Monday, September 20, 2010

Amusement park

My neighbor used to work for Gillette, and they invited him to a free day at a nearby amusement park. Unable to attend, the neighbor gave his tickets to me. I gave them to Nika and mentioned that I’d go with her if she invited me. And so it was.

I brought my trusty hedgehog and we went to the Gillette World Shaving Headquarters to catch a bus.
Since a lot of folks probably chose to travel in their own cars, our bus companions included primarily retirees and the families of non-salaried laborers. Our driver treated us to an especially-scenic look at rural New Hampshire after taking the wrong exit from the highway. He thought he knew where he was going, but after we got bored with his tour he started his GPS and took us to the intended destination. Fortunately we enjoyed most of the detour.

The park didn’t really warrant an entire day for us anyway, and we had plenty of time to ride all the attractions we found even remotely interesting. I particularly liked the old wooden roller coaster, and we particularly avoided most of the rides intended to make you barf. We did ride the Zero Gravity. That’s a big drum that spins so fast that riders are pinned to the outside wall. The drum then tilts and riders whirl around looking alternately at the ground and the sky. I couldn’t walk straight when I got off.

We took a break after the Zero Gravity, managing even to eat lunch on the shore of the lake.

Vacation frame of mind

Years ago my first wife and I started paying attention to the things we enjoyed most about travel. One thing we identified was something we called a “vacation frame of mind.” This was the sense of peace and well-being we generally took home from our trips, and which we tried to preserve as long as possible in the face of the more demanding lifestyle we led at home.

We began to cultivate this frame of mind when we started traveling to Caribbean islands where schedules are only rough guidelines and nothing happens in any particular hurry. We had to learn to get onto “island time,” and learn to enjoy our moments and stop fretting over things we couldn’t control anyway. Then we would come home and try to gauge how long we maintained that frame of mind until it became necessary to take another trip and start over.

Of course we also identified lots of other things we liked about vacations, like eating out and seeing new things, but our favorite take-away from each vacation was that ethereal vacation state of mind, which I’ve been cultivating with greater or lesser success ever since.

I found myself thinking more about what this frame of mind means during a recent six-week sojourn in California. We noticed that we were slow this time to get into that relaxed zone. The lengthy trip left us feeling a bit unmotivated at the beginning. I believe this reveals another component of a proper vacation, fundamental to the desired state of mind. Seize the moment! The typical vacation is short enough that we want to capture opportunities quickly, and I believe the sense of abundant opportunity truly underpins a vacation state of mind.

This insight leads to another generalization. On vacation we look for new or interesting things to do, and the newness or fulfillment of our interest make the time special. Can’t we do the same thing at home? Can’t we learn to look at each situation with a beginner’s mind, seeing each thing freshly, wondering about it a little and maybe even finding something to learn? I think we can.

So, in summary, I think that the “vacation frame of mind” rests on at least three things:
1)    Learning not to fret over what we can’t control and finding pleasant things to do regardless of any failures in our plans or expectations.
2)    A sense of urgency or commitment to do things that interest us.
3)    Maintaining a beginner’s mind even in familiar circumstances.

What else do you think might support a vacation frame of mind in our daily lives? Please leave a comment below.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hopping rocks

When I was a kid, I was Rock Jumping Champion of Alder Creek. That was true until college, anyway, when Charlene Corin jumped across a huge chasm and I fell into the creek. After the Charlene debacle, I cut back on my rock jumping to the point that I can't even remember the last time I did it.

Today I read an article suggesting that aging can be reversed by acting like a kid. "Cool!," I thought. "I'm going rock jumping." I put on a pair of Crocks shoes and hopped rocks all the way up the creek to John's Lake. In the beginning I took little steps, examined my route carefully, and never had both feet in the air at once. As I regained confidence I started moving continuously and leaving the ground completely as necessary. After reaching the lake I walked back down the trail and rounded up my cousin and my uncle.
From 2010-09 Cabin
Cousin Nick, Uncle Art and I ate lunch and walked back up to John's Lake by the trail. Then we went down to the rocks and hopped our way all the way up to the dam, perhaps three times as far as the initial trip to John's Lake. Art took a few photos, but only when we weren't moving. I didn't take any photos at all because I was too timid to bring any electronic devices on this walk. Indeed, there was one moment (or two) when I was clearly on the verge of taking an accidental swim.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I'd like to do it again tomorrow.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lyon Street Steps

Behind Mary’s house there is a “street” that’s actually a staircase. Lyon Street starts down by the bay, crosses Pacific Heights, and goes way beyond the neighborhoods we know; but for a few blocks it’s too steep for cars and even too steep for a paved path. It’s really a little steep, even, for a staircase. That’s the beauty of it.

At any time during daylight hours, people are walking up and down these stairs for exercise. And then, since they’re working out anyway, they also bring along their yoga mats, elastic bands, free weights, exercise balls and whatever other accessories will enhance their workouts. People exercise here singly, in casual groups and even in organized groups.

At the middle of this long staircase, a civic group has built a beautiful formal garden, and those not exercising stop to enjoy it. Serious people don’t stop here of course, and may not even stop at the top or bottom. I saw one guy counting laps by moving acorns at the bottom of the stairway. Checking his acorns, I think he intended to do six laps before he took a break. That could be a lot of laps, depending on how fast he was going.

I was out on a bike ride with my cousin Harold and joked that I would ride my bike up the steps. Then I decided to try something almost realistic, so I promised to ride up the Baker Street sidewalk, one block over from the steps. Ha! When I got to the bottom of Baker Street, I realized that the sidewalk was too narrow for a slow bike ride so I decided to shift one block farther, where the sidewalk is a little wider. Um,… well, no. I barely made it up the first street on which cars are allowed. Those San Francisco hills are really steep.
At the middle of the staircase