Friday, May 22, 2015

WAY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE

I'm back from what was labeled a "writer's intensive," and that is exactly what it was for me, even before I arrived.  My daughter took me to the train station, I checked my French horn, and managed to get my suitcase, the bag with my computer, notebooks, books and pens, up to the second story of the train.  I had a view out over the ocean which was inspirational, ate my lunch, read more of Gaudy Night, and had just texted my oldest daughter that I was thinking of her as we passed through the station where I usually disembark.  Suddenly the train stopped out in the fields, and the conductor announced that they had hit something and would have to investigate.  A little later they said something about a trespasser, and even later they said that he had "passed."

This required the police and a coroner and a very long delay.  I could see officials in uniforms along with Amtrak people walking up and down beside the train.  The man in the seat ahead of me, was calling people he was supposed to meet and canceling his meetings, and that reminded me that I should probably call the hotel and tell them that I would be in later and ask them to hold my room.

There were conflicting announcements about where we would go when the coroner was finished, but eventually the train pulled into the next station, where we all had to leave, since our train crew had to leave and be replaced.  We stood on the platform for nearly an hour, it began to rain, and a few umbrellas went up.  I had brought my down coat with a hood, because the train is often cold and even in Southern California we can have chilly weather.  I was thankful I had dressed that way, since quite a few people were dressed for the beach and they were all shivering.

Eventually, another train came and we were allowed to get back on, and I sat next to a nice woman who assured me that it was perfectly safe to walk from the train station in Santa Barbara to my hotel, so I felt reassured about that. After she got off, there was a huge rainbow over the clouds, and when I finally made it to Santa Barbara, the sun was shining cheerfully. My map had showed that it was .3 mile to my hotel, and I knew it would be an easy walk.
It was sharply uphill, and I was pulling or carrying all my luggage, but I took off, enjoying the ocean breeze.

At one point, I noticed a restaurant that must have been a chain, since we had eaten at one in Solvang, and I continued on my way reflecting on the fun we had had with most of the family together there.  I kept looking at my map, and looking at the quaint street signs as I passed each block, but my street did not appear.  After an hour, I was hot and disheveled, and a kind woman came up to me and asked if I was looking for something.  When I told her the name of the street, she said, "Oh, that's all the way back down there," pointing in the direction from which I had come.

I thanked her and set off again, grateful that at least my path lay downhill this time, although my French horn got heavier with each step, and I spent time changing it from one hand to the other as I trudged along.  After I had been walking for what seemed like forever, I still didn't see my street sign, so I found a man in a shoe store and asked him if he knew where it was.  He didn't, but he had a smart phone, and quickly revealed that I was only two blocks away from my elusive street.  When I finally arrived at the desired street, I realized that the restaurant that had triggered my memories was on that street corner, and the name of the street was on the other side, so being side-tracked led to much more exercise than I had anticipated.

When I reached the hotel, the clerk who checked me in was extremely helpful in recommending a restaurant very close by that had tapas and small entrees.  I unloaded my luggage and walked the half block to the restaurant, where I sat on the patio, watched people passing by, and had a delightful dinner and slowly felt the stress of the day unwind.

Before I went to bed, I called one of the cab companies that had been recommended, and scheduled a pickup for the morning, since I didn't want to walk the 3 miles to the writer's retreat the first morning since I wasn't sure how long it would actually take me to reach my destination and I didn't want to be late.  It's a curious fact that since my husband died, for whom punctuality was next to Godliness, I have become much more concerned about getting places on time or early, and that definitely reduces my anxiety in all kinds of situations.

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