peaceful and calm.
“she is kind and relaxed with a very Zen energy about her”
Y’ALL! I am not going to lie to you. When I began contemplating writing a guide to where you can find your Zen in the Rocket City, I started by looking up the very definition of the word. I searched for meaning, not because I’m unfamiliar with the word or its concept but, because (maybe like you) it’s been so long since I’ve felt anything even remotely resembling “Zen”, I needed a refresher. Let’s face it, the world lately has been like a Tim Burton-conceived, emotionally draining, rollercoaster running on repeat for some of us and a virtual isolation tank for others.
Reading the sample sentence above, I maniacally laughed aloud; which should serve as assurance to you that no one, and I mean no one, has used the phrase “she is kind and relaxed with a very Zen energy about her” about me… well… maybe ever. Here’s the thing though, all this darn “hope” I’m carrying around gets me back on my feet and out of my own way each and every time. With that said, I’m on a mission to do better. If you find yourself feeling a bit like I do and are longing to reconnect with your relaxed and kind self, let’s go find some Zen, shall we.
Salt on the Rocks
Beginning this search, I thought back to people and places that have given me Zen-like calm in the past and this first place popped to mind almost immediately. I first visited Salt on the Rocks sometime last fall, on the suggestion of a co-worker, because she was trying to help me with solutions to a cold I felt coming on. Full disclosure, I begrudgingly made my appointment and went with my skepticism suitcase packed so full it was bursting at the hinges.
I sat down in my beach lounge chair with crossed arms and the kind of posture that suggests sitting in a waiting room for your annual physical. “Well, let’s get this over with!”, I thought. I am not embarrassed (okay, a little embarrassed) to tell you, within 10 minutes, I was asleep. Let’s be clear, this was not just any sleep. This was ugly sleep, the kind with drool. It was not cute. This session may not have been a cure-all, but whoa! was it relaxing. If you’re thinking you would rather be relaxing in some tropical beach destination right now, listening to the waves crash, breathing in the salt air and running your toes through the sand, you can do a version of just that right at the corner of Bob Wallace and Whitesburg Drive. See? Zen.
I’ve been back working in my office since the first week of May. Just because I haven’t been quarantined at home, doesn’t mean I don’t feel the same flashes of anxiety that come with being cooped up for months. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to burst from all the Facebook posts and news reports and daily briefings and rumor mills and closures and openings… When I feel like I just can’t take it anymore, I loudly proclaim to my officemates, who probably couldn’t care less, “I need some sun on my skin!” and off I go. What “sun on my skin” usually means is a trip to downtown Huntsville.
Find Zen in Downtown Huntsville
I know this feels like everyday business to some but, nothing is everyday anymore. I put on my most breathable mask and venture out into the midday heat. I walk the downtown streets, listen to the bustle of traffic and birds chirping in the trees. I close my eyes and bend to the sun like a flower sucking up all its nourishing rays and pretend just for a moment everything is perfectly normal. I step into a Clinton Row shop or grab some food to-go and just “be” while it lasts. Wow, I just Zenned myself out even thinking about it!
When all else fails and I find myself in deep need of time to disconnect and relax, I look to the ever-adapting and resilient Huntsville restaurant and brewery scene to help me eat or drink away my worries. The way our foodie, and well, drinkie businesses have innovated to quite literally feed our need for normalcy is staggering.
Relax with Local Libations
Over the past months and on multiple occasions, I’ve picked up a curbside order from any one of dozens of restaurants offering such, filled a growler with my favorite local beer (without ever leaving my car, mind you) and parked myself next to the fire pit in the comfort of my own backyard. Sure some of us are sick of seeing the same four walls, but at least we can still partake of the fabulous food and drink offerings we’re lucky enough to enjoy in the Rocket City.
Lend a Helping Hand
If you’re an on-again off-again extrovert like me, the recent extended period of times alone may be leaving you feeling anxious or…well…lonely. If you have the burning need to be involved with great people and even better causes, many local non-profit, arts and community boards could sure use your help.
Absolutely, you might be attending meetings via Zoom or with the appropriate social distance for some time, but it sure feels good these days to get outside of your own perilous thoughts and be a part of something greater than yourself. Give your soul something to look forward to and a healthy distraction from the often steady stream of daily bad news.
Lastly, what would Huntsville be without our absolutely stunning outdoor spaces? Whether it’s the 70+ miles of trails managed by Land Trust of North Alabama, our 65 quaint and picturesque City of Huntsville parks, dog parks for enjoying with your furry friend, gorgeous greenways, Huntsville Botanical Garden, Burritt on the Mountain, or even the dang Tennessee river for goodness sake; we are overrun with opportunities to commune with nature, center our thoughts and take a the deepest of all breaths.
What’s clear is, we are each working through our own individual journeys right now. These are just a few places, spaces and activities that have brought me moments of “Zen” as of late and I hope they lead you to yours.
We’re all in this together (6 feet apart) so, when I stray from my “kind and relaxed” self, I would love to have your suggestions to remind me of what’s possible.
What you got, Huntsville?! Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Sixth-generation native Huntsvillian and lover of all things Rocket City, living in constant fear of personal geekery deficits and overall lack of geographical nerd-appropriateness, but valiantly fighting to stay abreast of the latest and perceived coolest assets in North Alabama in order to be allowed to stay at the smart people party. I sometimes travel to cool places, see fancy things and write words about them at Tour Dates Travel.