It is all so clear to me, as I look at these three different places. Can you feel the energy of the cold, arid mountain range of Idaho, the fiery precision of Times Square in New York City or the sultry warmth of the Hawaiian Islands where the water hangs over the Pacific Ocean, not a rain cloud in sight? The energy of a place infiltrates all 75 trillion cells in our body. The energy of a place has the power to alter what we accomplish, how we sense the world, how we feel about ourselves, understand others; it has the power to change who we are.
My family has been living in Ketchum, Idaho at 5,853 feet above sea level for almost a year. The annual rain/snow fall of 18 inches compared to our hometown, Seattle, which has an average of 65 inches of rain, has had a bigger impact on our family of five than the daily vitamin D surge. The sun shines seventy percent of the time, but most months of the year it is either cold or icy cold without a droplet of water to spare – the pouring rain will bring the humidity to seventy-five percent on a relatively warm day. The winter months are dry and frigid, the air thin and constantly moving. The punishing climate causes people, plants and animals to draw inward to their core. We huddle together in our home with the fire radiating the warmth we crave, but it is never enough. Even writing is letting go of too much. Maybe that is why Ernest Hemingway fled to the Florida Keys when the temperatures and moisture in the air plummeted.
When I think of New York, my home for four years, it is the sultry, hot summers and the fire in those that thrive there that I envision. The people of the Northeast are not drawn into themselves; instead they seize the opportunity life presents with sharp focused achievement. There is no time for contemplation or second guesses. Relationships are strong and loyal but there is an identified reason for the attachment – family, work, customer, neighbor, friend – and all others are suspect. The fire within you generates the warmth you feel. Of course, the danger is in the excess. The bright, strong, action-oriented leader thriving in NYC can step over the line into aggressive, critical, inflamed, and angry. The village they lead might get scorched. In balance, the energy of New York City is invigorating.
Kauai is the oldest of the Islands. Life moves slower and the warm air surrounds you like a whisper. Nothing is too important. You are surrounded by the waves lapping the smooth sand and the breeze lulls you with utter contentment. Mt. Waialeale in the center of the Kauai rainforest is the “wettest spot on Earth” with 450 inches of rainfall per year. My family explored Kauai for Spring Break this year. As we drove around the Island we passed one of the most beautiful beaches we had seen. Across the street was a dilapidated hotel with trees and weeds growing through the windows, the roof weathered and caved, and in complete disrepair to which a bulldozer is the only option. My husband remembered going to that hotel as a kid on vacation. It is the Coco Palms Resort, where Elvis Presley filmed the movie, Blue Hawaii and famous stars from Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra to the von Trapp Family Singers vacationed.
On September 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki ravaged the beautiful hotel and it was closed with no plans to rebuild. This happened twenty-one years ago, on one of the most famous beaches in the State and everyone said, “Oh, well,” and walked away. There it sits, home to plants and critters, as well as a tour company that will walk you through the jungle that has grown inside this famous hotel. The picturesque cove, on one of the most beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean, is as pristine as if it were deserted. Although, there is the possibility of an Elvis sighting on the tour.
The difference in place is striking – Idaho, New York, Hawaii. We feel different in each of these places; the people have a different collective energy. In our transient society we often find ourselves in places that are worlds apart from our origins. When on vacation we marvel at the differences and it feels good to balance out our own natural energies, but what happens when a person from Kauai moves to New York; a New Yorker moves to the Rockies?
I have experienced my own energy shift when I moved from Seattle to New York and back again. My Northeast life was fast and focused. I worked sixty-hour weeks, went to business school at night, traveled for work and pleasure and planned our wedding. When we moved back to the rain, it was with a baby and without a job. That fire within, which kept life humming along in New York, began to smolder and build like a bonfire on a Northwest beach. The outlets that kept me balanced disappeared into the gray clouds and fog. It took awhile, but slowly I came back to steady, balanced contentment that I experienced growing up in the soggy Northwest.
Living in Idaho has caused another shift that seems more light and breezy. I don’t feel as rigid or stuck in situations that in Seattle felt like quicksand. Here, moods move with the wind, routines are not as important, and ideas – not actions – are fast and furious. The future is more interesting than analyzing the past or sticking to the schedule of the present. I hike in these gorgeous mountains and I am alive with energy.
Too much of the energy from this arid, mountainous region, however, causes some to have sleepless nights, get dehydrated and anxious about the future. They don’t thrive because the energy of place filters through our cells like the water fish swim. When we stay in one place we can no longer see that energy and might assume that our very happiness or unhappiness is either ‘just how we are’ or, worse that there is something wrong with the people in this particular place – depending on our own mixture of elements.
Only through living in three distinct places have the differences revealed the impact on myself, on my family. My oldest daughter and I share similar energies and have loved the dry climate of the Rockies. In Kauai, we felt like a ship stuck on the beach as the tide recedes, but my husband and middle daughter could not have been happier surrounded by the warm, thick air where the moisture hangs like a hummingbird lapping sugar water. In New York, I would get wrapped up in dramas, wore them like a cloak. The details and schedule seemed ever so important. The question was, “What am I doing right now?” In Seattle, damp like Kauai, the question was, “What happened in the past that causes me to feel like I do today?” And finally, in Sun Valley, Idaho, I ask, “What is my purpose in this life, how can I help?”
These questions are my questions, which have been revealed by immersion into a place. They also come because of my unique makeup of natural energies – comprised of ether, wind, fire, water and earth – and how that place stirs us in it’s own energy.