Escape

There are places where you experience a sense of peace and well being.

They’re different for each of us.  And, of course, they change with time. When we moved to downtown Colorado Springs, when the kids were little, I used to love walking down from our apartment in Cache la Poudre to Acacia park.  When we moved in Colorado Springs had barely recovered from being foreclosure capital of America.  There were a lot of establishments that were closed, and a lot that were occupied by… well, lower-rent businesses than they would otherwise be.

So, it was a “small town America” experience. Heck, when students were on vacation and it wasn’t the height of tourist season, the place seemed like a ghost town.  And I liked it.  There were three bookstores (two used), a library and a park all within walking distance. I’d pop the baby in the carriage and go. Summer or winter, I could see people, maybe grab books (usually from the free bookshelf outside the store, which is how I spent the nineties reading really bad gothic romances and out of date medical compendiums.)  As the kid got older, I’d get us hotdogs. Or malted milk.

It was a sacred place, and a sacred time. A thing I did that fed that place in me that needs…. sanctuary. A place where I feel safe and happy.

It has changed. I have changed.  And of course, neither son fits in a carriage. And if he did, I wouldn’t be able to push it. 😉

There were other places where I used to feed what we’ll call for lack of a better term, my soul.

In our house in Manitou Springs, where the kids were little, I learned to get up before they did. About two hours before they did. Why? So I could get some writing in before they started running screaming through the house.

That meant I was up often when the first whisps of sunrise pinked the horizon.  I loved, when it was not too cold, to go out and sit on the wall of the porch (the outer wall. It was broad enough for me to sit, with my back against one of the columns) and watch the sun rise, while drinking my coffee.

Well, we don’t live there, and the owners after us turned it into a meth house, then it became cheap apartments.  So — even if I went back, it wouldn’t work.

There was always Pete’s Kitchen, on Colfax.  It’s just a greasy spoon.  Thing is, I LIKE greasy spoons.  When we started going there, in the early nineties, honestly, it was borderline dangerous.  Only the fact they gave free meals to the police kept it more or less safe.

We started going there when one of the kids was walked in by the hand, the other carried in a car-seat carrier.  We’d go there when on weekend vacation in Denver, but also when we went to the airport in Denver. It was a ceremony to go there last thing before the airport, then first thing in the morning.

It was changing even before the shutdown.  It was becoming less…. magical?  Nothing wrong with it, but the feeling of being a special place was fading.  I don’t know why.  Oh, it was still a fun place to go, late at night, with older son, to sit over a narrow table, drinking endless cups of coffee and plotting novels.

But son is otherwise occupied, and well…. now it closes at nine.

The DMNS used to be special to me. When I was feeling tied down in daily stuff, I would do the walk through the hall of life, leading from first organisms to dinosaurs, and marvel at the irrelevance of my concerns.  Lately they’ve gotten — more than — a bit silly, but I could still enjoy it, only you know, masks, and I have asthma.

But the thing about sacred places is that they don’t need to be “real” places.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are places in my head, dreams and stories I dreamed so long and so clearly that — like some external places — they have the power to renew me.

One of those is the first world I created.  Another isn’t even a world.

When I was very little — and very sickly — I spent entire weeks in bed (the best way to understand this is to know that though there were antibiotics, Portuguese culture hadn’t internalized that fact.) Mostly alone, because of fear of contagion.  I often say I learned to read in self defense.

But before I knew how to read, I used to build entire cities out of lego, and imagine the people living in them.

If I was really sick, I just concentrated on this little wooden house in the shape of a mushroom that mom had on her bedside table. I think it was supposed to be a jewelry box? But it was a mushroom, with a painted door and a painted window.  I imagined an entire. populous family living there.  It was… soothing.  (And no one knows what happened to that box. I’ve asked.)

Through a really bad time in my life, I took these little (about half inch at most) plastic dogs that came in detergent boxes (which in Portugal at the time were like cereal boxes here. They had toys, which caused kids to entice mom to buy it, rather than make her own soap as she always had.  Only the toys were really crappy. These were figurines of dog breeds) and which grandma had collected.

I’d build houses for them out of twigs and leaves. Vast complex, multi-building … villages?  And then the dogs had lives and adventures.  And for the time I was playing with them, it was real, and I wasn’t in my own, complicated life.

Is it escapism? Running away?

Sure. But you can’t grow or even — just — heal, while you’re under constant hammer blows.

