A few weeks ago, I spent a week visiting family in Walla Walla, Washington. It was a relaxing week, during which I took one business call and returned two business emails and a text – and then my mom’s wi-fi mysteriously died at the same time that my husband told me that we had used up our data plan for the month. Hooray! Off the grid for a whole week!
I woke up each morning to the sea-like whisper of the leaves in the tree outside the guest-room window – interrupted by the hectoring bicker of squirrels and the whir of neighborhood cyclists. After breakfasting with the doors open to the sound of back-yard wind-chimes, mom and I discussed plans for the day, most of which dissolved into lazy dozes on the couch. In the whole week, I think our maximum effort involved two visits to the grocery store, one to the dog-park, and one short visit to my favorite winery to restock our Syrah supply.
My mother mentioned in passing how she had gotten lost one day, driving back from the next town to the south. My sister and her husband exchanged worried glances as mom described expecting the east-west road she was on to intersect with the north-south state highway or at least the river and, instead, ending up on a dirt road running parallel to the Blue Mountains that eventually connected with a road on the north side of town, making her an hour late for dinner at my sister’s house. My sister whispered to me with a frown, “I don’t know how she missed it.”
“That road sounded great,” I remarked to mom the next morning. “Let’s go find it.”
We drove south again, then turned onto the street where her adventure had started. “I hadn’t taken this street before,” she remembered aloud, “but I didn’t feel like turning around and I figured it would intersect the highway eventually…”
We drove in silence for a few minutes, watching the tiny houses drift by and then, almost without noticing it, the road turned into a miniature overpass, so minor that leafy trees masked the view below, allowing only a quick glimpse from the passenger’s side of the state road below. A few moments later the river passed beneath us, again masked by trees. If she had driven the unfamiliar path a few months earlier or later, the trees would have been bare and the view would have been cleared. Mystery explained, we forged onward to the path along the root of the Blue Mountains.
The road mom had previously found gyrated through wheat fields and vineyards with the right-angled precision found only in Manhattan and farmlands. Eventually we climbed in elevation and the road turned to dirt. “I remember passing a sign warning of a 3-mile unimproved stretch,” she recalled forging ahead. “It did seem to go on more than 3 miles…”
After passing a quarry and a remote cluster of homes differentiated by a sign advertising a rural airport service – although no flat land was visible – the road forked to the right and began to climb more steeply and became more rocky as the dirt blew away. I wondered aloud if the road had originally started as a creek bed or had just become one over time. Finally, as the grade turned sharply upward, mom admitted that somehow we had become lost trying to recapture the road she had been lost on previously. She negotiated a three-point turn about 30 feet from the crest. I got out to direct her, then climbed to the top, expecting to see the road drop away again sharply on the other side, but it leveled out, then began to climb again; so I returned to the car.
An afternoon expended getting lost with no other purpose in mind than to see where the road took us. Heaven!
I read extensively that week, alternating between my childhood library, now neglected in the hall between the guest room and the grandkids’ playroom – Anne of Green Gables, Donna Parker, horse books, Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffery, Ramona, and those greats of the 70s and 80s, now sadly neglected: Paula Danzinger, Judy Bloom, Hinton – and the books I had downloaded before leaving New York: The Talent Code, Emotional Agility, Moonwalking with Einstein, Just Enough, Secret Thoughts of Successful Women…
We finished the week with a $5 Wonder Woman matinee at the local movie theatre. My nephew – a superhero fan – was skeptical, my niece hopeful. On the way home we invented a replacement for the Girl Scouts (“Lame!” declared my niece, comparing Girl Scout activities to the fun her brother has at Cub Scouts.) We would call it Wonder Girls, the various levels named after goddesses and heroines with the oldest group called The Diana’s, of course. Participants would earn bracelets for mastering wondrous skills like archery, horseback riding, discus, speed-running, weight-lifting, swimming, sword-fighting, judo, gymnastics, diving, base-jumping; for each language learned; for history and math and science and reading. By the time they reached Diana-level, they would have two full arms of bracelets mimicking Wonder Woman’s arm bands and be ready to take on the world. Why not, aside from licensing fees? Why doesn’t DC Comics make it their cause to raise little girls who have the same beliefs in their superpowers that little boys do?
On the flight home, everything jingled together in my head: sipping viognier on the patio to the Gypsy Kings; remembering my early love of Anne Shirley not for her romantic flights of fancy but for her determination to beat Gilbert, to rally her peers to improve Avonlea, to win over the people who got in her way; reading about what ignites a passion that sustains you to excel; our imaginary Wonder Girls leaping off cliffs and into towers to rescue people and taking on the gods of war.
Sometimes a week away is a week well-spent.
What do you do on vacation to recharge?