by Patti Mangan

Is your mind desperate for a break? Does your body whimper at the mere mention of a Moroccan soaking tub? It is possible you have been driven crazy and don’t even know it.

Sometimes solutions are stumbled upon. Or fallen into. Or collapsed upon.

I arrived at The Sanitarium, having no idea what to expect. I had assumed I would check-in, be briefed, and then head back out for a sultry evening on the salty streets of San Luis Obispo, CA.

Upon entering my room I was stunned by its simple beauty. It was full of art. What to touch first? The cold basin of the deep hammered tub standing unfettered in the corner? The bumpy, crazy colored, lovingly worn patchwork quilt and fluffy pillows? The cool tiles of the bathroom floor. I lingered over every item – all seemingly selected to seduce me.

I succumbed. Silently disrobing, I lay prone, gazing up and out to the swaying tree tops.

After months of constantly moving, making, minding, and musings, my mind and body came to a complete stop. A stillness not acquired in months. When I awoke it was dark and cool. Faint music and laughter floated up the stairs and slipped under my door. I lay quietly for awhile hoping I might fall off to sleep again. But curiosity moved me up and on. I freshened up–determined to still do something in San Luis Obispo other than sleep.

Tiptoeing downstairs I found the innkeeper in the front studio puttering and muttering. He was surrounded by multiple painted canvases of all sizes and styles, several 20 gallon tin buckets filled with hundreds of squeezed tubes of paint, and dozens of jelly jars with brushes standing at attention.

“Here, you can paint too” he offered. Really? Maybe, but first I should go out. I spent the rest of the evening in a used bookstore downtown, huddled in the arts section. I discovered a Sotheby’s auction catalog devoted to Latin American art. I felt like it was waiting for me to discover it.

I returned to The Sanitarium eager to completely submit to its care. An hour long private steam shower loosened the last twist in my mental and physical spine, delivering a state of utter submission. I weaved dreams so vivid and clear at the time – all lost to me now.

In the morning, all plans for seeing the sights were silenced. Instead I flirted with the innkeeper amid his artwork, moved by his insights and sensitivities. I settled on the parlor sofa and fingered through several neatly stacked four foot piles of art books clearly lovingly collected over many years.

I would paint. I could paint. Please may I paint?! I am so pleased at the notion of painting.

Two hours of page turning flies by. Still stumped. What to paint? Okay. Focus. What am I feeling? Cleansed. Naked. Beautiful.

Starting with a simple lead pencil I generated an outline nude form. Assured, my fingers reached for a brush and a tube of paint and I began. Colors layering, light and shadows building, a self portrait emerged. Uninterrupted for several hours I sang through my fingers. I remember me.

Nearly finished–it was time for check-out. I felt transformed. Loosened. Lighter.

So simply made happy in 24 hours. What a gift to my solo self. Thank you. Thank me.

Stay here as soon as you can.

The Sanitarium Spa

1716 Osos Street @ Santa Barbara

San Luis Obispo, CA

Seven intimate rooms with private baths. Original art in every room. Sun drenched private decks. Darling breakfast pantry. Garden. Art studio. Grand piano. Walking distance to downtown. Massage room. Visit the website for full details. But call–the owner Suzy hates email and computers.