All my vacation days this summer, were spent doing stuff I’ve always done. Visiting family and friends. Hanging out in familiar locations. Even the pace of time away was short and sweet, a few days here and few days there. My cognitive abilities were not being challenged, tested and pushed to the limit, (which my everyday life can often seem like). And so, of course I loved my vacation days this Summer.
If it seems right to reach back to the May long weekend, then Summer 2015 starts there. Unfortunate circumstances, brought my family from Alberta to stay with me. We united with local, extended family for a celebration of life. (See Angel). And even though one amazing life had ended, we felt a boost of energy by being together and playing out our family rituals. This is when I first realized how much my childhood and my family hold the keys to the kind of person I once was. Maybe even more so, the kind of person I want to migrate back to. Who wouldn’t want to experience some of the “great fun” which comes with being a kid again?
In early July we made the pilgrimage back to Portland for WDS. This time my husband joined the fun. In a big group venue, with part inspiration, part education, I am reminded of being in a school auditorium for some kind of special event. The energy in the room is a buzz with great expectations. You leave an experience like that changed, but grounded. At least for me it was an even stronger reminder of what brings me extreme joy. Inspiration is queen. Always has been.
In late July, Calgary was calling. My own children had been in that area for almost a month by that point. While we missed them, we reconnected as a couple. A little scary to start. What happens when we strip away all the busyness of our kids lives and turn to each other solely? Will we have enough to talk about? Turns out yes, yes and yes. Ideas we tossed around in those weeks are some of my most productive, supportive and loving times of the year. Seems we not only have a lot to talk about, we still really like hanging out with each other!
A side trip from Calgary, took us to a very small town in Alberta called Bassano. (Not to be confused with the town of the same name in Italy). In this tiny place, my children can be. They come and go. They swim in the local pool. They eat when they are hungry. They are free to be their own people. The restrictions of modern life, living in a city, bound by endless rules, regulations and customs, have no place in a place where life flows at a simpler pace. This was the story of my formative years. It is only now, looking back, I realize how good I had it. Hindsight. It is also a place where you can feel nourished in a way. Because there are moments of deep reflection, there are also moments of deeper connections with other people. My Aunt made a book recommendation which was absolutely perfect. She listened to me talk, and then the book was placed in my hands. (See Work Life Balance).
Then I was off on my own, the long haul flight to London, England. There I met up with 2 dear friends and we talked, walked, laughed, enjoyed food and drink and generally acted like the women we really are. Our truly authentic selves. Not the ones that have to be placed in a specific box by those around us. When you have the opportunity to roam like this, you are free. It is a fantastically wonderful feeling. One that I highly recommend to anyone. And it can be done in your own city. It can be done for a few hours at a time. I would think the benefits are greater is this habit can be practiced far more often than once per year. I just take what I can get.
My trip to London was a tiny add-on, to a business trip. I don’t want to give the impression that I jet off to Europe at moments notice for a few days! I do about 6 long haul trips per year and I have added these weekends, only 4 times in about 12 years. Even though the airfare is already paid, the extra hotel and eating out and having fun, can get a little spendy. So I am careful on this type of travel expense. The same amount of money goes a long way towards a Mexico vacation for the whole family.
Speaking of family, once I got back from Europe, the very next day we were off to Cortes Island. Maybe it is because I grew up in Alberta, but BC Ferries meant fun ahead, summer, adventure and did I mention fun? Getting to Cortes requires 3 ferry rides. I was so excited, even for this first day of travel. (After the previous day of inter-Europe + long haul, being strapped into a seat for way too many hours, give me some space to roam!) The pace of life slowed with each ferry ride. The busyness of people, the stress, the appointments, everything faded away. As we sailed into Whaletown, I felt like we were finally home.
We spent a week on Cortes Island. We tried to do everything, in the hopes of packing it all in. But as the days progressed, we realized that was not going to happen. We had to come back. We started to speak of next summer, of doubling the time. But that seemed so far off. It also seemed like, “not enough”. Would we be able to experience this place for such short periods of time, so infrequently? Cortes was too magical for that. We had fallen under her spell.
For my part, the book “Tidal Passages” by Jeanette Taylor was an eye-opening view of what life was once like on Cortes.
What emerges from Taylor’s colourful pageant is a view of pioneer life that is quintessentially coastal: of potlatches, longhouses, stumpranchers, handloggers, beachcombers, seagoing missionaries, isolation that brought out the worst in some people and the best in others, and through it all the watery element of dugouts, steamships, ferries and tides that pulsed through islander life like a heartbeat.
Combined with our week of discovery on the island, my imagination was overflowing with modern life on Cortes. What would it be like to spend countless hours here? Experience different days, maybe an Easter holiday, Canada Day, even stretch out to a Thanksgiving or a Christmas break?
As we packed up to leave Cortes, I felt a profound sadness. I have arrived, enjoyed and left so many places in my life. Even within the past few months, why should this be so different? Where is the pull on my heart-strings coming from? How did this happen?
I’ve been discussing these questions with my sister. She arrived with her 2 boys, (kind of young men now), a few days ago. Her stay marks the end of our Summer vacation days. Tomorrow when she boards her flight back to Calgary, I’ll turn my attention back to work. The big Fall push that drives my company to hit the year-end goals. It is always with some melancholy that I look at the start of Autumn. As the days shorten and we brace for cool and then cold weather, the Northern hemisphere’s environment is moving into a cycle of dormancy, while we ramp up our industry.
Maybe what I miss most about being a kid was the innocence. The end of Summer was the start of school. Depending on the year, that was mostly a good experience for me. Fresh supplies, friends, learning, the return of the schedule. Nothing ever interrupted this certainty in my life. It was with a measure of dismay when I realized upon starting your working life that your Summer vacation would be reduced to a paltry 2 weeks. And that was only if you were allowed to take that whole thing at once, which might take decades to achieve. There was some fine print for you.
So I’ve learned an important lesson this Summer. I’ve practiced how to be a kid again. And I like it. Now, how can I incorporate this mindset into all my days? This is a question I feel compelled to understand and explore further. For me, it is a lock which I am determined to find the key for.