Everyone needs sanctuary now and then.  A place; a time that’s somehow sacred (distinct from the real sacred places of religion.n, of course. That’s different. More serious, for one.) A place to stop, draw breath, relax. Fill your proper outlines.

I do know that in my future there will other places, probably in completely different cities.  Places where I will draw strength or feel enchantment.

Right now?  Not so much of that.  And yet I need it, because things are going to get quite a lot worse before they get better.

So I’m trying.  Maybe I’ll learn.

There’s this little house shaped like a mushroom, deep in the middle of the forest.  If I open the door, there will be a fireplace lit, and a table set for tea, and three chairs, on one of which a fat orange cat sleeps.

Won’t you take the other chair?  There will always be time to go back to the real life and fight the real battles.

For now, though, let’s escape reality and its terrors, and have a cup of sweet tea and dream.

30 comments

  1. Starting when my son was about a year old (he’s 24 now), my favorite escape was taking him on a Sunday morning visit to a local bookstore. It was Barnes & Noble at first, but Borders (remember them?) and various independent bookstores worked just as well. We’d browse the children’s books and curl up in a chair with the ones that caught our (mostly his) eye, I’d read to him, and we’d buy the ones we enjoyed the most. If I was very lucky, he even let me browse the science fiction section before we left. He lost interest in those father-son trips around age 10. Bookstores haven’t held the same magic since.

    Beyond that, my escapes have always involved stories. Books, movies, television, comic books, and role-playing games. The medium doesn’t matter as long as the story is engrossing. When those stories became harder to find, I ended up writing my own in self defense. And now I have entire universes to escape into.

  2. Back when I used to meditate more regularly, I had a whole house and external beach built up in my mind, I had done it so often that I could close my eyes and count down the 10 stair steps to the door in the basement and I would be there. It was kind of like Victorian/Baroque/Old Fashioned inside with bookcases and 2 fireplaces and a white sand beach out the French doors with an endless Caribbean Ocean vista beyond that. Horses sometimes ran on the beach and would stop for a pet or ride. Inside this place was healing. I even did guided meditations (light hypnosis) for people from time to time when I was younger (Mostly in basic training and AIT) where I took them to this place, it was healing for them too.

    The little New Age and Rock shops in Ellicot City, MD were a wonderful escape for the soul when the kids were little (yep, changed). Driving around in the mountains and back roads, singing when we were broke with the kids, stopping to climb rocks or trees for a while. Lake shores (until the whole lot tried to drown themselves). There have been other places from time to time with the magic you speak of, but, like you, I have learned that they are situational. They are a sanctuary for that time and place. Books used to be that, too, but I almost never read books anymore. Migraines, bad vision and too much slush reading has ruined most of that for me. I can occasionally get lost in one for a couple of hours, but it’s pretty rare any more, and that makes me sad.

    Art can be a little sanctuary for me sometimes.

    But, the house in my mind it still brings that peace. So, you are welcome to visit mine, and I will happily come and visit yours.

  3. Yep. I’ve had many sanctuaries through life. I still remember the early ones, a few I’ll never write, and the one I did is still changing and growing, refusing to be pinned down.

  4. Philip Jose Farmer wrote a series titled overall “The World of Tiers,” about a race of very powerful (technologically) humanoids who called themselves Lords. Their capabilities were so great that they could create “pocket universes,” seemingly without limit or limitations — and many of them did, just to have a playground or hideaway. Jack Vance made use of a similar idea in his novelette “Rumfuddle.” I could wish…but then, I can barely keep up with the maintenance requirements on this place!

    1. Two interesting facts that came out in the series.

      One, our Earth was also one of the Created universes (nothing outside our Solar System was real).

      Two, the Lords’ home universe was also a Created universe (with nothing outside their Solar System was real) but the Lords didn’t know who/what Created their universe. [Crazy Grin]

    1. Writing is my escape. I’m down to perhaps half an hour a day, six days of the week.

      Sometimes, when things are really tight, I’ll close my eyes and run off to see what Rada Ni Drako and Joschka are up to. (Chaos and trouble, usually. She’s old enough to know better, and he’s supposed to be the calmer, wiser spouse. But no, no, that’s now how it seems to work.)

      1. Writing is my escape, too. There probably won’t be any craft fairs or markets this fall, so I’m going all-in on the next book.
        Curiously, I keep going back in dreams to my maternal grandmother’s house: a little 1920s white painted frame cottage, with an enormous oak tree out in front, and a nectarine tree in back. I can see the flowered wallpaper in the back bedroom, and look at the three shelves of books over the bed, which must have been the most books that anyone in that neighborhood had when my mom was growing up.
        Weird – I keep going back there in dreams, every few nights.

