"Please excuse Shannon from school yesterday. I didn't realize it was already Monday."
- C. Parsons
I can be opinionated at times - oh, besides when I'm writing a newspaper column - like insisting that the week or more I spend at Hilton Head every winter is not a vacation but time to put on another hat. Nevertheless, everyone sends me on my way with the same wish: "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 low-rent, time-share unit, eat all but a couple of meals a week in my room and, for fun, spend plenty of time each 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.
You know what? As I finally realized this year, my critics are right. If the root of the word vacation is "vacate," meaning "to leave, get away, be somewhere else," and if our primary pastime while on vacation is "recreation," meaning "to re-create," then I have been on vacation.
Not that I haven't worked - planned new writing projects, read informative books, etc. - but as I packed my things to head home again, I could tell I'd done a lot of re-creating there, too.
When your normal schedule includes leaving home two to four nights a week, not having to go out any night except for dinner or to a movie is a vacation. Also, 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 at least eight hours a night - I thought I only needed six. Even though I worked part of 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 for church. As someone who has played the organ every Sunday since I was in my teens, I'm always early for church. That gives me time to go over my music, rehearse with the choir, and - I hope - present a calm, unhurried atmosphere for the congregation, who might 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 whole day off now and then.
You might 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 to watch my polka-dotted vehicle turn one color again - without having the polka dots get all over me.
But my favorite re-creating times, even in glove and earmuff weather - winter, you know - were those walks on the beach. With the beach running directly east and west, I usually took my second walk of the day at sunset in the direction of that stunning array.
One day my timing and the calendar were 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, a heavenly frame with me inside.
Sometimes, like the poor mother at the top of this column, I didn't know what day it was, and had to buy a newspaper or turn on the TV to find out. But perhaps, as the pastor of the church I attended said one Sunday, "We all need time to meditate, to 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 was away long enough. I'm back to my two to four nights out each week, back to columns, choir 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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