Thursday, March 16, 2017

Blessings From My Late Winter Vacation

Going and Coming
I love this thing of applauding when a plane lands. When did that start? Is it one of the more positive side effects of 9/11? I enjoy the celebration of ordinary things that we commonly take for granted – even when they are a matter of life or death.
It’s also nice travelling from a cold climate into the warmth, gradually stripping off clothing, putting away boots for sandals. Not quite so nice coming back, except that you do bring some of the warmth back with you.
Shared Dining
These cruise ships are so huge. Ours carried 2 thousand passengers, and almost a thousand crew. It’s like a combination hotel, mall, entertainment complex, floating on the water. It’s easy to imagine you will be an anonymous cypher in the crowd. But the fact is, once you meet two or three other people, your paths are always crossing. You see them everywhere, aboard ship and in the ports.
We met Cooper and Lady A at our first meal, up on the Lido deck. The next evening we met Shirae and Nigel and Levi. The next, it was Frank and Jackie and Paul. Then Gabriel and Katina. Between them and members of the crew that served and supported us – Desra and Vlad and Warren among them – we hardly went anywhere without encountering a smiling, familiar face.
There’s something very nice about spending a week with a bunch of people all looking to do the same thing: get away from the cares and worries of daily life, and enjoy. (At just about every shared meal, it was agreed early on that politics would not be discussed). Instead, we talked about our lives, our work, our families, plans and dreams.
Being Embraced By Creation
That’s how I feel when I’m floating in a natural body of water. I try and totally relax all my muscles, so that my body bends and ripples with the wavelets. It takes a degree of trust. And it takes the water being somewhat tranquil, which fortunately it was. To me, the experience is a demonstration of total oneness with the Earth, evidence that the planet is my natural habitat, that we evolved together. The only thing that could’ve made it any more natural is being naked.
Waffle House
When I’m in New England, I must have fried clams. In Germany, I’m damned sure gonna have a wiener schnitzel. And if I’m in the southeast of the US, I wanna go to a Waffle House!
It has to do with having something you just can’t get in other places, or can’t get quite the same. So what if Waffle House is just a chain of diners that specialize in a simple breakfast: eggs, grits, hash browns and waffles. I LOVE it! Missing that treat would’ve been a disappointment, and we only managed on the very last day, due to Storm Stella which kept us in Orlando for an extra day. Thank you, Stella!

Aside from the waffle itself, which I admit is just a waffle, there’s the old-timey, working-class hokiness of the place, that the staff always greets you, and has coded terms for shouting in the orders, and those ceramic coffee mugs. I also like having a view of the grill and the short-order cook at work – a marvel of coordination and flow.
We need a Waffle House in Toronto!
Sleeping to the Sound of the Sea
We had a cabin with a balcony for the cruise. We propped the door open and fell asleep each night watching and hearing the waves just a few meters below us.
Beautiful, Little Island Nations
In some ways, the Caribbean Islands are all alike. But they are also all different! Barbados isn’t Puerto Rico, which isn’t St. Kitts. I was on St. Kitts once, twenty-four years ago, before cruise ships started stopping there. And it seems to me that the island nation has taken to tourism fairly well. It’s still a comfortable and relaxed place. It’s also one of the tiniest countries in the world (together with it’s sister island Nevis, the two are about the size of Sacramento, or Queens, the largest of New York City’s boroughs). Small enough that when I asked two different women if they knew the family I was once related to by marriage, they both did! When I asked one of them how she felt about the changes the island has undergone since the rise in tourism, she lamented that, with the coming of fast food, St. Kitts now has fat people.

Holding on to it; Bringing it Home
I don’t know what it is, or how to define it. But I’ve gotten better and better at holding it. When I return from vacation, the world I return to is transformed. I have those fresh eyes, those renewed receptors. Old is new again. And it lasts a lot longer than it used to. Weeks later, I know I can find it, faded perhaps, but still potent enough to give a lift, a moment of clarity, a dose of energy, purpose, serenity, wholeness.
Time for just the Two of Us
I know she doesn’t really understand, or doesn’t really believe it. That she doesn’t have to do anything. For various reasons, this isn’t the easiest of times for Ponczka. We both needed the vacation, but maybe she needed it most. We needed to put aside our cares and concerns, to experience long, quiet moments.
We’ve always enjoyed being together. I guess that’s what starts it, what makes a relationship happen and last and grow. And we’ve come to the point now – almost fifteen years together – where just being together is enough, whatever we’re doing, whatever is going on.
Being with her in a special place is wonderful. But so is being with her anywhere else. She doesn’t have to make it special by doing anything. She doesn’t need to entertain; doesn’t have to be fun.
It’s nice becoming people who can walk and talk, or sit and be silent, who can be attentive to one another, or can be together yet almost in our separate worlds. Our separate worlds are no longer so separate; they infuse one another. Oddly enough, I’m most at peace in my solitude when I’m with her, when she is near.
What a nice vacation.