We used to ask, “Would you rather be rich, or famous?” or other variations on that theme. To be honest, neither of those have been my life’s goal. All my life I’ve dreamed of having a little cabin in the woods, complete with a fireplace, a tongue and groove ceiling and a river nearby. That dream is finally coming true for me.
I wonder when I get that moment to breathe the pine smell and listen to the wind through the needles, will I feel I’m truly home? Is there only one place on earth where we are meant to call home? I have lived this dream for so long, what will it be like to finally obtain it? Will I stagnate until I ask the, “Now what?” question? Or, having finally found the place where I belong, will I be able to become my best self and truly blossom?
How does one truly live the dream? Will it finally be enough or will I still want more? Will I still find things to complain about? Will the new life I’m so excited for bring about new adventure and discovery? There is a parable about a two men going to a new city. They ask a stranger from that city what it is like. The stranger asks them about their old city. One says it was great– the other terrible. The stranger says they will find it to be the same way in their new city. I guess, if I am looking for adventure and personal growth I will find it. Maybe I could start today.
In the old days, we would tell stories we made up by the campfire. Then we graduated to reading a book by flashlight. My son is a senior in high school, but when we're on a trip, we still keep up the tradition of sharing a book.
Recently, we vacationed by staying in a cabin we rented. A fireplace replaced the campfire, but we laughed that we still had to use old fashioned wood instead of having an instant gas fireplace. The microwave and stove made cooking easy and the dishwasher made clean-up a breeze. A soft bed replaced the hip-pointers guaranteed by sleeping in a tent.
But what also changed was how we read the book. I called it up, via Kindle, off my phone. The light of the phone meant there was no need for a flashlight. No one seemed to mind its soft glow and I was happy to adjust the font size to meet my changing eyesight. But the real change came afterward.
After the chapters were read, we sat in silence looking at the fire. I wished I remembered all the words to some of the old folk songs we used to sing. After thinking about it for a moment, I remembered I still had a phone with internet access. Soon we were Googling Peter, Paul and Mary songs, as well as songs by The Eagles and more. My son didn’t recognize these, but he did request Boots of Spanish Leather by Mandolin Orange. There are some things we lose when technology invades our life. I’m happy to say this wasn’t one of them.
I’m going on a four-day white water raft trip with one of my brothers. We are going with Hells Canyon Raft Company navigating the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon. Ever since I heard of rafting in North America's deepest canyon twenty years ago, it was something I thought I wanted to do- yet another bucket list item. When I visited my brother this spring, he mentioned he wanted to travel more. I jumped at the chance to suggest the trip. After checking with our spouses, we booked the trip. We are staying some extra days to explore Idaho.
It’s been decades since I had my brother to myself for an afternoon. I don’t doubt that we will get along- mature people find a way to make it work. I hope we come out on the other side of the week truly liking each other and the people we have become.
I wonder what I would really want my brother to know about me that he doesn’t already know. As I ask that of myself, I realize that answer really lies in what unresolved issues might I have with my brother. Sitting in the comfort of my writing chair, I can’t think of any. Maybe there are still childhood issues that will come up in the moment. I hope I don’t find myself saying, I thought I was over this… I also hope I remember to let my brother know how much I like the person he has become and the choices he has made.
That's probably the hardest part. We struggle to get what we need, but we forget we have the responsibility and should have the grace to give back. I hope I can do that. Maybe it will make up for the times I used to scratch him with my fingernails.
We drove from Arizona to California for a week-long vacation. We had planned to spend two days at an amusement park before moving onto a beach cottage we had reserved. My son has always had trouble with his ears beginning with ear tubes when he was a baby. He suffered badly with motion sickness after one of the first rides of the day. We made the best of the day but did not return for the second day. Thank goodness for phones with internet. We came up with wonderful things to do and had a great time.
