As a child, the memories of my most beloved escapes occurred when we lived in the country. I would disappear for hours outdoors. Exploring the woods next to our house. Running through our neighbor's fields to their spacious old barn; their dog, Norton, on my heels, to climb and play and nest among the scratchy hay bales and comfort of its sweet aroma. Petting the droopy-eyed, red velvety, spotted jersey cows while they methodically grazed; gingerly approaching the friskier black horses, Skip and Lady, to feel their soft lips against my hand and the earthy smell of their coats. Climbing as high in the branches of the cherry trees outside our yard as I could muster the bravery to also climb back down. Arranging the inside of the two-story playhouse Papa built for me as if I had stumbled upon a deserted cottage in the woods. I'd sit there, sometimes for hours, writing stories or keeping a little diary written from the perspective of whichever character I was pretending to be that day. Not surprisingly, some of my favorite stories were the Secret garden, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and the Boxcar children series. I had imagination in abundance.
These days, I may not have a barn to escape to, fields to run through, cows or horses to pet. Yet it's funny how these moments will return to me, as if reincarnated, when I get the sudden urge to climb a tree, visit a farm, pet a goat, read a children's book, play in a fountain, stomp in puddles or drive through the countryside. Now I have incorporated more 'adult' diversions. I lose myself in my online Spanish course, imagining I was living in the pictures on my screen, speaking a language other than my own. I research newfound interests, like how to plant and grow tomatoes and how to live a shampoo-free life. With my camera around my neck, I stroll Seattle neighborhoods, straining to see life through a different lens.
I sweat my stresses out in weekly Zumba classes, grinning like a sweaty kid on the playground. I step outside my normal self to feel the music of salsa and dance as if life always felt so carefree. I create delicious meals with whatever ingredients I happen to have around, unleashing a different sort of imagination, and savor (or sometimes not) the final product. I hike around my favorite Seattle parks - Discovery, Lincoln, Carkeet - and stroll along the waters of Alki Beach, the downtown waterfront, Lake Washington, or Greenlake. I explore new and not-so-new neighborhoods in my city, admiring the houses, watching the people, browsing the shops, making mental notes of places I want to return to. Sometimes, I escape into a good mystery read late at night, some series about an ordinary sleuth living a somewhat simpler life in a small town, full of quirky, familiar characters. And I sit for hours in my favorite local coffee houses, savoring a delicious, roasty cup of coffee and doing one of the things I love the most: writing.
I love these simple escapes, this smattering of diversions throughout my daily life. They help energize me, in the way the sun floods my soul when it comes out after a winter of gray skies in Seattle, helping me be present in the ebb and flow of everyday life, helping me to stay connected with that curious, playful child still inside of me.