I recently took a trip to Austin, Texas over a three-day weekend to visit a friend who moved there in the spring. It was a very quick, encapsulated visit; while it seemed there wasn’t always enough time to catch up and visit, the energy vortex in that particular city didn’t lend itself to feeling rushed or “out of time” the way it often does here at home in Los Angeles. I realized this when the trip came to an end and I was quietly sitting in Austin Bergstrom Airport, waiting for my flight back home. I had a moment to write in my journal, having come out of my friend’s “space”—or even her new home city, so to speak, and back into neutral territory—the airport.
It was then, that in a flash I found myself in a very comfortable, very familiar, and extremely inspiring position, both literally and figuratively. Many people understand the appeal of traveling alone, of being in two realms at once, the feeling of owning yet another part of our world when you visit somewhere new—and the bittersweet joy of parting with a new friend and knowing that you are going back home. You are still in the city you are about to leave behind, but the airport is somehow there and not there, all at once. They are almost cities unto themselves, portals that link two cities across countries or continents. As I wrote in my journal, digesting all of this deliciousness, I felt the pulse of energy around me; I was in a living, breathing cell built of glass and metal, listening to the soundtrack of travel, of life, of humanity. And as I slowly, metaphorically savored my final moments in this new city, I sensed that impalpable thing you feel when you’ve met someone you’re going to know for a long, long time. That’s how I felt when I said goodbye to Austin.
The city itself seems to have a surplus of oxygen; though it was hot, and I often had to replenish what I had lost through sweating with gallons of water, I felt energized, uplifted, refreshed. The airport seemed a reflection of that; besides the eye opening nature of the trip and what I experienced there, the airport itself was like a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. It was absolutely synonymous with how I was feeling—weightless, joyful, unrestrained. It was as though the airport told me where to go—here’s where you get your ticket, here’s where you go through security. I met smile after smile—it took me less than 10 minutes from drop off at the curb to sitting at my terminal waiting for the plane. AND, I had a bag to check! This was red carpet treatment, coming from an L.A. gal. It was as though the entire city was saying “yes” to me. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Austin Bergstrom Airport is architecturally very interesting. Airports also have their own special energy; think of how you feel in a cramped, stressed terminal of some of the more poorly designed airports. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not that the city sees more traffic, but perhaps that the actual structure of the airport just lends itself to chaos and commotion, delayed flights, and confrontation. (Can anyone say LAX?) Maybe it’s a bit of both; but anyone can tell you that Los Angeles has its fair share of spaces that inspire awe and reverence and solitude as well.
Spaces speak to us; for some, it is subtle. You walk in and feel claustrophobic, or you walk in and feel immediately at ease. Is it the soaring ceilings, the ambience, the scent, the sounds, or is it something even more intangible? There’s no one answer. Spaces are as unique as people, and depending on the situation, spaces—just like people—have moods. Moods can change or be changed. Structures and spaces have needs as well. And that’s how I communicate with space, with the tools I have.
Sometimes a room will inform me that it needs an object moved, an area enhanced. In Feng Shui, I use this information to change the mood of the space. When I’m designing a structure, or an addition to an existing structure, I can sense/hear/feel what needs to be higher, or lower, or to be just so. Intuition is invaluable in these situations; that’s the incongruous beauty of feng shui, or even architecture—of breathing life into what seems like something that’s exactly the opposite of alive.
It’s not an easy thing to explain, but we all have intuition; we’ve all felt that feeling when we walk into a crowded, chaotic airport and to just know that you’re screwed. We dive into the collective chaos.
And on the flip side of that, I hope you’ve also had the experience of going somewhere new, walking into a space for the first time, and hearing without ears, hearing with your senses, hearing with your eyes, as quiet as a distant whisper or an Austin evening breeze through the leaves, on the wings of cicadas chirping in the night: