awesome college I have utmost respect for. But as I energetically pointed my sights toward Ohio, something shifted, and I veered off that course, landing in C’ville a month before my 18th birthday. Destiny is real.

Thos Jeff’s column-defined ranges along the Lawn

This town has been the source of some of my greatest learning. I received an incredible education, creating my own course of study at UVA as a privileged young scholar. The university supported me through my financial independence from my family shortly after I started my second year, and as far as the people at the school were concerned, it was NBD for me to be a non-traditional student, working full-time at the C&O Restaurant and taking two to three courses a term, fall, spring, and summer, and getting my degree two years later than originally planned.

Human connections of untold value and importance happened here. Lifelong friends, an employer whose gut reaction (he hired me after I said, “Hi, I’m here to apply for the job”) led to a learning journey like no other(and great money, FYI), and, of course, first love. And second love. And third.

My boss at the C&O when I was 18-23–I still love him madly. Sandy McAdams.  

Serpentine walls –UVA trademark and another reason to love everything about C’ville

I feel certain that my destiny will bring me back here to live again in the energy field of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the history—both tortured and significant—of this oh-so fundamental part of the nation, the learning community that is the University and the people and the town itself.

It is no freak of chance that Charlottesville attracts so many energy healers, so many writers, artists, and artisans, so many seekers. This place heals and it also (sometimes grudgingly, sometimes joyously) receives healing.

My astromap.

For kicks, I looked at how my astrological chart interacted with Charlottesville. Fascinating. One thing stood out: the place lends itself to exploring the depths of my psyche, meditation, contemplation, and self-healing. Sounds good to me.

Drawing by Georgia O’Keeffe of the University’s rotunda…

I have history here, a now here (now, this minute, sitting with my latte at a coffee shop among other coffee-seekers), and a future here. Life unfolds—or does it extend… like a sailor’s spyglass, to reach through the depths of now into the other nows that happen just out of sight?

When friends I’ve known longer than my kids have been alive hang out with me and my kids in C’ville. Serendipity.

A Week Away

Great blue heron taking flight.

Great blue heron taking flight.

A week away. It is a luxury most citizens of the world never experience. For those of us lucky enough, it seems as if we could not live without a week away, now and then. For people with enough money to live without financial fear, time often seems as valuable as money. I doubt an unemployed, homeless or starving person would think so. But for the purposes of this blog, I will proceed from the proposition that time is a rare and precious commodity, like oil, real estate with a view, diamonds, fine wine or a thoroughbred horse.

My favorite place for a week away: Chincoteague Island, VA. A barrier island with another barrier island, Assateague, beyond it, a mere causeway away, where pristine beaches and wild ponies can be found.

But now I ask myself why, when I give myself the gift of time, is it so hard to cherish every moment, guilt free? If I am doing something that seems “useless” – like watching an episode of Game of Thrones on my computer – I think, “I could do this at home in the evening, after dinner dishes are done. Why do it here, on vacation?” If I linger for an extra hour with a book in the morning, before getting everyone motivated to do something “vacationish,” I have failed at my maternal job of helping everyone drain the last drop of fun and relaxation out of the week. As emails from work and clients clog my inbox, I wonder if my “vacation response” is good enough?

Once the daily heave-ho takes place and I finally find myself sitting in a lowslung chair on the beach, brushed by the persistent sea breeze and letting only my tiptoes peek out from the edge of my umbrella’s shade, I let it all go for awhile. I can lose myself for hours. The gulls’ needle sharp caws, the shushing of the waves and the wind muffled sounds of nearby children building ramparts against the tide lull me as few things can. I love the way my skin accrues a gentle, gradual skin of sand granules atop sticky salt atop sunblock. When the sun lowers, I drag my chair to the water’s edge, nudging back against the off shore wind, holding my hat on my head, reading in the slanting light until the sand on my skin is less fun and it is time to break the spell.

And though I fear the waves, I love the feel of the ocean holding me up. I have the strangest relationship with water. I am drawn to it only on the shores of oceans. It’s the tides that draw me, but not to play or body surf or boogie board as my family can do for hours and hours. But to “bob” as we call it. To get past the scary breaking surf to where the waves just swell and pass by, lifting my body as if it weighed no more than a jellyfish. Ever since the time, about 15 years ago, when I lay on an inflatable raft and “bobbed” my way out too far, I have maintained an enhanced respect and attunement while in the ocean. But though I never quite relax in those gentle swells—I know they can become ungentle in a heartbeat—I feel embraced and loved by the universe in a way I never do anywhere else.

This past week, we reserved spots on a boat that circled the island. Because Chincoteague is bracketed on one side by the mainland and the other by Assateague, most of the trip was in the inlet waters between bodies of land. At the southern tip we entered open sea for an exhilarating 20 minutes or so. This trip provided two joys—speed and getting close to places I could not see any other way.

I no longer downhill ski with the abandon I once did, so hitting that adrenaline high of open-air speed that I not-so-secretly love is a rare event. Sitting in the prow of the boat as it zipped around the tip of the island sent me into a luscious trance. The boat slowed often, to show the sights and to edge into the circuitous lanes, called “guts,” that wend through the marshy edges of Assateague. In the silence of those moments, we saw wild ponies, herons, egrets, even a bald eagle, who perched like a pagan icon on the sea-rotted stump of an old dock foundation.

For the three hours of that boat tour, I let everything go. I did not think about my clogged inbox. I did not feel torn about where I “should” be or what I “should” be doing (what an absurd idea!). I did not think about the dinner that awaited (even though it was the best BBQ on the Eastern Shore). If I had any responsibilities in the world, I was not thinking about them at all. There was nowhere else I would want to be—ever, it seemed. As the sun set behind buttermilk clouds and the lighthouse started to send its beacon, the air chilled. Our captain handed me a blanket on cue, and I continued to simply be.

Wild pony on the shore of Assateague Island.

Wild pony on the shore of Assateague Island.

Open sea. Island tip in the distance.
Open sea. Island tip in the distance.