Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Weekend in the Country

When I saw the front porch and the redwoods on the website, I was intrigued, but then I saw the hammock and that was that.

When I was young, a vacation was a given. I was well into my late teens before I realized that not every family took annual vacations. On Mansfield Drive, where I grew up, lots of families did not take annual vacations, but they were living paycheck to paycheck. I did understand that there were things that people couldn't afford, but it came as a surprise that every family that could afford it didn't pile into a car once every year and go somewhere for a few days. My best friend in elementary school, Sandy, lived the most exotic life because she sometimes went to Hawaii to visit relatives. The rest of us, though, went to visit closer relatives or went camping. Because I grew up in the fog belt, it didn't take much travel to get somewhere that felt like it was "away" and vacation-y. If the daily temperature rose past 70 and if swimming was available, we were very happy. Every few years, we would go to Disneyland, which was the most exciting trip of all. One year, we even took a long road trip, driving all the way to the Washington/Oregon border. I was thrilled with Crater Lake, which we saw along the way. We had learned a little about volcanoes in school, and here I was looking into the mouth of an old volcano, which had filled with the bluest water I'd ever seen. I also learned that my family probably wasn't very well suited to taking long road trips.

I mostly loved our vacations, which made me want to give my children annual vacations. I also wanted for all of us to see more. Our annual vacations became pretty interesting trips: Washington D.C., Seattle, Alaska, Yellowstone, London. In addition, there was some camping and, of course, Disneyland. We saw a lot, but it was the trip to Alaska that opened my eyes to what was missing. In Alaska, we did a few days of road trips. It seemed wrong to travel that far to only see the state from the water. I also didn't think I'd really like the cruise part too much. I'm not a cruise person, I told myself. I was very wrong. There is no such thing as a cruise person. The ships are huge and they offer so much that I can't imagine anyone not having a good time. Mostly, you could find me on deck somewhere in a chair, reading. When we pulled into port, we would walk around town for a few hours. The thing was that I wasn't in charge. Someone else was doing all the driving. And it was so quiet out on the ocean. When I came home, I felt more relaxed than I had in my entire adult life.

I understood, for the first time, why people go to places like resorts. I also understood the beauty of my family's close to home camping vacations. Forced relaxation can be a good thing. So, this year, I wanted to go somewhere that smelled of trees, and that was quiet. My brother and sister-in-law and mother joined me for a few days at a house in Cazadero, near the Russian River. It was very nice and, when I came home, I forced myself to slow down my pace. Some of my summer resolutions may not happen and that's okay.

By the way, the little country markets where one buys food....well, let's just say this is not The Waltons. I was hoping for baskets of berries picked that morning by local people which I would cover with lightly sweetened cream that had been milked from a dairy cow that very morning. Instead, I got something akin to an inner city 7-11. But that's another story.

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