On the third day of our beach vacation, I finished my second book. It’s exhilarating, being so caught up in a book that I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than squirrel away on the porch, be lulled by the music of the ocean’s repetition and turn page after page after page.

It’s freeing, to turn off the television and the noise of everyday life and just read. The books are not classics and they’re not Pulitzer-winners but they’re good enough to get lost in. They’re a vacation of their own making.

And that’s the thing about escapes: we need them to keep going.

At home, every few months, I take myself to the Townsend Hotel’s Rugby Grille for brunch alone, a decadent mini-vacation that lets me feel pampered. It’s a lot cheaper and less intrusive than a real vacation, and that hour of solitude and posh transports me to another world.

It’s a no-brainer that we need vacation to balance life-as-we-know-it. But when I see that vacation itself is so freeing, it makes me question my everyday habits.

Every night, Dan and I fall into bed and pop on the TV. We watch mindlessness until we drift off to sleep, and most of the time I wake back up, ruminating over something. The night stays charcoal, and my lovely husband settles into deep-sleep and I lay there, wondering when I’ll quiet the thoughts and find true rest.

This week, I’m finding that I just want to BE. I don’t want to do, I don’t want to rush, I want to feel the sand beneath my feet, and listen to the repetitious music of the surf, and eat the sea in every bite. 

Morning arrives, the sun shining over the ocean above the treetops, and then the day descends in all its glory and then night falls without any warning, and I am wrapped in it because I just let myself be swept along as any good vacationer might.

Yesterday morning, I walked along the beach with my eldest son and realized the way the waves come again and again onto shore and then retreat is just like the requests of a toddler for “more, more, more” or “read that book again, again again.”

When Asher was little, I read him Curious George stories over and over, and he’d sit for the long winding tales of a little precocious monkey, without his attention veering to something else. He was always unusually focused for a little one, and inevitably I would doze off mid-sentence while he was rapt with attention, staring at the colorful page.

Now, we’re reading The Tao of Pooh, and just yesterday we hit on a page about how you must assess one’s nature and not expect anything different. Asher loves to say that the world would be better had civilization not been created, and everyone flusters into argument when he says such a thing.

But the pit and roll of the way things are troubles him greatly. We keep mucking it up, my 10-year-old says, we keep getting in the way.

Is he right? 

Does life have to be so full and fast? I don’t think so. I believe we can be satisfied with so much less than we demand today, we just aren’t used to riding a slower roller coaster.

When I was younger, my family took the Boblo boat to the island amusement park in the Detroit River and spent a day riding coasters. It was so simple. Mom, Dad, and all three kids climbed aboard the ferry boat and rode it downriver until we hit land with rides and confections and a day of unbridled fun.

As night fell pink, we’d drag our weary bones back onto the boat and head upstream until we hit land again, climb into our car and quietly cruise home.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated. We make it so. It can be just a simple book, nothing award-winning, and the sound of nature outside. I am reminded of the owners of the French bakery in Birmingham, Michigan, Le Petit Prince, who close up every June and head home to France until September. It’s just that easy.

This morning, I sat on the balcony as rain dropped lightly from the sky. Dan brought me coffee with just the right amount of cream and sat in a wooden rocker beside me. We stared at the ocean over the tops of pine trees. An owl hoo-ed nearby. I couldn’t see it of course, but I knew it was there.

[Addendum: The two books finished thus far: A Little Night Magic by Lucy March and These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen.] 

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