We all have that place—that one place we go to that makes us feel like we’re somewhere else entirely. It could be an LA joint that reminds us of a café terrace we frequented in Paris, or an ice cream parlor, or a wall of paperback books. You get the gist. Up until August of last year when my membership expired, that place, for me, was Universal Studios. Or more specifically, Harry Potter World. (I’m sure I’m not alone in this!) However upset I was about work stuff and life stuff, strolling through Hogsmeade changed my narrative, at least for the moment. I’d hunker down at Three Broomsticks in front of a cup of frothy butterbeer, and almost instantly, all was good with the world.
With annual pass pricing ticking up, I decided against renewing my membership this year, hoping I’d find a new “place.” It wasn’t until I was pacing back and forth in front of The Huntington Library, waiting for my friend to arrive, that it hit me. What better way to start the new year than with access to this enclave of art and culture? (OK—so they don’t pour butterbeer, but no place is perfect, eh?) I made the decision on a whim. For $160, I could scoop up a cashmere sweater, or I could buy myself the gift of getting lost—in art, architecture, the people passing by. It was an easy choice.
From the very first time I stepped foot in this 207-acre complex, I fell in love. (If you haven’t read my blog post about my first visit at The Huntington, catch up here). As someone who grew up around art (thanks to my artist mom), obviously, one of my favorite stops is the Huntington Art Gallery. Today, we weave through the large library and drawing rooms and slowly, leisurely meander around the grand portraits hall. Our footsteps echo inside the Beaux-Arts mansion, and just as we’re about to leave, I’m suddenly stalled by a beautiful haunting painting.
It’s British painted Richard Cosway’s depiction of a rosy-cheeked lady who went by the name of Margaret Clark. In perusing art—and specifically, portraiture—there’s an obvious element of escapism. It’s a time to disappear into other peoples’ lives and issues, so much so that you totally forget your own. As I look into Margaret’s wistful, grief-stricken eyes, I’m consumed by imagination. What is she mourning? Does it have anything to do with the image inside her locket necklace? What did she read in that letter?
I continue to think about Margaret Clark even when I get home, and obviously, even now, as I write this post, the purpose of which is to say: find your place. A “happy place” doesn’t have to be a product of imagination, it can be a real space. When you’re there, practice escapism. It’s not a cop-out—it’s a meditation. Like reading, like yoga, like dancing.