I’m back in Boulder now, riding my bicycle, doing yoga, sipping single-origin espresso, writing poetry, interviewing amazing people, sharing wine and dinner with girlfriends. It’s crisp but sunny, summer’s digestif.
It’s hearty, life here, and I can’t imagine tearing myself from it. In a traveling way, sure—in a permanent displacement way, no. Not yet. When I’m here, I can create a reflection of what I see around me—bliss, growth, magic—and store it inside myself as feeling. But, I find I have to keep coming back to recharge it.
There’s goat milk here now. In addition to hemp, almond, rice, soy, etc. I find this sometimes to be an indication of—get ready to roll your eyes—the general mindset of a place: What kinds of milk do coffee shops offer? I know it’s a bit of a joke, but I find it can accurately reflect a city’s attitude, at least with regard to where they sit on the spectrum of health knowledge, openness and acceptance.
In New York, for example, although they have the means, some roasters won’t carry, on principle and on purpose, any other kind of milk but dairy out of stubborn “purity” for the craft; that’s New York. You want it? Sorry, you can’t have it, and you’ll bow to me anyway. Don’t forget to tip.
In Madrid, soy milk is now more prevalent, and I even encountered oatmilk in two cafés. Many people aren’t sure why you’d order it (and the word “vegan” is still confusing to many servers), but they have a sense that people have been asking for it more and more, so they offer it. But most don’t have the means to offer anything else yet. This is the city that let Vodafone buy a freaking metro line (::ding ding ding:: “próxima estación, Vodafone Sol”). Such is Spain.
And so here I am again, in my little bubble city. A few nights ago, I shared a wine I’d brought back from Spain with my best writer girlfriend. She mentioned that she’d recently visited New York, and people told her and her husband that they Oh-my-God had to go visit the Highline.
The Highline is a mile-long, elevated park built on a former rail line. She visited it, and she said it was wonderful, really… and all these people were just so excited about it, just to get up there so they could breathe, to feel some sense of open space, to be around plants.
How beautiful and sad that felt to her. And how lucky we are, to be surrounded by open space, to be able to climb a mountain a mile or two from our home—to be closer to our roots, grounded in that way, in the way that all humans need… and is so evident by New Yorker’s fascination with a manmade mile-long park.
Frances Kuo, a professor at the University of Illinois, says that when we live in landscapes that lack trees or other natural features, we can undergo patterns of social, psychological and physical breakdown that are similar to those in animals deprived of their natural habitat—increased aggression, and disrupted parenting patterns and social hierarchies. Considerable research has found that violence and aggression are highest in urban settings devoid of trees and grass.
We can take it for granted in Boulder. I do, constantly. It’s part of why I travel. You need to leave paradise sometimes to remember it is paradise. You need to step outside of something to admire its structure, its curves, its grand design.
And so after traveling for nearly a month, I am clearly, obviously, eye-rollingly happy to be home.
The thing that feels even better than exploring the world, is exploring that world with the knowledge that you have a sanctuary somewhere in it, a womb you have conceived to nourish you—that you can carry inside of you, an echo of its physical space in the universe, in whatever dense city air you breathe—the incense of home, diffused within you, always.