Monday, November 8, 2010

An Exerpt From My Travel Log

I didn't do much writing while we were gone, but I did some. What follows is an exerpt of my multidirectional musings. Nothing profoud, but just hopefully some fun. Grab some tea, and hopefully you'll make it to the end. If nothing else, it will serve as an effective cure for insomnia.


Getting away.

Taking sabbatical.

Leaving it all behind.

Hiding out.

Whatever you call it, the words used usually bring first off a overwhelming sense of awareness of everything that need to be done before you go. After that… just a sense of peace and wonderful enjoyment.

It’s the American way. The family vacation: a time to get away from it all, to take a breather from the break-neck pace of life we all seem to lead, no matter what kind of walk of life we are living.

As I write this I am in New England, where I grew up. We were in Maine for the first week, and enjoyed gorgeous fall weather. Walking the beach in the early morning, I am reminded that it pays to stop and smell the sea roses and take it all in. There are such a thing as sea roses. They flower in the summer, I believe. They have a fruit attached to them that is made typically into jam. I was hoping to find some for the kids to try, but it is sold at the cute little shops open only during tourist season.

I was very pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to find that a relative I grew up with was in town visiting overnight. It was a spur of the moment visit. So good to see her again! As we grew up, we ended up on opposite sides of the country. We live very different lives, and I love to hear what things are like for her. Not that I want my life to change, that isn’t it at all. People in general interest me, and since we haven’t seen each other in a long time, it was wonderful to catch up.

What can I say about the coast of Maine? It is gorgeous. Exhilarating. Calming. Fascinating. Restful. So many things it can be! I enjoyed jogging the beach in the early mornings. I enjoyed playing on the playground with the kids and hunting for shells later in the day. I even swam at the Y with my stepmother a couple mornings. There is no place like Maine, no matter where you go, you’ll never find its equal for beach combing, roaming, and swimming. Yes, I said swimming. At the end of October, almost November for crying out loud, my crazy children went swimming in the cold ocean. One of the locals told me the water was a mere 54 degrees at that time. I was wondering if he thought us all insane but he said it was good to see someone else enjoyed the cold water besides him! Spoken like a true native!

We came down to Massachusetts in time for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party. It went well, and the kids did a couple of songs for her. They did a fantastic job. It was good to see a lot of extended family, most of whom I haven’t seen in years, if not since I was a kid about my 4th son’s age.

We drove around a bit on the way home as Isaac had fallen asleep in the van and knew if we didn’t keep him that way as long as possible he would be one very cranky little boy for the rest of the day. We showed the kids many of the places I had been growing up, including my old high school.

Well, not “old”. Apparently a few years ago they tore down the OLD school and put up a brand new shiny building, complete with an indoor pool (so the rumors go) and new tennis courts, baseball field and who knows what else. They probably have a new track too, I imagine. Back in the old days when I went there, we had a pretty good outdoor track, but for training we ran the back roads in the area because of the hills we had to take. We would run some decent 3 mile routes, and then go back to the field to train in sprints, or whatever events we were specializing in. I wonder if now those snotty nosed suburban kids would ever be caught dead running on the actual street. Surely they couldn’t be that spoiled! It was good enough for us. We ran outdoors in the sun or rain… barefoot… uphill… both ways…

Okay, maybe not. But the changes in the general area surprised me a lot. Old Sherman Bridge was renovated several years back. I remember when it was the old bridge. Well, not the old “old” bridge, but the one before with the uneven boards that jangled your joints when you rode your bike or drove your car over it. I noticed when we drove over it, it looked like they actually constructed it with extra boards elevated, like little speed bumps, just in case we missed the horrendous teeth shattering washboard effect of the old bridge.

It’s funny how when you grow older (not old! Not me!) how nostalgic you can get. It’s funny how I remember everything that is good about when and where I grew up, and not all the scandals that hit the school. Let’s face it, when you are in High School, there are lots of scandals. I’m not trying to date myself, but I remember a time before the internet, and online communities. No cell phones. No ipods. We actually talked with one another. Texting was called passing notes, written with our actual hands. I used to type on a word processor, and I don’t mean one on the computer. I mean the old Texas Instrument things that had a two line memory and automatic white out capabilities. I also had a stereo that had a LP player, two cassette players, AND an 8 track player. That was cutting edge technology. Those of you who don’t know what an 8 track is, just look intelligently at the writing in front of you and ask your parents later what it was. I’ll give you a hint: it has NOTHING to do with trains.

Remember the old Betamax video players? We had one of those for a while. Okay, show of hands: How many grew up with the wonderful electronic game of Pong? How about Atari? I mean the original, not the spendy vintage stuff that sells for a mint on places like Ebay.