Behavioral economists would say we were behaving rationally according to a term known as “sunk cost”. We had already paid for the tickets, and would never be able to recover that cost. Did we want to pay twice by doing something that we know wasn’t going to be fun? Life Hack lists other fallacies like this, which we tend to fall for- like eating too much at a restaurant just because we paid for the food. Robert L. Leahy Ph.D., in Psychology Today, has a great article on how to let go of sunk costs. He says our decisions shouldn’t be made looking backward, only forward. If we would have said, “But we paid for two days, we have to go both days.” We would have had a miserable time. Instead, we visited the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. It was a Tuesday, which happens to be free admission day, so it didn’t cost us anything additional.
We might be better off if we can think of our wealth not in terms of money or possessions, but in terms of people and time. What is the best decision going forward for the people involved? Is that how you want to spend your time? The first question tends to be more muddled for me. Sometimes the answer isn’t as straightforward as I would like. The second question is the tie-breaker. It can help to keep looking forward in our decision-making and not backward. For it does not matter how much we have paid for something or have vested in a relationship, if it isn’t working for our future there is no sense in paying twice.
How will you spend your time?
A college roommate is coming to visit next week. I have been cranking songs that we used to dance to all week- you know, when music was music. I met my husband at college. We visited it this past summer. The campus was almost the same, but campus town was built up so much more! The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign was founded in 1867. Some of the classrooms have fireplaces in them. The architectural details are fabulous. Some of the steps are made of marble inspiring me to write the following poem:
Dip to the feet of time
It really is
Worth the climb.
Our university has a famous statue with the words, “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.” I am proud to be one of those in the past sending greetings. As we posed to have our picture taken, we were surprised by the number of students on their phones by the statute. “Oh, Mom, they are just catching a Pokemon.” But it’s the statue…
I canoed over 45 miles in five days! (Try walking one mile on your hands….) I enjoyed the people I was with and the challenge before us. Many days were cold and rainy. Some days were nice and sunny. I needed to be a role model of cheerfulness and perseverance for all of the days.
Three weeks later I was in Moab, Utah hiking up the two miles to see the famous Delicate Arch. It was over 100 degrees. “You go on ahead,” I said to my husband and son half way up. “I’ve seen it. I’ll just wait here.”
I wondered what the difference was between the two trips. On the canoe trip, the longest I portaged was a half mile. I never once felt like giving up. Of course, that wasn’t even an option. Since the arch hike was a round trip, I could just wait until they circled back toward the parking lot. Could knowing I could give up make it easier for me?
On the canoe trip, I carried a 40-50 pound back pack along the trail. On the arch trail, the heaviest thing I carried was a water bottle. It should have been easier to finish, not harder. The arch trail was much steeper than the canoe trail, but the canoe trail was more technical with rocks and roots to dodge. I would say the steepness made it harder than the technical portion of the trail.
The more I thought about it, the more I think it boiled down to two things- temperature and attitude. It was over 100 degrees compared to 70 or 75 degrees. At 100 degrees, very little seemed worth the effort. That certainly affected my attitude. But my attitude was affected even more by the fact that I was with family.
With family, I didn’t have to put on a happy face and pretend to like to sweat. I could be my most honest self and say, “You go ahead, you are stronger than I am and that’s ok.” Is it a good thing that they let me get by with less? Is it a good thing that that we didn’t have to worry about everyone else’s spirits and keep them motivated? Why don’t we give our family our best? Why don’t we push for the very best from them? Is our home a place to rest or a place for our best?
I am going to Boundary Waters Canoe Area in June. I haven't been there since I was in high school. It is everything I love; canoeing, camping and the great outdoors. I am going with the scouts- all teenage boys and men with muscles. Will I have the stamina I had in high school? My memory has made it one glorious adventure. Let's hope that reality comes close.
I've been working on yet another story. This one takes place in Durango. No surprise, they love the mountains and hike near a stream. The main character is a wonderful watercolor painter. That is something on my bucket list to learn. I love watercolor paintings. There is something about the translucency of the color on the page that makes me introspective and poetic. It is like Wheezy in Toy story, "I feel great. In fact, I think I feel a song coming on!"
Hopefully, I can say that during my canoe trip. If I start writing a piece for dueling banjos, then you'll know I'm in trouble....