Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dreaming of Tranquility in a Disaster

We all need a mental escape now and then. My mental escapes are pretty well-worn paths.


There have been several surprises in the last few weeks, most of them deeply unpleasant. One surprise that has been simply that - a surprise - is that Rome and Hawaii have not been where my mind has wandered to, seeking a bit of peace.

Things suck here at my house. The kids are healthy, Stumpy’s healthy… but in our wider family, things are… bad. Very, very bad.

There’s been a personal tragedy, and there is really no end of sucking to it. There is no upside. It won’t get better. It is not a case of a door closing and a window opening. If you say that everything happens for a reason, I will reply in a rudely honest way and probably delete your comment. I don't want Hallmark card theology for something horrible. It's horrible. We'll endure it and help one another as best we can.

But it still sucks.

And sucks.

And then, for no change of pace at all, it sucks some more.

I have been thinking a lot about tranquility – and places that where I have found myself at peace. I’ve been thinking a lot about the inn we just stayed at in Albuquerque (technically, in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque), because it is so deeply, surprisingly peaceful.

Los Poblanos.

We were lucky enough to be there when there were loads of baby goats on the farm, and we blissed out on the hilarious, wiggling, contenting fun of bottle feeding a squirmingly eager baby goat, and keeping the same wiggling, eager baby goats company while the chickens scratched and clucked, and the grown-up goats wandered over to see if anyone busy with the baby goats might be interested in scratching their neck, just a little. Under the extremely patient tutelage of the goat farmer, Curly learned to milk a goat.

Even away from the farm, which is on the grounds of the inn (although seriously, you would be crazy to ignore the smelly joys of the farm and its animals), the inn is remarkably tranquil.
The driveway alone is suffused with a leafy, tree-lined quiet. There’s the low-slung adobe main building, with a burbling fountain in the courtyard that perfectly balances the Spanish influence in the architecture, and still speaks in the vernacular of southwest architecture.
There’s a bocce court, which is always, always a score for our family – my sibs and I played as kids, and my own kids now love it. The court at Los Poblanos was somehow made for Curly, who won definitively, slaughtering all comers.

There’s a point, as an adult, you realize you’re really competing, and stop going soft on a kid. And even after we realized that, and really tried, the kid still creamed us.

There were the peacocks (sometimes on the bocce court, even), which added to the general atmosphere of calm beauty.

But, of course, being dipshit peacocks, they make a lot of noise after they roost at night.
We aren’t bugged by animal noises at night (the inn provides earplugs for people who are), so mostly, the peacock noises added to the deep, settling sense of peace. I woke up at night – not woken by the peacocks – and heard them making their bird-brained cries, and found myself more reassured than bothered. They weren’t setting up an unholy fuss because of something alarming, they were just chattering to one another in the night. Are you there? Yup. I’m here. Are you still there? Yes. Jesus. Go to sleep. But I wanna know if you’re there? Yes. I said I was. It was like that. Chitter-chatter in the night – not enough to wake me up, although I heard it when I did wake up.

However, unless it sounds like an animal is about to come in and kill me (it’s happened. Without, you know, the actual death part. Hey. Hippos and bears can be scary loud and really bad-tempered), I am not generally disturbed by animal noises in the night.

And then, of course, there are the breakfast. I don’t generally eat scones unless… okay. Snotty confession? Unless I can smell them baking. In Britain or my own kitchen. Otherwise? Pass. So. Snotty. I know. I really do. Hopelessly snotty. Even I am put off by my own snotty pretentiousness about this. But... most scones suck. They’re just not good, and that’s without doing crazy-chick-diet-math (as in: “is this worth exercising for x minutes to work it off and make sure I stay a size 2 4ev-a?”). The scones at Los Poblanos are a fluffy, warm Platonic ideal of a scone. And that’s without clotted cream, which helps prop up a whole lotta sub-par scones. Without any adornment, the scones at Los Poblanos are perfect. And they’re still not the main course for breakfast – which, generally, you get to choose from a couple of options.

So overall, my kids were blissed out. Bocce, delicious breakfasts, nearby (so far unmentioned) walks along the Rio Grande, pretty gardens, peacocks, and best of all (as far as they were concerned): goats. Especially the baby goats. Especially feeding the baby goats.

In fact, for much of the road trip, there was much talk of what the baby goats could be up to and how big they might have gotten and whether or not the pregnant goat would have kidded before we went back (we stayed there at the beginning and end of our trip). I could make fun of the kids, but... I was just as blissed out as they were. Almost the entire time we stayed at Los Poblanos, I had the same feeling I have when I play hockey: thinking of nothing but what I was doing, and incredibly contented to be doing it.

As I said, often, when I want to escape mentally, I escape to Rome or Hawaii.

And yet in the last month, what I've thought of is Los Poblanos, of the lavender fields stretching out in the sunlight with the mountains behind them, of the quiet, sheltered courtyard with its cool, murmuring fountain, of the gardens and the food and the gentle hospitality. And yes, the goats. Because apparently goatie tourism is now a part of my life. But... their goats are really nice?

I really, really wish myself and my family in a calm spot, instead of a terrible storm right now. And right now, if I could take them to a quiet spot, and nestle them away, I would take them to Los Poblanos.

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