Remember when one of your favorite programs was on, like the Cosby Show (one of mine to this day) and you would move mountains to make sure you were done with supper and chores to make sure you could be in the living room watching it? No Hulu. No Netflix. No YouTube. When it was on, it was on. Either you caught it then, or you had to wait for reruns in the summer. Or you tried to tape in on your Betamax.

Obviously, some things have changed. But, some things haven’t.

Children still love to hunt for shells, and make sand castles, and play tag. My children, like many in the long line of generations before them, love to sled on the fallen pine needles on the hill out back my Grandmother’s house. They, along with several generation before them, love to grab the lolly poly in my grandmother’s basement, and twirl around it, making a distinctive squeaky noise that can be heard through the entire house.

The old neighborhood has developed a lot since I was a kid, and even more so since when my mother was a girl tearing around the little back streets and fields. The fields are gone, made into affluent little cul de sacs and streets lined with million dollar homes. The little soccer field not far from my grandmother’s house, and practically right next door to where my great aunt lived is still there, and in use, I am glad to say. There is a little children’s playground right next to it now, but it looks like it belongs there, and is the best improvement in the area I’ve seen so far.

This morning I noticed something else that hasn’t changed. I was out for a walk in that wonderful crisp, autumn air, and suddenly I smelled it. It is a very distinctive woody odor, indigenous to this area. I have no clue what makes it. Maybe all the pine trees. But the only place I have smelled it is in this area of New England. It is pleasing, and comfortable, and fills the heart with warm memories.

Seems like we have been very busy doing things. Most of them together as a family, some not. I realized I haven’t even had much time to write, and while I was out walking this morning, I realized how much I needed to sit down and do that. How can one NOT want to write while in the stomping grounds of some of the greats like Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau. Seems like their spirits are lurking around here just urging us to stop, take time to THINK and get away from all the cares, electronics and just let our minds wander for a while. Why are we always plugged into our cell phones? Our Blackberries? Why do we live every moment attached to the internet? How did that happen? Computer games and Facebook or Twitter take over our lives. We live online. Let’s unplug it all, and get out a good old board game (they still make those ya know) and play something with REAL people.

It is a fast paced society we live in. I bet most people can’t bear to sit still long enough to play a board game anymore. No updating status, or clicking on the screen, or doing the hundreds of things online that you can do even while playing a game on the internet. I bet most people can’t handle the fact that yes, you have to sit at the table and actually do ONE thing at a time. It is allowed. There is no law that says we have to multitask in everything we do.

It has been very thought provoking to me to go on a nice long walk and think about some of the above and then some. I listen to a Vivaldi CD when I am by myself and not jogging. If I plan to jog I can’t use my CD player because it makes the CD skip. I know.. I should use my Ipod, but I have NO clue how to get the music from my CD to the Ipod. Plus it is full with a book for the kids to listen to in the van, plus a bunch of music Dale likes.

I love listening to classical music. I’m no expert about classical music, and really, don’t know much about it. I love Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It is my favorite. What I have noticed about the classical genre of music is that rock and roll and pop or country music is to classical music, what TV is to real life. Think about it. In popular contemporary music, it is basically a single thought or emotion promoted in about 3 to 5 minutes time. It is introduced, emphasized, and maybe, or maybe not resolved. It is basically about one little snap shot of emotion. There is no real evolution of contemplation, or depth of emotions. If you listen to the Four Seasons, for example, you find a very wide range of emotions and thought provoked by the music itself. There is rise and fall, fast and slow, bouncy and smooth as silk portions throughout. You can imagine a story line, picture expression of posture and face all because of what the orchestra is doing. In a pop song, it’s a quick flash in the pan. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong, just pointing out a difference. Contemporary music isn’t really my cup of tea anyway.

At the time of writing this, we have several days of vacation left. I may add to it, I may not. We’ll see. I do know I have plenty to think about. Obviously, this little missive is evidence that at least my brain has been working at some capacity.

Oh, one that that was brought to my attention was that November is National Novel Writing Month. There is a website for it and everything. The goal is to write a novella during the month. It amounts to 1677 words a day. I seriously considered participating, but the person who told me about said you really need to spend 2 to 4 hours a day writing. Well, I can’t dedicate that much time right now, but maybe next year. Ha.

Maybe when the kids are grown.

That’s more like it.

In the meantime, I’ll be cheering all those writers out there trying to complete the challenge next month. May your plots have depth, your characters be realistic, and your words compelling.

Viva La Pluma.


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