I’ve always wondered why people lucky enough to live in a beautiful resort community (like me) still feel the need to “get away.” I mean, all those bumper-to-bumper cars are piling onto our island for a reason; we live in a fantastic place.
And then this year, I finally figured it out. Getting away is important no matter how ideal the location you leave is. Because it’s the best way to gain perspective on the life we live day to day.
Getting away means an instant transition from local to tourist. It means seeing a beautiful view with fresh eyes. And it forces us to let go of everyday habits so comfortable, we don’t even realize they are choices in themselves.
This summer, a combination of circumstances made it possible for us to spend several weeks in a cabin overlooking beautiful Penobscot Bay. It’s the first time in twenty years that Paul and I have left our house (overlooking beautiful Narragansett Bay) empty for that long, and there was a little trepidation. Will our pesky fridge stop running? What about our resident groundhog—will he eat every flower in sight before we get back? And will the skunk manage to burrow back under the side porch in our absence? Funny the things you worry about, in the final days before leaving home.
It’s not that Penobscot Bay is any more lovely than Narragansett Bay; it’s just that it’s not home. The simple act of getting away is what counts. From a greater distance, it was easy to figure out what was important to us: a morning workout, a few hours of work, getting on the water every afternoon, and the pure simple luxury of ending each day sitting together, on a screened in porch with a view. We settled into our chairs, watching the light as it lengthened into evening, enjoying the vista in front of us.
(For more photos and a bit more about how we got to Maine, read Paul’s blog Summer in Maine.)
The first night we watched a dramatic thunderstorm pass by, too many miles away to be audible. With no sound, the bolts lit up the clouds without threat or rumble—a natural light show. In the foreground, lightning bugs played. Until that night, the only place I’d ever seen both lightning and lightning bugs in the same zip code was in the famous Mark Twain quote: “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—‘tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” That first evening, we found both the almost right word and the right word dancing together, in the same visual frame.
We were away long enough to settle into a new pattern, and yet not so long that we forgot to savor every one of those luxurious summer evenings. The rhythm of our days slowed enough to absorb subtle changes in light, sun angle, leaf colors. And almost every afternoon, we explored a new harbor or beach or lake on our stand up paddleboards. We learned details about a familiar coastline that before we’d only seen from the distance required by a larger, deeper, cruising boat.
I’ve always associated slowing down down east with being on a boat, but it turns out the same inner perspective can be achieved while living on land—at least with daily access to the water. Because it’s not the actual harbor view that matters; it’s the fact that the view is a different one from home. Instead of worrying about the next recycling pickup or when the garden should be watered, we took time to watch, and listen, and sigh with pleasure.
Thanks to our neighbors (who watered the vegetable garden, and ignored the overgrown lawn), everything at home survived just fine—though when we returned, both groundhog and skunk both seemed quite put out that we expected them to share our back yard again.
Within a few days of coming home, we’d already slid back into our daily routines—but we can still see what really matters to us: playing on the water, exercising our minds and bodies, learning new skills. We’re very lucky to live in a place where we can do all of that without going somewhere else. And by getting away once in awhile, we’ll appreciate it even more.