12 October 2017

The Dao Of Vacation: Pilgrimage To New Mexico

The Dao Of Vacation

A frustrated teacher told me once that I think too much. "And rarely," she complained, "about what I ask you to think about." I took it as a compliment, which only frustrated her more, I don't think she meant it as a compliment.

Maria and I are leaving Sunday evening for our first real vacation together as a couple. Every time I say this, I get a huffy e-mail from one busybody or another  reminding me that she and i went to Disney World for a vacation during our winter from Hell four or five years ago.

One of the most fascinating aspects of my life is that there are so many people out there who know more about it than I do, and who keep meticulous track of me. I am humbled and puzzled. There are so many things dancing around in my head that I have always forgotten, as long as I can remember,  what I did a week ago, let alone what I did years ago.

I've always assumed if I was in school now, I'd be on pills from the first day.

And I guess I don't really have to think about where I went years ago, since there are people out there willing to do it for me.

I don't think I know enough about anyone in the world to tell them where they went on vacation four years ago, but this is one of the great things about writing:  the only thing worse than being ignored is being  read closely.

We did go to Disney world for four or five days, right after my open heart surgery, for reasons I don't wish to try to recall, it was not the right vacation for us. Disney World, alas, is no longer for me, and Maria never liked it in the first place.

New Mexico is a real vacation for us, and something beyond that.

We're going for eight days, the longest we've ever gone anywhere together and the longest we have ever been away from our animals. Maria lived there once, and I spent hours with her looking over places to stay, restaurants, churches, ancient caves,  museums, b & b's, AirnB's.

We have a long list of things we want to see, starting with Georgia O'Keeffe's famous ranch and studio. And I know we will be seeing a lot of museums.  I will be blogging once or twice a day from there, putting up some photos, so will Maria with her spanking new Iphone camera.

We are getting an awful lot of advice from people about what we should see and where we should go, and that is sweet, but we like to figure these things out for ourselves.

The Dao of vacation for me is very personal and individual.

Uncharacteristically, i have been planning and saving for this vacation for months.

The room is already paid for, we cashed in our big fat piggy bank and have been squirreling money into a special bank account for months. This is shockingly unlike me, but the trip is almost all paid for, we just need to have enough for gas and meals and perhaps a gift or two.

What someone else liked or found interesting has nothing much to do with me, or with Maria. Online, we sometimes lose our sense of individuality because we know everything everyone else is doing.

We love to read on vacations, rest, talk, walk,  soak up some silence, be completely there for one another, our lives are so full of distractions and work. I imagine we will be meditating while staring out at the nearby mountains. I might so search for the grave of D.H. Lawrence.

Managing technology is always a challenge for us on vacations. I can't turn off the Iphone because I would have 2,000 messages when I got back, and so I need to keep  up.  Some people need to text me, I need to text some of them back. I'm using Maria's laptop and my Iphone and Ipad.

I intend to turn them off during the day and check in once at night and once in the morning. That's what I usually do. As a traveler with two chronic diseases, I need to take a few hours to sort through all my pills, and carefully fill the traveling medicine kit I use, one bag for pills for each day, a cold bag for my insulin and medications that have to be refrigerated.

And a small container to keep my pills while I'm flying around, on the way there and back. I also carry a silver pill case for the heart, if it should act up.

Maria and I talk a lot about the vacation – we are both very tired and drained – and we both see it as a pilgrimage in a way. New Mexico is one of the places where the artists went, it a beacon for  creatives, and a monument to creativity in some ways.

We want the trip to have a spiritual dimension beyond sightseeing. We want to see and feel what the early artists saw and felt, we want to step out of ourselves and feel peaceful and refreshed.

I have never  had a better year, never had a harder year. The Mansion, the refugees, my photographs,  a book, the blog, the dogs,   the farm, the Army of Good, two Open Houses. Sometimes I think I need to pack some dry ice on the top of my head to cool it down.

We will be tourists, of course, but we want to see and feel more than that. The places everyone goes are not usually the most interesting places for me to go.

Maria was profoundly affected by the landscape when she lived there, she is eager to show it to me, and I am eager to see it. We will  head out some days to certain places, other to go blindly in search of something beautiful and inspiring.

There is, as is obvious, a profound spirituality in Maria's person and her work, and a deep connection to landscape and nature. I love seeing things for the first time. I love changing and growing.

I gave a lot of thought to a book choice, and I am taking a huge and heavy and a so far quite wonderful and much praised book, "Thoreau," by Laura Dassow Walls. I hope to haul it onto the plane, we will be connecting with our New Mexico flight in Minneapolis. It is 665 pages, it weights more than my big  fat camera.

Dassow sees Thoreau as a man of great moral principle, considering the ethics of his life and work at every step. It is a beautiful and surprising and wonderfully written biography, I wasn't sure there was more to learn about Thoreau, but there is a ton that is new in this work.

Maria and I both have Kindles, but we just never use them, the habit of reading a book does not, it seems, die as quickly as everyone thought.

The trip is like other things in my life.

I do well when I think things through, not when I don't. We almost went to Maine, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I just had no interest in going to Maine. Neither did Maria.

This trip is something Maria has wanted for a long time, and now, I want it too. I wish we could go right now, but we are very blessed to have a young couple, Shelby and Kirby, who will take care of the dogs and the farm while we are gone.

They have been coming to the farmhouse once a week for a month now, and the dogs love them very much, fickle as they are,  and rush outside to play and go see the sheep with them.

We could not do better. Every dog should be cared for by these people.

So, we hope for a vacation that is more than a rest, sights that are deeper than sightseeing, privacy that is beyond the reach of Facebook and Twitter. I think I'm take my black and white camera, New Mexico feels like a black and white place to me, at least from afar.

Like a pilgrimage.

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