I felt like I had stepped onto a movie set. Everything was so perfectly orchestrated.
We stepped out of our car headed to a local cafe for some lunch, and it was as though at that moment someone had said, “Que the skateboarder.” And there he came. We had to pause and wait for this skateboarder who was cruising down the hill at a speed that caused my daughter to say, “He’s not going to be able to stop. He’s going to die.” Even after he had passed and it was safe to cross, I just stood there and watched him expertly coast down the hill looking so relaxed. I use the word coast at a great risk of being misunderstood. I am not to describing someone skateboarding at a leisurely pace, or someone who is lazy and lacks skills, but I use the word “coast” because the hill provided enough momentum that he did not have to kick, just coast.
And that was the opening scene to my experience in this coastal town. (Okay, in truth, this was my second time to this town. I was here five years ago. But I was pregnant at the time, and the only thing I remember was the french dip sandwich).
I am intentionally refraining from telling you the name of this is a coastal town tucked away in the redwoods of northern California because doing so keeps it magical, creating an Atlantis curiosity making you wonder if it is real or merely a fictional allegory.
Wood slat homes line the streets, with surfboards and Volkswagon vans in the driveways. A college sits on the hill above the town whose existence I wish I knew about when I was 20. The location of the town combined with the richness offered from the people who live there creates a unique flavor like one only an experienced India mother could create, who was taught by her mother how to blend the right amount of turmeric and saffron. Too much and the flavors compete, but when the spices balance, it creates something to be remembered. It creates an experience that awakens potential and fosters creativity.
We ate lunch in a small room with half a dozen tables surrounded by painting hanging on the walls of a local artist selling their work. A few shops down we strolled into a store with ceramic mugs, plates, bowls artistically displayed among journals and notebooks and handmade jewelry. I buy a mug, and as I am paying for it, the owner of the store tells me about Pam the 80-year-old woman who crafted the mug I am about the take home. In the next shop, a subtle smell of incense fills the air as you step across the threshold to which my eight-year-old crunches her nose at not enjoying the cultural experience the scent if offering her. The store’s mission seems to revolve around honoring the cultures of the world. There are handmade little dolls from Ecuador. Colorful clothing from India. Teapots and chopsticks from China. Having just been at China town in San Fransico the day before, I have a sneaking suspicion that that is where the items representing China were imported from. This for some reason makes me smile, so what if they were imported from China or Chinatown. As I look around I overhear the man working at the cash register talking to a woman who is buying something. He is telling her that she is the right person for her kids and to just be the best mom she can.
Each store, shop, and eatery is like a fortune cookie that you step inside all breathing the same message of “Live your dreams and be you, for today you are creating a better tomorrow.”
There’s a used bookstore that captives my attention like a book you can’t put down, inviting you to explore deeper as you weave throughout the wooden bookshelves.
Outside we pass a group of three people talking, one of them saying, “You don’t need vitamins, you just need a glass of water with a lemon or a lime in it every day.” That’s when I have another realization. I’m not walking the streets of some old Western show where the streets are dusty, suspicious, and eerily quiet. There are people all over, but you don’t really notice it at first because it’s not a Marti Gras attitude where everyone is in competition to be noticed and heard, but rather they all seem invested in hearing and sharing their thoughts. There are people sitting on tables outside of cafes eating lunch. There are people spread across the grassy square that sits in the middle of the town. There are people gathered on the sidewalks talking, and I can’t help but wonder if they knew each other before today, or if they just met a few moments ago.
But for some reason, it’s the skateboarder that stole my attention. Even tonight as I sit on a balcony overlooking the ocean, in a wicker chair, wrapped in a blanket, listening to the waves as I sip my mango ginger tea in my new mug made by Pam, it’s the skateboarder that my mind keeps going back to.
Why is it that as I sit it the blissful evening, reliving in my thoughts my day in the Atlantis coastal town, that I am so drawn to the image of the skateboarder and the rhythmic sound of his wheels rolling down the asphalt road?
I remember listening to my gymnastics coach instructing me on how my hands should be and what my legs should be doing and where to look and how my back should respond when I was learning a new routine on the uneven bars. I would try over and over and over again after listening intently to his instructions as I’d attempt to do exactly what he was explaining. And after some time when it just wasn’t happening, he said, “Stop thinking about.” Funny thing, when I stopped trying to think about all the things I was supposed to do and just let myself try, it finally happened. I’m not saying there’s no room for the analytical thinker, but sometimes the analytical thinking can get in the way of living.
That’s what the skateboarder seemed to be showing me. Don’t let your thinking get in the way of doing, being, and living.