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Maine Night

Image by Vanderlin via Flickr

“I’m alive,” he said to the boy, as they ate a bunch of dates one night, with no fires and no moon.  “When I’m eating, that’s all I think about.  If I’m on a march, I just concentrate on marching.  If I have to fight, it will be just as good a day to die as any other.

“Because I don’t live in either the past or my future.  I’m interested only in the present.  If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.  You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”

~ The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Want not! Nature Center, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

Outdoors, winding down after a long day of travel, I chatted last night with a good friend. I should say, I chatted. She, on the other hand, exclaimed, raising her arms toward the night sky, “It’s so clear! So clear. The moon is like a moon on a clear night in Maine. It’s a Maine night. Look how clear you can see the stars and…look at that moon. It’s crystal clear.”

I nodded, glanced and kept up my talk…how I would straighten out the world and everyone in it, if only…mind chatter that equaled mindless chatter…blah…blah…blah. In the toilet bowl of my mind, I missed “the moment.” I was alive. She was alive. We would never meet at that point in time again. I missed it, because of the gray matter nonsense between my ears. When I find myself in that messy place, quite frankly, it’s not real; it not the place of here and now.

Suddenly the sweeping skyscape swept me off my feet; my mind became as clear as the night’s sky. “Wow, do you see those blue stars? They are so blue, they are almost violet.” One flush of that messy gray matter, and I transported myself back to life…the real, perfect McCoy.

On your next day trip, rejigger and stop talking about yourself for a moment and start talking “it” up; “it” being those insignificant things that are so significant when we stop and notice and say, humbly and sincerely, “Thanks! I am not the end all and be all, and I can rest in your supreme and perfect presence.”

I took the news personally and was dizzy in delight to hear that Dick Allen, a Trumbull resident, was named Connecticut’s new poet laureate in June.

Canterbury (CT) Public Library: Ever think I could be as great as Connecticut’s new poet laureate Dick Allen?

In the late 1970s, after getting partially off a rollercoaster ride via the adolescent addiction route, I took a poetry writing class at the University of Bridgeport with Dick Allen.  At the time, I was sandwiched in between a drug-induced past, conveniently whisked away under a shatterproof floorboard of denial, and a future that I did not dare glimpse. 

In his classroom twice a week, I emerged from my dark and solely occupied cocoon.  When Mr. Allen read his poetry, the classroom’s walls boomeranged with intonations and a rhythmic style that could dissect, pluck and reach so far into my soul that the process shook and awakened those parts in me that had been so comfy and so sleepy, wrapped in inertia, for so damn long. Although it took nearly six more years for me to shed fully my Rip Van Winkle-esque existence, the first building blocks in that course of action Mr. Allen’s influence mortared.

In other words, Mr. Allen taught me that in order to experience great poetry, like great life, you have to be alert.  Listen intently.  Peel away the brainy part of the head so that the heart has the room that it requires to breathe fully and, yes, love without restraint.  Love every damn thing down to the wart. 

As I ventured forth to become a travel writer in the 1990s, I approached each newfound milieu with a keen ear, sharp eyes and overzealous appetite that Mr. Allen had first mirrored to me in his classroom.  On my journey, nothing, absolutely nothing, whether a gnawed chicken bone on a supper plate or ladybug on a car’s windshield was mediocre.  My ears heard poetry everywhere. 

On your next day trip, before summer bats her last eyelash, whether you go on a rollercoaster ride or hide away in an alcove at an out-of-the-way library, see, hear, breath poetry.  Get off the jaded road before it is too late to hear poetry for poetry is everywhere…fine tune the hearing.  Afterwards, pick up a book written by the present Connecticut’s poet laureate, go home and read the poetry out loud as if it will be your final voice; then take this same principle on your future travels.

