Please tell me it's all a bad dream ... that the calendar is wrong and today is not a week after our vacation ... the vacation I dream about 51 weeks out of the year, that I pine for like a teenage girl pines for a Jonas brother (is that current? what is the 2009 equivalent of Davy Jones? My tastes ran towards George Harrison, but that's another topic). And I ask you: why does a week at work drag by while a week on vacation is over before I can wipe the sleep sand from my eyes?
Yes, I am having trouble decompressing from a lovely week in a magical place. The moment I walked into the Boathouse we rented, I thought to myself "When can I come back here on my own?" and plans for a future birthday celebration were hatched. And while that moment of inspiration still feels fresh in my mind, the reality is we are home, the bags unpacked, laundry done and Cowgirl has been to the doctor for a sinus infection she cultivated over the week away (no worries: she did not let such minor inconveniences like a runny nose and hacking cough affect her capacity for fun and high energy play.) Aside from the fact that we were away from work, why is it vacation feels so good and return to "normal" life feels so stifling?
One thing I know about myself is I swing from needing structure and routine to the opposite extreme of craving spontaneity and surprise. What a vacation allows is a chance to set in place a very simple, dare I say elegant, daily routine punctuated by splashes of play and adventure. On vacation, we pared away all the inessentials - television, mail, telephones - and focused upon basics. Every morning we lounged around in pajamas, Cowgirl held enthralled by the antics of Sponge Bob Square Pants while adults sipped coffee and gazed upon the loveliness of our pond-side view. No newspaper, no hurry, the only decision to be made: which beach and when?
Our nighttime routine was equally inspiring: cleaning off the day's beachy grime in the outdoor shower (a luxury I knew and loved as a child when I spent summers at our beach house - yes, I was and am very privileged and I appreciate every morsel of goodness I was offered by my family); dinner to be prepped (it had to be simple: we had only basic pots and pans and 4 plates, 4 bowls and 4 mugs); cocktails to be poured and plastic picnic table to set for our meal on the porch. After dinner some card games, music playing through the laptop (okay, we didn't totally rough it - but no internet connection - gasp!) or maybe a quick spin on the pond in the rowboat or kayaks? Which shall it be?
Since we were in one room, the sleeper bed would be pulled out around 8 p.m. and Cowgirl's makeshift camp bed (couch cushions and air pad) set up. We might watch one show together, all piled into our big bed and then stories were read, Cowgirl put to sleep and we adults snuggled in for some leisurely grown up reading in bed. I rarely made it past 9:30; exhaustion from so much fun and the gentle rhythms of Cowgirl's phlegmy breathing dragged me down into Dreamland rather quickly.
The early morning sun and sounds of birds and something scampering over our rooftop (one morning I did see a coyote run by!) usually woke us early, and so our days went by in a hypnotic rhythm echoing the pulse of the nearby sea. We have souvenirs from the week to inspire us for the coming year: new beach stones to be painted, shells collected, post cards written on like a dairy and photographs taken to document all the yumminess. But what I hope to maintain after that week is a commitment to such simplicity in my life. I tend towards clutter of all kinds and our culture encourages this habit. I desperately want to believe I can stick to my resolve to mindfully choose how to spend my time, not slipping into easy routines of television watching or compulsively grasping for the telephone to fill an empty moment. If nothing else, I hope to keep some moments refreshingly empty. And baring that, use time to create, to write, to play and to listen more attentively to whatever my child has to tell me. She usually has the best ideas on how to fully live each moment.