It was so different for me to be traveling on my own. I opened the window of my quaint motel room and the smell of pine was glorious. After showering, I threw my suitcases into my Honda Civic. I turned on my meditation music to inspire me for my 5-hour drive through Northern California. I was leaving Paradise (what a beautiful name for a mountain town!) and driving to Santa Rosa.
Dappled shadows sprinkled over my car as I navigated the mountain road. Once I hit the bottom, I sailed past rolling hills and vineyards.
A sign caught my eye and I turned off the highway. My car shook as I went down a long dirt road into an orchard. After a restroom stop, I carried a large box of fresh peaches and put them on the seat next to me. The peaches would be a lovely gift to share with Cindy when I arrived. Soon I found myself eating a juicy peach as I drove – I was truly in heaven.
Cindy and I knew each other in high school and had been very close while in college. We lost touch shortly before I was married. At our 30th high school reunion, we reconnected. And only a few months ago at our 40th reunion, she mentioned to me that I could visit her anytime I wanted to.
I decided to take her up on her offer. When my 27-year-old son told me he wanted to visit his uncle in Northern California for five days, I knew it was a terrific opportunity for him and I to spend one-on-one time together on the long drive there. I could visit Cindy after dropping him off and this would definitely add adventure to my life.
It was a long time ago when Cindy and I used to go horseback riding, hiking and folk dancing. Losing touch with her felt sad; I had even written a song about it. But my mind was still foggy about why it had happened.
After our 30th high school reunion, Cindy came to visit me. Our children were of similar ages and at that time I was living in a huge home. I showed her my artwork and we talked about our lives since college. We took some really nice family pictures on that day.
Years later when I told Cindy that I was getting divorced, she said, “Judy, I noticed that something was really off when I visited you ten years ago. I even told my husband Barry that something was wrong.” I asked her to explain – what was off?
She told me she sensed my unhappy marriage. Her clue was that my husband and I had barely spoken to or about each other. And what had really surprised her was when she asked me if I ever sang and played my guitar anymore.
I gave her my standard answer. The music that had given me joy and intimacy with my friends was gone. I stopped playing after I was married because I was too busy focusing on my career. Cindy was very surprised by my answer because music was my identity all the time she knew me. When my music ended, I lost the connection and expression of my heart.
My detachment from music and joy was clear to her. I just didn’t know.
This post is named for my song “Peaceful and Inspired,” which I composed in 2014 while on a trip in Oregon.
Link to Part 1 of this story: Story behind PEACEFUL AND INSPIRED-PART 1
I have added new guitar tracks to my older arrangement and share my updated version in different ways below:
Driving with my son turned out to be very special and his company was precious. Even though he lived with me, he was making plans to move away – possibly early next year.
I was fine doing most of the driving through boring stretches of farmland. We stopped for lunch at a famous Pea Soup restaurant and took pictures of each other.
I was curious how it would be seeing my son’s uncle, my former brother-in-law. It was probably about ten years since we had seen each other. I knew my divorce probably came as a shock to him; I remembered how I felt after both my brothers’ divorces.
In the early evening we arrived at the forest town of Paradise, which was our destination. I enjoyed seeing my former brother-in-law and his lovely wife. They were warm and excited to see my son. There was nothing awkward about our time together and I felt comfortable.
We went out for dinner and afterwards we all took a walk at a nearby park. I especially appreciated the cooler air since the hot weather had been stifling when we left earlier that morning. The park was connected to a pine forest and deer walked within view.
I said good night to everyone and checked into a motel nearby. The feeling of freedom was indescribable. I was alone in this beautiful setting and filled with gratitude.
Before I rediscovered my love for music, I was not peaceful. I was “stressed out and uninspired.”
When I started to play my guitar again, I found inspiration but I was still fairly stressed out. I had to manage with both my parents’ declining health. I was an advocate for all of my children. Separating after a long marriage and suffering with dry eyes took a huge toll upon my psyche.
Yet during that time, I experienced an amazing renaissance of writing and composing. I am truly in awe about how I did those things while struggling, but consider it a spiritual gift that saved me.
Now that I am in a place of peacefulness, I haven’t felt the need to write like I used to. My time and energy is spent creating new recordings and arrangements of my songs.
When I reflect upon my life and my amazing journey, I seldom imagine what is ahead for me. I feel like where I am it is an absolutely perfect and beautiful place to be.
I am able to devote myself to my passion of creating music. I am close to all three of my children. What more could I want?
I arrived at Cindy and Barry’s home in the late afternoon. I was tired and I felt relieved to have made it safely there. Cindy warmly welcomed me in and Barry helped carry my suitcase and guitar into their daughter’s bedroom.
It worked out well that their daughter was going away that very day to see a solar eclipse that was a few hundred miles away. I would sleep in her room.
Over the next few days, I felt very relaxed with Cindy and Barry. I enjoyed making scrambled eggs for everyone and we went out for wonderful meals in great restaurants. In her daughter’s bedroom was a tank with a large snake inside. Cindy encouraged me to hold it. I owned reptiles when I was a young girl and that was such a long time ago. It was crazy when she took some pictures for me – the snake began wrapping around my neck!
Several times, I pulled out my guitar and shared my songs with her. She sat nearby in an old rocking chair to listen. At one point, we both sang songs together and the memories from the past were so touching.
During one of our long talks, I felt sad that I couldn’t remember why we had lost touch. Cindy opened up to share many of her feelings with me. I became emotional hearing about the awful things she had endured. I wasn’t truly a good friend back then because I had chosen to withdraw from her. When Cindy summed it up by saying, “Judy, you just wanted to stay in a happy place,” my heart ached.
I felt teary and told her I was sorry. I was sincere. I felt badly to have hurt her and for distancing myself from such a dear friend.
My time with Cindy and Barry was special beyond words. Cindy often gave me credit for meeting her husband. I kept pushing her to go to a dancing event and she finally went. It was there that she met Barry. Watching them together sweet – they truly adored each other.
On my third day, we went on an outing to see the coastal forest near their home. The trail through the majestic redwoods was simply gorgeous. After our hike, Barry took some pictures of me playing my guitar in the forest. In my song “Peaceful and Inspired” the last line is, “I’ll take you home with me.”
I definitely took so much home from my forest trip.
I drove back home to Los Angeles with my son and it was on the day of a rare solar eclipse. Even though we weren’t in the range to see a total eclipse, we put on special glasses to view a partial one. My son told me that it was very cool. He took a picture by putting the glasses over his cell phone.
Our time together and this memory was something we would carry with us for the rest of our lives.
And when I came home, I was ready to get right back where I left off – creating new musical arrangements and singing my heart out.
I share a recent performance of my song at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly.