We're on our second straight day of crisp, cool air, air that, when I breathe it, infuses me with a sense of all things autumn and mentally transports me to my favorite place I've never been.
Years ago, when I took the self-hypnosis class, the instructor taught us a relaxation technique that I still use today. She encouraged us to create in our minds an image of a place where we'd feel perfectly safe and comfortable, to explore that place until we knew it in intimate detail, and to go there as often as we wanted or needed for a few moments of absolute peace.
My place is a log cabin that sits in a clearing in the middle of the woods. The clearing is the perfect size: if the tallest tree were to fall into the clearing, it would narrowly miss the cabin. The cabin is the perfect size, too. It's basically one all-purpose room, a small kitchen nook to the left of the front door, and the sleeping/living area to the right. (It's occurred to me more than once that there's no bathroom in my magic cabin. The magic of it is that I never need one when I'm there.)
I know that the interior walls of the cabin are made of logs, but the logs aren't visible except upon close inspection. Every wall is lined with bookshelves, floor to ceiling, and every shelf is covered with books. All my old favorites are there, along with a few new ones I can't wait to read.
Immediately to the right of the front door is a desk made of old, dark wood, its surface scarred from years of use. There's a computer on the desk. When I sit in the comfortable, worn leather chair and write on the computer, the words flow easily and naturally, and I never have to backspace.
My bed is next to the desk. It's a twin-sized bed placed lengthwise against the wall. The mattress is extra thick, topped with a a layer of soft goose down. There are two blankets on the bed to keep me warm on chilly nights (autumn is the only season in my special place), and the bedspread is a brightly colored quilt of no particular design.
During the day, I pile lots of pillows on the bed and use it for a sofa. There's a large window over the bed and bright sunlight washes in. I love to sit cross-legged beneath that window and read, while my dogs sleep peacefully in the square patch of sunlight that brightens a braided rag rug.
There are sounds -- but no noise -- in my special place. I hear rustling leaves, singing birds, and chattering squirrels. I can hear a clock ticking, not in an urgent way, but steadily, ticking off seconds to send the message that time, like life, goes on no matter what. If I want manmade music, I can play CDs on my computer. Sometimes, I sit outside on the top step and listen to Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman singing "Time to Say Goodbye," and my heart swells with wonder that human voices can make such beautiful sounds.
When I see myself step out the door of my cabin in the woods, I notice that I'm wearing a flannel shirt and that thick wool socks are bunched up around my ankles. This is interesting to me because I've never owned a flannel shirt, nor have I ever owned socks like that. The part of me who inhabits the cabin wears that type of clothing comfortably and naturally.
The woods around my cabin provide a sense of wilderness and solitude that nourish my spirit, but, in the interest of honesty, there's one more thing I must tell you: When I draw back far enough to get an aerial view of the cabin and its surrounding area, I see that the isolation stops at the outermost boundaries of my patch of woods. There are plenty of other people -- and convenient shopping -- less than half a mile away. I also know, though I've never seen it, that there's a reliable vehicle, with a full tank of gas, parked near my cabin. Those facts (imaginary facts?) are comforting, too. I can be alone as much as I need to, but the aloneness need never become loneliness.
You're welcome to use my cabin whenever you like and stay as long as you want -- but only when I'm not there, okay?