This, Our Valley
We did not all come over on the same ship, but we were all in the same boat. – Bernard M. Baruch
It is something of an oxymoron to confess that while I have been retired about a year now, my wife and I haven’t really taken time off to enjoy a vacation.
Unless you are desperate for some sleep, I don’t need to bore you with the details of what we’ve been up to this past year, but suffice it to say it has involved moving to our new house, settling in, and doing everything we could and can to make it into a home. I am pleased to report that while it is still a work in progress, we seem to have moved forward far enough to risk taking some time away to simply enjoy days that, in the short term, won’t involve mowing lawns, weeding gardens, unpacking boxes, or vacuuming floors.
Our plan is to head over to the Olympic Peninsula to visit some beaches and historic sites, do some hiking to see some of the waterfalls for which the Olympics are noted (assuming the rivers and creeks haven’t all dried up; they are reputedly most impressive in early summer), and otherwise relaxing in the shade of old growth forests.
Vacations aren’t something I do well, however.
I suppose some of my reluctance to enjoy summer holidays stems from my youth, where vacations meant piling into the back of the family sedan, four kids smooshed into a space designed for three, driving for several days straight from our home in Seattle to visit relatives out near Chicago, and having little to do upon arriving except to sit in the sweltering heat of summer while the adults sat in the shade shooting the breeze and enjoying their adult beverages.
Not all vacations were hot and boring, though. I remember a trip the family took one time to a nearby lake when I was just a wee lad of seven or eight. We stayed in a small travel trailer, which I presume was a rental as we didn’t own one. My dad bought my brother and me a kid’s fishing rod, which had about five feet of string attached. I presume it had a kid-friendly hook, but don’t recall for sure. It didn’t matter as I knew, even at that tender age, that I would never catch fish a foot or so from shore – and didn’t. On a positive note, it wasn’t hot. On the flip side, it was boring.
Another time our family took a trip to the very same Olympic National Forest we will soon be visiting. We were a family of four at the time, and it was summer (I’m sure it was before I was in school yet – the memories are very faint). My dad, ever the soldier, set up the tent in quick and efficient fashion and even went to the trouble of digging out a small drainage trench around it “just in case.” Well, that night it poured. To be more accurate, a tsunami came down from the darkened sky and nearly washed us away into the River Hoh (or whatever creek we had camped beside). The next morning we poured the campsite back into our rusted ’49 Plymouth and drove home. I’ll be honest; I don’t remember much fun happening on that trip, either.
These incidents, though, do bring to mind the one thing I enjoy doing more than pretty much anything else. I love to complain! I am never so happy as when I’ve got something to criticize. I resonate with Saint Paul who says at one place in one of his early columns, “Oh, who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Now there’s a saint after my own heart!
The answer, of course, is one who took the ultimate trip from paradise, set up his tent in our world, and went to the grave that we might live. Keeping that in mind, I find it helpful to pause from my carping and to be simply thankful. When I let go and let God, so to speak, life becomes much more bearable – even vacation-life!
Furthermore, not everyone gets to go on vacation, and with any luck, I’ll have more stories to share with you when I get back here in this, God’s valley. Until then, I’m outa here!
Keith Axberg writes on matters concerning life and faith. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.