season transitions · self care

In pursuit of… something peaceful: rural and urban options

For those of us who live in northern climes, it’s both spring and not-yet-spring. Here in the Boston area, the daffodils and a number of ambitious tulips are up and running. But the bright sun and blue skies and delightful warmth we crave are only available on a spotty basis. Yes, April really is the cruelest month, at least in my view.

In addition to the swing-set and merry-go-round gyrations of the weather, there’s also the roller-coaster ride which is the academic year to finish and disembark from. This is a fact of life for all who teach for a living, and all of us who harbor students in our midst. It’s not easy, I’m telling you. So, no one can fault me for looking to squeeze in a little time-out or peacefulness break during last few weekends before May arrives. Spoiler: I’ve found two so far. Hope you might find some of it useful in your own search for the strength to make it through until May.

First, the rural experience: my friend, acupuncturist and fellow book club member Lisa scoped out a local alpaca farm (located conveniently near another club member’s home) and organized a pre-book-club visit last Sunday afternoon. You could tell right away this was a fun place:

The owner led us into the barn, where the female alpacas were hanging out. They were as adorable as their reputations led me to believe, even though they somehow didn’t make this list of the eight cutest animals ever. Hmphf.

We were allowed to pet them, provided that they were amenable. We were told not to stick our hands out in front of their faces– I mean, that’s just rude, right? If they were close enough, we could pet their soft wooly necks. Since we were the last tour of the weekend, the owner said that the alpacas were kind of over the tourists (who can blame them), so we should probably respect their desires to keep a bit of distance. Fair enough. I feel that way by the end of my workweek too. And, this is sensible advice when visiting anyone.

Moving through the small barn, we exited to the yard to meet the male alpacas.

As if all this wasn’t enough to soothe the savage breast (yes, it’s breast, not beast; see here), there was also a gift shop. Oh yeah.

We all left for our book club meeting with heads and hearts full of alpaca love. In case you (like me) are now giving serious thought to throwing it all in and becoming an alpaca farmer, look no further than here. We discussed the idea in great detail during book club, but no one has given notice at their job yet. Yet.

Before I move on, one more thing: if these pictures of 30 times people captured alpacas being adorable don’t convince you to move alpacas up into the top ten most adorable animals of all time, then I just don’t know what to say.

Now, let’s move to more urban time-outs and the search for the brief wellness break, perhaps on the way home from the grocery store.

In a fit of late-night FaceBook buying imprudence, I purchased a “special deal” on a combo massage chair and salt-water-pod float experience. No, they don’t put the massage chair in the water; they are two separate experiences. The establishment is called The Indoor Oasis, about a 25-minute drive from my house. It was tucked away in the back corner of a quaint office park (this IS New England, people, so such things are possible), so not easy to find. But find it I did, and up the stairs I went, to find these nice people waiting for me.

The entrance to The Indoor Oases, with a lovely blue wall, wood registration desk, and friendly folks behind the desk.

I was greeted warmly, offered water and then seated in front of a safety video, which was hard to pay attention to, because I was curiously looking around. I did manage to catch the part about taking a shower– either before or after, or both (I did both to be on the safe side).

Intro and safety video for my float experience. Showering plays an important role, so is covered here.

Then it was time for my massage chair massage. Honestly, I didn’t have very high expectations. I’ve tried a few of these in the past, and my impression was pretty meh. Well, apparently I had never met the Kyota Kokoro M488 4D Massage Chair. Then, on Friday afternoon at 3:36pm, everything changed.

Hello, lover... The ridiculous brown and black leather massage chair. looks like something out of star trek.
Hello, lover…

Oh, my new massage chair soulmate may not look so pretty, with its brownish/bronze and black naugahyde upholstery. But you can’t judge a chair by its covering. The nice guy from the front desk got me set up in the chair, which involved shoving my legs and feet into the front slots, sticking my arms below the arm rests in a little chamber surrounded by soft polyester material, and nestling my shoulders and head in between pads designed to hold me in place, too.

Was I about to blast off somewhere? Well, yeah– to the land of sublime chair massage nirvana!

Oh. My. God. What followed was a 20-minute wild multi-sensory ride in what I can only describe as a Dr. Seuss-like steampunk hilarious full-body pleasure machine. The chair made all sorts of noises– huffs and puffs and wheezes of air filling up chambers and squeezing out of them like bellows (if bellows were incorporated into a living room set). It groaned and clicked and clacked, thumped (there was a lot of thumping) rolled, grumbled, hissed and knocked. All in service of giving me a variety of strong sensations consonant with being massaged by, well, an animate Dr. Seuss-like chair creature.

My arms and legs and hands and feet were pressed and squeezed. The bottoms of my feet were massaged by knobby rollers. My back and butt were manipulated by, uh, I don’t know– thumpy stick-like rotating things under the naugahyde seat. I didn’t laugh out loud, although I think no one would’ve heard me through all the racket the chair was making. I was equal parts amused and relaxed by the end of the 20 minutes.

At this point, I was pretty maximally blissful. But wait– I still had to do the float. Well, here we go– once more into the breach…

The same guy showed me my Float room– instead of a smallish pod, they have a whole room you can stand up in, so there’s less worry about feeling claustrophobic. Here’s what the setup looks like:

Anyone will float in this water– it’s super duper salty. There’s a spray bottle in there to spray your face if you get salt water in your eyes. The foam ring on the left is for under your head if you want it more out of the water, but I found it unnecessary. I tried all sensory options– with and without music, and with and without lights. All of them were nice. Here’s what the light show looks like:

I was supposed to float and relax and transcend my earthly burdens for 90 minutes. I have to admit, I started getting a little antsy before the hour was up. So I got out, showered (a necessity because of all the salt), took pictures and got dressed. Don’t get me wrong: it was very nice, floating there– warm and woozy and peaceful and colorful. But honestly, I’ve done a fair bit of floating in my time, and this was not so different. Of course, your mileage may vary.

I’m glad I tried both the float and the massage chair experiences. In the end, I am definitely Team Massage Chair. I’ll definitely be back for that, and I’m bringing friends.

And if I have to choose between the alpaca farm and the steampunk huffing and puffing massage chair, I’d say: why choose? We can have both! What a world we live in, huh?

So, friends, have you tried out of these sorts of escapes? Have you petted any particularly charming animals lately? Taken a ride on a magical La-Z-boy? Let me know– I want in on the fun.

Let us know what you think....