Last month, I counted the number of sirens I heard in a single hour through my bedroom window. 16. I couldn't sleep, but was also too lazy to do anything other than lie there and count. When the 17th siren started rolling down Houston St. I rummaged for the ear plugs on my bedside table and slipped them in to drown out the noise. It is the step in my bedtime routine that I enjoy the least. Partly because it is nearly impossible to fall asleep without them. And partly because I am paranoid someone will be able to scale the 12 stories up to my apartment and slide open the balcony door without my being able to hear it.
When Todd travels for work I refuse to wear earplugs so I am able to ready myself in case of an attack. I never go as far as to outline what that preparation might entail. Perhaps grabbing a knife in between the mattress and box spring or maybe moving to a very clever hiding space in which no one would ever be able to find me. At the very least I want to be able to give myself those extra couple seconds of paranoia between hearing the door open and certain death.
You may have guessed I don't sleep much. I find the constant movement of my body and mind lead to this level of anxiety, bordering paranoia. By the time I crawl into bed, I have seen and done so many things (including witnessing the graphic deaths of innocent people at the hands of the Medellín Cartel on my television screen while streaming Narcos on Netflix) that it is impossible to turn my mind off. Now don't get me wrong, I love living in New York City. And clearly some of these sources of anxiety are preventable. But a person needs to breathe every once in awhile.
I had a work trip to Phoenix, Arizona planned and while I typically try to limit my days in parts of the country that watch FOX news (or vote for Donald Trump) longer than I need to, Todd was free to join me for the week and so we decided to make a mini vacation out of it. We heard all the hippies in Arizona hide out in Sedona and booked a hotel for the weekend. The little town, just two hours north of Phoenix, sits at 4300 feet among a stunning array of red sandstone formations.
We arrived late Friday night after the sun had already set. It was a balmy 35 degrees, but we kept the windows rolled down slightly, drinking in the fresh air as we drove up Interstate 17. By the time we reached our room and got into bed it was nearly midnight. It wasn't until the lights were off and I had finally stopped talking that we both noticed the eerie silence. Todd whispered in my ear, “listen to how quiet it is.” For several minutes we laid next to each other, soaking it in, realizing how rare pure silence is. The most ironic thing is that I have grown so accustomed to the constant noise of New York City, I didn't sleep well at all that night. This time my mind sat spinning on the very likely possibility an unidentified insect or animal might make their way into the hotel room to devour me as I slept.
When we woke up we couldn't believe the scenery we had unknowingly driven through the night before. Our hotel, The Amara Resort, sat creekside against a backdrop of red rocks that glowed orange in the morning light. The majestic, yet formidable jagged cliffs surrounded the small town, sculpted into incredible arrangements from millions of years of water and wind. Their presence alone demanded a spiritual quest. And so we indulged them.
That morning we took a quiet walk along the creek, watching the ducks swim and listening to the birds chirp. This can be done in Central Park, yes, but sharing a man made lake with 2 million people is limited in its ability to bring about this level of tranquility. We fueled our bodies with healthy breakfasts and fresh pressed juices, and made our way to the spa. We emerged after two hours of scrubs, massages and native healing rituals higher than I had ever been smoking weed in college. Blissed out, we stumbled back to our rooms and took a notably fabulous mid-day nap. Refreshed and rejuvenated, we made our way up to Cathedral Rock for our first hike. It was a short, steep climb to the saddle point and we arrived at the top just before sunset. The view looking out between the towering pinnacles is truly stunning. The experience was indescribable, and my photos barely begin to capture the feeling it evoked.
The following morning, we opted for the lazy man's tour and jumped in the highly recommended, Pink Jeep. As our driver, Ed, narrated the trip with his bone dry humor and wealth of historic knowledge, two small children sat next to me as we climbed up the red rocks in an open air off-roading vehicle, screaming with excitement. Their uninhibited elation was contagious, made clear by the perpetual grin on everyone's face. Before leaving the charming community that we felt so instantly connected to, we satiated our desire for the local fare - Mexican. Of course, crossing our fingers there were enough rest stops in case of a bathroom emergency during the two hour drive back to Phoenix.
I am happy to say we made it without any accidents. But we also made it back slightly freer, our souls recharged and with a fresh perspective only nature can provide. We’ll see how long it lasts.