It was an unusually grey day (#CapriNoSun), so when we arrived we found the normally umbrella-popped, bikini and speedo-clad beach club nearly deserted, save for two dapperly attired gentlemen, who looked liked they’d stepped straight out of a Ralph Lauren ad, enjoying lunch at the restaurant.
No sun? No problem.
The weather’s always perfect for eating if you ask me (#itsalwayssunnyinmybelly), so after a languorous meal of pasta topped with an avalanche of fresh basil and tomatoes so sweet they tasted like candy, we watched what appeared to be an impending rain storm begin to roll in on the horizon.
It was time to make our escape.
Instead of tracing our umbrellla-less steps back up the steep mountain without the assistance of an inhaler, we were offered a ride by the restaurant in a small boat over to Marina Piccola. For a mere $10 we gladly accepted.
Aboard: the boat’s captain and his adorably cheerful son, plus the two
sartorialists gentlemen from lunch.
We got to chatting with Peter Buchberger (a designer, naturally) and his companion and Peter told us that he comes from Germany to Capri every year, twice a year if he can. Always in May, before the island is overrun with tourists. He told us how Capri was really magical to him. “I know it’s magical to many people who visit, but to me it is very special. Capri is still very authentic. It is my place.”
Despite some gentle ribbing later on, “Oh, Capri is special to him; that’s like saying the sun is hot,” I had to admit: I knew exactly what he meant.
Capri is his spirit place.
I knew not because Capri was my spirit place too, though I loved every inch of the iconic island, but because I have my own spirit place.
A spirit place?, you may be asking.
While we’ve heard of spirit animals and the spirit of place, and all have taken those “Which city should you live in?” Facebook quizzes, spirit place is a different, ahem, animal altogether. It is the one place where you feel most alive, joyful, free, like your best, true self.
Unlike a soul mate (or maybe like a soul mate, who am I to really know?), I think your spirit place may change over time depending on where you are in your life.
When I was younger, my spirit place was most certainly New York City. I felt it in my bones and in every ounce of my being. On one memorable visit during college, I distinctly felt it as my friend and I left a bar where we had met two harmless guys, and walked over to a pizza joint after. In the East Village I believe. But I can’t be certain. I had no idea where I was at the time. I just knew it was exactly where I wanted to be. As we walked towards the aroma of freshly baked dough on the frigid December night, soft snowflakes began to tumble from the sky. I looked up in wonder with my arms outstretched. It was pure magic.
I felt alive.
When I wasn’t in New York, I was thinking about it the way you miss the long distance love of your life when miles and states separate you.
After living and loving in my spirit place and then leaving it years later for San Francisco, only to then leave San Francisco for an unknown adventure around the world, I was spirit place-less. I hadn’t fallen out of love with New York, but it wasn’t the same in-your-bones feeling I’d once had. While I always thought I would move back or at the very least be bi-coastal, I no longer had that innate yearning in my gut. And despite some enjoyable times in San Francisco, it was never my spirit place. I’m just not that into you, San Francisco. And the feeling was mutual. San Francisco was just not that into me either.
So where in the world did I belong?
With our lives packed up in a storage unit north of San Francisco in Marin County, we set off on an adventure. We traveled to Europe and lived in a villa-la-la on a remote Greek island, we became gleeful gluttons with thrice daily servings of gelato in Rome, we rented a pied-a-terre in Paris, ogled the wonders of Gaudi in Barcelona, meandered the Costa del Sol and plotted futures on napkins in Sevilla…and then we returned back to the States.
After spending the holidays with family in Georgia and Texas, we set out on a cross-country road trip back towards San Francisco. We planned to check in on our stuff, our friends, our former lives, and then head off to Asia or South America. But the universe had other plans in store for us.
Along the way, we stumbled into the dusty high desert blink of a town 29 Palms. In the desolate, barren landscape, I instantly felt a pull. And at peace.
We spent a few days at the wonderfully weird and mysteriously magical 29 Palms Inn and then drifted into Palm Springs.
What was supposed to be one day at The Viceroy turned into three days turned into three weeks turned into three months bouncing around Palm Springs hotels and Homeaway deals. Every time we got in the car to leave to head north to San Francisco, I physically couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why?
Because I knew in my soul that Palm Springs and the desert was my place, my home, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave it.
So we didn’t.
Cut to four years later, and we’re now coming up on our two-year anniversary of owning a home in Palm Springs. And every time we return to it, it feels exactly like that: home.
As an Air Force brat who did my fair share of moving of states and houses, and then continued the trend by choice once out on my own as an adult, moving every year or two like clockwork, the idea of home wasn’t anything I consciously ever knew I was seeking. But after finding it, albeit accidentally, I treasure home more than I ever thought possible.
When we get in the car to head to our apartment in LA for work or to see friends, the same visceral reaction takes place. There is a deep pull and yearning to stay. It’s like leaving the love of my life. It makes me sad every single time.
Palm Springs is my spirit place.
But, of course, I can’t help but wonder: Will it always be my spirit place? I think of New York and of the tattoo that Anthony Bourdain has scrawled on his arm in ancient Greek as a constant reminder: “I am certain of nothing.”
What’s your spirit place?
Photos by Fred Baby