We returned from a 10 day family vacation on the west coast a few days ago. I had committed to having a healthy emotional state for this long-awaited trip, and hoped to be in a healthy physical state too (that being a tad less in my control). I managed both, for the most part. My in-laws from the USA flew in for a week, and we also had a few days on our own. Mr. Turtle and I call this our first "real" vacation in 4 years, because 4 years ago he started his Master's, and he finished it at the end of July. Although we've done plenty of fun stuff in the past 4 years, Mr. Turtle always had assignments hanging over his head, or the beginning of a new course to think about, and this time he did not have to worry about any of that (although he persisted on worrying about passing his final course, despite achieving a perfect GPA and several scholarships over the course of the degree....such is life.)
Our goals for the trip were to get away to a fun destination, but one that could be reached in a short flight. Considering AJ's age, I thought she would enjoying exploring the seashore, and I wanted to share this exciting experience with her. We have many interests, but we thought a nature focus would be best, and save trips with emphasis on culture and history for a later date. I hope the state of the world does not preclude these trips in the future: I seriously wonder if AJ will have the same freedom to travel (mostly worry-free) as I enjoyed. I do hope so, though I have doubts.
We divided our time between relaxing at the rental house, exploring parks including old-growth forest and beaches, enjoying a couple of local playgrounds and the waterfront, and a restaurant or two. My food aversions are not too bad this pregnancy, although I tolerate WASP food the best (and Greek). No fancy sauces or seasonings please. Of course, our destination is the origin of this eponymous treat, which was enjoyed by everyone.
- playing hide and seek (AJ loves to look for people but hasn't quite mastered hiding and staying quiet until found)
- playing catch with a beach ball
- exploring the roots of huge trees
- making sandcastles, picking up shells and splashing in tidepools. AJ's first comment about the beach was "Sandbox....Sandbox....!" A very big and interesting one it was, too. She did not want to go in the "big water," i.e. ocean but loved the sand and small pools.
- Playgrounds, of course. There were a few excellent ones in the area. Any excursion requires locating a playground ASAP.
- Small "hikes" in provincial parks (like meandering walks....not backpacking up trails...lol)
- An extended amount of time for AJ to bond with her out of town grandparents. This was so good for all of them.
We took a couple of day trips off our "big island" to some little ones. One was Gabriola Island, where Mr. Turtle and I had vacationed 4 years ago. I particularly wanted to return to this island. We had a great time back them, but that trip was also right in the middle of escalating infertility angst. My wonderful memories of swimming, kayaking, playing with cats, and exploring beaches are mixed in with anxiety about a very long cycle (I think I even took a pregnancy test at one point), several troubling medical diagnoses and one unknown genetic test hanging over our heads, and wondering if we would ever have a child. I still enjoyed it a lot, but I had an urge to go back with AJ, and little Sprite on board, and see the place from a different life perspective. So we did. And we just loved our day there.
One of our favourite spots - then and now - was a beach that we reached by a short hike.
Photo from 4 years ago....no scenery photos this time!
As soon as we reached the beach, I walked into the ocean. If my last thought on this earth is of swimming in the ocean, I think I would die happy. There is nothing like the feeling of floating in cool water surrounded by sky and mountains and trees and silence. Also, since my recent months have been dominated by fatigue and nausea and trying to mentally escape my body, it was marvelous and freeing to be in my body and enjoying its sensations and movement.
I chose to give a not so obvious answer; I've been thinking about it ever since.
The answer was: Calm. But a specific kind of calm. Jordan Peterson talks about the both the fear and the appeal of the unknown (chaos). One one hand we wish to avoid the unknown because it means leaving the safety of the familiar. As humans we really, really like safety, because it allows us to create a predictable present and future. On the other hand, the unknown/chaos contains treasure to be discovered, and the possibility of a new, better kind of order. While the present order might be comfortable, it can also be stifling (or corrupt and decadent).
I know many kinds of calm (I am lucky that way, I suppose). I have experienced the stifling calm, when I was physically comfortable and life was predictable but I wanted so badly to escape, to confront whatever chaos was outside my bubble and find out what I was truly made of. I felt this way a lot in my teens and early 20s. I had a fairly sheltered life, which had its advantages but also made me deeply uneasy.
Then there is the calm that happens shortly before I know that everything is going to change. This is an amazing feeling that is hard to describe, but marvelous to experience. It's like a simultaneous acceptance of both the ordered present and imminence of unknown chaos. I found my mind going back to another vacation, more that 10 years ago, on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Kefalonia is a place of beauty, wonder and mystery; I could (and have) written plenty about my experiences there (not on this blog). I was in a very different life space then: 26, single, traveling (somewhat) alone in a (somewhat) foreign country and culture. I had no certainty about what I'd be doing in a few months for work or where I'd be living or if I would have a relationship.
As I explored the tiny village where I was staying, and swam in the sea (of course) I had the profound conviction that my life was going to change, very soon. And the thought left me deeply happy, and calm, although I did not know what that change would look like. I had a fantasy in my mind at the time, involving a musician I had a crush on and was going to travel to see in a few weeks. The fantasy didn't come true, but my life did change in the the next few years. The mystical side of me believes Kefalonia whispered secrets to me; it is a magical place where I could "see" the future (not literally see in a vision, but see through my intuition). The rationalist in me observes that I was so determined that my life was going to change that I would have made it change no matter what. I think both are true.
When I sat on the beach on Gabriola, I felt the same kind of calm. The present moment was perfect: Mr. Turtle, AJ, my happy in-laws sharing this time with us, a beautiful beach, the sound of water in my ears. I also knew it as temporary. Perhaps it was the expanse of the ocean whispering to me. And I loved the thought of change too: that I would evolve, that expectations and presumed certainties would crumble, but that in that change there is potential, and a new order.
And some pictures. I guess this is my first "belly photo," taken at the same beach. I like it a lot.
AJ drawing a rainbow in the sand
Happy summer to all.....I hope it brings a kind of calm to you that you can enjoy!
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