“Time is the greatest and most valuable commodity of our century, yet we have lost the moment to pause and to marvel.”
- Jo Denbury
I went on a little vacation last night. It involved no packing or planning, budget or travel to any place other than the comfort of a chair in a corner in my own living room. Yet the moments spent enjoying a number of books harbouring fantasy getaways was time well spent, and as relaxing as any vacation. One could argue it was even more relaxing as it took little effort.
Jo Denbury was the author of one such book called “haven and hideaways”. She, along with photographer Chris Tubbs took me on a journey from sailing barges and summer houses, to tree houses and the mountains, gardens and a whitewashed beach hut.
The introduction to the book features a full page with two simple white Adirondack chairs in a setting of green: green lawn, green trees, and green foliage. If you look closely, you see a small cabin set among the trees—a true picture of tranquility. Denbury believes we do not have enough tranquility in our lives. She says that “it is the very high tech jungle we have created for ourselves that prevents us finding the answers.” She believes we are “born explorers and questers after the unknown” but we spend a lot of time “pacing the perimeter of life searching for the answers.”
Many of the hideaways featured in the book, are those of people, she says, who need “solitude, escape, contrast, quiet, emptiness; to be closer to the earth, the weather and the sky, and to feel time.” To feel time—such a poetic term, but one that is much needed. Vacation getaways, the best ones, are those where we feel time—and don’t have it regimented and restricted by out of control schedules. My summer this year is based on schedules—it is a busy time of year for the members of my family, who are all working long hours with very few days off. There is no time in our schedules right now for a vacation, so we must reach for little vacations of the mind, until we can take some time for a physical getaway. Denbury believes that in the future we will no longer be subject to what she calls “wage slavery” when we realize “its futility and the importance of balance in our lives and in our homes.” Not all of us are free of “wage slavery” at times in our lives, yet we can still pause and marvel though caught up in the hurly burly of the everyday.
Paging through her book quiets the mind, giving it something to land on that does not entail busyness. Vignettes of canoes docked willy nilly, picnic tables in overgrown groves, faded wood furniture coupled with more modern and architecturally defined cottages expands the possibilities. We can vacation wherever we want—in a rustic and primal way with barely running water and only a tiny corner of a kitchen, or in a more refined way with plush furnishings and all the comforts of home without having to diligently manage time.
And that is really what a vacation is all about. Unmanaged time. Time to realize the rituals of life. Denbury defines her rituals as making fires, growing vegetables, bathing outdoors, and being able to see the stars. We all have our own self-defined rituals—and it is on vacation (whether real or in our mind) that we can realize these rituals, and perhaps incorporate some of them into our workaday lives.
Some of the other books I vacationed with last night (all are from the library) were “Waterside Cottages” by Barbara Jacksier, photographed by Dan Mayers. In these books the photographer is as important as the author in making dreams come true. Jacksier talks about what draws us to land’s end—the edge of the water so intrinsically. Humans never tire of the “pleasures of hearing the rhythm of waves or watching the sunset over the water”. In looking through these books and the various forms of housing our vacations, I am always drawn to white palettes—so fresh, so summery, so my idea of a vacation place.
“Coastal Living beach house style” edited by Katherine Cobbs is a feast for the arm chair vacationer. It is a beautiful “how-to” book of design choices for do-it-yourselfers. “Getaways” by Chris Casson Madden, offers “retreats for all seasons”. Madden defines retreat as “a special place that offers a sense of sanctuary”. ( Pages 184 – 191 in this book would be my “died and gone to heaven” retreat—it is called “literary meditations”).
I can think of a no better vacation then one among a myriad of bookshelves, or as I experienced last night, within the pages of the books themselves.