There’s a stretch of road on our school run that passes a field with horses. On the other side of the road, some arable land has been planted up, but the exact crop is hidden from view by a hedgerow. I like passing fields of animals on my daily errands – it’s good for the soul. But I can’t say that a field of horses constitutes a source of tranquillity.
Last year we travelled to Scotland on our holidays. I loved that holiday, waking up in the mornings and staring up at the hillside. We took a ride up to the top of Cairngorn, but it was a cold and foggy day. Still, I love the mountains. Always have. Back in South Africa, I used to love the Drakensberg. There’s something about the stillness in the air. Promotes quiet contemplation. Or the sudden urge to engage in adrenalin sports, if that’s your thing.
But then, as a counterpoint, there’s the sea. While mountains are fairly stoic, the sea has moods, and passion. And in a fight, you know that eventually the sea is going to beat the mountain. Eventually. You have to love the way that the waves just keep coming. Even low tide doesn’t mean an absence of waves. I love the way that the sea makes me think. How it changes my definition of what permanent actually means. There is only one reason why I cannot embrace the sea as a source of tranquillity. Within five minutes of arriving, I always desperately need the toilet.
As I write this, my cat is curled up on my lap, letting out occasional pointed purrs that speak less of happiness and more of a demand for attention. She knows that meows will get her ejected from her comfortable position, so the more subtle purrs will have to do. I have always liked cats, above and beyond my general regard for animals overall. Cats have comforted me and been my friend throughout the heartaches of my life. But cats are highly unreliable. They stick their claws in you and meow and jump off your lap or sit in front of the computer screen. And sometimes their purring can put you to sleep, which is a place of a little too much tranquillity if you were hoping to get some creating done.
So if mountains are too far away, the sea too distracting and cats unreliable, that leaves the coffee shop. I don’t even need a coffee. I like a decent hot chocolate or peppermint tea, and maybe a lemon tart, my notebook and a pen, and I’m happy. Sometimes I do some bad sketches, some times I write down what I see or hear or smell. Sometimes I just listen to the hubbub of people around me getting on with their day. Once I eavesdropped on an entire highly confidential strategy meeting happening at the table next to me. It’s not quiet, but it is a place where I can rest my feet, quiet my mind, feed my body and find something unexpected in the busyness. Peace.
Yeah, tranquillity in the coffee shop. I told you I was different.