  5. Although my years living as an utter dependent only rarely involved tissue damage, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. I NEEDED an escape. I found a bit of that in the few children’s programs that were available on television in the 1950’s. Captain Kangaroo! The Popeye Club!
    How WONDERFUL it was when I learned how to read! As long as I could find a book, I didn’t have to depend on a functioning TV + station programming!
    Regrettably, chemical escape entered my life at about age 14. A school assignment to read “Brave New World” didn’t frighten me with its’ regimented society; it made me LONG for it, and the ready escape they had available in soma: “A gramme is better than a damn!”
    It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I recognized & regretted that I couldn’t combine literary escape with substance-induced escape. After a certain amount of Jack Daniels, I couldn’t focus on Robert Heinlein and Larry Niven.
    It’s been quite a few 24 hours since I took my last drink. I still love to get lost in the land of words. Fortunately, I also learned how to make my outer reality a place that doesn’t absolutely require that I escape from it. It was mostly an inside job, but there have definitely been changes in my environment.
    As I sit and ponder this, I think I’m most proud that I was active in making sure that for my kids, and as far as possible, for my grandkids, they would have ACCESS, but not as much NEED for the escape as I did.
    Peace be on your household.

  6. For the last 3 days, I’ve been crafting Ketchup. Being involved in the process, seeing what we’ve mostly grown turned into little jars of flavor, and carefully gifting to those we love is my escape.

    If one is fortunate, we find a place that is ours and do what we like before putting on the face we must to go forth.

    Small things in a big tempest carry us through.

  7. Escaping things in the past…bookstores, good ones. There was a used one that I always imagined as how a dragon would horde books-just roughly organize them and put them anywhere. It was two blocks away from a place which would get Japanese TV shows on VHS and you could spend…$3? $4?…and get a four episode run of the latest shows in Japan. It was where I first saw Evangelion and Victory Gundam and quite a few other shows. That I couldn’t understand a word they said probably was a good thing.

    A block from them was a video game store ran by two guys that had EVERYTHING for sale. Including the home NeoGeo system (if the cartridges weren’t $200 each…). And they would talk to hours to a teenage kid that tried to get a job there so much…

    There were good TV shows on, and I remember when KTEH had a Sunday Science Fiction night-it’s how I discovered Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf, The Prisoner(with the Scott Apel post-episode commentary), and quite a few others. Video games, and going to the actual video game arcade when they had one.

    San Francisco was always a good escape. Lots of neat things. Japantown was where I really found my taste for anime and Japanese culture and playing the original Playstation and the games that never came to the US for one reason or another. Haight St had some good bookstores and Amoeba Records-which was probably the only real record store when Tower closed. Oh, and Gamescape, when it still actually carried games and not puzzles.

    Conventions-however much I might bitch about it, I liked working SiliCon until the last year they were open. Until I learned how deep the rabbit hole went (and they went really hard-core gay), Further Confusion was fun as well. FanimeCon is still good, but there’s a starting creep of the wokescolds there-they deliberately put all of the adult stuff off-site (and it was all yaoi) last year, there’s been some…interesting issues going on in anime production here in the US. DunDraCon…it was meh this year (it happened just before the Crow Flu hit in full force), but the RPG game market has started to have a bad wokescold infestation. The last three games that I’ve bought have had “INCLUSION NO MATTER WHAT!!!,” “orcs are people too!,” “there’s no such thing as race!,” and “X-Card” rules.

    Don’t get me started on BayCon. Once upon a time, I loved the fuck out of it. I had probably my best con experience outside of DragonCon there, 2006, when I spent a whole night not watching Star Wars on LD while having drinks and getting to second base with a girl at a party. Now? It’s wokescold territory, where even long-time vendors have fled to Fanime because they would actually get people walking past their booths.

    Where I am now? Nowhere really to escape. We have a B&N that is 1/5th “adult” toys (not those kind), a comic book store that pretty much survives off the Magic:The Gathering section they have (and have a blisteringly bad case of TDS), a used bookstore that I once heard brags they pretty much circular-bin any Baen books they get, another comic book store that is at least a half hour drive away that has every “DIVERSITY!!!” title you could want, but you ask for some things…

    No real urge to go into SF, there isn’t a city there anymore. Or one that I’d like. Or one I’d want to meet on a main street, let alone a dark alley.

