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Just a breath away ...

August 21, 2013 - Phyllis Sigal
We all have our favorite places.

There are ones that may speed up our heart rate a bit. But there are others that calm our being to a relaxing "aahhhhh," places where we can just breathe.

In my yoga class, sometimes we "go" — mentally speaking — to a favorite place. (My yoga class is one of those favorite places, too, so my imagination doesn't have to stretch itself too far.)

One of my "aahhhhh" places — the one I usually choose while in yoga class — is stretched out, on my back, floating in a lake. I'm thinking about Long Pond, in Maine, a place where our family canoed one day, years ago. It was so quiet, and the water was as smooth as satin. The day still glistens in my memory.

I have another spot that lives on in my mind: a certain rock overlooking a river near Senaca Rocks in the Eastern Panhandle of W.Va. Many, many, many years ago, we camped on this rock above the river. The sky was a perfect blue; the trees a bright, bright green; the air the freshest of fresh. It couldn't have been a more perfect weekend. Aaaahhhhhh.

Another "aahhhhh" place is Chautauqua Institution, where I visited last weekend. I was there to see singer/songwriter Paul Simon and former poet laureate Billy Collins talk about the creative process of writing. (Another blog, perhaps.) The event was great, but the "aaahhhh" comes when I walk through the gates to this place that takes me somewhere special every time. A stroll along the lake or a nap on my blanket lakeside are heavenly.

Cape May, N.J., is another "aahhhhh" place, with its lovely Victorian architecture, exceptional restaurants and of course, the ocean. I feel lost in another time period here, one in which sometimes I'd just love to stay.

When I travel to Ocean City, N.J., primarily to visit friends, as soon as I cross the bridge where the ocean beckons me, I feel at home. I smell the ocean, feel its breeze and am totally under its spell.

Just up the road, I feel a certain satisfaction when I arrive in my daughter's town, Sewickley, Pa. I love it there, maybe because I'm spending time with Amanda, but also because it's vibrant yet quaint, with lovely shops and quiet streets on which to stroll.

New York City is a city I visit often, to spend time with my son Leland. It's certainly not the peaceful "aaaahhhhh" place; a visit there is more of a rush of excitement. So much to do, so many places to see, so many people. It's more of a "WOW" than an "aahhhhh." Sometimes when in NYC, I need to mentally take myself to one of those "aahhhhh" places just for sanity, however!

And that's the key, isn't it? If at any time, no matter what I'm doing, no matter what the stress level, if I can take myself to the ocean, the lake, the river, the quaint streets of a favorite town, a sense of calm is only a breath away.

Just breathe. Calm is only a breath away.

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