for release Friday July 02, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Getting Away from the Knitting
My friend had returned from a week camping at the beach. For him camping at the beach describes a perfect vacation: lots of long, lazy days. For me it conjures up sand in my sleeping bag, wet tents, mosquitoes, and no air conditioning.
But he was enthusiastic: “Yeah, it was a lot of work. The work was deciding, um, do I want to lay in the hammock and read a book, or take a nap?”
Earlier in the year business took me from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, non-stop. I chose an aisle seat and studiously brought along three stacks of manuscripts to read for my part-time job editing two papers. I was congratulating myself for being so industrious and sticking to my knitting. Then I got up and took a walk back to the plane’s bathroom.
Glancing out the windows, suddenly I noticed that we were directly over some otherworldly mountain peaks. Were they the Sierra Nevada’s, I wondered, marveling at the brownish scenery below that looked strangely like what I’d imagine the surface of the moon to look like. Suddenly it hit me: I had never seen these mountaintops before—never flew over them. What was I doing reading manuscripts when I could be taking in views I’d never seen?
Since the plane was so empty, I plopped down in a vacant row and for the next half hour pressed my nose against the window. Then I laughed at myself, remembering the description of my own grandfather almost 50 years earlier flying to California on his first and only plane trip. Eighty-four at the time, two of my aunts flew with him and my grandmother. They came back and said, “Dad had his nose pressed to the glass the whole flight!” His trip was remarkable in that in his lifetime, he went from traveling by covered wagon to traveling by jet. As a baby in 1872 he traveled with his family from Missouri, back “east” to Indiana (his father having tired of trying to make it “out west”).
On my own flight west (our family had traveled out west by car, but never by air), I marveled at such a different landscape from the Appalachians, Alleghenies, and Rockies that I had been over numerous times. I wouldn’t call the landscape pretty, just majestic and awe-inspiring in its own way. I spotted a high lake and a dam, rivers, trails, roads, huge cracks in the earth as if left from an earthquake, a fire, and finally a flat valley with farms and more poultry houses than I think I’d ever seen.
Now, where I’m from in Virginia there are a lot of poultry houses. But California actually rates sixth overall in poultry production in the nation, while Virginia is not even in the top six. (Somehow when you say California, chickens and turkeys are not the first images that come to mind, unless you think of certain groups of people.) Out there the poultry houses were lined up in rows that were 10, 15, or even 20 houses deep. After the poultry region I could see orchards and vegetable crops, irrigation canals, foothills, and finally, the coast.
If I had stuck to my knitting, I would have missed it all.
People are complaining, of course, about the high price of gas this summer and earlier there were reports of people sticking closer to home because of it. But as my husband said, a trip to our closest beach, figuring generously, would only cost about $20 to $30 more this year than last. It’s hard to take your family out to even a half way nice restaurant for $20 to $30, so just cut back on one meal out (or something else) and head to the beach anyway. Gas is about the cheapest thing you encounter on a vacation.
Not that you have to go away to relax in a hammock, read a lazy book, or see new sites. (Like my opening illustrates, one person’s nirvana is another person’s nightmare.)
Our daughter’s friends introduced her to a great hiking trail with a wonderful rock-hopping creek and dashing waterfalls not ten miles from my house. In all my 33 years of living in Virginia (and my husband’s 50) we had never been there, and we do enjoy hiking. Sometimes there are surprises in your backyard or not far from there. Especially when we are at home, we can become so wrapped up in our tasks that we miss the sunset, the rainbow, and the butterfly opening its wings. Many times my children opened my eyes to some natural beauty around me.
So this summer, don’t keep your nose to the grindstone: try pressing it to the window of your car, a plane, or viewing the backyard. May you discover times of refreshment on vacation or even just a half hour of loafing at the end of a workday.
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 817 words; end material = 105 words
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