So much for dreaming, so much for dreaming……
Ian and Sylvia
Fifty or so third graders were on the school bus and were as settled as they were likely to be for the trip back to school after the field trip. After the third head count and threats reminders to stay in their seats, my fellow teacher Patricia and I took our strategically placed aisle seats and prepared for the long ride ahead. The kids’ bodies were reasonably stationary, but their voices were in overdrive and ricocheted around the interior of our yellow metal torture chamber school bus like giant audio-enhanced mosquitoes.
I closed my eyes.
“Are you OK?” Patricia shook my shoulder a moment or two later.
“Oh, fine,” I murmured, “I just thought I’d go to my happy place for a while.”
Patricia laughed and replied, “Good plan. Wish I could do that.”
It’s easy when you know how. My happy place was far enough away to, well, make me happy while riding in an overheated cacophonous school bus. Yet, if blood or other mayhem had made an appearance, I could have been back in an instant to give Patricia a hand in what might euphemistically be called off-site classroom management.
I have several happy places that I visit regularly. On this occasion it was the beach at Seaside Park, NJ on a warm, yet pleasantly breezy, summer’s day. I spent summers there as a child, and many happy two week vacations there with husband and sons, but my Seaside Park happy place is a bit idealized. I am on the beach, alone with my book and my beach chair, listening to the sound of the surf and the happy sound of children playing.
There are no flies. Not a one. The children whose happy cries resonate all around me are not mine, so I don’t have to stop reading every 7 seconds to make sure the appropriate number of heads are visible in the surf. I can rely on the skill and attentiveness of the devilishly attractive and fit young lifeguards who seem to be always present in my line of sight when I’m in this happy place.
Far to the left are the amusement piers of Seaside Heights, colorful rides in motion and just the faintest hint of music in the air. Sandy did not happen, and everything is as it was. I can inhale deeply and smell the summer smell of Coppertone and the surf, paying no attention to the distant memory of my father grousing that the sea smell is just rotting eel grass.
When my shoulders begin to burn I head for the surf. The ocean temperature is always a crisp 68 degrees. There is no clinging slimy seaweed or broken shells to cut my feet, and there is not a jellyfish in sight.
That vignette of Seaside Park is a happy place I visit often, much more often now that I am a regular at CrossFit Ulster. I am delighted with what CrossFit is doing for me and my general health and well-being. I immensely enjoy my fellow CrossFitters and the good natured banter constantly going on during workouts. But there are times, and those times often include burpees or workouts involving lengthy repetitive movements that don’t require a whole lot of active brain power to complete, that I go to my happy place and try to leave my complaining and oxygen depleted body behind. It helps. A little. At least it smells better than those rubber mats that I so often find myself gasping on top of.
I have other happy places, too. Boston, where I spent my college years and a good many years thereafter, is one such place. And more recently, London, since I have visited our son there each summer since 2007. London has been a fictional happy place for most of my reading life, since I have always devoured books set in England. Once I had actually been there and seen many of the places I had been reading about for so many years, I had a whole new continent as a happy place.
My London happy place is a series of postcard images, even though I have now seen them in the flesh, as it were. Big Ben of course,
and the Houses of Parliament, the Thames and Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and the Mall, St. James Park and the Horse Guards. Even the tube and the taxis. In my London happy place I progress wide eyed from one architectural masterpiece to another, through magnificent sculpted gardens and into charming coffee houses and pubs.
I’ve been visiting my London happy place a lot recently, because we’ll soon be off for another visit. The trains will always be on time, there will be no crowds on the Embankment or around Big Ben. I will always get a seat on the tube and my feet won’t hurt as I try to take in as many of the sights as possible. There will be no lines to visit the touristy places that I am still a sucker for. But most of all there will be no heat and humidity; even a fine British mist looks jolly right about now.
Everyone should have a happy place or two to go to – whenever. I sometimes find it mildly disturbing that there are never any real people in my happy places, (nothing personal, Ben) only pleasing phantoms of people that are never rude or pushy but only – transparent. But then – I have plenty of real people of all varieties in my normal life, and that is quite enough for me.