Ah. Finally, a proper cup of tea, well, an infusion of herbs plus a few spices plus some honey. (The honey is the decadent part.) Decadence? Why, of course! I took a vacation – which would be hard to notice for anyone who wasn’t watching my house and picking up my mail. (Thanks, Susan.) Such is the nature of work, and also why pure vacations are harder to take, now. Even without a wi-fi signal it is possible to check voice mail and email. And if there is an internet connection, disconnecting takes personal resolve. But then there is synchronicity and balancing acts and listening to hints from the universe.
While my tea is hot I want to remind myself to write another chapter of the sequel to Kettle Pot Cup, my first book about tea. I just spent most of a week (hey, it was only five days, but that’s the longest vacation I’ve had since walking across Scotland in 2010 – Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland) – starting over. I spent five days in a neighboring tourist town, La Conner. Seeing $50 menu items I was reminded of how many high-end meals are accompanied by a tea bag in a tiny metal tea pot. Come on, fancy restaurants, up your game and provide loose leaf tea, a french press or even just a strainer as if flavor mattered throughout the meal. Whew. Rant over. Hello, loose leaf tea I can enjoy because I am home, again.
I wasn’t planning on playing tourist. Sitting in my tiny breakfast nook is a pile of gear for a long-anticipated overnight backpacking trip. Exertion for an afternoon, then days of relaxing out of range of cell-phones. But, that part of the world caught fire (#BoltCreekFire) on the day before I was ready to go. The Bolt Creek Fire wrapped around the site of my destination and the site of one of my books, Twelve Months at Barclay Lake. That closed the highway. As it burned I recalled a ranger’s comment from when I was researching the book. Evidently, the area is almost temperate rain forest (119 inches of rain per year), which means it rarely burns. But, when it burns the trees are so large, the undergrowth too thick, and the terrain is so extreme that they decided the best way to put out the fire is to wait for rain. And so they have. They’ve been busy containing the fire, and protecting the residents and their houses. And we’re in a record dry spell. So now, enormous trees are burning then falling hundreds of feet to land in the highway. Yep. That closed the highway. Detour!
Detour? No. My backup plan was to hike at another lake along that road, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla.
OK. How about the next and only highway north of there that crosses the mountains? Nope. Landslide.
Hint. Hint. Hint. Maybe my sore knee Really Did Not Want To Go Hiking!
Capitulate. Surrender. Start checking lodgings in natural settings, like Kalaloch in Olympic National Park. Beach walks from a small cabin with a kitchen and a pile of books, ah. Ah, no. No rooms available. No rooms available throughout the park. Nor any rooms that I’d like to relax in outside the park. Ah, the San Juan islands, a fave. Nope. East of the mountains? Road closures, silly boy. At least get off my island and stay just across the water in La Conner, a sweet tourist town that I’ve visited frequently but never stayed in. A room!? Yes! Waterfront, even.
So that’s what the hints were leading me to.
Remember, I was trying to rest and recuperate. My recent doctor’s note was TAKE A VACATION. (All caps in original message) OK. OK. Hint. HINT. La Conner’s tourist area is basically one long street with shops, galleries, restaurants, and such. I envisioned unwinding in some brewpub, maybe reading, maybe some introspection; but not much writing. This year I’ve self-published three books (Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay, Kettle Pot Cup, and Firewatcher.) Oh yeah, and work in real estate. (Required disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/). Rest without writing (much.) I’d even get some easy exercise by walking around town and its marina.
Mistake #1) Have a beer. This would not become apparent until…
Mistake #2) Walk across the Rainbow Bridge.
While walking across the very high Rainbow Bridge (which is not painted in rainbow colors, and it is really only 75 feet of clearance), the gluten in the beer kicked in as I was mid-span. Anxiety attack. Over a long drop. Beside a railing that looked like it was below my center of gravity. Eep.
Some anxiety attacks and some gluten reactions pass within half a day. Nope. More like three days. The beer was good, but that price was too high. Hence the comment about tea, hence the sudden shrinking of culinary options, hence the incentive to lounge while looking contemplative.
But then, serendipity. My knee hurt, so I strolled slower. I strolled more slowly so I was more likely to chat with store owners. By the end of a day or two of hobbling around, three of my books were for sale in a local book store (three of my Twelve Months books are in SeaportBooks.com), I met with an entrepreneurial couple, found a venue for our self-publishing workshop (but first comes Coupeville), and found a lead on a realtor to coordinate with.
Evidently it is relatively easy for me to drop into business mode.
I also noticed that the business cards I’ve been giving out for over a year had the wrong web address (.com instead of .net). Aargh! It is a good thing that I usually carry more than one kind (see the opening scene for Dolly in Hello Dolly).
So, maybe I didn’t end up where I wanted to go but ended up where I needed to be. (paraphrasing Dirk Gently)
The biochemicals left my system the evening before I had to check out. I’m now back home with my familiar mix of shelter, entertainment, dining and drinking, working (naturally), and generally living.
While in La Conner I read their newspaper (La Conner Weekly News) which had two articles out Langley, the closest tourist town to my house. Similarities and differences to contemplate. The kelp is always greener in the neighbor’s waterways. That was a bonus.
The highway is still closed. The ferry that was part of the transit plan was running at half-schedule. Little encouragement, there.
One of the reasons for the timing of the vacation was the successful conclusion to one real estate transaction and having to wait for the bulk book buy order to arrive. Ta da! A big box of books stamped HEAVY arrived as I was unpacking.
A medical test came back looking good, and the report came in soon after I got home. Nice timing.
La Conner bears no fault for my sad days. My episode was a reminder of my preference for lodging that has at least a small kitchen. The room may be more expensive, but the food is cheaper, the food is more likely to be healthier for me, and there’s a lot less guessing about the menu or interrogating the restaurant staff. Frugal doesn’t always mean cheapest.
The bed was soft. The view was of the channel off my private deck. The shower had more hot water than mine at home. I didn’t have to set up a tent, pump water, eat cold meals, or dig a latrine.
And despite those hints, I also look forward to finding the right campsite, in good weather, with good water, and a view, and maybe even a backcountry outhouse. There won’t be a wi-fi signal, so maybe I’d do an even better job of resting and recuperating. That’s one way to TAKE A VACATION.