Saturday, October 31, 2020

Vacation Romanticism

According to a vacation is: "a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel."

I remember loading up the 1960 Ford Fairlane station wagon and traveling through North Dakota, Montana (Tip-Top Motel in Wolf Point), Idaho, Washington (I fell off a swing and went unconscious), Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore + Wall Drug) before returning home. Endless hours in the car, picnic meals, no air conditioning, getting a turn to sleep in the station wagon instead of the motel,  no advanced reservations, no chain motels, and natural beauty beyond the dreams of a southern Minnesota farm kid. This was a rare occurrence for my family which held and still evokes a certain romanticism.

Tepee lodging.
The latest lapse in posting was due to a vacation. One daughter and I ventured to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many hours were spent in a car (not flying during the pandemic). No picnics, but plenty of online ordering for curbside pick-up or drive thru. Reservations were made in advance, but no national chain properties. Three nights in a tepee and one in a mountain top cabin. The cabin was close to a cancellation due to rental car malfunctions. The romanticism of flawless, relaxing, and rejuvenating suspension from routine was not a part of this adventure. Yet the natural beauty of so many places, the shared experience, insightful and challenging conversations, and personal introspection produced meaning and memories. 

Trail vista.
My daughter enjoys hiking, specifically day hikes. Her fitness and stamina are excellent, but the thought of multiple days on the same trail has no allure. When I hike the mind goes to forward movement.  Eating and drinking can be accomplished while in motion. Following our initial 12 mile out-and-back Appalachian Trail hike, she stated that future hikes needed to incorporate at least one 15 minute break. The 8 mile loop of the succeeding had the sit, eat, relax break. As we resumed the hike she asked, "Dad how long did we rest?" Not having looked at any time measurement device I responded, "I am sure at least 15 minutes." To which she replied, "We stopped for 8 minutes." Ouch! 😲So what was my hurry? Beautiful day, beautiful scenery, pleasant company. Established patterns are difficult to change. So much for suspending my mind set of pushing for endurance.

Heat for a cold night.
The malfunctioning vehicle (electrical issue-absolutely no current flow) came without any warning. Calling the toll free number and being promised an exchange at the local airport was easy. Swapping the vehicle at the airport was not going to happen.  The desk manager was unrelenting in his denial even when spoken to by the person on the toll free number. At least the manager returned my phone. My daughter had dealt with these situations numerous times, pre-COVID-19 or as she says, "In the before time." I am not forceful in stating what I expect in order to resolve an issue. The phone connection dropped while in the midst of a hopeful sequence. My daughter is texting me while I am attempting to hear the next person I connected with at the toll free number. On my return to the car where my daughter was waiting, she waved with urgency. After opening
The view from the modern bathroom.
 and closing doors, walking around the car 4 times clockwise and 4 times counterclockwise, all while evoking the name of Justin Timberlake, the car started. The fickle, but currently operating carriage got us to the base parking area for our two mile hike to the mountain top cabin. World it start in the morning? Flip a coin!! Huffing, puffing, and perspiring along a steady incline with everything needed for the night in our backpacks while twilight progressed into darkness, headlamp and flashlight turned on took my attention off of the car.  A cabin with no electricity, propane stove, cold running water, and a wood burning heat source was our respite from the chaos. The hosts in a near by cabin were gracious, welcoming, and understanding. Their hot shower and hospitality were welcomed. We heated up leftover bbq from lunch and settled in for the night. The wind was strong, the sky was clear, and the temperature found its bottom in the upper 20s.  Our wood supply (my daughter is a wood stove maven!) was depleted by 4am. The brisk, bright morning had a unique beauty. The 2 mile 
Stream along the cabin trail.
descent (yup, to the fickle car) while quicker than the climb had its share of slippery hazards and intense beauty.  The car....well it started! 

Returning to the city where my daughter resides was uneventful. A little different route allowed for new scenery. The worry about the car starting each time it was shutoff for fuel or rest area sat in the back of my mind. All went well and we parked the vehicle. The night included laundry and conversation.
View from the cabin porch.

In the morning I moved the vehicle from the street in order to get close to what I needed to load. The rain was beginning to fall. With the car loaded and hugs shared I went to start the car. It was completely dead once again. The prior ritual had no effect this time. Was it clockwise or counterclockwise first? 😕 A phone call and BOOM! A tow truck loaded the car and I exchanged it without a hassle. 

Experiencing diverse beauty, being in an area where COVID-19, masking, and distancing are alien, listening to thought provoking podcasts while hiking, being challenged by my daughter on perspectives and patterns of behavior, all while realizing that life is good, produced a reality while not the reminiscent romanticism of vacations past it was indeed a rare gift! Returning to my routines while easy and safe does not provide the stimulation I experienced on this time way.  I have found that definitions do not always determine reality. 

Halloween decoration in the city.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Flitting Fall


For decades the season of fall has been my favorite time of year. The sights, smells, sounds, colors, temperatures, and harvest activity never get routine. Yet in the midst of the inspiriting I also encounter bouts of foreboding and depression. The lessening of sunlight, the landscape becoming monochromatic, harvest activity abruptly ending, and a personal issue with cracked skin on my hands does battle with my uplifting perspective. 

The influence of Stoic Philosophy has provided untold benefit to curb my fluctuating feelings in this prized cyclical space. In particular the words of Epictetus in Discourses are foundational, "There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will."

I have learned to embrace what is. Exposing myself to both the majestic colors and the invariant tinctures of brown and grey, as well as the autumnal sunlight and precipitant clouds provides a broader appreciation of nature. It is outside of my power and will to affect nature. Thus I plunge myself into its reality and discover more about myself and the world. These discoveries are of immense value. Such discoveries enliven not depress me.

What is to come? That is a powerfully diverse question! In a pandemic, an election season, as well as in the midst of economic, technological, and cultural eruptions it is easy to worry, move along the spectrum of depression, and envision catastrophe. This not only comes naturally to individuals, but it is used by multiple influencers to stir intense reactions promoting a closed perspective and overwhelming fear of the future. These promotions of false dichotomy only serve the purpose of those making the assertions. Nature is more powerful than humans. Worrying about that over which we have no power is wasted energy.

As Jesus of Nazareth said, "Do not worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today." (Matthew 6.34  CEV) 

Yes, time moves steadily forward and the seasons glide one into another. Fall will pass with its own character and personality. In the northern plains (where I reside) many people live with a dread of what is to come. Dread cannot change what has come for eons. Happiness, internal well-being comes with accepting each day, without value judgement for what it provides. I believe each day is a gift and I have been given the ability to hold it, view it, and use it. 

I am including a link to a book of daily readings focusing on Stoic Philosophy by Ryan Holiday.  The Daily Stoic  (I get no commission nor personal gain from this link. It is for information only.)

A podcast that I find helpful in a general outlook on life comes from Tony Dufresne PhD. The link will take you to his web page:  Java Bud
On that sight you can find a great deal of useful information and a link to his podcast. (I have met Tony in person. I find him genuine and helpful. Again, I receive no benefit from this link.)

During the pandemic I have also found useful scientific and practical information with minimal bias from Mike Osterholm, epidemiologist and Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention. 

Finally, I publish a writing every two weeks. I alternate the blog with video offerings on my YouTube Channel. However, I am choosing an opportunity to be away from 
easy access to technology in the weeks ahead. There will not be a written blog post until November 1st.  Thank you for giving your time to read this blog!