Ferns

By Dick Allen

Almost invisible, but once you look for them
nearly everywhere
like moss in crevices and drifting thoughts,

ferns are what it must mean
to love without yearning. Protectors
of everything small that needs to disappear,

deermice and tossed trash, bad brushstrokes in a painting,
theirs is the softest name, the softest touch.
They are social workers

as social workers should be—so full of calm
even those who don’t trust them
come into their care. Fiddleheads or not,

the rumor that once a year, on Midsummer’s Eve,
ferns blossom with tiny blue flowers
and if a pinch of fern seed falls upon your shoes

you will be less apparent—this rumor
is baseless: ferns have tiny spores
that travel in dew and raindrops,

no more magical
than Henri Rousseau, composing “The Peaceable Kingdom,”
or adder’s tongues, cinnamon, wall rue.

In the world’s secret corners,
men wish to vanish, but ferns are what look on,
trembling, holding all light green places.

From Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Collected, Sarabande Books, 1997.

New Canaan, CT, Nature Center Greenhouse

 

 

 

Skip the hotdogs & eat Thai Food this July 4th! (Bangkok Restaurant, Danbury, CT)

One of my friend Eileen’s favorite Christmas memories was going to a Chinese restaurant and a movie with her newly divorced daughter.  Eileen was a recent widow, and her daughter did not have custody of her children on that particular Christmas Day.  As she shared about the novelty of this adventure, her face glowed in glee.  Historically, her family had always celebrated Christmases past with a traditional holiday feast and presents.  On what marked a holiday that both women had initially dreaded turned out to be one of the best ones (except the absence of the young children did tug on their heartstrings) that they had ever experienced.

On this same note, my friend Dian, who used to spend oodles of money buying Christmas gifts for her grown-up daughters, now takes them on exotic trips instead—talk about elevating experiences over things!  Don’t even ask which holidays stay in the forefront of this family’s mind!

A very important thing that my day-tripping experiences have taught me is that I can basically do what I want and with whom I choose.  So as we celebrate Independence Day weekend, I like to think about my independence and what would best suit my family’s lifestyle to refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger.*  The fact is, we don’t have to watch the fireworks.  We don’t have to have hamburgers and hot dogs.  We don’t even have to think about the meaning of the holiday.  When the kids were little and my travel-writing career was booming, in fact, most of our most memorable July 4ths were spent at places ranging from Thai restaurants  to museums.  We also spent a few exciting Independence Day weekends watching firework displays in faraway towns, miles away from our home. 

Thai food on the July Fourth? Definitely! (Bangkok Restaurant, Danbury, CT)

Day-tripping experiences have really taught me my preferences, and that I have the power to choose where I want to go as much as I have the power to choose whether or not I will have a good day, but, of course, going on a day trips sprinkles fairy dust on any given day.

Happy, safe 4th of July; celebrate in your own fashion!

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Oceans, lakes, streams, reservoirs and ponds, ahhh, particularly on a sultry summer day, nothing can refresh the body, mind and spirit, but especially the body, like water. Nearly 70 percent of the earth is composed of water, as is the human body.  I don’t believe that this is sheer coincidence.  Since the beginning of civilization, each generation has benefited from the therapeutic value of water. 

Mystic, CT

For me, the next best thing next to the spa experience in helping one relax, rejuvenate and rejigger* is to go to the coastline.  In fact, in the mid-1980s, I spent many hours a week walking the sands while my mind rambled, pained and powerless, during one of the toughest periods of my life.  No matter how tremulous my thoughts were, as I trampled up one side of the beach and then another, the rhythmic, constant companionship of the waves splashing forth, helped squelch my overly critical thoughts.

Mystic, CT

As I arrived each day to walk the beach, the salt air signaled the start of the familiar ritual and no matter how burdened I felt, immediately I experienced a sense of calm, and a glimmer of hope flicked on my grimly dark horizon like the first crack of dawn.

Stonington, CT

Linda Samuels puts it so well in her blog when she writes, “…lately I’ve spent more time by the rivers—walking, sitting, eating, and just being. There is something restorative about water. My mind quiets enough to simply focus on the scenery before me. The “must dos” and “should dos” take a back seat while nature works it magic, bringing me to a calmer, clearer place.”

