I recall suggesting to my yoga students in Japan that they close their eyes, deepen their breath, and imagine themselves in a place where all of their cares in the world seem to melt away. It could be an actual place, or one that they designed in mind, but should be a place where they were overcome by quiet to the point that they could hear their own heart beat, and could thus move about space to its rhythm.
A place whose beauty and innate purity allowed their mouths to relax and fall open such that they were completely taken with each moment, certain that they were having an “experience” with each passing second. An utterly indulgent and luxurious experience that made them feel, at once, as if they were the only person on the planet, and also the most privileged for they were viewing a bit of the world, savoring a sacred slice not available to those who couldn’t be bothered with stopping to enjoy.
For me, in that time, my actual place was our house in Okinawa – moments from the beach, its glass and paper walls were frequently filled with the sounds of the ocean, the wind in the sugar cane, birds playing in the hibiscus, or quiet, pure and complete. I felt that we were living at the ends of the world. And, I felt that I had all the time in the world to stop, smell, smile and wrap myself in each bit of that place.
When we moved back to the U.S, this brick and mortar happy place disappeared, swallowed up by the fast moving traffic, loud white and other noise that filled our new Portland surrounds. And so, in searching for relaxation I would wrinkle my forehead and attempt to allow our Okinawan house to scoop me up from within my imagination. Until we took our first trip to The Secret Valley.
Friends so close they are practically family had invited us to share this special place, their little cabin named Moose Lodge located somewhere between Bozeman and just Big Sky with them, and so we obliged. That first drive through golden fields in the early spring was not in vain for we found, that among other places, paradise can be found in Montana.
And so we return each year, at least once( if not twice) because of the quiet, the awe, and the simplicity of life that this little cabin, beneath this great big sky breeds in us. Because of the luxury innate in tossing your to-do list to the wind so that you can play in the snow, or romp the trail. Because we don’t actually have to close our eyes, wrinkle our foreheads, or contrive an alter-reality to find the place where we can heart nothing but heartbeat, and so we move to its rhythm all day.
This year, our first exodus to this seemingly “secret valley” fell just in time to allow a bit of decompression before our move to California in a few weeks. It isn’t frequent that snow has fallen in such fantastic piles this early in the year and so we were very lucky to experience the Big Elk Meadow, the Valley, Pioneer Mountain, and its surrounds in all their white glory.
Skiing, snowshoeing, shooting, romping, and riding around in the champagne powder that just didn’t seem to want to stop falling was our modus operandi this week. As was sleeping in, waking up slowly with big mugs of coffee, reading in the paper about news that seemed to be effecting the world one million miles away. In the evening, when the sun had set beyond the ridge and the elk and big horn sheep had crept back into the wilds of the forest, we would gather by the fire to enjoy new hot cups of homemade soup, cider with brandy, red wine and good company.
I have always thought myself to be a beach girl. Even growing up in Colorado, and spending a good bit of time playing in the Rocky Mountains, I was certain that the sea was where “it was at.” It is true, I do thrive by the ocean. But I have also learned that I thrive on a muddy trail, in a warm bakery, on a deserted island and underneath a blanket buried in a book since we left Okinawa.
I am completely overjoyed to find my little body and soul rejuvenated by the trip, the time, those mountains, that view. That place. Enough that I am already planning a trip to go back to play in the snow, and maybe another in the summer to ride bikes in the dirt, to romp the trails, soak up the sweet smell of evergreen, and enjoy the fireplace at the base of the mountains as the same sun sets over the ridge.
In a season of gratitude, I find myself most thankful for the luxury of having these “happy places.” It is a luxury to know that peace of mind is yours to have and to hold, and to know where to go to find it. And for that, I am truly a wealthy woman.