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Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Luxury of a Bad Vacation

The Luxury of a Bad Vacation

I know there is such a thing as a bad vacation – the truly terrible kind that leave people fundamentally changed.  But as I sit in the little place we rent year after year at The Nice Part of the Jersey Shore (thanks, Snooki), I know I’ve never had one of those. 

The day we left Cleveland, Lylah took ill with abdominal unhappiness. Nothing dramatic, just discomfort that slows the constitution and makes food unappealing. Two days later, the gathering storm hit my shores with considerable force. I wanted my mommy. 

Like clockwork, 48 hours later, I could practically see Al Roker standing in the family room as Katy succumbed to hurricane-level misery. At the urgent care, halfway through our beach vacation, one of the very nice nurses kept saying to her, “You poor thing, you’re dry as a bone,” as she tapped around for a vein.  A couple bags of saline and a slew of drugs later, we stumbled back home and called it a day. 

The fact that Carlo seems to have been immune to this plague is only the start of what fills me with joy on this, the second last day of our odyssey. Here are a couple of others.

Every day this week, I’ve woken up with the Atlantic Ocean a block away. Most days I’ve been able to go there early and watch the shore birds fish in the tide pools as the sun wipes the horizon clean of mist. Everyone who wants to should be able to do it.

This is a place my parents introduced us to when we were still kids. They’ve both been gone a long time now, but coming here brings them a little closer again. Very little changes in the town. Mom and Dad would be glad of that. They would still like it here. 

The other day on the beach, a little girl and her mother came up behind me while I was sketching. The child was perhaps 5. I asked if she likes to draw. She nodded and looked at my pages. She has many sketchbooks herself, her mom told me. Then they showed me the tiny hermit crab they found in its tiny shell in the sand.

Yesterday on my beach walk, two women strolled toward me with a beautiful black Newfoundland. They let me say hello, and I caught a glimpse of our dear departed Pearl in the dog’s slow tail wag. Pearl is the great dog heartbreak of my life. I look for her in magical ways, and sometimes she shows up.

I could go on, but this is the internet age, and already some of your are all, like, “too long didn’t read.”  But let me just add one thing. The four of us together – talking, laughing, suffering -- is a gift never to be taken for granted.  So break out the Coppertone and the Lysol. I’m squeezing the last juicy hours out of this best bad vacation. Cowabunga, and thank you.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Count these days slowly

I grew up in pre-Amy Mihaljevic Bay Village, so the grownups let us wander hither and yon for hours under the delusion that we were safe. We mostly were. In summer we’d lose ourselves in the woods near the lake. We waded in streams and imagined adventures.

Something happened to time in the woods. I want to resist the cliché about it standing still, but some sort of warp was going on. Being surrounded by all that nature – trees way older than ourselves, smells you couldn’t find indoors — provided a connection to the infinite. We'd be explorers from the 19th century for a while, and credibly so.

Then we’d hop our bikes and go home for dinner, and clocks resumed their ticking.

Today I hiked around the woods and meadows at Holden Arboretum. The farther I got from other people (this took awhile), the more I found of the person I was in the woods back in Bay.
The weeds lick my shins. The sun and breeze take turns brushing my cheeks. A fly settles on my sketchbook. It could be 2015. It could be 1971.


But the wandering grownup knows to treasure these forays into nature on a perfect summer afternoon. Supplies are limited. This is part of what it means to grow up. I don’t take anything lovely for granted anymore.