Olde Mistick Village, Mystic, CT

My mind, these days, may not be so pained, but it still runs overactive, and I, like Leslie, feel so much calmer by the shoreline.  Although I like to wander the beach four seasons a year, summertime, of course, is when the swarms of pedestrians think likeminded.  But even amidst a lot of company, which can become pretty noisy, I still walk away, sand coarse between my toes, feeling restored—even during the times I didn’t feel I needed restoration!  And that’s the thing, I think if everyone in the world was required to go to the water for a few hours every week, health care costs would plunge. Simple, huh? Even if you think you don’t need some restorative time, try a walk by the water before summer flits away like a Monarch butterfly.

Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Mystic, CT

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, MN

 

And in the end,
it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.

— Abraham Lincoln

You can give your dad ties, shirts and robes, but, in the end, what really matters is time spent well.  On home turf together, disruptions abound with ringing telephones and favorite programs on television; let’s not forget that growing chore list.

A day-tripping experience allows the opportunity to unwind, enjoy and rejigger.*  Whether you have a terrific relationship with dad or terrible, or, perhaps, falling somewhere in between, a visit to a museum, a  park or special event takes the focus off dialoging about hot topics and boring chitchat, and instead magnifies the splendor of the fleeting moments.  Growing up, day trips were the farthest thing from my over-worked and over-committed dad’s mind.  However, well into my 40s, from the day the family received his emphysema diagnosis to the day he died, four years later, I made it a point to be one hundred percent “there” for him in the waning years.  “There” meaning deliberately employing an overkill of patience, tolerance and anything to steer away from non-confrontational moods that could have ruined our limited time together. 

What this experience taught me, and what I try to bring forth into my day trips, is to relax and, yes, just enjoy the moment.  How?  Okay, back to dad.  Many times, we would be stationary like at the doctor’s office or waiting for the senior citizen bus.  I would concentrate on his breathing, which was easy to do because he utilized an oxygen tank.  So we would sit.  He would breathe.  I would listen.  In this precise orchestra, without word or gesture, we found each other in a spirit of love, because, as it’s been said before, love is in the moment.

So, here’s an idea for a Father’s Day gift.  Buy a few tickets to the museum.  There are, too, some pretty interesting things to do this holiday like Bullwhips in the Open field at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11-acre park in Minnesota, located near the Walker Art Center.  Regardless of where you go or what you do, just feel your dad next to you; appreciate the wonder of your breath and his breath, think about how they synchronize without any effort at all.  Realize that this is love, naturally and fully, as close as you can build a pathway to heaven on earth.

Happy Father’s Day.

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Day trip catch-up, closer than you think! (Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT)

It’s the weekend!  Yeah!  Just you and…running the kids to soccer games…grocery shopping…perhaps painting the bedroom…gardening…whoa….What happened to weekends off?  Not this weekend, you say, with a five-page to-do list in your right hand and a dirty load of laundry…you know the load you were going to wash on Wednesday…in your left hand. 

Okay, so I’ll let you off the hook for taking the entire day off.  As a competent, mature adult, now and then you do have to play catch-up with responsibilities.  However, that does not mean you can’t alleviate a bit of the chore list with a day trip catch-up, too. 

Day trip catch-up?  Absolutely.  For instance, if you are running errands and live by the water, simply drive by and give yourself a minute of breathing room.  Better yet, pull over—still in your car—and take in the sights, even for a few minutes (but don’t blame me if you end up there for a much longer time than anticipated—that’s a good thing).

If you do not have access to a car, take a longer bus route home and keep your mind keen on the new sightings, perhaps a new restaurant in the neighborhood, or do a few added minutes of people-watching.  Consider, too, instead of eating lunch at home, noshing outside at a nearby park or inside a mall if it is raining. 

This weekend, amid the chores, the obligations and the commitments, detach—even for a few minutes—by playing day-trip catch up.  It’s a fun game that will likely give you a refreshing perspective, maybe put a smile on your face and certainly help you rejigger.*

Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

 

Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

 

Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

 NOTE:  All images were taken at Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Consummate Author! Consummate Journalist! Consummate Motivator!

Through simple secrets to a happier life like day-trip adventures and a gratitude journal by the bedside, I have not only been able to overcome many obstacles in my life, but erase negative and useless thinking…and, yes, learn to relax, rejuvenate, rejigger. *

Rejigger *

* “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

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Day Trip Travel — Experiences Over Things

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