“She needs wide open spaces” – Dixie Chicks
Who remembers that song? If you lived in a college dorm room from 1996-1997 I am positive you know it. Dixie Chicks had just released this hit and I would sing this song at the top of my lungs in the car when I was driving back to Orange County from Cal Poly SLO.
I hadn’t heard this song for years until one day, a few months before we decided to move, it came on the radio and I actually pulled over to download it. That song was on repeat in the school parking lot while I sang at the top of my lungs again.
That song has always struck a cord with me and with age, I am beginning to see why. I mentally thrive in open spaces. This goes both physically and mentally. I had never really thought about this before but this past week, things became more clear.
This past weekend in Orange County, I struggled a bit, which surprised me. I had not realized how accustom to my new environment I had become and how enjoyable I found everything so spread out. I was completely thrown off by the traffic, people everywhere and a landscape that involved more buildings than open land. It was a strange feeling and completely unexpected.
The first few days I was definitely disoriented and it wasn’t until Saturday morning when I got out for a walk around the local lake and a trail hike behind my parents house that I finally began to feel like I could breathe again. It just seemed like I needed a little space.
What was going on? This had been my home for my entire life. Why did is suddenly feel so uncomfortable?
Side note: This feeling had absolutely nothing to do with seeing my friends and family. I was OVER THE MOON to see some of my favorite people. Just had to put that in there.
Once we got back into town, I began to relax again but I couldn’t kick the question as to why I felt that way in a place I love so much. It took me until Thursday morning when I went on a hike to really understand why. We went out Refugio road straight into the wilderness. I mean, a 3 mile climb into the woods with no one else out there. As we continued to climb, the views got better and better. It was in that moment that I understood why I had suddenly felt so claustrophobic in an area that I loved so much.
I think that part of it is how humbling being out in nature is. It makes you realize what a small speck you are in this world. Literally a small drop. This humility leads you to a new perspective. Suddenly, all those little things you were worried about, don’t seem like they are worth worrying over. This new perspective leads to peace. Peace that takes away anxiety, worry and stress. The kind of peace that God intended us to live. This peace brings absolute calm to the mind and body.
It also leads to the feeling of freedom. Freedom of movement. Freedom to breathe. I move less tense, taking my time, not worrying about the minutes and the “to do’s”. I take deeper breaths, allowing my mind to pause, take in my surroundings and become intrigued in the world that I sometimes overlook when I am rushed.
Was this a new feeling? No, if I think about it, I have been drawn to this feeling from open spaces for years. When living in Orange County, I preferred running trails instead of streets, always picked the ocean over a pool, loved spending time in the canyon down the street from my parents home and even picked a college on the central coast instead of in a big city (which I always “thought” I loved the most). It seems I have needed wide open spaces for a long time.
Do I feel fortunate that I now live in a location that provides an overwhelming amount of open space? Absolutely. Do I think only Santa Ynez offers places of peace? Absolutely not. Take a second and think about yourself. Are there environments or places that give you peace and the feeling of freedom? Where are those places? How do you feel when you are there? We all find this feeling in different ways. Mine may be living and spending time in open space and yours may be something different. If you would like to comment with your thoughts on this, please do! I absolutely love to hear from you.