Being A Country Girl Again Has Its Advantages
When I lived in Los Angeles for many years, did I have a clue how uptight I was?
Naaaah. Not even….
Sure, I lived in Marina del Rey on the water with a view of sail boats and stunning sunsets. And I had a grand balcony for parties (and I did have GREAT parties!!) And sure, my consulting office was in Venice, not miles and miles away, but a short drive from my apartment, and on top of that, just steps from the beach. And yes, I took plenty of beach breaks in between clients. And absolutely – there were great restaurants brimming with fresh California produce within easy walking distance of where I lived and worked!
My average day consisted of breakfast at the Rose Cafe while writing poetry, and getting to my office around 9 or 10 am. I’d work for 3 or 4 hours, and then take a walk-by-the-ocean-with-the-sand-in-my-toes break. I’d return to my consulting work, talking hour after hour with people about their lives, in this simple but beautiful office with bright flowers outside my window, and bushels of sunshine pouring in.
All in all, pretty heavenly!
And then in the evening, I’d go out with friends, or on a date with an actor or musician — they are everywhere — and that was fun! We’d go on a sunset beach walk, or to a movie opening, a comedy club, or have a picnic and enjoy a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I also went to exercise classes (doesn’t everyone in LA!!), walked or biked along the ocean (the weather was always so beautiful), and went out dancing regularly.
I even found my old headshot from way back when — flashback! — I’ll share it with you!
In LA, admittedly, there is also the entertainment value of running into movie stars regularly. It’s inevitable to eventually sit next to Susan Sarandon and her girlfriends at a coffee house, or walk by George Burns sitting by alone on a Beverly Hills park bench smoking a cigar. You might run into Sally Field in Whole Foods, or notice Dustin Hoffman right next to you in his Porsche on Santa Monica Boulevard. And Timothy Hutton and Mathew Perry…
It just makes you smile!
Then again, you could be invited to an Italian dinner, and it turns out it’s in the home of Sly Stallone. There you are, sitting at his table, eating his favorite pasta, listening to Sly and his buddies tell their favorite Hollywood stories. Or maybe you have a date with John Denver and run into Dorothy Hamill at the restaurant, where John thanks her profusely for giving his daughter skating lessons.
Or maybe you go to a party, and you’re introduced to Meredith MacRae, a morning TV host (and former star of Petticoat Junction and My Three Sons), and a week later, she invites you to be a guest on her show, and many times again in the future.
Or heck, you could even date someone who knows Steven Spielberg’s first wife Amy Irving, and be invited to a sit down dinner and baby shower at Steven’s mother’s house in the San Fernando Vally, in celebration of the coming arrival of baby Max! You look around at the guests. There’s Robin Williams and Richard Donner (Superman with Christopher Reeve). And for a while, you sit next to Robin Williams on the sofa and he is painfully shy — you don’t know what to say (I mean what do you say to Robin Williams) but he doesn’t know what to say either, and that makes you feel a little better. Then later, during the meal, the guests are toasting the arrival of Max, and joking about the trials and tribulations of parenthood, and Robin stands up and gives the funniest “so you’re expecting a baby” improv you’ve ever heard. People are laughing so hard it’s a wonder anyone can digest their meal.
These things happen — it’s part of life in LA. It’s just the way it goes.
I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, and I was fortunate, for so many reasons, on so many levels.
That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that I was cool, calm and collected. Or that I believed in myself at my core. Or that I knew my worth.
If you had asked me at the time, I would have told you I was pretty happy and that I enjoyed my life. I was having fun. I was interested in what I was doing, where I was going, and who I was meeting. I would have said I was a student of life and that I loved learning — that I was interested in improving and growing. I wanted to know more, and understand more, especially about people and behavior and love. I also believed that I was in tune with nature.
But in retrospect, I can tell you that I was stressed in “striving-improving-reaching-’cause-I’m-not-enough” kinds of ways — and didn’t even know it. I had no idea. (And, no, most people don’t.) If you had told me at the time that I was wound tight inside, even though my life on the outside looked just fine, I would have told you that you were wrong.
Then, many years later, I left Los Angeles and moved back to the country.
My first hint that I was not exactly calm as a cucumber occurred while driving my car in North Carolina as if I was driving in Los Angeles. It became immediately and abundantly clear that my city driving style was out of place in my new home.
In LA, it’s normal to drive aggressively. Everybody does it, so it’s no big deal — it’s part of the culture.
Well, let me tell you, it’s different in North Carolina!
People in North Carolina amble along in their vehicles (how dare they) and pull leisurely up to stop signs (c’mon, let’s GO) and take their sweet time turning corners and resuming speed (what’s the deal here?) and then on top of it all, they often drive the speed limit. Can you imagine? If the speed limit sign says 55 mph, they drive, hey like maybe 55 to 57 mph. I had seriously never considered doing that.
But for that change to happen, it took some BIG trees, mind you, to slow me down. Not the small and perfect kind that grow neatly in a row on a city street or park. I’m talking about the kind of tall that puts a crook in your neck and makes you feel a little dizzy when you look up to see the top of the tree moving in the afternoon breeze, because it’s so… far… up… there against the infinite blue sky.
And my slow-down process required an abundance of azaleas and rhododendrons with stop-you-in-your-tracks colors. Blooms that take your breath away slow you down — you know, you actually stop and smell the roses. And then there were the regal trees that, having fallen to the floor of the forest, supported new forms of life. I stopped to examine them, and forgot all about being in a hurry.
Time also slowed down when I spent time with my hands in the actual earth, spade deep. I hadn’t done that since growing up on the farm in Iowa, and trust me I did plenty of digging in dirt back then. But in my subsequent city life, I had only touched sterile potting soil in a flower pot purchased from the hardware store. I had forgotten all about gardens.
And further, my transformation required a good deal of time sitting quietly by a pounding waterfall on a boulder the size of the moon, feeling the power of the falls simultaneously with delicate mist on my face. The sound of the falls alone puts your mind and heart into some other zone.
… only then, after time with the lofty trees, the garden dirt and the pounding waterfalls, did I calm down about driving in North Carolina.
And that’s also when I began to remember the level of calm and quiet I had experienced as a child.
In the country, it’s quiet. Sunrise opens the door of the morning, and sunsets bathe the final hours of the day in color. The ground breathes, and branches in the forest crack when they fall. Wind blows across the valley and when you step out the door and sense it coming toward you, the feeling is brisk and energizing. It’s a thrill when a fast moving rain storm sweeps the valley in front of you, in the direction of you, all over you. When the energy burst sweeps your way, in that moment, you feel wonderful beyond words.
Yes, I moved to the country where a whole forest full of birds sing good morning and tall trees reach up pretty much forever. There is peace in a mountain forest that I could not find in places with stoplights and streetlights.
For me, inner quiet comes easier when wind whispers, the bright night stars blaze, and the hoot owl calls my name.
I’m finally home…
About Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 15 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant. I love really good food, good friends, good relationships!