My honey said I needed to rest. That I was thinking too much about Synchronistory, my long held passion project to connect the entire world population via a global television event that celebrates us all. Nearly 30 years on, I was ever tense about the political landscape and how to pull off a miracle. So he suggested I refresh my personal landscape with Easter in Spain; land of Matadors, Conquistadors, Sandy shores. Siestas.
Olay Away(ke)! — WIDE awake.
I love siestas. I’ve been doing “she”estas long before the trend. There is no sleep as deep and invigorating for me as a 30 minute, dreamless catnap around 3pm. It’s like a sedative. Pure, professional-style sleep. Olympic winning sleep. After one of these I rebound with stamina and a clear mind. It’s not always doable in the scheme of my work day but I do it when I can.
A vacation has many faces. For some it’s about cultural discovery. For others it’s about lolling on beaches doing nothing. For still others it’s about active sports — or combinations thereof. My notion of our trip envisioned Spanish catnaps interspersed with all these delicious elements … like a great tapas meal with many savoury little tastings. And the piece de resistance? Siesta.
The day we departed for Spain, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were “beautifully” launched (so reported Brian Williams) on all forms of media. They scorched the night sky en route to Syria like a living work of art for war mongers … and a still life for many others.
Days later at Madrid’s wondrous Prado museum, I’d just viewed stunning works by Vasquez, Goya and other greats whose vivid portraits of dark landscapes and sharply defined ancient heavens competed with another “wondrous” vision being dropped from the contemporary media heavens over Afghanistan; a 30 foot long, 21,000 pound MOAB.
A day thereafter while sampling pork, spanish omelette, and sardines at a chi chi tapas bar in the Salamanca district of Madrid, the missiles and the MOAB were old news as an entire Turkish population nee Europe nee world witnessed the historic referendum vote in Turkey that would leave President Erdogan with a significant power boost over 80 million turmoiled inhabitants trying to reconcile their national and global identity (not to mention their personal inner identity).
And in the following days on our train to Andalusia came news of a terrorist attack on the Champs Elysee which killed a policeman (while I was still catching up on the news about the plot to blow up a Dortmund football league’s bus in Germany … Theresa May’s decision to hold a June election in the U.K. … and the upcoming French Presidential election with far right murmurs wafting through the EU air).
Oh yes — and then there was Easter.
I increasingly yearned for a siesta—that cultural point-of-interest which can’t be found on any Spanish map — in which storefronts close, streets desert, restaurants rest, and the expedition into stillness theoretically extends beyond even Columbus’ global dreams.
But never mind all that — an historic parade of 1000’s was taking place through Seville’s ancient cobbled streets not far from the Alcazar’s vertiginous magnificence (while a much more scrambled egg-hunt was occuring on the White House lawn which I’m told was as laid back as Evita Peron learning to bake bread with the Amish).
Then there was Cadiz, historic port city 80 kilometers south of Seville and launchpad for Magellan’s world tour.
This particular day appeared miraculously “news free” after nine anxiety-spiced ones roving around. So we finally took an overnight pause — on the shoulders of a coastal storm whose sustained 82 kilometer winds found me actually sleeping in the bathtub, crunched with fear of exploding windows. My darling conquistador snored through the thundering gusts in his own wine-inspired Siest-ation (read: Siesta Nation).
On to amazing Cordoba where the winds subsided but not global news coverage. International protests were being orchestrated by Scientists in front of The White House and worldwide, concerning Climate Change. I, however, was experiencing emotional climate changes as we entered the mystical, resplendent, positively transcendent phenomenon that is La Mezquita. This mosque-cathedral and its whitewashed Spanish town was home to three signficant world religeons that somehow harmoniously co-existed for a few hundred years. They flourished together in glory and discovery; of Arts, Sciences, Agriculture, Education. I was weak-kneed.
Cordoba was captivatig. Confounding. It left me both breathless and restless. Why was an entire society able to hold delicate balance both sharing and nurturing each other’s splendours … to the point of thriving on each others’ bounties? Muslims, Christians, and Jews’ contributed to each others’ individual greatness on behalf of the collective whole. They became a concrete 10th century symbol of our 21st century inability to blend and harmonise the best of our cultural diversity as part of a global community … to excel at and then exceed the sum of our stunning parts (a dream weaving which is often absent in the mind of competitive political leadership).
Within a mere nine days of otherwise splendid and privileged travel I had been bombarded with anxiety-inducing imagery from breaking news reports … with my lover’s vigorous energy to rise at dawn and imbibe historic sites / food well into the night while photographing it all … and with my inability to write about last week’s Anxiety assignment for Thrive because I was too busy living it.
So what does all this have to do with Sleep?
Napping versus snapping.
When you don’t get enough of it you can be as in love as two turtle doves but you’ll feel emotionally spent without having spent a red cent.
My nervous system was fried; with images, tastes, news events, weather conditions. I was not getting enough she-esta. My traveling companion whom I adore is built differently. His rhythms are otherworldly. News affects him momentarily — then he moves on. Food affects him indifferently — he can ingest bottles of wine and a bison, then run a marathon the next morning. Weather affects him mildly — his barometric pressure swings wide yet steady. Mostly, he’s a remarkably balanced, happy fellow and quite possibly from another galaxy. That notwithstanding, I told my conquistador to slow his pace on my behalf. To not race blocks ahead of me on busy city streets where we can lose each other while he photographs a shadow or a bird or a ceramic tile or a gargoyle.
Every marvelous nook and Spanish cranny is revealed with his keen photographic eye. At times I felt like an afterthought yet it was great to see his grownup Self savouring his youthful passion. So I let it be. For awhile …
Eventually it caught up with me and I decided to enforce a she-esta, returning to the hotel perfectly happy if he continued solo for awhile. He refused, preferring to circumnavigate my globe and remain ensemble.
Back in our room I tried to siesta as he impatiently, microscopically eyed me. I finally rolled over and suggested he try it too. A “he-esta”.
This was like asking him to eat brussels sprouts.
So I rolled back over and allowed him to continue his scientific sleep analysis of me.
An hour later I awoke like a champion. Refreshed! Regenerated! Revived! Revved to conquer the night together! I turned to Mighty Man with his camera still hugging his neck ready for its next visual conquest, and rejoiced “Olay Olay!”
I heard snoring. And it wasn’t the camera.
Here lies the view of a slumbering Spanish wonder.
The siesta was invented by the Spaniards to counteract relentless, intense afternoon heat. Though borne of climate conditions it inadvertently bodes well for the emotional climate of our nervous systems. Mine gets clogged quickly and I long ago learned the value of the she-esta. But the thought of taking a he-esta — even in the very land where it was born — seemed initially odd to him, like an imposition to Productivity.
Rest is not a panacea for world problems. There will always be disruptive news feeds in the midst of a holiday or any other day-in-a-life. But it is the ultimate productivity-enhancer. It tempers the tantrums, stills our being, quenches our innate thirst for balance.
Ultimately, I didn’t have the nerve to stir Mighty Man from his he-esta. So I turned over and rode into those conquistador dreams beside him, missing dinner but awaking together, pre-dawn, to watch a Spanish sunrise on our terrace that resembled the birth of the Universe. He was thrilled with our newfound concept; the “we-esta”.
Like routine daily life, sometimes even a wonderful vacation can benefit from a little time out.
Rest … and then the rest. See(esta) what I mean?
Originally published at medium.com