    Stuck at home and I want to do any serious work, it’s with CNN blaring at me at “airport telescreen just out of the corner of my eye” levels. Yes, I have a laptop-but, I have not been able to make that work for “serious” work, I need a desktop system. It’s how I work.

    1. *Sympathy*

      Have you tried something like Newegg’s refurb for the desktop options?

      Or, for a slightly silly question– have you tried setting your laptop up on a desk with an external keyboard? (I said it was silly! Used my husband’s laptop, plugged into my screen, for a month at one point– had it triangled behind the screen for air exchange. “Felt” like a desktop.)

      You could basically buy a desktop, keyboard-screen-computer, one piece at a time until you found a desktop experience that works for you?

      1. Foxfier, if you use that setup, you want one of these to ease the strain on the neck. I’ve been using mine on the road and off for the last 7 years.

        https://www.therooststand.com/

        Also available at Amazon. When folded, it will easily fit in the same compartment of your laptop bag.

      2. I have a desktop computer and a laptop computer.

        I can go to my room to avoid the TV…but, I can’t get any work done. My brain won’t let me write and the setup isn’t work comfortable.

        Unfortunately, I’m dealing with CNN junkies.

        1. *sympathy redoubles*

          I wasn’t really writing, but my folks are addicted to the Interchangeable Cop Process Drama shows and a pair of cheap sound canceling headphones did enough to let me not have to pay attention to it, while not making it so I can’t hear Suspicious Silence from the kids.

            1. De gustibus.

              Even if you have terrible taste. 😉

              (I mostly get mad because they are AU without being labeled as AU, do the “ripped from the headlines” stuff and them mangle it horribly.)

              1. The thing is…I grew up in a cop family. The nearest show that did what a cop office really looks like was “The Wire” or “Homicide” (I think the books that they were based on were both written by the same author). There’s an amazing amount of snark and chutzpah and dealing with the human race (often at it’s worst) that makes you wish God would start over with muskrats or such.

                  1. Law&Order was fun up until Jerry Orbach and Christopher Meloni left. The original started to develop Alan Alda Syndrome and SVU became Lifetime Sexual Assault Movie Of The Week. (And, I liked the L&O:UK version for the first few seasons. Much different take on things.)

                    There was one episode of the original L&O where Briscoe and Curtis had to deal with three different homicides over a single hot day in New York. I’ve heard stories about homicides that have made that one tame-because those stores have to fit in a standard TV show format for an episode.

    2. Once upon a time I needed to find a bunch of cheap monitors to make a video-wall. A Max Headroom type thing, bunch of monitors hanging on a pole.

      It develops that you can get pretty good used monitors -really- cheap, as in under $50, from computer graveyards. Businesses trash them and buy new ones every few years, so there are tons around. If you get a Raspberry Pi 4 and Open Office, you can be up and running for ~$100 bucks or so, even here in Canaduh where everything costs double. Good enough for word processing, and no Windows Tax.

    3. I can point out some decent refurb desktops on Ebay for you… there’s a lot of off-lease HP workstations for very little money.

  8. The beach. Any beach. When I can’t get to a beach (which is far more common than I like), I stare at videos of waves, and especially the video I took last year at one of the beaches in the town I grew up in and I transport myself to that spot on the rocks.

  9. “There’s this little house shaped like a mushroom, deep in the middle of the forest. If I open the door, there will be a fireplace lit, and a table set for tea, and three chairs, on one of which a fat orange cat sleeps.”

    Down the valley a bit is my place. It’s a tree, with an arched double door in the front made of oak timbers about a foot thick… because they’re fancy, not because there’s anything worrisome in the woods.

    How to escape the suckage? My external preparations have all long since been made. Chances are good, if I’ve done it right, all my efforts will never be used.

    Internally, I create situations where the people and things I hate can be dealt with by Brunhilde and her sisters. Because blowing evil things to shit on the printed page is so satisfying. No messy grey areas, no root causes, no unfortunate collateral damage. See bad guy, vaporize bad guy. Then have a party.

    It’s weird, it’s probably the wrong thing, but it works for me. And hey, some of you guys liked it. I made some beer money. ~:D

    1. There’s a lot of reasons why Adelaide is the way she is. She’s a human tactical nuclear weapons platform, idle thoughts of destruction can easily become reality, even without her Regalia on. She was born responsible and it takes a lot for her to be irresponsible.

      But, oh, for the times when she can just cut loose…

      It’s like Spider-Man. His Rogue’s Gallery gets scared when he stops being snarky.

  10. “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

    — JRR Tolkien

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