"Please excuse Shannon from school yesterday. I didn't realize it was already Monday."
-- C. Parsons
I can be stubborn at times, like insisting that the week or more I spend at Hilton Head every January is not a vacation but time to put on another hat. Nevertheless, everyone sends me on my way with the same wish: "Well, have a nice vacation."
I bristle, tell them this is the only way I can catch up on my writing, that I stay in a time-share unit (translation: cheap), eat all but a couple meals a week in my room, and for fun spend 30 minutes twice a day walking on the beach.
Still, admitting that the ocean is 100 yards from my window, the sunsets across the water are glorious and I can hear the surf every minute I'm awake doesn't do much for my credibility when I say I come here to work.
You know what? My critics are right. If the root of the word vacation is "vacate" -- to leave, get away, be somewhere else -- and our primary pastime while on vacation is recreation -- literally, "to re-create" -- then I have been on vacation. Not that I haven't worked, but as I gather my things and head for home again, I can tell I've done a lot of re-creating here, too.
When your normal schedule includes leaving home two to four nights a week, not having to go out two to four nights a week is a vacation. As every woman knows, anytime you can choose to have a bad hair day because no one is going to see you anyway, it's a vacation. Likewise the make-up ritual and finding something clean and coordinated to wear.
I slept seven or eight hours a night. I thought I needed only six -- plus an afternoon nap. Even though I worked every day I didn't have to do it on anyone's schedule but my own, and by staying in at night I wasn't the last person on the block to turn out the lights.
This part makes me feel wicked: One Sunday I was late to church. As someone who's been teaching Sunday School or playing the organ every Sunday since my teens, I'm always early for church. That gives me time to go over my music, rehearse with the choir, and present a calm, unhurried atmosphere for the congregation -- who may not feel calm and unhurried when they arrive.
When my eyes would no longer focus on the computer screen I could go for a walk, watch Jeopardy -- hard to do when you're out two to four nights a week -- or take a half-day off now and then. You'll laugh at what I consider fun, but one day, after my car had been sitting for days under one of (poet) Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" that had more than one "nest of robins in her hair," I went to an honest-to-goodness car wash and had someone else wash my car. It was a real treat watching my polka-dotted car turn one color again -- without having the polka dots get all over me.
But my favorite re-creating times, even in the cold, were those walks on the beach. With the beach running directly east and west, I always took my second walk of the day at sunset, in the direction of that stunning array. One day my timing was perfect: a large ball of pastel fire in front of me and, as I turned to go back to my room, a large ball nearly symmetrical in size and color in the other direction. The sun was setting just as the full moon was rising to take its place. I don't know when I've seen such beauty. Glow-in-the-near-dark bookends, inspirational frame with me inside.
Sometimes I didn't know what day it was, and had to buy a newspaper or turn on TV to find out. But perhaps, as the pastor of the church I attended said one Sunday, "We all need time to meditate: spend quality time with ourselves." For me, that's fun, too.
Whether I vacated, recreated, or slunk away from it all to renew my body and mind, I've been away long enough. By the time you read this I'll be back to my two to four nights out a week, back to columns, rehearsals, and the grandkids, back to the only sound more wonderful to me than surf: home.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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