What I Learned On My Summer vacation

August 26, 2010 by Ellen Stimson in Lessons, Living With Intention, Vineyard

It’s been a long stretch of days without much sun, and the rain came down sideways for a while, hard and cold. The winds were fierce. Now it is just dreary and drizzly. It’s that time of year again when summer gives way to autumn and everything takes a step forward. The world here is still deeply green but you can feel summer ebbing away bit by bit. The animals are all in on it. You can watch the squirrels running around collecting things and ducking into the holes in the trees building their winter homes. The deer are fattening up and the geese are all huddled on the pond taking little flights together every afternoon…. getting ready. It’s all about the getting ready. It won’t be long now. Pretty soon we will be gathering pumpkins and corn stalks and decorating the house with oranges and reds and purples. The time is near for stacking the wood and filling the boiler. And that’s what I am looking forward to, the first chilly weather and everything that comes with it…..the colors and pumpkins, bonfires, sweaters and cheery little wood fires.

I have been thinking about mindfulness lately. I know it’s healthy and all to live in the moment, and I do, for the most part. I hold hands with my husband while we share our stories, cook real food slowly, and then eat it at the table talking politics with my family. I look up at the stars and drink my coffee as an activity in and of itself maybe on the porch with the morning songbirds and our dogs for company. I have a lucky life and I spend time in gratitude for it. But I’ve always believed it’s important to have something to look forward to. It gives you something to think about if you’re waiting at the doctor appt or sitting in traffic, and a nice string of all those good things kind of carries you through your life. A hard day is somehow made nicer when you have a weekend carnival to look forward to.

I have a business that requires my scheduling events and travel in advance, but I also schedule in plenty of us. This weekend I am skipping an event, or one night of it anyway, so that our family can go to the Washington County Fair. We go every year. It is the end of summer ritual. We eat bad food, watch the cow wash and ride the Ferris Wheel. I wouldn’t miss it. Eli and his best friend Timmy go through dollar bills like they are going out of style playing all games in the Midway. I love it when we have some huge purple giraffe that we have to carry around all night. This thing offers the best of something to look forward to and then living in the moment when we are there both.

I learned about the importance of mindful living in my early thirties when a serious illness focused my priorities for life. But sometimes you just have to intentionally remember again. Like how I learned something really huge in my 48th summer. It might not sound exceptional when I tell you what it was, but believe me, it was. And I simply cannot believe it took me 48 years to get.

I learned from my sweet sexy husband how to lie on a blanket on the beach and be deeply happy for a long time.

That’s it.

I know I know.

But years ago I had to sit in my special shady spot on a particular beach that we went to year after year. It had a chair and a few palm trees and shade and an uninterrupted view of the gulf. My family clustered around me.

Then we migrated to other beaches. We started going to the Cape and the Vineyard and there were dozens of beaches, some where you could take the dogs and almost all with long meandering paths, sometimes among gorgeous beachy woods, or alongside cliffs. There were no little huts though with creamy cold drinks and certainly no chairs positioned to catch palm shade and watery views.

So I lugged beach chairs sometimes on half mile or even mile long treks over beautiful but bumpy terrain. (I may be just a teeny little bit change resistant). I brought books and magazines and food and towels and came looking like maybe I was moving in. And truth be told half the time it took everyone I was related to to carry all the stuff…(okay maybe I am more than a teensy little bit change resistant)

Finally this year, hot and tired from a long week working and tending a really sick kid who was finally on the mend, a little wobbly from a cantankerous spring and a messy summer, and wanting to have a little beach I decided not to drag the infernal chair or ask my husband to either.
No one said anything. I just finally didn’t want to lug it anymore. And my John was always happy on a blanket. Happier than I was with all that stuff I insisted on carrying around…(yes metaphors abound)

So we spread a blanket and carried one bag with water and chocolate. Then we did it again. Just the two of us. We played scrabble one day like that and just held hands and watched the sea and gull channel on another.

What happened was that I remembered about living in one moment instead of twenty. I am already imagining us on that same blanket looking at orangery leaves instead of waves. This moment and another one somewhere down the line…. I think there is a reason we get to have both. Right this minute I am imagining a hot bath and a thick cup of coffee. Turns out I like looking forward to it almost as much as having it….


  • Kate

    Cowgirl and I have simplified our beach days as well. We always traveled with the chair, the cooler, the books, the phones, the snacks, the magazines, the sunscreen and wet clothes for the babes. And then one day? We just left. Told all the kids to put on their suits and hop in the car. No other clothes required. Threw a blanket and some towels in and spent the day. And we found we didn't need any of that “stuff” either. It was so free. So very free.

  • library lady

    I think yhatdragging your beach chair and not is a great metaphor for na lot of things in life. During this past very bad year, I've had to stop dragging my beach chair in a lot of places, and lo and behold, life goes on and there are compensations and substitutes, and I'm still alive and functionong. Thanks for making me aware of it. In your next incarnation, go for Therapist Extraordinaire.

  • Molly

    Yes…simplify. They write books and whole magazines about it. Everyone does yoga to remember it but sometimes the wight finally gets to us and all of a sudden the lesson comes though.
    Beautifully written

  • Beesknees


  • painted maypole

    …breathing deeply…

  • starrlife

    Sounds fabulous! I am a less is more person when it comes to the beach while my husband likes to carry all of the comforts. So, it's been an adjustment to get ready to go and have to pack! Enjoy the early apples too!

    Leave a Comment

    Your email is never shared.
    Required fields are marked *