Open Door. Open Books. Open Mind. Open Heart.

These were the four signs in each second-story window of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco on my recent visit. Inside, a roughly sketched black-on-white sign said:

Educate Yourself

Read Here 14 Hours a Day

I’d like to heed that call for a week or so. I really would. I really could.

Later, while descending from the second floor filled with poetry, my friend Carole noticed a bulletin board with brightly colored Post-It notes all over it and pointed it out to me. I loved that it was a call to write a line of favorite verse. I scrawled “I wandered lonely as a cloud” on a blue one and added it to the board, but smiled at a yellow one just beneath it because I recognized the words of Mary Oliver:

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

My answer in that moment felt heady because I was doing it – see more of the world. We were wandering North Beach and I loved the massive, glorious St. Peter and Paul Church, the beautiful scarves in Chinatown, and the fresh cannoli put before me in a sweet Italian café.

It is a fact that if I am traveling I am most often going to be drawn to bookstores, art museums, churches, scarves/jewelry and delicious food. We’d nailed most of those in a delightful afternoon.

What was so special about this trip – which began in San Francisco for a few days and turned into a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego with two friends – was the feeling that we’d gone into it in the spirit of that City Lights sign. Open. We’d made a pact to express any issues that came up instead of letting them fester. Open. To adventure. Open. To making memories. Open. To whatever.

Open turned into lunches in Carmel, Santa Barbara and Laguna Beach. Time spent watching thousands of elephant seals sprawled on a beach, flopping around and flipping sand. A visit to an underground Himalayan salt cave. Freshly picked strawberries as a roadside snack. Visions of wild mustard and California poppies along hillsides. Lots of foamy water crashing against cliffs and sandy shores.

Open minds and open hearts taking it all in. Friendships solidifying along the way.

When we reached San Diego, it was to attend a professional conference. While the tenor changed a bit, less carefree and more structured, the goodwill continued as the journey’s common thread. So much warmth and connection with familiar and new faces. Openness to hearing world-class speakers bring their truth.

I felt like an open door. Letting in so much. I was reminded again of the sign at the bookstore. Open Door. And of a book I bought there: A Year with Hafiz, Daily Contemplations. And this passage from one of the days that came mid-trip:

Service to others will help you become deaf to a voice inside of you that does not believe in happiness. And while you are at it, remembering things … find four poems you like and imbibe their words into your repertoire.

There is richness in that. Poem. Song. Speech. Prose. Words on a sign. They cut and soothe.

We simply stay open.

And let it all in.

By Nancy Colasurdo
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