What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Though it is mid September–it is still summer so hopefully not too late to post this.  I wrote this a few weeks back but was having trouble posting my columns–this is a semi-oldie and I will let you decide if it is a goodie:

Short but sweet. That is the definition of my summer vacation. But it had somewhat of an inauspicious beginning.

Pre-vacation was spent stressing out to come up with the perfect time to take a few days off. Then there was the problem of packing. Whenever I pack I tend to hate my wardrobe and can find nothing, and I mean nothing that seems right to wear for the various occasions I expect to be experiencing. And then there is the problem of packing shoes—running shoes in case we walk (or God forbid hike) somewhere, casual shoes to wear with my ever present denim jeans, dressy shoes in case we go somewhere that warrants it, and another pair thrown in for good measure. I was only gone from Friday to Wednesday, so four pair of shoes for five days seemed just about right.

Our destination was the Ottawa area and my sister’s cottage in Montebello, Quebec. An interprovincial vacation—how exotic is that? So exotic that it took us about 13 hours to get there. It would have taken someone who read the Google instructions correctly maybe 9 hours not counting traffic and construction in TO and Ottawa. We made fairly good time for the first three-quarters of the trip, having left at 1:20 a.m. Friday morning (so not my idea) to avoid the nightmare gridlock that is Toronto. A variety of people had warned my husband John of the horrors of Toronto traffic and so his plan was to get there early enough to avoid it. His plan worked. But when we got into Ottawa we were stuck in jam for about an hour. Then we did not make a turnoff—so had to turn around, go back and find it. But that was only a 15 minute mistake.

I was the one who made the big, huge, gigantic, enormous, titanic of a massive mistake which cost us two hours of travel time, adding more time to an already long trip. I try to look on the travel time as part of the vacation, but when you have been on the road for over 10 hours, that aspect quickly goes out the window. The 28 steps outlined in the Google directions from Kingsville to Montebello were pretty clear, unless of course you read the instructions incorrectly. After we got onto a certain road, for sake of clarity let us call it 17, we were supposed to look for a turnoff, say 5, which would then take us onto the 406. Reading instruction number 23, I read that the turnoff was 120 kilometres away instead of 12.0, so we did not bother looking for the turnoff as we thought we had a good while to just relax and enjoy the ride.

Then we came upon a sign that declared: “Montreal: 78 kilometres”. Hmmm………. I knew that my sister had said that Montebello was only about an hour away from her home in Orleans and we had been on the road for well over that amount of time. We were on our way to Montreal—which might have been a good vacation if it had been our destination. But it was not. So we stopped and looked at the directions again and my husband said, “Are you sure there is not a dot there and it says 12.0 and not 120? “Well, I will be darned”, I said. I generally do not swear, but if memory serves me right, I did not say darned but it will have to serve as a good facsimile thereof.

We turned around, having gone an hour out of our way, to travel the hour back. My husband was exceedingly sweet about it—but what choice did he have—he was stuck in the car with me and it would have been a lose/lose situation to get upset. But John on vacation is different than John either post or pre-vacation. He is cool as a cucumber and ready to take on anything.

Oh, and did I mention that we had no cell phones? So my sister was panicking and putting out feelers to my sons as to where we were. Pay phones seem to be the dinosaurs of the 21st century and so were somewhat incommunicado for hours. But———when we reached our destination—we had the time of our lives. The cottage, which could be featured quite appropriately in any homes magazine, was situated on eco-Lake Charette. The view was absolutely unbelievable, the host and hostess were the mostest, and we spent four relaxing days chilling out. The ride home was much less eventful, hence enjoyable.

Postscript: Our youngest son took us to The Source in Kingsville as soon as we got back, and both my husband and I are now the proud owners of cell phones!

Do you have an area where you are behind the times?

Published in: on September 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm  Comments (29)  
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a summer frame of mind

Summer Shoes

Summer Shoes (Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis)

A good part of the first half of this year I spent looking for and at times finding my bliss. The second half of 2013 is going to be used to put that bliss to work. It will be a challenge.  All kinds of things enter into the mix—but I hope in the end I will come up with a lovely batter and not a lumpy mess.

Join me in my journey to add some lovely moments to days that will have some ugly elements; days when a little poetry will be needed to fight off the drama; days when a little Mike’s hard lemonade relaxes the stresses.

July and August, in all their glory, hot and humid at times, breezy and warm at others, lay before us. It is the height of summer and this year I am going to enjoy the two months I most dread. While others glory in the heat, I am a temperate kind of girl—but I am going to embrace my younger self and enjoy what summer has to offer.  The calendar is filled with barbeques, little weekend getaways, and perhaps a trip to Ottawa and the Kingston area to see my sister and brother. I am not sure what the summer will bring—but I have my sunscreen and shorts on—so I am ready.

Like many of you, just because it is summer—it does not mean we do not have a lot of work to do. I am more determined than ever to find a balance. Sometimes I get in a holiday frame of mind and find that work just does not fit into the equation—but I am going to work it into the sum total of a successful summer.

What are your summer plans? How do you get your vacation frame of mind under control to get your work done?

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm  Comments (36)  
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Vacation in the Pages

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.

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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